Oculus Rift

5 Exciting Ways the Oculus Rift May Be Used

How does a relatively small Kickstarter campaign turn into a 2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign, followed by a 2 billion dollar company in a little over a year and a half? Well, the answer is really quite simple – the Oculus Rift is a very exciting piece of technology, with a lot of potential.

If you were not aware, Facebook bought the Oculus Rift for 2 billion dollars this week. A move that will forever change technology, and the way we interact.

The Oculus Rift is a fully-immersive headset you wear over your eyes to make virtual-reality fill your field-of-vision, and I believe it will change the way we experience things. Just like how the smartphone revolutionized the world as we know it, I believe immersive headwear technology will have a very similar impact and change the world as well.

Sure, the main focus everyone has on the Oculus Rift at the moment is the fact that it will make video-gaming an immersive experience. But, I feel that that Facebook’s 2 billion dollar valuation of the Oculus Rift, and the encompassing idea, comes from the fact that it can be used for so much more. Here are 5 exciting ways I can imagine the Oculus Rift, or other immersive simulation headset devices being used in the future.

1. Sporting Events

Imagine being able to pay $50 to be able to put on your immersive headwear, and be transported to a football, basketball, soccer, or wrestling arena. Not only will you be able to look around, but maybe even have your friends beside you to talk to and interact with. Where you look, you see live video in super clear vision, all without having to leave your living room. Not only that, but imagine being able to switch seats – say you have 5 different angles you can watch from. You could watch the game from the 50-yard line, or the endzone, or maybe even a press box.

Now, I know what you are thinking after reading that, “Payton stop – that’s not possible at all”.

bodyscanningYes, it actually is. Imagine local malls offering a “3D scanner” that you can walk into that scans your body into the virtual world. After which, either software or a professional will build your body to have joint points, that will make you be able to move. Or, even better, they put you on a treadmill and have you walk and do MoCap (motion capture) of some of your unique actions – so that your virtual character actually comes off as you. You may also be able to customize your clothes and look – similar to the way you change your character on other online platforms that involve virtual players.

camera arrayAs far as what you see in your eyewear – the answer isn’t a pan and tilt robotic head on the side of the field mimicking your heads movements, but rather a series of cameras alined to build a full image. The main two reasons the pan & tilt method wouldn’t work is simply because of the delay between your heads movement, and the position of the camera, and the fact that you would need a different camera for each person attending online. The camera array idea is a much better idea for this purpose. The whole image would be transmitted from a single point, and would be an array of cameras lined up to give you a 360 view of the action – allowing you to look anywhere at a moments notice, without delay.

To get your friends next to you, the software can overlay a realtime animation of your friend in your eyewear. You look right, and there is Jeff, cheering on your favorite team. To hear Jeff, it’s as simple as integrating headphones and a microphone into the headset. This can all be built into a headset that you can comfortably wear, and in theory, forget about.

In theory, you could game hop from venue to venue all evening, watching numerous games all in one evening. Some venues could offer different places you could “sit at” and be able to switch between. All this, without the potential of a cheesy-dog being dropped in your lap, or a basketball hitting you in the face – well, kinda.

2. Virtual Classrooms & Meetings

We all hate it when that obviously sick, and sleep-deprived individual sits down right next to you in a room. You sit there debating in your head, if you should move away, or just ignore that person and hope you don’t get sick. In the future, these immersive headsets could open a whole new door to the classroom and meeting rooms, and potentially save you from getting sick in the process.

Imagine waking up and realizing you were too sick to goto school or work – but really wanted to know what was going on in a critical talk. Not only could you put on your immersive headwear and be transported to a class or meeting in real-time, you could watch a past class or meeting – once you are feeling better. This would prevent you from bringing your sickness to a public place, and yet be able to participate, to a certain degree.

Not only could you watch back a past session, but you could also pause or slow down a session if you are taking notes, or need something repeated. This would make learning a much more personalized experience, and could be tweaked for each users needs.

Studies have shown that the more senses you use when interacting, the more likely you will be to pay attention and learn new information. Perhaps in this case, you will be allowed to learn in a way you desire, causing new information to soak into your brain better. Finally, a school experience where you will not be distracted by rubber bands hitting you, or rotten school lunches smelling up the classroom.

Video Conferencing Meetings could be taken to a whole other level as well. Imagine all your participants wearing interactive headwear, and being animated into a large conference room. No longer will you all need to look at a TV on the end of a conference table, but rather be able to look around and address people at the table as if they were sitting across from you in real life.

This technology could be a life-saver for freelancers and consultants who would get hired more because they could participate from their home office or business located hundreds of miles away. It could also save companies travel costs as well if integrated into the workplace. Of course, there is still nothing quite like feeling a confident handshake to help you rest at night – oh, we can do that virtually too?

3. Online Dating

Single meet-up events are great in real life, but they have their drawbacks. These drawbacks are usually things like a lack of people, weird environment, and even the potential for someone to follow you home.

With interactive headwear, you could meet a lot of people online, without the pressure of having a real person in front of you. For some people, this may be the only way they feel comfortable to meet others.

facialanimationYou may be surprised to know that very accurate facial mapping technology exists, and is currently being used a lot in the movie industry. Two of the biggest examples to date is the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tron Legacy. Both used very realistic facial mapping techniques to make you feel that people in the movie were real. This technology can be used in headsets as well to recreate another person sitting across from you.

There are a few major setbacks to this concept that will need to be sorted out before online virtual dating will really take off. Things like not being able to have physical contact, eat the same food, buy someone a drink, and even as scary as modifying your online profile to make you come off as a stunning french guy. Of course, these are similar problems that we face today, yet online dating is a still a 1.2 billion dollar annual industry.

4. Advanced UAV

AIR_Raytheon_UAV_Universal_Control_System_lgUnmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAV’s, are becoming an even bigger part of our society everyday, even if we like it or not. It’s a fact that human error is the leading cause of UAV/Drone crashes, and can be prevented by using better control methods. One of these could be a headset that gives the operator a more immersive experience, with advanced heads-up-display (HUD) which can help prevent user-errors.

I believe UAV’s will start to be used for news-gathering in the future once the FAA changes its rules on drone operation in the US, and users will need adequate controls and HUD experiences in order to safely control these devices.

5. Virtual Experiences

I titled this part very broad because there are a numerous amount of ways I can imagine interacting with people virtually. Here is a list that fall into this category:

Online amusement parks – build your own roller coaster and ride it, or ride others creations. Potentially talking to an actual hardware device that moves your body like the MaxFlight.

Hangout with your friends – maybe integrate with Google Hangouts

Heavy machinery training – they already have virtual training programs for construction cranes and vehicles, just add an immersive aspect

Attending concerts with friends

Meet and greet with celebrities

Watching a broadway play

Watching a fully immersive movie – it would never get old, because you could look wherever you want

Try-before-you-buy products – similar to IKEA’s virtual furniture app

Interact with animals – zoo experiences, animal shelters, etc

Travel the world – visit skyscrapers, popular public places

Of course none of this will be possible unless we have new, faster, and better technology. One of the biggest factors I can see being an issue right now is internet speed.

The connections between the cameras/headsets, delivery networks, and the end user will need to be somewhat speedy (depending on compression algorithms and resolution). If I can’t stream Netflix in 720p on my TV, then I most defiantly can’t stream a feed from 8 cameras simultaneously to my headset. This isn’t due to my internet speed, but due to the amount of data these networks have to push out, and ISP connections not being large enough to handle the traffic. We will need to build a fast network to every house that wants to use this technology. If China is already mandating that all new homes must have fiber optic networks built to them, then what are we waiting for here in America?

Another big factor will be licensing seats to these camera setups at games and events. Of course it will be a win-win for both the venue and the network, as one $500 seat can be sold to a camera who 2,000 people pay $75 to access. It becomes more of an issue with licensing and figuring out who gets what cut of the money.

The last factor I want to touch on is the fact that people will become more absorbed in technology, which may or may-not be a good thing. We are all entitled to our own opinions, so I will leave that decision up to you.

The future is coming, all we can do it hold on for the ride, and take guesses at what the future holds. I hope I was able to guess some of the future correctly – and if not, at least I brought some cool ideas to the table.

Feel free to leave your ideas and predictions in the comments below – then bookmark this page to come back and check your predictions in 5 years. Or email yourself 5 years in the future.

© 2014, Payton Peterson. All rights reserved.

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