Imagine you are 4 inches tall, and sitting behind the wheel of a radio-controlled car. You set up an obstacle course around your home, and blast through it with ease, through a virtual reality (VR) head set.
This is an experiment Terry Green, Billmeier Camera owner, and all-things-visual enthusiast, assisted a local student with recently. The student was able to run the course faster with the VR, instead of simply watching the car run the obstacle course.
The concept of virtual reality is simple — you wear goggles or a head covering of some kind that blocks your view of the real environment, and instead are fed images from two small lenses via goggles or head set. For an image to be 3-D, the single image needs to be split into two, or recorded as two, and fed to each eye individually.
Game systems, computers and smart devices provide the image for the experience.
VR as a technology isn’t new. For example, Nintendo tried to take VR mainstream with the Virtual Boy game system in 1995. Only recently has the concept regained steam.
The VR experience can be powered by a video game, or a 3-D movie. The range of equipment is like anything else with technology — you can spend as much as you want. Unlike groundbreaking high-tech gadgets of the past, VR is likely affordable to most people who own a smartphone.
With Google Cardboard, you can use your android phone to watch 3-D videos for $15. The headset is literally just cardboard, with two lenses that feed the image to you. According to Cnet.com, it’s a nice cheap introduction to VR, but the experience will only be as good as your phone.
A step up from Cardboard, is the Samsung Gear VR. It also garnered positive reviews on Cnet, and costs $52 to $99. Of course, you have to have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and the right app to use it.
Green owns the Oculus Gear VR viewer for Samsung Galaxy S7, which he said was “mind blowing” to experience. He’s an infrequent user, but his 13-year-old stepson uses it often.
Both of these examples are stand-alone units, with no external cables or cords or controls.
The Oculus Rift headset is for gaming, and requires at least an Xbox One controller for the experience, and a powerful computer to run the game.
The next step up is the HTC Vive, which includes the headset, and also requires a computer and controller, but includes motion trackers set up in the room, to track your body’s motion.
Playstation 4’s system is almost like a virtual reality Nintendo Wii.