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Virtual Reality.

10.23.2017

An attendee tests VR goggles at JSConf Last Call Folks love to post pictures of people using virtual reality (VR) googles, because everyone just looks so darn goofy with the headset on. But virtual reality really does have legs. In the past couple years, I've seen some truly convincing VR demos, and run across amazing uses for VR. (Photo by Matthew Bergman from JSConf Last Call; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

This year, 3 friends and I played a demo of Marvel Powers United VR on 4 fully loaded Oculus setups with motion sensitive headsets and hand-held controllers. A single set of this gear costs multiple hundreds of dollars. When my system booted up, I was The Hulk - I was taller than everyone, my strides consumed feet like they were inches, and I could grab puny humans by their baseball-size skulls. It was unbelievably immersive; my brain easily believed in this new reality. I only experienced a little motion sickness; see (this for more on gender and VR motion sickness).

With any one of a number of electronic headsets and their companion apps, you can record and view panoramic or even 720° photos (some with even ambient sound). You can then view these high-resolution photos on the headset where moving your head moves the view of the photo. I've had demos of this too, and they're also very immersive. Can you imagine immersing your family in your vacation photos like this? Or remember that folks with disabilities are often technology's earliest adopters - virtual environments like this would be huge for those with severe anxiety or people who have trouble traveling.

Think about watching your favorite sports team; with 3D sound and picture captured right on the sidelines? Beyond games and entertainment, the universal on-line educational system of "Ready Player One" seems tantalizingly close. If you ever get a chance to try out some of this technology, I highly recommend checking it out.

There are more utilitarian ways to utilize VR. Google offers Cardboard, a $15 set of "glasses" that you insert your smartphone into. As just one example of apps for Cardboard, here is one which simulates a conference stage, so that you can practice your public speaking.

If you're a developer, this is a great time to start working with VR technologies. A great place to start is Shagufta Gurmukhdas's SeattleJS Conf 2017 talk about VR and Mozilla's A-Frame.

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