Wearable gaming contributes to the coming age of virtual reality

Jeremy Hintz

Gamers and tech enthusiasts alike are gearing up for the consumer release of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming experience. The head-mounted display was demonstrated at E3 2012, followed shortly thereafter by one of the most obscenely successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time, in which the team reached $1 million in just 36 hours. 

As with most applications of wearable tech, much of the challenge falls on the shoulders of the developers coding new and exciting experiences that take advantage of the device’s ground-breaking features. Head-mounted displays give the player a completely immersional experience that is unlike playing on a traditional platform. How do game developers cater to such a new environment? It’s a task Darwin Pek, president of the Electronic Game Development Society, sees as a great opportunity for growth. The game society had the chance to get its hands on a developer edition of the Oculus Rift. 

“People like to experience new things, and wearable gaming gives us the opportunity to play around with a lot of things and give people those experiences,” Pek said.

One drawback of the cutting edge technology is the high cost of new hardware. Developer versions are available on back order for $300, and as Pek points out, this doesn’t exactly fit a student budget. 

“It’s unfortunate because when something new like this comes out, you automatically just want to get your hands on it as soon as possible,” Pek said.

Rumors have been going around that the consumer version will debut sometime before the holidays for much less than the $300 developers were asked to shell out. But it’s difficult to jump into new technology late in the game, Pek said.

Wearable gaming opens up many new possibilities and there is a lot to explore in the virtual reality sector. Beyond head-mounted displays, there are also vests that vibrate and give feedback based on what is happening in the game, as well as other triggers that make the player feel as if the gaming experience is real.

“All this technology is basically blurring the lines between digital space and what we view as reality,” Pek said.