When you want to explain what virtual reality is you find yourself referring pretty quickly to the Oculus Rift. You may describe the experience of putting on the VR headset and what you will see once you do so. To underline the importance of the headset, you will probably mention that Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2 billion, right?
All well and good, but maybe, just maybe, the success of virtual reality on a large scale won’t come from the Oculus Rift or similar devices from Samsung, Sony or Carl Zeiss. Why? Because there’s something more accessible out there.
Simpler, cheaper and already in our pockets
Virtual reality becomes truly impressive when you get to try it with a VR headset. It’s true, there are few platforms and apps now to use in order to truly test a VR device, and TimeWalk is at the forefront.
The lack of perfected software might signal that it’s not yet time for VR to explode in popularity, at least for now. Moreover, VR headset producers don’t seem to be in a hurry (their devices being also largely imperfect) and we still have to wait months until we can buy such a headset easily from any electronics shop. But there’s an easier way. One that was suggested by Google in the most unique way. Remember Google Cardboard, DIY VR for all? Yes, I’m talking about VR adapters for smartphones (or tablets).
Think about it. Most of us already migrated to a smartphone with at least a 4-inch display. The pixel density on new devices is unheard of, they move fast and we always have them around. All you need now is to turn your smartphone into a VR headset and you are ready to tap into this new and largely undiscovered field of virtual reality.
Imperfect but practical
Yes, a VR adapter, be it cardboard like the one Google released, a 3D-printed one, or a plastic one will be entry-level and unsatisfactory for educated users. But if you are trying VR for the first time and, say, you want to jump with a parachute in TimeWalk, all you need to get a feel of the experience is an adapter. Even Samsung knows this as it even lowered the price of the Note 4 in expectation of the VR adapter that will turn the device into a mobile-phone based headset. Others will surely follow.
Oculus is leading the way, innovating, getting bigger and making a huge statement. But when time comes and a social 3D VR platform will become popular enough, will Oculus Rift still be the preferred device or will we rely on our trustworthy smartphones? I wonder.