Immersive Virtual Reality

In case you haven’t noticed, virtual reality has moved from headsets to the mall. At least two companies now offer an immersive virtual reality experience that goes far beyond what can be experienced with only a VR headset at home.

The newest company is Dreamscape Immersive that has launched virtual reality studies in Los Angeles and Dallas, with more outlets planned. The virtual reality experience is enhanced by the use of a headset, hand and foot trackers, and a backpack holding the computers. The action occurs within a 16X16 room with vibrating haptic floor (responds to actions of the participant). This all equates to an experience where a user can reach out and touch objects or can walk around all sides of a virtual object in the environment.

The company has launched with three separate adventures, each lasting roughly 15 minutes. In Alien Zoo the user visits a zoo populated by exotic and endangered animals from around the galaxy. In The Blu: Deep Rescue users try to help reunite a lost whale with its family. The Curse of the Lost Pearl feels like an Indiana Jones adventure where the user tries to find a lost pearl.

More established is The Void, which has launched virtual reality adventure sites in sixteen cities, with more planned. The company is creating virtual reality settings based upon familiar content. The company’s first VR experience was based on Ghostbusters. The current theme is Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.

The Void lets users wander through a virtual reality world. The company constructs elaborate sets where the walls and locations of objects in the real-life set correspond to what is being seen in the virtual reality world. This provides users with real tactile feedback that enhances the virtual reality experience.

You might be wondering what these two companies and their virtual reality worlds have to do with broadband. I think they provide a peek at what virtual reality in the home might become in a decade. Anybody who’s followed the growth of video games can remember how the games started in arcades before they were shrunk to a format that would work in homes. I think the virtual reality experiences of these two companies are a precursor to the virtual reality we’ll be having at home in the not-too-distant future.

There is already a robust virtual reality gaming industry, but it relies entirely on providing a virtual reality experience through the use of goggles. There are now many brands of headsets on the market, ranging from the simple cardboard headset from Google to more expensive headsets from companies like Oculus Rift, Nintendo, Sony, HTC, and Lenovo. If you want to spend an interesting half an hour, you can see the current most popular virtual reality games at this review from PCGamer. To a large degree, virtual reality gaming has been built modeled on existing traditional video games, although there are some interesting VR games that are now offering content that only makes sense in 3D.

The whole video game market is in the process of moving content online, with the core processing of the gaming experience done in data centers. While most games are still available in more traditional formats, gamers are increasingly connecting to a gaming cloud and need a broadband connection akin in size to a 4K video stream. Historically, many games have been downloaded, causing headaches for gamers with data caps. Playing the games in the cloud can still chew up a lot of bandwidth for active gamers but avoids the giant gigabyte downloads.

If history is a teacher, the technologies used by these two companies will eventually migrate to homes. We saw this migration occur with first-generation video games – there were video arcades in nearly every town, but within a decade those arcades got displaced by the gaming boxes in the home that delivered the same content.

When the kind of games offered by The Void and Dreamscape Immersive reach the home they will ramp up the need for home broadband. It’s not hard to imagine immersive virtual reality needing 100 Mbps speeds or greater for one data stream. These games are the first step towards eventually having something resembling a home holodeck – each new generation of gaming is growing in sophistication and the need for more bandwidth.

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