Instead of VR headsets, maybe we should be thinking about Virtual Rooms?

The current hot topic in the gaming industry is virtual reality – made popular (once again) by the now Facebook-owned Oculus and their ‘Rift’ headset. It’s an impressive device, but one which is currently attempting to overcome crippling problems such as motion sickness…

Whilst Oculus arguably reinvigorated interest in the technology which can transport us to whole other created worlds – other players such as Sony have also announced their own competitors.

There are many gamers who play marathon sessions which, as someone confirmed to me earlier, the current iteration of Rift isn't suitable for. It can’t be played for long without having to take it off and give your eyes and mind a well-deserved break.

Have you also placed something over your head for long periods? You begin to get this sense of “what is happening around me?” Before long you can be sure there will be some horror story of someone being robbed whilst immersed completely unaware in a virtual reality…

So though it’s cool, it may not be for everyone, and until certain problems are overcome it may not even be a practical solution… but is there any other option?

Not yet. But Microsoft, who is expected to be working on a virtual reality headset, patented a technology called ‘Illumiroom’ which moves beyond their current Kinect device – which receives movement input – to actually projecting an environment across all the surfaces in your room.

This means in an underwater scene you could see the fish darting around on your walls, or in a warzone bullets zipping all around you and explosions going off (hopefully in the distance!)

The technology is already here albeit currently requiring advanced set-ups involving multiple projectors. Mashable’s Samantha Murphy Kelly posted an article yesterday entitled “Think Oculus Rift is Immersive? Try This Augmented Reality Experience” where she visited an interactive exhibition at the TriBeCa Film Festival's Storyscapes event.

Here she talks about her experience: “I walked into homes, climbed stairs and listened in on conversations to learn more about the people who lived there. Over time, I pieced together character personalities and individual stories, while following voices from room to room. Ultimately, the experience played out like a movie — and I could choose what happened next based on who I wanted to follow and where I wanted to be.”

All of this without the requirement to have a device sitting over your head – just boot up your console and the world surrounds you. That’s the dream.

It’s sure to be a long time before this is even technologically possible in a consumer’s home. Virtual Reality headsets are the next big thing, if they work, and you can expect Microsoft and Sony to go big on them at this year’s E3 in June.

Do you think we should be looking at Virtual Rooms? Let us know in the comments.

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