If you've spent any time reading tech websites, and chances are that since you're reading this article you have, you'll know that virtual reality is buzzworthy. New headsets have emerged from Oculus, Valve, HTC, Samsung, Microsoft, Sony, and Google among others. This trend is poised to continue, and has even extended well beyond gaming.
While VR is a hot trend, it's by no means new. Nintendo's ill-fated Virtual Boy debuted in 1995, and even before that the cult classic "Lawnmower Man." However, improvements and advancements have helped virtual reality evolve from cumbersome devices (sorry, Virtual Boy) with dated graphics to small gadgets with impressive visuals. Google Cardboard is ther perfect example of VR's prominence. Just insert your smartphone into the simple cardboard headset and your phone is transformed into a virtual reality device.
Yet more advanced headsets, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have given developers a reason to take advantage of game engines. Red Storm Entertainment's Michael Micholic spoke at length about the gaming industry's adoption of VR at an RTP 180 discussion of gaming on July 16, 2015. Micholic explained that virtual reality has become smaller, but more powerful. Micholic asserts that "it's the next big technological breakthrough in the industry." Potential applications range from film to college tours, but the largest industry is gaming. However, Micholic clarified that VR in gaming isn't merely recreating old games, but delivering entirely new experiences.
Epic Games' Jim Brown similarly emphasized the growth of VR at RTP 180: Gaming. Epic's powerful Unreal Engine 4 released an update earlier in 2015 that included virtual reality support, and they're not alone. The Unity engine and CryEngine both allow developers to utilize VR. Brown showcased a few of Epic's virtual reality creations, which weren't relegated to gaming. He showed off a few screenshots of a sweet VR demo of Smaug's lair from "The Hobbit."
The trend is clear: virtual reality is truly taking over, and the applications are wide-ranging. Most uses are in the entertainment industry, with the vast majority of VR popping up in game development. It's having an impact on how what devs are creating, as well as how they are developing. Multiplayer can actually connect players in a more realistic sense, beyond chatting on a headset while button mashing. An immersive technology, virtual reality is beginning to change the gaming landscape, and fulfill the desire of game developers. Gaming has always aimed to recreate mesmerizing and participatory worlds, and VR is arguably among the most momentous advancements in accomplishing this feat.