Future Tech: The Crazy Virtual Reality Controllers of Tomorrow
If you ever get the chance, go back and watch one of those soon-to-be 30-year-old movies about virtual reality. Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity, Brainstorm; any of them will do. Afterward, load up Microsoft’s promo video for Young Conker, an augmented reality game released in 2016. You’ll notice several similarities, and we’re not even talking about the horrifying images on the screen.
We’ve reached a point where the nonsense dreams of past generations are starting to be realized, and they’re looking better than ever despite our first example. Now that we have a baseline of headsets available, the next decade could swing in any number of ways. It may not be overly successful right now, but there’s still a huge amount of untapped potential.
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Like any technology in its infancy, VR is expensive and caters to a limited audience. The only reason why we all think any differently is that VR has been around in the public consciousness for years and years as a nebulous idea. There were even early VR setups decades ago that tricked you into thinking that the technology was out there, but it really wasn't. Not in any real way. We're still very much in the opening round of a drawn-out endeavor, and it could be a gold rush for companies ready to go when the other shoe drops.
Getting A Handle On It
For one, the basic controls of VR haven't been nailed down. Sure, everyone has their own motion controllers, but they're all radically different up close. The Vive's touchpads and knuckle controllers feel completely different from the buttons and sticks that Oculus prefers. More importantly, none of them feel so good that they can't be improved. Virtual worlds still haven't found their keyboard and mouse, which leads to loads of crazy experimentation.
Power Glovin', Having a Blast
When the first wave of virtual reality hit pop culture in the late '80s and early '90s, there was only one sensible way for future folk to get their VR on: the fully featured whole-hand glove. How else could someone reach out and touch something that wasn't there? While there were plenty of older gadgets that took that idea and ran with it using the tech they had, nothing was as bad as the Power Glove.
Nowadays, there are companies attempting to bring fully featured feeling to virtual spaces. The Sense Glove pairs the motion and finger tracking of other VR controllers with highly specialized rumble capabilities, so you can feel exactly when you're gripping the tennis ball before you throw it at your friend's digital noggin. While still in testing, the Sense Glove is finding most of its uses in business training scenarios.
Strut It Like Serkis
What if having hand control just isn't enough? What if you want the full monty? That's where the VR bodysuits come in. If you can get over the fact that you're transforming yourself into Mokap, there's no better way to fully step onto the Grid, mostly because you'll feel your feet touch down on the falsified pavement. Not only can products like the Teslasuit simulate physical strain during virtual actions, but it can also measure how you're feeling performing said actions. If your heart races after a rival zooms past in the VR Grand Prix, the game will know about it. If the designers feel generous, they could tweak things back in your favor.
Hitting The VR Gym
So, we've covered your entire body in preparation for the ultimate virtual deep dive. It just can't be fully immersive while you're still tilting a stick to move. VR movement is really the thing that will define future development. As of now, designers just don't have an answer. One early front-runner from back in the first VR craze is the omnidirectional treadmill. This lets you feel like you're moving forward while staying stationary, which helps, since actually walking around your living room with a giant screen covering your eyes leads to some nasty bruised shins. Will this or any other technology we know of today take hold? Or is someone cooking up a crazy device we've never even conceived of? We'll know someday, but at least for now we can share in the baffling magic of Young Conker.