Virtual Reality: Is it here to stay?

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About one month ago, Facebook released a consumer model of the Oculus Rift. Starting at an introductory price of $600, the new Oculus Rift headset boasts higher resolution displays and integrated headphones that simulate three dimensional sound. It also ships with an Xbox One controller so users can control their virtual position or the virtual environment around them.

The earlier models of the Rift were sold at a much cheaper price. The first development kit (2012) developed by Oculus sold for $300 while the second one (2014) sold for $350. Both these development kits were meant to be used by game developers looking to make virtual reality games, but in addition a large amount were sold to tech-savvy enthusiasts.

YouTube stars such as Markiplier and Pewdiepie also began to utilize the development kit headsets in their videos, which brought even more attention and investors to the Oculus’s door.  In March 2014, the social media giant Facebook decided to purchase Oculus for $2 billion signaling the start of the virtual reality race as we have it today.

Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Stafford is one of the lucky few who got a chance to try out the Rift before its official release. Her friend’s husband worked for Oculus at the time and brought over a unit to let Stafford and her husband try.

Out of the eight games to choose from, Stafford says she only played two of them in depth. One was an interactive puzzle game and the other one was a role-playing game. Her husband on the other hand got to play a space-simulation game.

“It was a lot like EVE,” Stafford says. “You sat in the cockpit of a spaceship and flew around planets and solar systems.”

While Stafford says the games she tried were fun and engaging, she was most impressed with the game selection process.

“You start off in a room with the names of each game surrounding you. There’s also light shining through that allows you to see the individual dust particles fly around your face. To me that was more impressive than the games themselves.”

At its current price, the Oculus Rift is still an overtly expensive novelty for many people. However if the cost of the Oculus and other headsets went down, perhaps virtual reality will become the dominant medium that we choose to relax with in the future.

“If money was not an issue, I personally would buy an Oculus Rift. Virtual reality in general is a great experience I feel everyone should get to have,” Stafford says.

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Shane Hoffman is the Web Editor for the Chronicle/NCClinked.

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