So we've had our Oculus Rift Developer Kit in the Entropy Office for about a month, and one thing is certain (besides the fact that we're all a little queazy) - we are HUGE believers in the potential of the new virtual reality headset, and although it has been less touted, we see this as the dawn of 'true' Mobile VR.
Just this week, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told Engadget, "We will be delivering a single Oculus Rift which [will] tether to multiple different devices. I think people will be pretty surprised with what set of devices we're able to make this work on. We are focused on just a few right now, basically just to stay focused so that we can deliver a great experience on a couple devices first. Then over time we'll have that span out."
The speculation has been rife that the "multiple different devices" Iribe has alluded to will no doubt include Android (and potentially in future) even iOS support. Things have heated up even more the past few weeks, with the announcement of industry icon John Carmack joining the Oculus Team full time. Carmack has already stated publicly that he sees the future of Oculus on Android as a stand-alone experience. The extension to the 3D headset as a fully 'mobile' experience is therefore only a small step away.
Now what does all this mean?
Will we be using the Rift to pair with our mobile devices (a la Google Glass) to provide an "on the go" second screen experience? Perhaps. More likely though, we are looking at a mobile VR experience that can integrate many of the applications and entertainment we currently strain to enjoy on our smaller screens - perhaps as a 3D screen companion, or experiential learning or gaming environment on the go. Admittingly, this woud be a complicated "wearable" to integrate into your daily life - but remember, this is just the beginning. In a few years, the Rift technology will no doubt fit within the form factor of normal glasses - or sunglasses for that matter.
What's perhaps even more exciting is the potential to bring back the lost promise of AR (remember that "Augmented Reality" thing that was all the rage about 18 months ago?). With a Rift-like, enhanced mobile virtual reality experience, the potential to create a highly immersive, fully-360 experience emerges.
What can that mean? How about full 3D city walking tours of London - experiencing the city during the Blitz of 1940 or the Great Fire of 1666 as you walk though modern streets? Galleries and Museums can take this even further with full digital 'spaces' and exhibits allowing users to tour, interact, and even "find" various art works that exist only in the 'virtual' arena. Then there's the events angle - attending massive venues and events remotely or even interacting closely with with the acts on stage or on the football pitch. Heck, all of the cool ideas we used to have for "AR" can simply be much more pervasive and sumptuous in a proper Rift-style, fully wearable environment.
It's early days for the wearable, "heads-up display" paradigm to be certain. Google Glass is just one expression of where a consistent virtual dashboard can take us. But don't discount the ability of a fully immersive, 3D virtual experience to soon take the Glass concept much, much further.
For our part, we've had a lot of trouble walking around London in our Rift - but we have no doubt in a few years, that may be a bit more normal.