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It’s 2030. You’ve just downloaded the latest Call of Duty in moments via your wireless 10gig connection and you pick up the helmet and gloves belonging to your beloved games console. Slipping them on, you are immersed in a world displayed in definition so crisp the eyes can see only half its potential.

The cold metal of the AK47 fills your hands, the smell of fresh sulfur accompanies the clouds of pungent smoke and your ears are met by a deadly symphony of whistling projectiles and distant explosions.

You feel your heart racing, chased by genuine fear. Your brothers in arms are running, screaming, wounded, dead. You duck behind a low wall, alone but for the dreaded metallic ping as bullet meets brick inches from your skull. You see an enemy and pull the stiff trigger with a paradox of hate and glee.

But he has seen you first. There is a confusing flash and you stumble, accompanied by the sensation of a dull thud to your head. You realise you are hit. You are met by a bright light – not that of Peter and his pearly gates – but of the mocking “Game Over” sign that’s flashing before your eyes.

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Virtual reality has been a concept that has excited me for as long as I can remember. But that’s just it – it’s still merely a concept. Truth is, we’re categorically bad at predicting the future and we have a tendency to exaggerate the pace of technological progression. If Space 1999 were accurate, we’d all have been wearing silver jump suits and living in moon colonies for the past decade!

That’s why I’m still very hesitant to get excited about virtual reality in relation to gaming. Every now and then, though, there are some evolutionary and revolutionary developments in gaming that push the boundaries of technology, and I’m finding it difficult not to get deeply excited about one such potential development: Project Natal.

I know I’ve questioned the integrity of casual gaming in the past, but there is no denying that the Wii made perhaps the first significant step in bringing the physical and digital worlds together. Hats off to them, but I stand by my statement that “the technology is, of course, very innovative, but sadly the execution is often dated”.

But with these physical Wii games, the imminence of stereoscopic (3D) gaming and, of course, the birth of Natal, it seems that we are ready for our games to burst from our television sets and take place in our front rooms and to take hold of our senses in new and exciting ways.

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Let’s hope that Natal can gain credibility rather than succumbing to an early and gimmicky grave. It has the potential to be a magnificent stepping-stone into an evocative future for gaming. I can only imagine the possible joys of becoming a physical part of my games and to feel and fear and move around within their virtual worlds.

Of course, having a digital representation of yourself is far from becoming a physical component, but the idea that every movement is an echo of your very own is still exciting and is nonetheless a technological leap in terms of gaming and virtual reality. The bridge between the physical and digital world is, indeed, shrinking.

Since William Gibson coined the term in his novel Neuromancer, the idea of “cyberspace” has come a long way. Though we may be far from a Matrix-style simulation of reality, technology is constantly evolving and allowing us to interact with virtual worlds in more dynamic ways.

Working alongside existing and forthcoming technology such as visors (which are already available but, frankly, rubbish so far) cybergloves and omnidirectional treadmills (pictured), Natal could, in a generation or two, evolve into something incredibly special indeed.

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I think we were all a little surprised that Natal has emerged on the 360 and not awaited the next generation of consoles. But, if Steven Spielberg reckons it represents “a whole new world; a whole new beginning” for video games, then surely it is a world that feels ready and clearly it has impacted quite heavily within the imaginative world of entertainment. Of course, pads will not instantly become obsolete, but hopefully Natal will be revolutionary not only as a peripheral, but as the next phase in our beloved world of video games.

The holodecks from Star Trek are arguably the epitome of what we could achieve with virtual reality, but this is surely a concept that could never be realised within our lifetimes. Or is it? When you consider that a mere 20 years ago we were enjoying games with characters that existed as little more than a dozen polygons, it boggles the mind to think of what we could achieve in the next couple of decades. Taking this into account, my futuristic Call of Duty seems much less far-fetched, doesn’t it?

  1. With VR and motion control the problem always comes from moving around, after all you’ll end up colliding with walls, also it would be strange to walk up to an object and not feel it there, you’d just get vibrations or whatever.

    • avatar MartinMcFly

      Did you not see the photo of the omni-directional treadmill? Just a matter of time before such a thing is advanced with gimbals and axis controls that could accurately simulate hills, surface movement like what you would experience on watercraft/spacecraft, etc. Things like picking up a rock you find on the ground aren’t likely to be possible in the next few decades, but it’s just a matter of time until somebody figures something out

  2. avatar Ryan

    Motion controls ARE the new virtual reality, only, unfortunately, it seems to be sticking around longer. Or maybe not necessarily longer, but it’s being taken a little more seriously.

    Either way, I still don’t see it being useful beyond novelty games.

    Btw, great site. Been reading the past few weeks and I enjoy the focus on actual discussion and real content. Keep it up.

  3. I still wish head tracking received more attention than motion controls. Anyone remember that video of the guy who used Wii technology to make a head tracking tech demo? Amazing stuff.

    • avatar Daniel

      Didn’t like idea of this show in advance.But what was cetared was most layered experience imaginable. Intricate interwoven narratives and great ideas, cmon Vworld idea rocks and just look how they used it hedonistic entertainment, emotional cathartism, assassination and the rest.. brilliantand that was just one small component of the world/story cetared. Power, terrorism, growing up, action and no Dirk Benedict And as for Polly Walker brrrrrrrrr .. one of the scariest characters EVER, Dick Cheney with tits just look at the hatred etched into her face when she thought she was betrayed, pure evil, fantastic.Surprised there are no other comments

  4. Yea, physically walking would be difficult and I don’t think we’ll be seeing these omnidirectional treadmills at home any time soon!

    I think the next step would be a helmet/visor that actually works and turns when your head turns.

    This could be combined with pads for moving within the game. In terms of feeling physical objects, there are gloves that have sensors in them, which make it feel as if the object is in your hand, but again we’re a long way from home versions.

    Now they just have to start working on the smells, haha!

    • avatar Karina

      I am not sure exactly what you mean by vuiartl consulting business. No one even searches for that term on the internet. You really want a business that people are actually looking for. consulting firm is more popular one business idea that is popular is “coach”If you need other ideas, let me know.References : me -1Was this answer helpful?

  5. avatar Chris Graham

    If only it were the case that “star trek” style virtual reality was just round the corner. but as you say I think it’s as close as “Zefram Cochrane’s wrap drive” however I have seen that Microsoft are experimenting with Infrared with their “touch table.” they set up a couple of receivers around the room and it detects any Microsoft phone, pda ect. In the room.

    So what if they combined the tech from the vid that Ste posted (first time I’ve seen it and its great) and Microsoft’s own.

    for example 5 Infrared sender attached to a hat (front, back, left, right & top) then 5 Infrared receivers (all 4 walls & ceiling. so it could detect which way you were facing in the room and then maybe some slipper that had pressure pads so you could walk on the spot or run…… as for avoiding objects I couldn’t say….

    This is my idea so if it happens I want royalties.

  6. Yea, it’s a great video, but the funny thing is, if you go on his website (johnnylee.net), he has actually been snapped up by Microsoft and is working with Natal! Boy, did Nintendo miss an opportunity there!

  7. avatar David

    Good comments Steven. You’ll be pleased to know that good visors do exist, of which the Emagin Z800 may be the best at present for the domestic market, and Wizdish deals with the locomotion aspect. So VR will get far better in a year or two.

  8. avatar Bryce

    Unfortunately the optics that go into HMDs are too expensive (presently) to make it economical to support the consumer market. I agree with David, the Z800 is currently the best bang for your buck (and comes with a built in sensor).

  9. avatar Jon

    I know this thread is a bit old and perhaps no one is reading it anymore but I just wanted to post this artical that I found on new technology coming out this spring. Makes you think..are we even going to have to move our body to use VR, and typing isn’t going to be useful for long with the new programs that writing what we speak. Here is a link to what I just read. http://www.pcworld.com/article/191685/neuroskys_headset_senses_brain_waves_lets_you_control_games_with_your_mind.html

  10. avatar David

    a year later..
    You will always want to physically ‘walk around’ for proprioceptive benefit and to exercise
    BTW Z800 is probably no longer good value

  11. avatar Daniel

    Ilan, thanks for that info! My aopgolies if it seemed I was implying Kitely was in any way “malicious”, as that was certainly not my intention. I was not really deterred by what seemed like outdated rules on the FAQ; I assumed they had changed or were not going to be enforced as long as the majority of Kitely users were coming in as avatars from SL and other virtual worlds. (I don’t even know if it’s true but I would speculate that it is.) I think what you are seeing in my comments is the frustration of not using Facebook or even Twitter for coordinating my in-world experiences, not using either for groups and not wanting to use either for controlling region access.As a virtual worlds pioneer myself, and as a veteran software developer, I also recognize that many features aren’t available as early as the software development groups would like, so I can appreciate the plans to change things in the future. However, I am probably in that category of user who will continue to be discouraged by Kitely until there are more native services, such as being able to define a native Kitely user account, and not use Facebook or Twitter to control access.I still don’t consider Kitely a grid for technical reasons; but I also don’t really consider OSGrid to be a grid either, so you are in good company. I consider the requirements of a grid to be:1) connected regions, offering teleports, region crossings, searches for user and places, friends, groups.2) hosted by the same server managers, in at least roughly comparable server conditions.OSGrid won’t qualify for my definition of a grid as long as users can run their own servers out of their own basements, and it seems Kitely has a long way to go before it can shake the constraints of Facebook. To a user, it does not share the aspects of a grid , from what I can see so far. I do recognize that this is all my personal view of a grid, and that others don’t share the same definition, but nonetheless until more is brought in-house, it’s difficult for me to think of the regions as connected. It’s good to hear that it is running in grid mode however, and that hopefully they share the same grid servers (UGAIM component instances).All of this may be a misunderstanding on my part. Perhaps I couldn’t search and find users and places in my attempts for some temporary or newbie misunderstanding reasons. Perhaps there are ways to achieve more in it’s current form, or these abilities are simply “capped” functionality for now while changes are being made. That would be great, but in the meantime it means Kitely is not able to offer an environment that would be suitable for me, and it seems to me that my desires for Kitely would be similar to many of the other avatar users from existing virtual worlds.

  12. avatar Jonathan

    New to video games here, and im like a C+ student.. but why not invent a suit that would correspond to the objects in the game? like, say you find a rock, you go to touch it and the suit would instinctively lock movements (in that area of the suit such as the hand) from moving any closer to the object. creating the feeling that something is there. just an idea. gotta start somewhere

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