Birth of a new medium: Virtual reality


The Appalachian Online

Matt Zothner

In 2016, we will be in the year of virtual reality.

The idea of virtual reality, or VR, has been laughed at for decades primarily because the technology wasn’t at the point where it could be applicable yet. After the advancement in computer hardware, graphics and human-computer interaction over the last five years, this technology is here to stay and advance.

Virtual reality is truly mind-boggling because it combines the best of both software and hardware. Inside ergonomic headsets lies high definition monitors, movement sensors, and graphics cards. Turn your head in any direction and you see a virtual world, manipulating objects in it as you please. Some say that the sensation of VR is so immersive that your brain is tricked into believing the virtual world you see in the headset is real life.

Most of the tech giants have invested heavily into this new medium, creating a massive hype of this impending multi-billion dollar industry. Next year we will see companies like Facebook (which acquired the most talked about VR company, Oculus, for $2 billion recently), Samsung and Sony release some form of virtual reality tech within the next 12 months.

In addition, hundreds of developers are creating games and other software – educational, medical, social – to put onto these platforms. This is an exciting time, and it looks similar to when smartphones first hit the scene with mobile applications.

For now, VR is being marketed to gamers because they are the kind of people willing to pay the hefty “early adopter” price. But when the price gets knocked down because of advancements in hardware tech, we will begin to see what new immersive experiences VR will really be able to give to consumers.

According to Business Insider, “While VR technology is largely associated with the gaming industry, the platform offers a new set of content opportunities in entertainment, advertising, and more.”

The opportunities are endless, and the applications for this tech reach beyond what we can think of presently.

As Mark Zuckerberg stated when acquiring Oculus, “This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

It’s great to see this kind of technology leave the realm of Hollywood sci-fi and get into our homes. It’s safe to say that it’s not science fiction anymore, it’s reality.

Zothner, a junior marketing major from Cary, is an opinion writer.

All opinions expressed on this page are that of the writer and not of The Appalachian as a whole.