By Felicia Ingram
Submerged below a watery abyss and atop a shipwrecked vessel, I find myself surrounded by quiet creatures swimming around my head. As I look into the deep, a gigantic blue whale makes eye contact with me. Hearing the sound of chatter, I am reminded where I am. I am not scuba diving off of the coast of the Galapagos.
I am at theCO experiencing theBlu: Encounter on the HTC Vive. I am a part of millions of Americans experiencing the phenomena of Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality is not to be confused with Augmented Reality. The most relevant example of Augmented Reality is Pokémon GO, the latest craze that’s led to increased traffic to downtown Jackson. Most Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, requires special equipment that can cost anywhere between $25 to $1,500. The installation for a selection of these VR platforms is more complicated, involving way more than a click and download. Compared to Augmented Reality or reality blending, VR, however, is more immersive and expensive. Fortunately for CO:members, theCO offers its members a chance to experience Virtual Reality in their free time—free of charge.
Currently, theCO has two operating systems: the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both are for VR, but each platform comes with slight differences. CO:Member Robby Appleton uses the gaming system from time to time to explore new worlds. Appleton says he prefers the Vive over the Oculus. “The main difference is that the Vive has these two remote controllers,” Appleton said. “The Oculus doesn’t have that yet. So, for the Vive, you can get up and walk around, and the Oculus will have that. But the Oculus has slightly better headset. It has better video quality.”
Non-gaming companies are picking up on the use of VR. MTV’s TV show Teen Wolf released a virtual tour of the Teen Wolf World for this year’s Comic Con shot by 360-degree cameras.
At theCO, the Oculus and Vive are used mostly for gaming, but CO:members are beginning to see the possibility for uses in other realms. In between crunching numbers and coding, CO:member Chance Smith uses theCO’s HTC Vive to experience how the VR industry has changed. “I’m also interested in the other uses for VR,” Smith said. “In the Oculus you’re able to have an expanded view of your desktop. For me, I wouldn’t have to use multiple monitors. I could just have one monitor on my face!”
Korey Adams, intern at theCO, speculates VR will be what is used to train everyone factory workers to fast-food workers. “The Vive can also be used for more practical applications such as training,’’ Adams said. “Instead of putting dangerous equipment in the hands of untrained employees or spending precious funds, and employer can virtually give new-hires hands-on training that is both cost effective and safe all while teaching practical skills for increased productivity. It's quicker and more effective than reading some flimsy manual or looking at a two dimensional diagram. The applications are endless. VR is the future right now.”
CO:members are given the opportunity to explore these world with little to no experience and no cash. Appleton says that theCO offering its members something like that is great for the region.
“I think it's great because it's technology that is complicated to set up,” Appleton explained. “If you don’t have a computer that can support VR, you’ll have to pay $1,500 on your own. It's a great resource.”