Geek in Gear: I've got my eye on virtual reality

I have found a new crush, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Because I have seen the future of gaming.

Well, at least the future as far as my gaming is concerned.

First, I should quickly mention that I just built myself a new computer, tailored specifically for gaming, graphic design and my budget. I’ve been meaning to do this for a year or two, mind you, but it wasn’t until jumping into the full-time job world of a sort-of adult that I had the resources to pull it together. In case you’re wondering, I really only recommend a do-it-yourself scratch build if you want the option to upgrade parts and pieces rather than the whole thing at a time.

But anyway, barely two weeks into my binge on “Assassin’s Creed 4” and a couple open beta MMORPGs, my tech attention was finally pulled away to something I wanted just as much as I had wanted my new computer.

Cheating dolphins.

OK, actually the cheating dolphins is just a game (in which you’re taking a test and have to cheat off your dolphin classmates to get the answers to the insanely difficult questions) that’s sort of amusing to me and really weird, so I thought I’d share it first. What I actually meant was virtual reality.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to go full-blown Matrix-esque neural-tapping crazy here. But if you’ve been following the current virtual reality talk, then you might have an idea of what I’m talking about, namely the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that tracks head movement and adjusts the screen view to make it feel, at least visually, like you’re actually in the game. When I heard about it way back when, I thought it was a pretty nifty thing, you know? Kind of this crazy fun novelty like we saw in movies that tried to show the once-distant future (insert classic hoverboard joke here).

But virtual reality units aren’t exactly a new idea, and they’ve failed in the past. The Rift fell off my radar. Then I got my current job as a tech writer who writes about, well, tech, and I’ve started paying attention again, only to discover that people are taking this stuff to the next level (no, not the neural interfacing level). It’s not the only one out there, but the Virtuix Omni is definitely one of the first most promising free movement virtual-reality controllers and probably the best-looking (the black and green matches my gaming mouse). The Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill, which sounds complicated, but pretty much all you need to know about it is it lets you quite literally run around in your game.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in front of my computer, thoroughly enjoying a game, when I pause for a moment and think, ‘Dang, if I were actually running across this map, I’d be in marathon-ready shape in less than a month.’ The Rift-and-Omni combo is the gaming option I’ve been waiting for.

It’s expensive, sure, but not unreasonable. It’s first generation, yeah, but both companies are taking their time to test their products out and fund them thoroughly. Will it replace sit-down gaming? Not likely. And yeah, I know a lot of gamers just want to come home to a comfy chair at night and zone out with minimal physical effort after a long day of work and school. Console and PC sit-down gaming isn’t going to be killed by this, because let’s face it, there are some times when you just want to be lazy.

But is this the next big thing in video game development? Quite likely. At least, it’s a definitely maybe for me.