VR hasn’t taken off in the way many people imagined it would back in 2015, on the eve of the launch of the Oculus Rift. But it has been steadily growing, like any new piece of technology, and slowly coming down in price. VR headsets are the sort of thing that the average person can now afford without having to skip a month’s rent payment.
VR is, in many ways, the most exciting platform today for gaming. It’s something which provides gamers with an utterly immersive experience, allowing them to feel as if they are 100 percent in the gaming environment, without any bezels, borders, or background distractions. In a way, it could even be said that it’s the equivalent to cable TV back in its heyday, as it also offers something no other entertainment device or service can truly match at the moment.
VR technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last two years, and there’s plenty more for gamers to look forward to in the year ahead. So what’s on the horizon to get you excited?
4K Headsets And Beyond
As anyone who owns a gaming computer knows, 4K screens require a lot of horsepower in the graphics department. A 4K display has more than four times the real estate of a standard 1080p monitor, meaning that there are many more pixels to push with each frame.
Running current titles at 4K is doable with a powerful GPU, but you’ll have to shell out well more than $500 to get something that’ll give you a buttery smooth experience at 60 fps. The idea then, that you could have a 4K headset doing the same seems a little out of reach.
However, graphics processing units are catching up fast to the 4K standard. When the first 4K monitors emerged, you needed something incredibly beefy, like a Titan X, to get a decent gameplay experience. But with new cards from both AMD and Nvidia which much higher bandwidth, achieving 4K in VR no longer seems like an impossibility.
VR headsets are more demanding than regular monitors, thanks to their high framerate requirements. Ideally, users need a refresh rate of over 100 hertz to avoid motion sickness when swiveling their heads. 4K headsets which provide this kind of speed could become available by the end of the year and could get graphical support from next-gen GPUs in 2020.
What about 8K in VR? Will that happen? The answer to that question is yes if the past is any indication of the future. But remember, it’s taken nearly a decade to move from 1080p to 4K in the computer monitor space, and there are still teething issues for gamers wanting to play triple-A titles. The same will happen with the switch to 8K. Only those with the most potent setups will be able to run them: sorry console users.
New Genres Of Games On VR
Because VR isn’t as widespread as other gaming platforms, there’s not a huge incentive for developers to create games specially for the platform. However, those developers that do have a captive market: there’s no competition.
Population: One is the first VR game to feature battle royale. Given the popularity of battle royale games on the desktop and consoles, it’s remarkable that it’s taken so long for this to happen, but that’s the reality of VR right now – we haven’t had mass adoption.
Going forward, that’s likely to change quickly. We will hit a tipping point as the greater number of users fuels new content creation which, in turn, incentivizes more people to use headsets. It could be a virtuous circle; a positive feedback loop.
VR headsets currently have two problems preventing them from creating genuinely immersive virtual environments. The first issue is the cable. You can’t just walk around freely as if you’re really in a digital environment without ripping a cord out of the back of your computer or console. Cables are a part of the experience right now.
The second issue is the danger factor. You could be quite happily enjoying your virtual world, thinking that you’re perfectly safe while, in the real world, you’re about to walk off a cliff or into a wall.
In the future, though, VR headset makers are looking at creating ways to eliminate these problems.
Oculus Quest, for instance, is a kind of hybrid VR product which includes by VR and augmented reality elements. External cameras on the device scan for features and then create virtual worlds around them, using reality as a scaffold on which to hang virtual aspects. So, for example, if you’re in a forest, the Oculus Quest could create a virtual forest using the trees that are really there.