Virtual Reality Becomes Real Reality With Oculus Rift

Photo (cc) by UTKnightCenter

The first units of the Oculus Rift, a headset that promises to be the leading edge in virtual reality content, were shipped March 28, but many reviewers say don’t rush out and buy one just yet.

After donning the virtual reality headset, the wearer is immersed in a 360-degree version of a different world. In time, the technology could have applications for gaming, but could also extend beyond play into other technical and educational realms.

The idea of virtual reality, particularly for playing video games, has been around for years, at least in science fiction. The Oculus Rift is the first product to bring the concept to life commercially.

The virtual reality company Oculus first made headlines about 3 1/2 years ago when it began a successful Kickstarter campaign. Facebook then acquired it for $2 billion two years ago, before it even had a product available. Many analysts suggest the headset won’t make much difference to Facebook’s stock price this year, one way or another.

And now that the wait is over, many reviewers are suggesting — well, wait a bit longer. The $600 headset needs a high-end desktop computer to function properly, and if you don’t have one of those, you’re looking at paying more like $1,500.

Even if you already have the hardware, most reviewers are saying to hold off before you buy. While they praise the design of the headset, they note it doesn’t have enough interesting games and other applications to make the cost worthwhile.

While the Oculus Rift is the first VR headset to come out, at least two more are expected to come to market this year: the HTC Vive, on April 5, and the PlayStation VR, in October.

Another entry in the field is Microsoft’s HoloLens, which is billed as mixed reality – the headset will overlay holographic projections onto what you’re looking at in the real world. Microsoft will start shipping units to app developers March 30. There’s no word yet on a commercial release date.

What’s your opinion on the up-and-coming virtual-reality technology? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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