Stand On the Edge of the Future (and a Starship Bridge) with an Oculus Rift

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What sets the Oculus Rift apart from the Virtual Reality headsets of the past is it’s lightning-quick tracking of your head. And it’s the reason why Oculus VR has a shot at success. Earlier incarnations of these headsets had a minor, yet perceptible, lag. Your brain knew that no matter how good the graphics, there’s no way it’s real because the computer generated movement delivered didn’t match what your brain ordered.

And now that we’ve fixed that problem, it’s purely a matter of time before the resolution of the screens increases, and the size of the goggles decreases. Moore’s Law is just getting started with this.

Moore’s law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. The law is named after Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, who described the trend in his 1965 paper.[1][2][3] His prediction has proven to be accurate, in part because the law is now used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and to set targets for research and development.[4] The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.[5] All of these are improving at roughly exponential rates as well. This exponential improvement has dramatically enhanced the impact of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy.[6] Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[7][8]

While we wait for the perfect match of imperceptible image quality and extended-wear comfort, people with far more time on their hands than me have begun creating worlds to explore with a headset not even available yet to the public.

Thomas Kadlec is one of those people. And he’s done what every nerd would do with the right amount of energy, time, and geekitude: he recreated the bridge of the USS Enterprise, the most revered science fiction ship this side of the Millennium Falcon. No, wait — for some unknown reason he opted, instead, to recreate the USS Voyager’s bridge. We can only speculate when discussing subconscious expressions of unrequited love for Captain Janeway.

Here’s a recording of him walking onto the bridge. Because it’s fully immersive and completely believable 3D (again, accurately replicating head movement really helps), the video recorded is stereoscopic. When you’ve got the headset on, the fisheye completely disappears.

To give you a sense of how realistic the movement is, people who try the Rift for the first time are urged to either sit, or have two people surround you. You start to lean in the direction you’re virtually moving. People fall over. And the moment your brain receives conflicting signals, it freaks out.  But what happens if you think you’re going one way and some giant jerk/friend  pushes you another? According to the Internet, this:

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There’s likely more going on here than a guy freaking out because he thinks he’s falling. Here’s hoping this isn’t an “issue.”

Facebook bought Oculus VR, the creator of the Rift, for $2 Billion. It’s clearly banking on Moore’s Law to shrink the size, improve the screen quality, and stick one to each of our faces. As the Register UK recently ominously put it, IT WANTS your EYEBALLS. But why?

The answer isn’t likely “to sell you crap in 3D”, at least not at the outset. Facebook isn’t going to use the Rift to build virtual malls so you can shop ’til you drop without the sore feet. Usually these things go the other way: when something fantastical is created, the money guys come in and figure out how to “monetize” it. Like Twitter. Or Facebook itself.

The content has to be pretty compelling to draw the general public. While the bridge of some also-ran Star Trek spin-off may be only one man’s dream destination, virtually exploring real world locations or fantastical off-worlds could become the travel business of the next century.

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Once we’re hooked on using lightweight, high resolution goggles that wouldn’t look out of place at a Swim Meet, that’s when the serious monetization begins. It starts slowly with gee-whiz things like VR test drives of every car on the lot and walk-throughs of real estate listings. Skydiving. A combination of the urbane and exotic will open our wallets.

 

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