As 2016 is here, with the changing of the date I'm thinking of what miraculous developments the new year could hold. Will the general populace move beyond the backbreaking hassle that is the regular consumption of solid foods through the aid of meal replacement blends like Soylent? Will virtual reality finally make its way into the homes of hardworking Americans, beckoning in a new era in the consumption of movies, games and smut? These questions, and a mild case of indigestion, keep me up at night.

Nixon
Nixon

The jury's still out on the widespread adoption of a paste-based diet, but 2016 may indeed be shaping up to be a breakthrough year for virtual reality. The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas is expected to have Sony, Facebook and HTC show off latest builds of their VR offerings, which will go on sale later in the year. Prior to the show, Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift headset (and purchased by Facebook back in 2014) announced pre-orders for its offering would start today, coinciding with the official start of CES.


Advertisement

Workable VR has been around for a few years in various incarnations, but nothing's yet reached beyond the grasps of early adopters, and the concept is still surrounded by an air of space-age wonder — and disbelief. Most consumers haven't had a real chance to tinker around with the tech, and demonstration videos on YouTube and write-ups in print don't capture the immersive experience that the tools are selling.

Another potential inhibitor to a VR boom is cost. While no specific prices have been made public just yet, models like the Oculus and Sony's Playstation VR are expected to retail for around $300 — roughly the price of a new gaming console. If you're wanting to use a VR headset to run higher-end computer games (one of the current main draws for many VR enthusiasts), a more powerful graphics card will be required, which can quickly drive that price point even higher.

Despite these potential hang-ups to getting VR into the hands of the masses, I'm pretty damn excited about the concept. VR is focused primarily around the concept of immersion — with a bulky set strapped to your face and earphones covering your sound holes, you're not as likely to, say, avert your gaze for a second to check a text or stare out the window while breathing steadily through your mouth.

This has an immediate appeal for some more obvious applications like gaming, but one area I'd really like to see it implemented is through online learning. Mooc (or massive open online course) completion rates are pretty dismal in part due to how hard it is to set up a dedicated learning environment in the home — an immersive virtual studying nook could help people stay on track with whatever it is they're learning.

Cool shit on the horizon! I haven't yet decided if I'll take the immediate VR plunge when commercial headsets come out in the next few months, but I'll certainly be on the lookout for YouTube compilations of people walking into walls while wearing them.

Read more Nixon: coloradodaily.com/columnists.