Ask Hackaday: What Is The Future Of Virtual Reality?

Second Life world thru Oculus Rift

Most of us have heard of Second Life – that antiquated online virtual reality platform of yesteryear where users could explore, create, and even sell content.  You might be surprised to learn that not only are they still around, but they’re also employing the Oculus Rift and completely redesigning their virtual world. With support of the DK2 Rift, the possibilities for a Second Life platform where users can share and explore each other’s creations opens up some interesting doors.

Envision a world where you could log on to a “virtual net”, put on your favorite VR headset and let your imagination run wild. You and some friends could make a city, a planet…and entire universe that you and thousands of others could explore. With a little bit of dreaming and an arduino, VR can bring dreams to life.


When you play a computer game where you’re driving an F1 car, when you look back after you’re done playing, you’ll remember playing a computer game. But if you drive an F1 car in virtual reality, you’ll look back and remember driving an F1 car.


Now, before we get too excited –  know that this is not a novel idea. With Facebook’s recent purchase of the VR giant, they are clearly looking into the idea of networking VR headsets together to bring users into a single massive virtual environment. There are also a handful of independent developers looking into the MMO idea. Though Second Life has a good foundation to make such dreams a reality, they will have competition.

But is this the future of virtual reality? Indeed, the Oculus Rift is a game changer. But what “game” is it changing?  Does its future, and the other VR headsets in the pipeline, exist merely as an enhancement for video games? Will VR redefine the social network? Maybe it will live up to the hype and become the next evolution of the “Internet.” Or will it go down as a fad, the way it did before, only to be looked back upon as an interesting novelty with no practical purpose, and discarded as another one of history’s technological creations unable to meet its promises.


32 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What Is The Future Of Virtual Reality?

      1. Our planet is a virtual world :-)

        The idea: you can move your avatar anywhere on the planet (actually streetview) and chat with people there. The mirror world will merge with the real world when (decent) augmented reality devices will be available.

        Disclaimer: I am the main developer of DiveReal
        DiveReal is the new name of EarthVR (see link in the post)

    1. RPO was a walled garden. That’s why there was such an uproar against Facebook entering the fray. – They will prolong the utter devastation against self-image and interpersonal relationships that their site has rendered upon the first world.

      My feeling on the matter is that the ‘digital Pearl Harbor’ actually is on the horizon, but it won’t be as simple as another internet worm when it appears, or even an attack on embedded systems. My guess is that it will be social engineering en masse, similar in scope to broadcast TV but utilizing blackmail instead of focus groups. – A concentrated effort to kill privacy, ignorant of the fact that human beings are hard-wired from the genes up to rely on privacy and therefore damaging and expensive. I expect companies like Google and Facebook to simply go ‘poof’ as they cease to exist as stock tickers, causing a socioeconomic collapse as an entire corporate culture gurgles out its last breath and falls flat.

      Normally the investor/speculators who stand to lose the most imaginary value try to drag other industries down with them when a bubble like this bursts. The groundwork was laid when the NSA was exposed to be a bunch of cold-war style preppers, sabotaging security when they should have been building tangible value in the form of infosec and trust. Novell, MS and others officially complain that they plan to lose 180 billion in international trade, which in today’s stock market means the money is already lost.

      My hope is that we’ll stabilize on personal servers/virtual universes connected by wireless gigabit link mesh, as per provisions already in LTE-A. MIMO can solve bandwidth and latency issues. An amateur radio license could be worth a lot, in social terms.

        1. Yep, know it is in the UK, pretty sure it is in US. It’s due to the fact amateur radio licenses are for “experimentation only”, in theory the only content carried over amateur wavelengths are basic QSOs.

          ‘course, you could just set it up in the ITU bands, so no one gives a fuck about it.

        2. There is astonishingly little regard for the regs, in the UK especially. That said, public keys are not encrypted, so you could eg. moonbounce or meteor scatter them across the world within amateur radio regs provided that you do so for personal reasons. Once you eatablish a resilient secondary channel you can send your encrypted data through a hostile network safely.

  1. With the addition of mesh support SL has really gotten some new life. It’s still a mess though in terms of performance and ageing content, but I love it to bits. I haven’t had any luck making the VR clients work however :/

  2. To me, this was just about the only practical appeal of the Rift. While my other potential uses are far more fanciful (in particular, a digital build of the theatre in which I am often involved in lighting and set work), the core of my planned Rift use is in what amounts to a 3D chat room. And maybe something like playing an RTS, but definitely not for playing shooters.

    I wonder how long before someone starts up their own version of the Walled City…

  3. This actually unlocks some fairly interesting ideas for those who are still using Second Life. The amount of nontraditional sexual practices that flourish there is not trivial and combining it with the Rift could be really interesting for that market. Don’t underestimate the adult market for virtual reality. Especially for such an early adopter/receptive type user base.

  4. VR has been “the next big thing” since the term was coined in the ’80’s. I’ve been waiting since then to see an implementation that works well.

    The Oculus Rift looked like a possible step in the right direction, until it was bought out by the douchemongers at Facebook.

    I guess I’ll be waiting another 30 years for decent VR?

    1. A big part of the reasons why it’s always “just around the corner” are technological reasons. Low latency, high resolution, low cost screens are just now becoming available and even then they had to be purpose built/modified.

  5. For Linden to say their new world will be “Where content creators are king” is harsh and alienating. Those I know who still use SL are mostly avatar designers, and last time I tried it the in-game construction tools they were a right PITA, presuming you could ever find a free-to-use sandbox area with no griefing to use them in and few enough users it didn’t lag like crazy. Short form; by aiming it primarily at designers you’re likely also making it impenetrable to laypersons to start creating without a massive time investment.

    SL was marketed as a Virtual Reality, but the biggest selling game in the world is also a VR; It’s just not marketed explicitly as one. It’s called Minecraft, and it’s blockier than the first VR’s were thirty years ago. I see that as a hint that maybe graphical fidelity and fancy headsets isn’t the be-all and end-all of virtual worlds. The winning formulea is “Punch tree; get wood” not “Install outside 3D graphics suite, watch tutorials, create item, import to game; get swearing”.

    It’s not just content-creation limitations though, it’s also environmental, accesibility to front and back end structures, UI design and a lot more.

    Eve Online is a virtual reality because of the roleplay of it’s users. Their actions are their creativity. But the UI has often been compared to “Spreadsheet Managers In Space”. And user-created content is extremely limited. But it is massively multiplayer. Moreso than any other game.

    SecondLife suffers visibly for userspace/volume compared to a Minecraft world. You can set up an MC server and have a playground several million times the surface area of Earth to play in, or you can rent one 256m square sim on SecondLife. A basic MC server will take 30 people for the price of a sandwich, a SL sim will table maybe half that before it slows to a crawl. One will let you download your world, all it’s content and data. The other remains locked on Lindens servers, and getting more than token data out of the game means you need to break the user agreement with hacked clients.

    In regard to massively multiplayer environments, I’m inclined to agree with the folk at LucidScape who’re working on a backend system intend to replicate the promise of the fictional Metaverse. Basically, instance dungeons can go to hell. Their tech demo video looks very impressive with 10 million objects synched across 800 servers. Very limited on details since though.

    The (unassociated) blog has some good points about the nature of the worlds themselves. Summary; the old monolithic (corperate) virtual worlds of fiction are rediculous. They’re closed worlds. A thriving virtual world, a metaverse, needs to be able to be interconnected. I need a client that lets me switch between disparate virtual worlds at will, even parsing them seemlessly into the same engine (or at bare minimum operate as a loader for them). And we need an apache-like back end that anyone can use to set up their own customised worlds. The money comes from hosting and services. The future of VR was, and still is, a virtual network.

    My own view? A Metaverse needs to be capable of operating as a massively multiuser dreamscape. Anything emulating a reality-like environment is a less complex subset of that. Then it just needs a few killer-apps; things that are done better in a virtual environment than in 2D or reality. Which in turn implies the need to be able create server and client plugins for translating data sources into a communal virtual world. Which in turn implies the need (at very least) for an open API, if not the whole software suite.

    1. Agree with you about Minecraft. I had some fun connecting it to IoT platforms (and thereby worlds to each other), to serial ports, and to my multimeter. Something like that would make a great metaverse platform.

  6. I’ve long wanted to build a pinball machine with a large tv, virtual pinball software, and so on. Haven’t had the time and cash though. With a VR headset I look forward to simply put two physical buttons and a tilt sensor on a table and let software do the rest. :)

  7. It all has to do with how well they sell the gimmick. I think true 3d is too much for the average person that is more than happy to use a controller to build things in Minecraft. So many have tried before, but it is always snake oil or completely uninteresting. This will be no different. As you see, HaD made fun of 2L before getting back on the product placement trolley. This is a huge waste of time/resources unless you are an OR/FB shareholder and you want to convince the last three reasonable people on earth that it is not a dumb gimmick.

    1. Second life might be a gimmick but the Rift is far from being one. It’s one of the most amazing gaming experiences I’ve had in years. Lots of stuff *doesnt* work well with it and might never work well with VR (fast FPSes is one that comes to mind) but some things seem tailor made for VR (sim games, survival games and horror games). Alien Isolation is a scary game when played on a monitor. When played on a DK2 and surround headphones (cutting you off from exterior sensory input) it’s terrifying! Easily half of the people I’ve had try it either quit from the stress or had trouble doing anything but hiding because they were so scared. Nearly every one of them screamed, jerked back in the chair or responded strongly when the alien caught and killed them!

      The experience in a racing sim, aircraft sim or space sim is equally stunning. The biggest issue is nausea. Just a couple simple mistakes from the Developers can cause severe nausea, and some scenes or situations just cause problems regardless. Hopefully they can get all of that ironed out. Will it replace your monitor? No. But I can see it becoming a must have item for some types of games and some types of gamers.

  8. I’m avoiding all current VR technology for the same reasons I’m avoiding 3D printing, I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t meet my Star Trek levels of expectation. Holodecks and Replicators, how do they even work?

  9. I hear the problem with this is eye contact – it’s necessary for the feeling of actually talking to someone. Until the rift gets eye tracking (and whatever nifty eye-pointing and eye-clicking that also adds) this sort of thing isn’t going to work that well :(

  10. Surprised that there is no mention of the DIYVR kickstarter, which is basically aims to modify GLAM (WebGL markup language) to render easy to write VR applications to Rift/Google-Cardboard devices.

    Given that many (!!!) cell phone devices exist with WebGL capable browsers, this could be huge!.

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