When people think virtual reality, they usually picture the future. Hollywood has long portrayed VR as one of the perks everyday people will experience in most science-fiction movies and shows. Talk to almost anybody and tell them we’re on the verge of virtual reality becoming commonplace and they’ll likely say it will be too expensive for them to actually experience for themselves. On the surface, VR looks complex, requiring only the latest in technological advances to truly capture that VR concept that many have envisioned. While it’s natural to think of future technologies being incredibly advanced and complicated, virtual reality doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s the simplicity at the heart of VR that makes it so likely to go from mere concept to full-fledged reality all in the space of only a few years. A quick glance around the world today reveals just how close we are to VR becoming a common sight.
One of the secrets to virtual reality’s simplicity? Cardboard. Well, that doesn’t necessarily apply to all virtual reality devices, but it does play a huge role in Google’s new VR venture, named Google Cardboard for obvious reasons. Google Cardboard is a VR platform that combines a smartphone and an easy-to-use cardboard head mount and viewer, giving users a VR experience at an incredibly cheap price. When used with apps that are specifically designed with Google Cardboard in mind, all people need to do is assemble their smartphone with the cardboard viewer, and the VR experience is right at their fingertips. And when we say this comes at cheap price, that’s because it is. Most of the viewers on offer are only around $15. Fancier ones go for more, but the fact that VR could be yours at such a low price would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
Just stop and consider what Google has done to allow greater access to VR. All it has taken is some smartphone apps and some cardboard. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was one of Google’s notorious April Fool’s jokes at first. But this is certainly no joke. For all the praise we give to virtual reality for its mind-blowing potential, this simplicity makes it accessible to pretty much anyone with a smartphone. Google Cardboard has already surpassed five million orders with more coming. After all, who wouldn’t want a VR device at such a cheap price? We may think of VR as complex, but in many ways we already have the technological capabilities in our pockets. With the smartphone craze, all it takes is some developed programs and intuitive platforms to grow the potential VR audience.
Google Cardboard has in a sense fed into a larger demand for VR. For those who weren’t interested in VR before, a cheap option gives people the chance to try it out first. This was of course Google’s intention as the company sees virtual reality as a major component of future technologies. As the ability to capture VR experiences has proven to be so simple, this has galvanized other companies to act as well. Some are offering alternatives to the Google Cardboard head mount, options that are intended to improve on the design or make it a bit more stylish. Other organizations are trying to apply VR to their own operations, like with what Six Flags is doing. The theme park chain wants to take the technology to create virtual reality roller coasters, something they hadn’t thought to do until VR headsets were able to proliferate.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths that virtual reality has going for it is its intuitive nature. For most VR experiences, there are no complex control schemes. The user is simply immersed within a virtual environment. While this may require some getting used to, once someone has bought into the virtual reality, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there.
It’s time to stop thinking of VR as some convoluted idea only applicable to the future. VR is, in fact, relatively simple, and the progress made in the technology, along with greater use of smartphones and flash storage array technology, has made it more accessible than ever before. The future as seen in movies and television might not be as far off as people think. As virtual reality gets simpler, it’ll be a common part of our lives in short order.