Virtual Reality & Its Place in the Metaverse
Virtual reality (VR) has long been a source of inspiration in science fiction books and movies, but it wasn’t until very recently that it has truly become a reality. The Metaverse, VR, and Augmented Reality (AR) are not all the same, but they are inextricably intertwined as they all have to do with a virtual experience. On top of that, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and NFTs are the fundamental elements of the Metaverse which is rapidly becoming mainstream, so it’s more important than ever that we understand how this 3-D virtual realm open to all works.
With the creation of affordable virtual reality headsets and haptic feedback devices, virtual reality is poised to become a mainstream phenomenon. But what is virtual reality, exactly? And what is its place in the Metaverse?
The Birth of Virtual Reality
The term “virtual reality” was first coined in the late 1980s, but the technology has been in development since the mid-20th century. One of the earliest examples of virtual reality is the “Sensorama,” invented by Morton Heilig in the 1950s. The Sensorama was a machine that showed stereoscopic images, played recorded sounds, and emitted smells to create an immersive experience for the user. While it was never commercially successful, the Sensorama laid the groundwork for later VR devices.
In 1968, Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull created one of the first head-mounted displays (HMDs), which they called the “Sword of Damocles”. The device was named after the Greek legend in which a man is forced to wear a sword suspended above his head by a single hair. While it was very bulky and difficult to use, the Sword of Damocles showed potential for future HMDs.
The 1960s and 1970s saw many other advances in virtual reality technology, including the development of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and motion tracking systems. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that virtual reality really began to take off. Sega released the “Sega VR-1,” a head-mounted, virtual reality system for arcades in 1993.
A few years later, Nintendo came out with the “Virtual Boy,” a portable game console that used red and black 3D graphics. Though both systems were commercially unsuccessful, it showed that VR could be used for entertainment purposes.
Oculus Rift was the breakthrough headset that finally delivered on the promise of VR. Designed by Oculus VR, a division of Facebook, the Rift uses state-of-the-art displays and optics designed specifically for VR. Released in 2016, it quickly became the best-selling VR headset on the market.
The Slow Evolution of the Metaverse
The Metaverse is constantly growing and evolving as more and more people create new content and share it with others. However, it has recently begun to grow at a much faster pace. This is due to the increasing popularity of virtual and augmented reality. As more people experience these new technologies, they are beginning to create their own digital content. This content is then shared with others, which helps to grow the Metaverse even further.
The Metaverse is still in its early stages of development, but there are already a number of platforms and applications that allow users to experience it. While the concept is still largely speculative, there are already some early examples of it in existence. A prime example of the metaverse is the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft. In WoW, players can explore the world, kill monsters, and complete quests to level up their characters. The game also has a virtual economy, with players able to trade virtual goods with each other.
How Metaverse Aims to Change the World Around Us
Metaverse is positioning itself as a next-generation platform that can change the way we interact with the digital world. It’s building an ecosystem that bridges the physical and virtual worlds and allows for the creation of digital assets that can be used in a variety of ways.
The metaverse is widely predicted to achieve its potential. According to technological research firm Gartner, the Metaverse will have as big an impact on society as the World Wide Web does today by 2026. The report boldly claims that a quarter of the population will be engrossed in the Metaverse and replicating certain aspects of their daily lives, be it shopping, work, or entertainment. Moreover, investment banks such as Morgan Stanley are standing firmly behind the virtual world.
This all might seem (no pun intended) contrary to reality, coming at a time when reports are showing that Facebook, aka Meta, is currently losing over $10 billion dollars on various Metaverse concepts and ideas. However, if we scratch beneath the surface, we’ll see that some of the world’s largest tech companies – Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nvidia are all making significant efforts to catch up and prepare for the Metaverse.
Stepping Closer Toward Broader Acceptance of VR
However, it’s not the metaverse that’s suddenly made VR headsets popular, but rather a continuation of the achievements made by games developed solely with virtual reality in mind. The hardware is still in its early days with a few major platforms vying for control. Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR are the current market leaders, with Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset lagging behind. Apple has been reluctant to step into the ring but has just, or finally, announced their VR headset for 2023.
While there has been a lot of hype around virtual reality in recent years, it has yet to achieve mass market adoption. This is partly due to the high cost of entry, with most headsets costing over $500. In addition, there is a lack of content available for VR headsets. This is slowly changing as developers create more VR-specific games and experiences, but it’s still an issue.
The other major problem facing virtual reality is the so-called “uncanny valley” effect. This is the feeling of unease people experience when they see something that looks almost human but does not feel quite right. This can be off-putting for people who are trying to immerse themselves in a virtual world.
The Best is Yet to Come
Because of developer-side limits, as well as the numerous barriers to widespread adoption, Rick Pearce, the creative and technical director at Human Park, recently predicted that it might take five to ten years for VR to become a Metaverse-ready product.
The headset, according to Pearce, is the main obstacle. He claims that Oculus has largely addressed it by making the device more accessible. However, for at least the next five years, connectivity and gameplay will remain the top hurdle to overcome.
Despite these challenges, there are signs that virtual reality is slowly gaining traction. Virtual reality has the potential to change the way we interact with the world around us by providing a way for us to experience things that we could never experience in real life. Its role is a key component in the development of the Metaverse.