Crossing the Uncanny Valley : The Impact of Virtual Reality on the future of Modern Gaming

When stripped of marketing buzzwords, brand appeal, and glitz and glamour, the average gamer is taking part in a purpose built simulation created with the aim of taking the viewer from their present place and time, and transporting them- literally- into another realm. It is this same guiding principle that governs the film, music, and television industries, and since the creation of Pong in 1972 developers have been engaged in the eternal chase of a white rabbit- creating experiences that can hook a gamer from the first few moments of play, and see them coming back again and again.

The 1990s saw a massive explosion in terms of technological and storage based capability, and expanding technological fields saw advances in the fields of graphical reproduction, physics models  and sound profiles used for video games, all of which sought to push the player further into the world of the game- because it is the engrossed player, the captivated player, that is coveted most by companies.

As it stands, modern virtual reality peripherals seek to extend the player’s visual range and give them the sense that they are literally inside a virtual space, and interacting with objects and world elements.- with modifications which seek to further enhance The Oculus Rift, designed by Oculus VR is one of the most visible of these platforms, and since it’s emergence in  2012, has served as the tip of the spear in this regard, while older companies such as Sensics– a manufacturing firm specializing in high end VR whose legacy dates back to the late 1990s work tirelessly to advance on both entertainment and industrial fronts.

Sensics CEO Yuval Boger (left). Photo credit – Baltimore Sun
Sensics CEO Yuval Boger (left). Photo credit – Baltimore Sun

These industries attract people like Yuval Boger, Sensic’s current acting CEO, a man with a Masters in physics, obtained from the university of Tel-Aviv, and who was tasked- after joining Sensics in 2006- with: “..bringing VR from lab to market.” As an industry professional with years of on the ground experience and technical competency, he possesses unique insight regarding the potential course of the virtual reality industry.

When asked about the general state of the industry and it’s real world applications, Mr Boger responded by saying that, “…there has never been a shortage of VR applications…” with extensions into the fields of gaming, media consumption, training and healthcare to name a few. But, historically the higher prices associated with the development and manufacturing costs of these technologies have limited their penetration into organizations or consumer sectors that could utilize those sorts of devices. However, the current state of technology allows for consolidation and miniaturization, and as Yuval stated:

With VR in all price ranges – from $10 “Google Cardboard” to high-end VR, everyone can find a decent price point.

With the rapid advance of technology of course comes the potential- and interest in the more esoteric forms of VR interface like- the potential for direct human to machine linkage.- Iimagine a game that could gauge heart and respiration rates, combined with other stress descriptors and calibrate its response based on user fear, stress or alertness.? Perhaps a peripheral might one day allow for direct sensory relay to the user, allowing players to actually ‘feel’ the texture and contours of objects in the game world? Unfortunately, however, such things might be a ways away yet, at least in terms of the current generation of gamers, because such things require ‘extra equipment’. However, Mr Boger predicts that phone based VR is an area where massive expansion is expected- due in no small part to the prevalence of powerful networked devices boasting ever increasing RAM and storage amounts. He said that we can likely expect things like built in eye and hand trackers to appear in upcoming model years.

Seinic’s legacy as Yuval put it comes from- “ high-end, professional-grade systems that are being used for military training, academic research and also by big industrials. In the last couple of years, we decided to take our significant expertise and experience into areas where we could impact a greater number of people.”

More people impacted equates to greater market share, and exciting advances, and as he related, the company’s pedigree includes some exciting work in the field of gaming- “We partnered with Razer, a global leader in products for gamers. Razer has gaming experience and we have VR expertise, so the partnership was natural. We created OSVR (www.osvr.com), an open-source virtual reality ecosystem that brings high-performance open-source hardware as well as free and open-source software. OSVR aims to be the “Android of VR” – and to create a software/hardware infrastructure that is…not dependent on one single vendor. Over 200 companies – including Intel, Nvidia, Jaunt, Leap Motion and others – have joined OSVR since its launch earlier this year and we look forward to seeing many vendors build OSVR-centered products.”

So, with all that stated, in the end, what’s the impact of virtual reality on the gaming world?

In a word: massive. As miniaturization continues to march onward, and gaming devices and consumer needs mature, required peripherals will become smaller and these new technologies will take center stage and usher in the next phase of mobile and home entertainment.

Go ahead and strap on your glasses. The future is likely to be extremely bright.

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