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Six companies Oculus should buy to fulfil VR's gaming potential

Virtual reality needs more than just a head mounted display
Six companies Oculus should buy to fulfil VR's gaming potential

Virtual reality gaming hinges on the head mounted display (HMD), but that’s not where the experience ends.

It’s defining purpose is to immerse you within the game world, and as essential as it is, the visual component doesn’t accomplish that alone.

More and more HMDs are appearing every week, but a lot of industrious game developers and manufacturers are looking at other ways to make games more realistic, or to invent new methods of interaction, control and realistic involvement.

As much as the HMD provides a gateway into virtual reality, it also puts an obstacle in the path of full immersion. You can see the virtual world, but you can’t see anything of the real world once the visor is in place.

So we’ve been pondering what sort of virtual reality and wearable technology that a trailblazer with deep enough pockets - like the Facebook-based Oculus VR - could bring on board in order to deliver the full virtual reality experience.

Here are six companies we think would be synergetic. 

#1: Leap Motion

Leap Motion

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Designed as a hands-free input tool for computers, the Leap Motion is a small device about the size of a pack of gum. You place it on your desk, and it detects objects (your hands, primarily, though it’s not limited to organics) directly above it. Movement of these objects is translated into an input system.

Our first test of the original Leap Motion left us less than enthusiastic, but the creator has been working on improving its sensitivity and usefulness. However, an indie game developer, who’s experienced with the device, recently suggested to us that the new Leap Motion SDK was operating as though it was no longer looking up at your hands, but looking down at them.

Couple this notion with the simple mounting kit that Leap Motion is selling, which attaches the device to the front of the Oculus Rift HMD, and it becomes an imaging system that could essentially place your hands within a virtual reality experience without any need for other sensors, gloves or motion detection.

So why not buy the company, and build its sensing technology right into the Oculus Rift headset? It seems unnecessary for Oculus to research its own 3D space visualisation when Leap Motion has already done it.


#2: Razer


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Razer »

Admittedly Oculus VR (or Facebook, if you look up the corporate ladder a little) are unlikely to buy an established company like Razer, but the two are already forging a strong relationship with the motion-sensing Hydra controller at its nexus. An all-out purchase might be a long shot, but a valuable licensing deal certainly isn’t, especially since the Hydra’s promotion has stalled a little lately.

This unusual peripheral isn’t unlike two Wii nunchuck controllers, only each one sports seven buttons, an analogue stick and precision motion detection across six axes that includes forward and backward movement sensing. This makes it an ideal solution for visualising your hands within a VR game, while giving you the buttons necessary to perform complex tasks without being able to see the actual controller.

There are strong rumours of Oculus putting together its own game controller, but given the long list of games that support the Hydra and the burgeoning relationship between the two companies, it seems that all the leg work for a VR control system has been done. Why bother reinventing this particular wheel, if Oculus VR doesn’t have to?


#3: Perception Neuron

Perception Neuron

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Motion capture is essential to modern animation techniques, but it’s still never proven valuable enough to the average gamer or computer user to go mainstream. It’s just not something you need in your everyday gaming life.

And yet, the Perception Neuron system might finally be the one to break down that wall between professional animation studio and home motion capture. Having destroyed its $250,000 Kickstarter goal recently, bringing in just under $600,00, this is the first affordable mo-cap option the industry has seen.

It’s a modular system that uses up to 30 miniature, wireless nodes that connect all around your body, and provide detailed motion capture data via your wi-fi network. It allows for much greater freedom of movement, given that it sheds the wiring, and the simplicity of its adaptability also make it perfect for real-time capture. That means easy, full body inclusion within a virtual reality environment.

Light, cheap and powerful, the Perception Neuron system would complement the Oculus Rift beautifully, making it the perfect bedfellow for the popular HMD.


#4: Delta Six

Delta Six

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Another rip roaring Kickstarter success, this is the controller that every FPS fan boy has been dreaming of since Doom. It’s a realistic-looking assault rifle with buttons, joysticks and motion detection all built-in and ergonomically situated about the weapon.

It’s not the cheapest controller you’ve ever seen, but its options are many and it has the massive advantage of not looking like the type of tacky, brightly-coloured toy ray gun that accessory manufacturers usually gravitate toward in an effort to hide from puritan accusations of virtual kill-mongering.

This delicious beast of a controller can detect when you put the scope up to your eye, use the butt of the rifle for melee attacks, and is universally compatible with consoles and computers. That includes the Oculus Rift.

Admittedly you wouldn’t be able to see the rifle itself when used in conjunction with VR, but the feel of it would be as real as ever So long as it’s correctly positioned within the game environment and its avatar is of similar design, the Delta Six would be a stunning addition to any virtual reality shooter.


#5: As Real As It Gets

As Real As It Gets

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While much of the focus on VR accessories are ways for us to interact with a virtual world, the ARAIG - or As Real As It Gets - device aims to turn the tables and deliver a way for the world to make an impact on the gamer. Quite literally.

Called an impact vest, the ARAIG is a futuristic-looking jacket that’s not dissimilar to ballistic riot gear, or part of a RoboCop costume. It’s a haptic feedback system that makes you feel every bump, step, punch, kick and bullet thrown at your character within your favourite games.

It’s not just touch-based sensory feedback that the ARAIG delivers. It also includes a highly unique surround sound system that places small speakers in a circle around your chest, shoulders and back. Being able to hear the haptic feedback, as well as feel it, apparently enhances the sensation a lot more than such a simple function would suggest.

It’s a little unclear what’s happening with ARAIG right now, given that its Kickstarter campaign fell short, but that would only make it an easier purchase for Oculus VR. And it’s easy to see how this kind of rig would help to put you in the middle of a virtual reality firefight; just imagine feeling a bullet hit you in the back of the shoulder, so you know to turn around and shoot back for reasons other than a faint red glow in the corner of your eye.

Let’s hope the ARAIG has an opportunity to live on as VR gaming comes to fruition.


#6: Virtuix Omni

Virtuix Omni

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Virtuix Omni »

So far we’ve uncovered some great peripherals that will make a VR experience so much more immersive, but the more adventurous we get, the more likely we are to run into a wall or the furniture while playing a game.

The Virtuix Omni is another Kickstarted Oculus add-on that provides a stable, sensor-laden treadmill allowing you to walk or run in 360 degrees, without ever leaving the spot. We’ve actually had the opportunity to test the Omni in person, and while it’d take a significant bite out of your living room space, it really does work.

It comes equipped with special trainers with a material on the soul that allows you to slide across the surface of the Omni’s concave floor. For added stability there’s a rigid belt that fixes around your waist, which gives you the required confidence to really open up and sprint through the virtual environment while effectively being blindfolded by the HMD.

This is a device for the hardcore virtual reality gamer, but with Oculus fully behind it and pushing both devs and players to make a substantial purchase like this, the Omni would provide more freedom within a VR world than the HMD itself.

And combined with the likes of the other peripherals described above, we can see that the components for a truly immersive virtual reality experience are already available. All we need now are games that support them all in unison.


Got any suggestions for other companies or peripherals that you feel would make VR come to life? Tell us about them in the comments below.