Before I dig deep, I should share a primer with our readers on what virtual reality is. Virtual reality is NOT just gaming. While a virtual reality (VR) headset is a display device for video content such as games, virtual reality has the potential to entirely change how we interact with our computers, the internet, film, and or work. That’s right; VR has implications for productivity. Imagine sitting at your work desk, putting on your VR headset, and looking around a virtual desktop at all of your active windows open at the same time, side-by-side. You can simply turn your head from Outlook to QuickBooks to Excel to Firefox, and click and drag from one window to another, no need for a triple or quadruple monitor setup with a special video card (but you will need a pretty powerful GPU; more on that later). You can easily imagine having 8 applications open and running simultaneously, side-by-side, increasing your productivity. Virtual reality could expand your productivity environment, but it goes much further than replacing monitors. Imagine designing a building in a natively 3D environment. Virtual reality will afford designers and others to see how theoretical models will stack up in reality in real time. Virtual reality can also be used to better train military service members, police officers, firefighters, medics, doctors, and surgeons without putting anyone in harm’s way. Hollywood is investing heavily in VR, a shift that will blur the lines between cinema and gaming. Virtual reality is a transformative storytelling medium. I cannot overemphasize the world-changing potential of virtual reality technology. Virtual reality could be bigger than smartphones, maybe even as big as the internet in transforming our experience of the world and our work.

Oculus Rift, the once Kickstarter-funded project, now Facebook-owned company, has a strategic advantage in the marketplace as they have now officially launched the first full-fledged virtual reality headset, ahead of the competitors. Rift has already sold out in their first month on sale with delivery windows pushed out 6 months as of this writing. HTC Vive, a partnership between HTC and major game developer, Valve with close ties to Steam, a major PC gaming platform, may be hard on Rift’s heels with a release date set for April of 2016. It remains to be seen whether Vive can catch up to Rift and be a major player in the VR marketplace. Sony will be releasing Playstation VR later in 2016. We don’t see Playstation VR being a major contender for reasons we’ve already mentioned. Virtual reality has potential beyond gaming. Sony’s Playstation VR, being tied to a gaming console will severely limit it’s potential. Still, if you own a Playstation and are only interested in VR gaming, Playstation VR may be the right choice for you at an expected $299 price tag. That’s considerably less than the $599 price of the Rift, and while there is no price announced yet for the Vive, the PC required to run either headset will also come with a price. That’s right; you will probably need to buy a new PC to support VR. The Rift requires the very top end GPU from Nvidia, the GTX 970. The trusty Intel i3 processor won’t due, either. Rift requires the Intel i5 processor. 8GB of RAM should go without saying. No required specifications for the Vive have yet been announced, but you can expect the system requirements to be very similar. If you are interested in VR, you may want to wait to upgrade your PC when Nvidia releases its next gen GPU, the GTX 1080, later this year. While we cannot be sure, we suspect that Rift and Vive are being released with higher early adopter price tags, and the Rift 2 and Vive 2 may be released next year at a lower cost of entry. So, there may be reasons to wait.

If you want to experience VR, at a minimum, you will need a virtual reality headset, controller, and a PC powerful enough to run it. We’ve already mentioned the Rift and Vive headsets. The Rift comes with an Xbox One controller. In addition to PC’s, Rift is compatible with the Xbox One console. It’s worth noting, on a side note, Microsoft is coming out with an augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, which places virtual objects into your real world field of vision. I won’t go into augmented reality just now. Two optional VR controllers, called Oculus Touch, which look and feel like the handles of guns are also available for sale with the Rift. The Touch VR controllers have not yet been released. The Vive is expected to come with two controllers that look and feel like lightsabers. Both headsets come with room sensors that track your movements. If you want to take it to the next level and create your very own Star Trek-style holodeck experience at home, you may also want to check out the Virtuix Omni VR treadmill. A VR treadmill translates your real world movements, walking, running, and jumping into virtual world movements. The Virtuix Omni can transform gaming from a couch potato activity into healthy physical activity. On the software side, you will also probably want to get a VR 3D driver, like vorpX, which allows you to play existing games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in Full VR Mode on your VR headset. This will vastly expand the experience of playing in VR. If you aren’t ready to build your own holodeck at home, companies like The Vision of Infinite Dimensions (VOID) are building out experience centers where players can go and experience virtual reality, enhanced by VR headsets, gloves, vests (for haptic feedback), cooling and heating effects, moisture, and other real world effects to enhance the experience. Even if you aren’t ready to buy into VR, you may not have to wait long to experience it for yourself.

If you are interested in integrating virtual reality into your home entertainment or home office setup, give Fulkra a call today. We would be happy to show you how we can transform your home theater or home gym into a VR holodeck. We can balance VR technology with your home entertainment lifestyle. From gaming to cinema to productivity to simulation and training, unlock the potential of virtual reality in your home or office today. You don’t have to go far to cross the uncanny valley. As Morpheus said, “Your mind makes it real.”

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