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If VR Is Going to Become a Business, We Might Need to Rethink the Living Room

No, seriously.

sturti / iStock

There’s this weird idea floating in the virtual reality hype circles right now: We’ll create new rooms in our houses to make VR happen.

If you listen closely, you can hear my editor’s brow furrowing. Unlike augmented reality or mixed reality, you can’t see your surroundings in today’s virtual reality, so why do you need a room?

Back to that in a minute. As we’ve previously discussed, interacting with content in VR can range from simple look-around experiences to what’s known as “room-scale VR,” which lets you walk around virtual objects or lean down to inspect them.

Facebook trotted out the first public room-scale demos last year at its VR conference, Oculus Connect, and HTC is currently touring the U.S. and Europe with room-scale demos of its competing headset, the HTC Vive.

This is, currently, the highest end of VR that’s being marketed to consumers. And if you haven’t had the chance to try it, it is really cool. Some of the most awed demo reports you’ve heard coming out of conferences and trade shows were probably based on finely tuned room-scale work.

Like a lot of high-end VR, it’s also not going to be accessible for most people for now. But whatever! Marketing!

So, now back to your living room.

“Even a few decades ago, people would have never considered having a TV room in the house,” Endeavor One co-founder Tom Doyle said. “Now, every single house you go to, there are multiple TV rooms, multiple media rooms for kids.”

Doyle’s company is making a game called Duel, which looks a lot like Disney’s “Tron” movies, that will see HTC Vive owners walking or running around their rooms as they battle with futuristic weapons. He says he expects dedicated “VR rooms,” which will remove fears of tripping over the coffee table as you play, to be mainstream within five years.

And believe it or not, he’s not alone. In an interview earlier this year, Owlchemy Labs chief scientist Alex Schwartz (who’s also making high-end VR games) said he had let friends spend an hour or more in a VR room at his house, painting in the buzzy Google-owned art app Tilt Brush.

“Someone drew a fireplace with animated fire, and then drew a room around themselves,” Schwartz said. “Then they just sat on the rug and looked at the fire for an hour.”

Future of creature comforts? Excerpt from an unwritten dystopian novel about the end of human socialization? You decide.

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