Virtual Reality Becomes More Accessible to Consumers

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(photo courtesy of developers.google.com)

By Andrew Aguilera
Stillman News Editor

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world without leaving your home? Imagine how convenient that would be. You would not have to worry about the stress associated with traveling. You would not have to pack and pay for luggage, go through the long process of getting a passport, and worry about your flight getting cancelled.

All of this is becoming more and more possible as the virtual reality (VR) industry is on the rise. For years now, consumers have seen the slight growth of VR headsets in the gaming industry. The most notable company to begin the trend in 2012, Oculus VR, continues to expand and enhance the virtual reality gaming experience.

However, in the past couple of years, VR has become applicable to many different industries including travel and entertainment. Last year, Google released its own VR platform, Google Cardboard, for use with smartphones. Indeed, the product is made almost entirely of cardboard with the addition of two lenses, some tape, and a rubber band. This year, Google made their product even better, releasing a newer version that can support smartphones with a maximum screen size of six inches. With the Google Cardboard, users can download the Google Cardboard mobile application on iOS or Android.

A few months ago, Google made an option for Google Street View to work with the Google Cardboard. Now, users could learn what it feels like to roam the streets of New York City and other major tourist locations simply through a piece of cardboard.

Recently, YouTube updated its mobile application for the Google Play store to support VR video for those using Google Cardboard with their Android smartphone. Combining VR techniques and 360 videos, users feel immersed in the settings of the videos. The most recent update also gives users the opportunity to watch ordinary videos in a special mode made specifically for the Google Cardboard.

In the past few days, Google released the Cardboard Camera mobile application that allows users to create VR three-dimensional photos with the product. In addition, Star Wars released their new VR experience, Jakku Spy, on their Star Wars mobile application.

To compete with the Google Cardboard, Samsung rolled out their new VR product called the Samsung Gear VR. When it became available for preorder on Amazon and Best Buy, both vendors had quickly sold out online.

This past week, Samsung launched “Samsung Internet for Gear VR” where consumers can use the Samsung Gear VR to browse the internet. The biggest difference between the Google Cardboard technology and the Samsung Gear VR is pricing. Currently, the Samsung Gear VR costs $99 on their website. Consumers can find the Google Cardboard for under $20 or even build it on their own.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what other companies decide to compete in the industry. So far, it has only been technology companies, but it would be interesting to see television producers to utilize the medium. With how rapidly VR technology is progressing, it is clear that it is no longer just about gaming, but the entire technology industry as a whole.

The most important questions that result from the sudden growth of VR technology are: What are the future implications? Will it eventually die out? As of now, it is too early to determine. According to Andrew Thomson, a TechCrunch contributor, VR technology has the possibility of getting integrated into court cases (e.g. to picture a crime scene), architecture, education, and pain relief.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.

Contact Andrew at
andrew.aguilera@student.shu.edu

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