With the release of new consumer headsets, 2016 looks to be the year Virtual Reality or VR makes a big comeback. The term was first made popular back in the 1980s when video game manufacturers made their first forays into the technology. In the early 1990s Sega released a VR headset for arcade games that featured motion detection and later the upgraded VR-1 system with 3D stereo graphics.
These headsets, also called HMDs or head-mounted displays, use two small screens that were placed close in front of each eye to fill the field of view and produce a stereoscopic image. But the display and processor technologies were not up to the task. Nintendo released their Virtual Boy system in 1995 but it was a flop because the resolution and screen refresh rates were too low, causing dizziness, nausea and headaches.
That failure basically killed off the consumer market for VR until a couple of years ago. That was when a new company called Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2 billion. Oculus had developed a headset called the rift, which finally delivered the fully immersive experience that VR had promised. According to the Oculus website, the rift will go on sale to the public in July for $599.
HTC, in partnership with gaming company Valve, will release Vive in the spring. This system features two motion tracking base stations that give room-scale gameplay. Also, Sony plans to release a system called the Playstation VR sometime this year that will bring VR to their gaming system.
Along with the new hardware are multiplayer VR games that will allow players to join others via the Internet. This will put huge demand on Internet connections because of the dual 3D, high-resolution video with very high refresh rates. Fibre networks will probably be the only ones able to cope with the bandwidth demands.