FACEBOOK’S RECENT $2BN PURCHASE OF OCULUS VR HAS PUT VIRTUAL REALITY BACK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT AND RE-FUELLED DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE POSSIBILITIES THAT VIRTUAL REALITY CAN OPEN UP.
The social media giant hopes that its latest acquisition will “create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate”.
What is Oculus Rift and why all the hype?
Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that provides a fully immersive 3D experience, giving you a sense of really being in the environment you are viewing. Sensors in the goggles track your motion as you move your head and alter your vision accordingly. If you move your head left or right, your vision follows and gives you a much greater sense of immersion. Although the hardware is still being improved, the Oculus Rift is a real breakthrough in consumer-focused VR technology.
Since the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook, there has been a lot of talk about the potential of Oculus Rift for activities other than gaming. Facebook is hoping to make its social media platform a fully immersive experience, allowing users to feel even more connected to their peers. Whether you like the idea of a fully immersive Facebook or not, the concept of using virtual reality for social media raises the question: what other activities could be enhanced by technologies like the Oculus Rift?
For this year’s London Marathon, Paofit created a 3D experience which combined HD video footage of the route with virtual avatars representing the runners. People who missed out on a place in the actual race were able to run the distance on treadmills whilst following the course route and avatars virtually. There have also been discussions about the potential of using Oculus Rift in other areas such as travel. Using virtual reality to become fully immersed in a virtual space means that travel agents or estate agents could take clients to locations virtually when deciding on their holiday destination or house. Virtual reality solutions could even enable people to attend exclusive events such as London Fashion Week virtually.
The Immerse team trying out the Oculus Rift
What about its potential for learning?
Virtual reality technology is already used as a tool for learning by companies such as Immerse Learning. From language learning to health & safety and technical training, virtual reality technologies provide a valuable opportunity to learn in context without having to leave the comfort of your own computer. It has long been acknowledged that immersion in a subject engages learners and allows them to learn more quickly and effectively. With certain subjects, such as languages, immersion plays an extremely important part in learning and, whereas in the past learners would only be able to gain that level of immersion through travel or other resources, virtual reality is making immersive learning more accessible from any location.
Although immersive technology is already being used for learning, technologies such as the Oculus Rift take the level of immersion one step further, giving learners an even greater sense of immersion in their subject and a more engaging experience. It makes the experience feel even more real, which is especially good for training where the visual element and a high level of immersion are key, e.g. with technical or health & safety training.
For a long time virtual reality has seemed to be the future – and a rather distant future at that – but new technologies like the Oculus Rift are making it a present-day reality.