This past week in Las Vegas, thousands of people attended the Consumer Electronics Show, where exhibitors showed off the latest in electronic devices. Among the technologies trending were virtual reality gadgets. From goggles to full-body suits to omni-directional treadmills, here's a look at the latest advances in virtual reality.
Microsoft's HoloLens is a wearable holographic system that works with Windows 10. It allows people to project apps onto a variety of surfaces and use them to visualize data, CAD renderings and more.
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The long-awaited release date of the Oculus Rift system has finally arrived. Looks like the VR goggles will ship in March at a cost of about $599. Pre-orders available now.
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At the Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung showed off its Gear VR, an Oculus headset that accommodates a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The company also demonstrated Rink, a pair of handheld, gesture-based controllers meant to be used with the Samsung Gear VR.
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Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO/Nippon News/Corbis
Look out gamers. PlayStation announced that it's working on more than 100 new games for its forthcoming virtual reality headset.
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Google Cardboard's inexpensive virtual reality goggles inspired others to produce cheaper versions that are compatible with the company's apps. Speck announced its Pocket VR and I Am Cardboard announced its DSCVR Headset -- both designed to display content created for Google's Cardboard VR.
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At the Consumer Electronics Show, HTC released its Vive Pre, a headset meant mainly for developers. It has a front-facing camera that gives wearers a view into the real world. The consumer version of the Vive is expected to begin shipping in April.
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Along with the goggles and headsets that make virtual reality possible, electronic companies are also coming out with gadgets the expand the sensory limits beyond vision. For example, the Tesla Suit from Tesla Studios is a full-body suit that contains small sensors that send out tiny electrical pulses to stimulate different parts of the body, depending on the action happening in the virtual world. You can help fund the Kickstarter campaignhere
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The Vico VR is a wireless tracking device that senses a person's body movements and incorporates those movements in real-time into the virtual world. Here, a player uses the sensor to box.
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Virtuix announced its omni-directional treadmill at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, but this year they used it to host the first-ever eSports tournament in VR. There were four HTC Vive headsets connected to four treadmills. Participants could sign up to join a competitive multiplayer shooter game called Omni Arena.
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Virtual reality tech lets you inhabit computer-generated worlds. But now a new system from Microsoft lets computer-generated people inhabit your world.
The Holoportation app unveiled this week uses specialized 3-D cameras to capture the surrounding environment and then reconstruct it in a VR headset. When you wear the headset, you see the virtually projected people (and objects) as if they are in the same room with you. And the people can see you.
Such a system could fundamentally change the way people communicate in the future. Instead of talking into a phone or into a computer screen, you could actually talk to family, friends or even business associates as if they were right next to you.
In the video below, Shahram Izadi, partner research manager at Microsoft explains how the system works.
Izadi’s colleague named Sergio “teleports” into the space and his avatar is able to interact with Izadi — even give him a high five.
Izadi also demonstrates how the system could be used to interact with a family member who might be thousands of miles away. Imagine a father going on a business trip being able to say goodnight to his daughter each evening.
Not only does the Holoportation system work in real time, but it can also be played back and could work as a kind of memory of the interaction.
This capability reminds me of an episode of Black Mirror called The Entire History of You, which shows people living with a computerized “grain” implanted in their skulls. The grain records everything a person says or does and can be stored and played back on a display for anyone to watch.
To see how the Holoportation works, watch the video below.
Microsoft’s Alex Kipman also gave a TED talk recently that explained the Holoportation and you can watch that here.