Since a long time I have thought that the screen of a computer acts as a wall which separates the real and the artificial world.  No matter how immersive the screen-content can be, it still is a different world. It is unreal, but has a lot of elements which are the reasons of our fascinations. Since the 90s, a lot of attempts have been made to somehow penetrate into this artificial world, but they did not achieved what they really promised. It is mankind’s endeavor to somehow get into the artificial world and feel as if it is real. The attempts of Virtual Reality are real and great, but they don’t really dissolve this wall, they just fake being immersed. We have a lot of examples such as virtual reality caves, Head Mounted displays, Augmented reality, but nothing is satisfactory.

We have seen movies like The Matrix, Tron, and cartoons like Johnny Quest where the hero gets immersed in a different world, and this become a great inspiration for reality to come up with something which really gives us this immersed feeling. Many of the people working in this field are trying to achieve this, and one of the attempts is made my Oculus VR by making the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Display.

The Video below explains the capabilities of the headset.

Oculus Rift is the idea of Palmer Lucky, which he started in his parent’s garage. He is a virtual reality enthusiast  and big fan of head mounted displays. He wanted to buy the best VR headset to get the immersive matrix experience, but there was nothing out there, so he decided to build the Oculus Rift. The makers of the Rift have specifically targeted gaming industry as they want to focus on giving the immersive experience. They want gamers to feel like being in the game when playing it actually. This is a dream of breaking the wall and going completely in the artificial world and feeling like being a part of it.  They never thought of it as for watching movies in an immersive way as because here they focus on games and only games. They don’t want this experience  (even if it is so rich) to be expensive so the device only cost for $300.  They are giving it to the developers (game developers)  to develop content for the Rift.

The Oculus Rift is made of two in-built Hi-definition  screens — one for each eye– and two lenses which allows the eyes to see the things on the screens which are really close to the eye.  Together they give a VR experience. It has a gyro sensor and an Accelerometer which act as the motion sensing couple to track the head movement and translate them into the game, so if the user moves the head, he sees where he is looking. The best part of it is that the motion sensing is very low latency, so the combination of the motion sensing and the one screen per eye generates a stereoscopic 3D image which actually fools the brain to believe that it is experiencing an actual thing. The device itself is very bulky and wired to the PC via an HDMI cable. It has foam layers to make wearing it comfortable. People with spectacle can wear it as because it fits perfectly on a spectacle and also they thick lenses on the device itself can be change to suit the vision of the user. Compared to the traditional VR options available, it is very different. The existing VR goggles give an experience which is like sitting in front of a 100 inch screen kept at a distance of 60 feet, and the head tracking is also very lagging. Oculus Rift has a very low latency head tracking and it feels like being in the environment as you don’t really get to see the ends of the screen so it is a curved, very wide screen giving you a very engulfed experience.

When I tried it for the first time, I was completely astounded. I had never experienced anything that immersive. Initially when you are new to the device, you feel a bit dizzy because your brain is orienting to it, but once you are accustomed to it,  that experience you can never forget. When I tried it I was asked to move my head turn it to right and left to see if I can see stuff, but when I was asked to turn and see what’s behind me, I was simply shocked.  You can move your head and orient yourself to the virtual environment which gives you a feeling of actually being there. The only thing you will say when you are wearing it is “This is amazing”. If you are using something that immersive, then the traditional keyboard and mouse doesn’t work. I was asked to use the keyboard and mouse to move around in the virtual environment, but it seemed not at all intuitive. So I feel that for this kind of technology, the interaction has to be very natural. Using omnidirectional treadmill, gestures, mind-control to interact in such environment is probably the best possible things to be done to make it more realistic. It was hard for me to find the keyboard and the mouse since my eyes were covered with the Rift.  Although, it has all the good aspects of interactivity, it is hard to keep wearing it for a long time because of it’s big form factor and the fact that it is wired.

What effects can we see because of such a piece of technology. Well there can be both good and bad. Good is that there are can be games that help us relax from day to day activities and isolate us from all the tensions. Such kind of immersivity is very essential for relaxing. Instead of visiting families, you will have these virtual hangout  where everyone will meet in this virtual space and celebrate and electronic Christmas. Imagine the future of gaming. What would it feel like actually being the avatar you are playing. How will it feel like actually taking a bullet from the enemy. Will it be for people with a light heart. Imagine the future of porn. Having a virtual sex partner in such an environment will change every thing. You won’t won’t want to come out of it. It being very immersive, the user will get detached from the real world he won’t be aware of the world besides him. What kind of design guidelines with it suggest.  We today are so much immersed our cellphones that we forget the world around us. What will happen when we are totally into different world. What will it change.

Overall, I feel that is a  great piece of technology. It truly gives you a very rich immersive experience. Although, it is not very real, but slowly it will get there. So far there was nothing like this. It has a good side as well as a bad side. It is in the hands of design and the designer of the content how it will be used. Given the applications are made that rich and after carefully thinking about the things this device can change it can really bring about a huge transformation in immersion in to the virtual world completely destroying the wall separating the real and the virtual world.