Following technological and monetary hindrances, one of virtual reality's biggest impediments to market has been usability. We worked with Sixense and Oculus VR after PAX Prime to write an article detailing the history and future of VR & AR technology, where some of these difficulties were discussed; since this posting, Oculus VR has engineered a 1080p, relatively low-latency version of their headset and facebook has acquired the company and its Rift. A lot has changed in a few months.


At ECGC 2014 -- the same place we filmed our interview with Morrowind's Ken Rolston -- we managed to catch a virtual reality panel hosted by NextGen Interactions' Jason Jerald. The panel discussed usability and input hurdles in virtual reality, information conveyance, fun VR experiments featuring virtual pits and scared players, and the future of VR. A video of the panel can be found below, but I've picked out a few key highlights for those who'd rather read a quick recap.

The concept of a "virtual" reality has existed for decades and has nebulous origins, but the first technological steps can be pinpointed to Ivan Sutherland's head-mounted display (HMD); the device, lovingly-dubbed the Sword of Damocles for its massive size and imposing demeanor, was built in 1968 and placed the user into wireframe rooms. The term itself, "Virtual Reality," didn't even popularly exist until 1985.

Since Sutherland's pioneering innovations, the industry has had disorienting cycles of ups-and-downs for Augmented & Virtual Reality tech. There were holes in the yet-unfolding plot: Missing technology (we'd only just moved from tubes to transistors), a smaller pool of talent, and the interest and funding were primarily in medical or military-industrial fields.



The equipment that was purpose-built for those fields made tremendous technological leaps, but would by-and-large never be faced with a consumer. And, as with many technologies that started in the military, much of the early VR/AR equipment was classified.

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