The problem with virtual reality at the moment is that tons of companies are showing off their new virtual reality headsets but it’s pretty much impossible for regular consumers to get their hands on most of them. Even when these headsets to become readily available, how many people are going to pay potentially hundreds of dollars for such a device? Especially when you have a gateway to a near complete virtual reality experience on you right now: your smartphone.
The first time I ever believed virtual reality might really be the future was at CES 2013, in a parking lot outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center. I put on a huge pair of goggles made of half duct tape, half hopes and dreams, and found myself walking the corridors of a virtual spaceship. I looked up over my left shoulder, and was suddenly staring into a shower of sparks coming from a pipe above me. I can’t remember the exact sound I made, but it was of genuine, abject terror. That was my introduction to the very first prototype of the Oculus Rift. More than two years after that first trip, the Rift is still the VR industry’s best demo (though HTC’s new Vive may be coming for that throne) and its best-known name. It’s a hugely powerful kind of virtual reality. But you can’t buy it yet. You can’t buy Sony’s Project Morpheus, either, or the Vive. If you have a smartphone, though, you don’t need to.