The Oculus Rift and Second Life can become a marriage made in heaven.
What is more fun then exploring and immersing yourself in a world created by some game designer… exactly, immersing yourself in a world created by YOU.
Second Life offers that.
Recently I got a chance to try the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at a Virtual Reality meetup here in the Netherlands.
As a 40 year old woman who wears 1940s clothing I stood out a bit amongst all the hip young nerdy geeky guys and as I never go to such events, I found it quite an entertaining experience.
I was the very last person to arrive at this place and was given number 63, given that everyone there would be allowed about 5 minutes on one of the two Oculus Rift sets, you can imagine how long it would take before it was my turn.
Luckily they also had a third setup where you could try the rollercoaster demo and as all the waiting people had a go on that before they got to try the official ones, eventually they had all had had their turn and I could try it.
I have to say that at first I was a little disappointed, simply because I had expected so much of it and we’re spoiled with amazing graphics in other games.
And to me the Oculus Rift is only interesting for certain purposes so sitting on a roller-coaster racing around with very low resolution made it a bit hard to see past that and imagine what it would be like in Second Life and with better quality.
Luckily I was eventually able to look beyond that when I remembered that I was just using one the first devkits, a very basic version.
I already knew that a sharper, better version had came out that very day, MUCH improved from the previous one.
Being a bit of a (polite) rebel I decided to convince the organisors to run the Tuscan villa demo on the third Oculus set in stead of that Roller-coaster.
This demo made me a lot more enthousiastic, because it was very easy to try and imagine this as being a place in Second Life.
And again, it made me realise that the Oculus Rift and Second Life can become a marriage made in heaven, that they are perfect together and that Second Life could be the Oasis as mentioned in the book ‘Ready player one‘ by Ernest Cline.
Once I made myself look past the low level graphics and the rather dodgy steering, I realised how this could, would and should change Second Life, gaming and even Real Life for ever.
THIS was immersion like I’ve never experienced it before, and I have been one of the lucky people who got to try Virtual Reality over 20 years ago.
You FEEL depth, when you look down you actually feel like you’re looking down, when you stand on something, you will experience that as standing on something.
Looking over the edge of a cliff will make you want to step back and perhaps a bit dizzy, being inside a little room will make you feel claustrophobic, in short; you are INSIDE the 3D environment.
Experiencing such strong feelings while the headset is still at such an early stage of its development, and with rather bad steering, makes it clear how awesome it will be once we get a little further down the line.
Of course the steering is not up to the Oculus Rift developers, they just make the screens we look at.
So racing like mad trough a Tuscan villa, almost as if I’m floating and with no body, felt very odd.
It took a lot away from the experience and made it clear that game designers (including Linden Lab) need to take a really good look at this.
To make it work in SL we will not just need a much better mouse-view display but someone needs to go and experience what it is like to walk trough a sim while using your head to look around in stead of your mouse and how it feels and looks to walk, how we show our body, etc, etc.
But even with the way it is today and before having tried the new improved version (already twice the resolution compared to the one I tried and that is not even the commercial version) it already gave me a glimpse of how amazing all this is going to be and how big the role Second Life can play in it could be.
At the very base of it lies one very simple fact; the headset creates the illusion of 3D and it does this very well.
It is based on the century old idea of Stereoscopy and simply puts two pictures in front of your eyes and gives you the idea of depth.
It works much better then wearing 3D glasses and staring at a tv screen, the headset blocks out the rest of the real world and the head tracking is superb.
At this moment it is not perfect, it still needs lots of work both from hard- and software designers.
But you have to be blind not to see its enormous potential.
Unfortunately at the moment the people at Oculus Rift and others in the technical business are only looking at its possibilities in the world of games, mostly shoot-em-up games.
But the BEST thing about the Oculus Rift and virtual reality in general is the magic word; IMMERSION.
A good headset like the Oculus Rift will give you the idea of being inside the virtual surroundings.
And even with all its shortcomings, Second Life DOES give you the ability to immerse yourself in a more diverse virtual location then any other game or software out there.
Furthermore, it ads social interaction that you won’t find in any game.
And what is more fun then exploring and immersing yourself in a world created by some game designer… exactly, immersing yourself in a world created by YOU.
Second Life offers that.
I have seen a few kickstarters and demos out there that offer certain experiences for the Oculus Rift… game designers want money to develop software for you to experience virtual diving, visiting museums, going to the cinema…
But all these things are already possible in Second Life!
If Linden Lab realises the potential of their virtual world and manages to convince Oculus Rift and its users that they can offer all what they want and more, they will reach a huge potential market.
Yes the SL-viewer does need some work before they reach that point, but once they do, they should do whatever it takes to let the world know that Second Life could be THE place where virtually everything is possible.
Forget about just using the Oculus Rift for running about shooting at each other, virtual reality is suitable for so much more.
Let me sketch you my vision of the future;
I predict a time when most households will own a virtual reality headset and use it regularly.
It will be a very normal thing to use for all kinds of things.
We will visit the cinema together with friends living in another part of the world or just with our own family, watching something together again in stead of each doing something different on our own screen in another part of the home… something already possible in Second Life!
We will go shopping on the internet, being able to see something in 3d, examining it from all sides, try clothes on our avatar or simply visit a 3d supermarket for the daily shopping we’ll have delivered, just because it is more fun and less scary for some, then ordering via a regular website.
Schools will use it for education, imagine a history lesson about… oh I don’t know, 1920s Berlin… everyone put on their VR headset and woosh, here we go to virtual 1920s Berlin, the entire class together, no train tickets needed, no permission from the parents, no risks, no costs.
Police, medics, firemen and the army can use it to train people all time time without having to set up expensive real world exercises.
And combined with perhaps an Omnidirectional treadmill such as the Virtuix Omni people will use it for something many of us are obsessed with; exercise!
Imagine going jogging on a treadmill in a 3d created reality, in stead of seeing the boring neighbourhood you see every day in reality… you get to jog underwater, trough the streets of 14th century Venice, all over 1940s New York, on the moon, etc, etc.
The market for ‘Exergaming’ is huge, in 2009 such games were generating revenues of $2 billion.
And I’m not even talking about all the medical possibilities such as Physical rehabilitation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment, or simply making your stay at the hospital ward as a patient a little less boring.
Most of the options mentioned above could work in Second Life and would bring a LOT of new people to our virtual world.
Many people who are not at all interested in what Second Life has to offer at the moment, would flock to it if it had the added option of exploring virtual reality with a VR headset.
Of course, we’re not there yet.
But it is just around the corner, I can almost taste it and after trying the Oculus Rift myself I know that gaming, computers, virtual reality and even our day to day real lives are about to change drastically.
I just hope that the people behind Oculus Rift see that they can sell it just as well and as a tool for immersion and all kinds of virtual experiences, not just for gaming.
I know and understand that gaming is a big market, full of people ready to throw their money at the screen, but I think that the market for other kinds of uses may be even bigger.
And more importantly to us people who live in the Second Life world, I hope that Linden Lab realises the huge potential here and makes sure it gets in on the action as soon as possible.
Get in contact with the Oculus Rift people, stay in contact, invite them over to come and try Second Life and discuss some of the options.
And work on a viewer that will work with the Oculus Rift.
This will make mouseview properly functional for everyone, even without virtual headsets, but when the Oculus Rift launches its first proper public version and goes global (and it will), it is the duty of Linden Lab AND us, the users, to try and make the world realise how amazing it will be together with Second Life.
I know, there will be people out there who are sceptical of all this, I want to ask them to wait till they can actually try it, then sit down for a few minutes and imagine it working with Second Life.
Without actually trying it, it is very hard to judge.
Finally I want to end by sharing a video with you, it is an old one but to me this is what one day Second Life could be like and with the Oculus Rift, this virtual reality has gotten a lot closer;