Part 2 of a multi-part series is this article. Part 1 is available here.
I discussed the very good arguments against VR technology in Part 1. Virtual reality was clumsy and hazy just five years ago. Things are gradually getting better, and Oculus—owned by Meta, the business formerly known as Facebook—sells reasonably priced VR gear that deliver a passable experience.
It is possible to add more realism, but it is not cheap. My Oculus Quest 2 is powered by hardware that is essentially designed for smartphones but is tailored for virtual reality (VR) uses. The kids and I have had a lot of fun with it, and it’s fantastic for what it is. Even utilizing it at work has been a test for me. But the headset simply lacks the graphics power I want when I want even more lifelike experiences.
Fortunately, you can add more power to the VR headset by connecting it to a desktop or laptop computer. My own delivers some excellent results when combined with a PC that I initially designed for processing 4K footage. The computer is ideal for using with the Oculus Link cable to play VR games because it has 12 processing cores, a professional graphics card, 64 GB of RAM, and a high speed solid-state drive.
DCS World, a flight simulator used by the US Air Force for pilot training and practice sessions, was one thing we tested with. It’s adequate for professional pilots because it has realistic cockpit controls and a realistic cockpit view. I’m also starting to get into “sim racing,” which involves creating a realistic virtual automobile to ride in. The amount of money you can spend on a sim racing setup is virtually limitless, but with a solid force-feedback steering wheel and pedals, a strong computer, and a comfortable seat, you can have a driving experience that pro racecar drivers will appreciate.
There is also a computer-based VR game for Star Wars (sorry, big fan here) that, when played with a joystick, gives the impression of actually piloting X-Wing and TIE fighter aircraft.
In other words, home virtual reality is now capable of offering realistic experiences with high-quality graphics, but these experiences aren’t cheap. To do this, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 on a very basic gaming machine. Even though my PC cost $4,000, it still has certain issues. You might easily spend tens of thousands of dollars if you add realistic controls for vehicle-based experiences like flying or driving, a motion chair, or a platform.
However, only the most devoted gamers, sim racers, or the US government will part with that amount of cash. For most families, even a $300 VR headset is out of reach (mine, with additional storage and extras, cost roughly $600 altogether).
People are prepared to spend that much money on a computer since it can be used for more than simply virtual reality. It can be used for 2D play, work, and study. You can browse the internet. You can view videos and perform a variety of other entertaining or practical tasks. Even video game consoles are more practical for the majority of people because you can play with your family, watch Netflix and Disney on it, and do a lot of other exciting things in your living room.
Therefore, we’re still in a situation where costs will deter many people from attending. They simply do not want to invest hundreds of dollars on something they believe will not be widely beneficial. This does explain why Meta/presentation Facebook’s on Thursday spent so much time demonstrating potential uses for VR and AR; they want the general public to believe that purchasing current devices like the Oculus Quest 2 and better ones in the future is worthwhile.
Prices decrease as technology advances, but will that be sufficient? Let’s take another look at the 1990s. The computing capability of my current smartphone is much greater than that of the first computer I ever had. In fact, it was noticeably less capable than even the most affordable Chromebooks, which cost approximately $150. By the standards of today’s smartphones, even the PCs I had ten years ago were inadequate.
The most expensive VR experiences available now demonstrate that the technology is essentially workable, but widespread adoption will require price decreases as well as a change in how people view it.
As we all know, price reductions are a given in the computer industry. Although the cost to the client is unlikely to go down, hardware capabilities will significantly advance during the next five years. This will provide the realism that my rendering computer can currently render, but in a smaller, more portable, and less expensive package.
The change in public opinion must center on how much a consumer values the gear. The majority of people today don’t believe that spending $300–600 on VR will be worthwhile or enjoyable. The public needs to be persuaded that purchasing not just one VR headset, but one for every member of the household, in addition to AR glasses, is a wise use of money. Meta and other participants in this burgeoning sector of the computer business (I’ll get to that in a moment) must do this.
THE METAVERSE INDUSTRY’S OTHER PARTICIPANTS Before we analyze the potential advantages, it’s important to briefly note that Meta (the business formerly known as Facebook) is not the only one researching the Metaverse notion.
Another big player is Roblox . Perhaps you are familiar with Roblox if you have children. It offers children a largely secure environment where they can design their own video games and virtual worlds in addition to engaging in other virtual activities. Although the graphics are typically not realistic (at all), the company’s existence is based on the concept of managing numerous virtual worlds. Your children probably use it even if you don’t, and they’ll probably continue to do so even after they’re adults. So, undoubtedly, they will have a significant role in the Zuckerberg-described Metaverse.
In recent months, a number of other businesses have also discussed participating in the Metaverse, including Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Nvidia, and others. Neuralink may also play a role since brain-machine interfaces may offer a level of realism unmatched by any headset or other technology.
In summary, this isn’t just some crazy concept Zuck came up with. The entire industry is headed in that direction. Although it won’t be easy to change how the public views VR and AR, the involvement of a wide range of businesses, including some that are well-liked by children and teenagers, suggests that the concept has the staying power to succeed.
PROTECTING LIFE, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND I’ll discuss how the Metaverse can save lives and safeguard the environment in Part 3 if it is successful in gaining widespread acceptance like smartphones did.
Screenshot from Meta’s presentation featuring two men playing chess remotely in a park is used as the featured image. One that like a Star Wars Force Ghost appears from somewhere else. For amusement, the other person modified his avatar to look like a lion.
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