The floor falls away from me. I’m stood on a wooden plank, suspended 30 feet in the air. At least that’s what it feels like…
I’m in the middle of my first fully immersive virtual reality experience, and the palms have gone all sweaty.
“Go on, walk forward,” pipes a cool, calm instruction from somewhere I-don’t-know-where.
We’re spending the morning at experiential marketing agency Inition in Shoreditch to play with some of the latest technologies being using to create new brand experiences for consumers.
In a small room lined with a cordon (to stop you walking into real walls) you slip on the Oculus Rift and you’re instantly transported into another world – totally of your choosing.
Harvard’s Pete Marcus casually browses around a brand new kitchen for his flat, while Kelly Bowen opts to throw some boxes around in a warehouse (after completing a VR wingsuit skydive, naturally).
For me, I’m walking the plank. It’s the sharpness of the graphics that gets you – the detail on the bricks, as well as the depth (and distance) you sense to the floor below. What’s more, the headset can sense where I’m moving in the real world and reflects that in the virtual tableau I see. Instantly you’re completely enveloped in this 360-degree virtual world.
The sceptic inside me had expected grainy graphics and an overarching clunkiness; in fact it was quite the opposite. We’ve come an awful long way from human’s first failed flirtation with VR – Nintendo’s 32-bit ‘Virtual Boy’ in 1995 was marketed as the first portable console to show 3D graphics.
Twenty years later and the result is quite scary, but it’s also massively exciting. The multi-sensory experiences are the ones which really hit home – Kelly’s skydive for instance had fans blowing air, while she steered the wingsuit strapped to a moving table.
It’s clear to me that virtual reality is more than just a fad. The technology is here; it just needs to be powered by great content. The full potential of VR will be realised when it starts to make its way into the hands of regular day folks, rather than just businessmen at IT conferences.
After reaching the end of the plank, the instruction then is to jump. A few seconds of hesitation later and I’m gone, over the edge. Virtual reality you have bowled me over and I want a headset right now.
Cheers to the folks over at Inition for making sure we didn’t fall over!