Excitement ahead for virtual reality fans

February 13, 2016 08:02
Oculus Rift is scheduled to release its virtual reality head-mounted display on March 28. Photo: YouTube

Virtual reality has been on a bumpy road in the past three decades.  

But technology has now finally caught up with expectations and arrived at that crucial 'Wow!' factor not seen since the colorization of television.

With the commercial release of flagship consumer devices just a few months away, users will soon be able to experience a small but rapidly growing selection of games and programs, from walking a tightrope between skyscrapers to exploring the mind of Salvador Dali.

The vast majority of users have provided extremely positive reviews, as any Google search can quickly corroborate/demonstrate. 

As we march further into 2016, tech fans and futurists are getting closer to the spring releases of the three main contenders: 

-- Facebook­-owned Oculus Rift, with its massive developer base and mother company, is scheduled to release its VR head-mounted display on March 28. 

-- Vive by HTC which will run on Valve's Steam gaming ecosystem with over 125 million active gamers will make its debut in April.

-- And finally, there will be Microsoft's as yet undated augmented reality 'Hololens' glasses (good for some hardcore Minecraft action or enjoying a wide screen for your movies or office work on the airplane or subway). 

Perhaps the most quixotic quality of virtual reality is that its neophyte users say the feeling just can't be communicated by video; the removal of any outside visual framework as provided by a monitor or TV screen simply makes you feel that "you are actually there" to the point that the technology can induce a fit of acrophobia, the fear of heights.

However for now, in a shaky global economy, consumers may find the experience too pricey. While prices have drastically fallen since the early 90s, an Oculus Rift or Vive will still mean putting down a solid HK$4,700, not to mention necessitating a graphics­ focused PC to the tune of at least HK$8,000.

It's early days yet, and the sensible economic decision is no doubt to wait a few months, if not a year or two.

But for some, the head-start and prestige of being an early adopter might just be worth it. 

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A Hong Kong-based writer from Norway