digital experiences that people love
Fran Allen
Fran Allen
3rd Feb 2016

Is 2016 the year of Virtual Reality?

We look at the new virtual reality (VR) products being launched in 2016, and how the tech giants are competing to lead the race. Plus we’re giving away 5 Google Cardboard devices, so you can experience VR for yourself.

The Opportunity

Virtual Reality (VR) places the user into an environment that simulates a physical presence in a ‘world’, either real or imagined. Tech companies such as Facebook, Google and HP are excited by the possibilities that VR presents, and are competing hard to become the recognised trailblazer in making VR accessible to the mainstream consumer.

Oculus Rift

So why now? Gaming companies are leading the way in creating immersive media and the next logical step is to move from 2D into a 3D space. What is exciting these gamers? Two words: Oculus Rift.

oculus

Photo credit: Sergey Galyonkin (Flickr)

Oculus Rift (a slickly designed VR headset) launches in March 2016 and is generally considered to be the product that will ignite the VR experience for consumers. Facebook were quick to snap it up and acquired the company in March 2014.

The Virtual Reality Experience

So what are the potential uses of VR if you are not a gamer? The possibilities are endless but the music industry (often a leader in adopting new technology) is already embracing VR. The artist Bjork has used VR in a recent video release, and Taylor Swift and her team received an Emmy award for their “AMEX Unstaged: The Taylor Swift Experience.”

Virtual Reality Gigs are becoming a realistic option allowing you to watch a band you really love perform in China, whilst you are in London.

Innovative British companies such as Unit 9 are embracing the technology and proving what is possible. There are some case studies with stunning footage on their website:

Google Cardboard – want one?

So with Facebook and Oculus apparently zooming ahead in the VR race, where do the other players stand? Big player Google is scrambling to keep up and pulling out all the stops to do so.  Google’s current VR offering is Google Cardboard.

Unlike the expensive Oculus Rift (which you can pre-order for March delivery for US$599), Google Cardboard aims to bring the VR experience to the masses in an affordable way. Google Cardboard is literally a cardboard cut out which can be folded around your smartphone and it becomes a headset via which you can watch VR apps and experience an immersive world.

Want to try one? We have 5 kits to give away. Email Jon at 3 sixty dot co dot uk and the first 5 responses will get one. Just make sure you tell us how you rate your VR experience!

Magic Leap

Google Cardboard is undoubtedly genius – but it will not provide the quality experience that tech-savvy gamers want and expect. To meet this demand, Google have also invested in Magic Leap in order to be able to challenge Oculus Rift.

Currently, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the exact nature of the Magic Leap product, but it claims to be an augmented reality platform which projects holograms into your field of vision – literally right into your eye! Clever? Yes… but as yet unproven. So what is the difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

VR vs AR

Augmented Reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life – developers can create images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world. In effect, the AR overlays a virtual world on top of the real world. VR is different. VR plunges you into a virtual world and users find it difficult to tell the difference from what is real and what is not.

Augmented Reality products are already in existence such as Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens, and with the acquisition of Magic Leap, it seems that Google are aspiring to lead the AR race rather than challenge Oculus in VR.

Time will tell which of these products really grasps the limelight, but one thing we can be sure about; the tech giants will be throwing their full weight at AR/VR in 2016 in order to stay in the race.

VR Event in Bristol

If you are excited or intrigued about the possibilities of AR/VR (and come on, who isn’t?!) then check out the VR World Congress which is being held in Bristol in April. It is a showcase of the VR industry including specialist speakers and an exhibition of VR coolness. Check out the website for more information and tickets.

Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, the reality is that there’s lots to get excited about in 2016.