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How Massive Can You Make Virtual Reality, literally?

Ever since the Ocu­lus Rift hit Kick­starter sev­er­al years ago, VR enthu­si­asts have been on the edge of their seats wait­ing for the brave new world pow­ered by vir­tu­al real­i­ty… which to date has been slow to come at best and a dud at worst. Ocu­lus got swal­lowed up by Face­book and has been sit­ting in a pile of hope­ful appli­ca­tions yet to come ever since. Sam­sung’s Gear VR is being prac­ti­cal­ly giv­en away on street cor­ners in an attempt to gain users. Every­body else in the game is expe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar results.

That might be because as cool as it is to sit in one place and be able to expe­ri­ence con­certs or sports events from around the world in 3D while on your couch, and as cool as it is to be immersed inside of a game instead of play­ing as — real­ly — more of an observ­er of the action than a part, the holy grail of VR is still what most peo­ple dream of and are wait­ing for. Any­one who has read any of my posts regard­ing vir­tu­al real­i­ty, aug­ment­ed real­i­ty, or the like know that I’m refer­ring to, of course, a Holodeck-like experience.

True immer­sion comes when we not only see the illu­sion around us and can inter­act with it, but when we can move through it phys­i­cal­ly.  For those of you who feel the same way and have been anx­ious­ly wait­ing for the Holodeck promise but bummed by the inter­im points lead­ing there, our wait might be final­ly com­ing to an end. And the guy behind Atari and Chuck E. Cheese is bring­ing it.

That man is Nolan Bush­nell, who is some­times even cred­it­ed with spawn­ing the mod­ern video game indus­try. He was approached by Jason Craw­ford — anoth­er VR enthu­si­ast who got excit­ed over the Ocu­lus Rift — last year after Craw­ford had invent­ed the tech­nol­o­gy that will pow­er the Modal VR expe­ri­ence. And it will be an expe­ri­ence. The Modal VR pro­pri­etary hard­ware com­bined with exist­ing soft­ware will allow a VR expe­ri­ence that tracks every move­ment of up to at least 10 peo­ple, wire­less­ly, across a space of 900,00 square feet. That’s rough­ly the length of a foot­ball field squared.

Of course the head­set is still bulky and ugly, but when you’re on the inside it does­n’t real­ly mat­ter. In addi­tion to the head­set are straps that go across the arms, legs, and waist, and gloves. And the entire sys­tem can sup­pos­ed­ly be set up quick­ly any­where on the spot. Gam­ing and expe­ri­ences like vir­tu­al amuse­ment parks are the ini­tial appli­ca­tions, of course, but Bush­nell and Craw­ford are invit­ing devel­op­ers to go wild and come up with what­ev­er appli­ca­tions they can. Pos­si­bil­i­ties include edu­ca­tion, tourism, mil­i­tary and police train­ing, and much more.

Think about it. As kids we would all go in the back­yard and pre­tend to fight bat­tles like in Star Wars. The next gen­er­a­tion could do the same thing but actu­al­ly be able to see and hear the things we could only imag­ine. And that’s just the basics. If you’ve side­lined your­self to chas­ing VR as a career because of the slow going, your moment may final­ly be here. Modal VR might be the vir­tu­al real­i­ty job you’ve been dream­ing of.

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