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Virtual reality brings immersive experiences within easy reach

October 2, 2014 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Chris Griffith / The Australian

I'M flying over Antarctic icebergs, looking up, down, left, right and even backwards as I soar. �Moments later I'm in the ocean swimming near a group of sharks, frantically looking up and down for a way out, only to be gobbled up.

This wasn't a movie or even a nightmare. It was my experience last week of immersive virtual reality, or VR, a powerful technology that puts you at the centre of vision or gameplay created 360 degrees around you at all angles. You really feel you are there.


A visitor tries out Samsung's Gear VR, powered by Oculus, during the Tokyo Game Show in Makuhari, near Tokyo, last month

Put on a 3-D visor and headphones, and your senses trick you into believing you are part of that concocted, artificial environment -- with your real whereabouts blotted out. It's a tech-delivered out-of-body experience that seems to be straight out of the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix.


A new prototype of the Oculus virtual reality headset

What's new is that virtual �reality will become a mainstream consumer item before the year is out. The Oculus Rift, a highly sought-after crowd-funded VR viewer, won't be released until next year but Samsung has jumped the gun, announcing it will release its Gear VR virtual reality headset in Australia on November 5. And that means mainstream availability soon.


The Gear VR is a portable version of the Oculus Rift produced in partnership with manufacturer Oculus VR. It's an accessory to Samsung's new Note 4 phablet-sized smartphone. You slot the Note 4 into the Gear VR to get it working.


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