The Virtual Evolution: DIY Hardcore Oculus Rift-Compatible VR for $20
As I’ve stated often on my science and tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, I am ridiculously excited about the recent serious push for and prevalence of Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality technologies and software. The possibility for creating fully interactive communications (as in, more than just text and talking heads via Skype or Hangouts), encrypted virtual communities, and even the opportunity to experience 2D video sources in new environments (like getting to watch those classic movies you love while you are in an equally classic movie theater setting) are things I can’t wait to take part in. It’s an incredible future to consider.
But it’s a future that is largely already here. The main concern about being able to take part in that future is the cost: Oculus Rift headsets costing a few hundred dollars, and then having to buy computers that cost thousands are a barrier to entry for some of the more impressive entries into the VR realm (though smartphone-based VR will catch up quickly, I think). And while what I’m about to tell you about doesn’t solve the host of the PC you need to pull a lot of this off, the below information can help you avoid buying the expensive Oculus Rift (and perhaps even HTC Vive) hardware. You’re going to have to work out those Do-It-Yourself skills, but you may find it worth it. The write-up “DIY Guide: Build a Smartphone VR Headset That Plays Oculus Rift Games and More for $20 (iOS or Android)” from the great VR news website, RoadToVR, will give you the full break down on how to do it. Also, check out this video:
(Loosely) called the “open source paradox”, is the interesting fact that companies will open source much of their technologies and software when the ecosystem they are trying to build (in this case, Virtual Reality) is nascent. The ease of other companies to work with your company because your developments are open source allows you to create an ecosystem with little to no cost (this is why Elon Musk open sourced much of Tesla’s patents: not because he believes in open source, but because he needed other companies to help him build up Tesla). But the paradox comes in as that open sourcing things also allows others to keep your company from having an exclusive ecosystem, since they can just copy you. This is not a bad thing, since the consumer nearly always wins because of this paradox, and as a company, you’re supposed to give a damn about the consumer above all else, including your (stupid) patents. Open source it all, that way companies have to actually develop something special, not something that they just live off of via the bottleneck that is the nonsense of intellectual property.
In the end, the company that embraces the open source ethos for VR is going to be the winner, whether big name companies invested in the technology realize it or not. Mozilla is likely a dark horse contender in all of this, as they have developing a VR version of their Firefox browser (and thus, their admittedly troubled Firefox OS, too) for some time, and I’m expecting them to shock everyone in the near the future with open source standards for all to be able to develop for.
SIDE NOTE: Open source, inexpensive VR controllers–be it glove-based or whichever–are still something to come, but isn’t entirely needed (yet) for exceptional VR experiences. But you can count on the fact that they will come, and inexpensive options will come into play, DIY or not.
Fortunately, with the trick laid out above (and in the below link), all you need is your iOS or Android phone to get in on the action at the highest level…on the cheap. I couldn’t be more excited about the VR evolution.