UX levels up

Oculus Rift has been a amorphous ghost on my radar for a while now. After all, the potential of virtual reality is pretty obvious to anyone who games, has an FPS fetish, or has ever read William Gibson or Neal Stephenson. But that potential always seemed to be just a little too far beyond the technical horizon.

Recent news of John Carmack joining the Oculus team makes me believe this potential is now a lot more real. His background in FPS gaming (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, et al)—and the genre’s intense focus on immersive first-person user experience—leads me to really, really get excited about this increasingly viable VR device in specific, and near-term certainty of virtual reality in general.

But in my mind, it’s much more than that. It marks the beginning of a new era: the UX/VR evolution. It’s not a revolution, but the realization/aggregation/integration of existing philosophies and technological trends into an exciting amplification of end user experience.

Steve Jobs taught us that “user experience” trumps “technical specification.” But now this VR technical innovation promises to disrupt all that we have come to understand as user experience—and has the potential to reanimate any number of dead, dying or defunct industries in the process.

An example: travel agencies. Was a time (for those of us old enough to remember) that any significant travel (A.) required an agent to get it all booked. They were also (B.) a helpful, expert resource that could help guide to you the, wait for it, traveler experience you were hoping for. What if that “dinosaur-post-meteor” industry gave up on function (A) (which is now owned by the usual online booking sites) and instead geared up with industrial strength VR/UX gear? Want to really understand the difference between Jamaica and Curacao? Come in to our VR Traveler facility and we’ll experience you.

The gaming applications are obvious—and outstandingly exciting. Imagine a multiplayer tank/mech game that enables you and a couple of buds to man different stations within the machine (say commander, driver, and gunner). Each has his/her own Oculus rig outfitted with unique, task-specific screens based on each position’s needs, all separately responding to each gamer’s body movements—whether in the same room, or remotely via the Net. The dripping sweat, “holy shite” potential of each sortie in this game is…literally indescribable.

The days of polygon-computational, CPU-cycle and frame-rate limitations are just about over.
The era of VR/UX is dawning. Will it be ushered in by Oculus Rift?
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