There’s been a lot of excitement recently over the introduction of virtual reality (VR) into the online casino world. You already have dedicated Live Dealer games of course, which reinvented the wheel in terms of online gambling experience. This new technological application filled a gap in the market and catered for people who wanted a more authentic and sophisticated form of online casino entertainment. Now, the first generation of true virtual reality casinos are starting to appear and it begs the question of whether or not it will be a passing trend or a huge success in the same revolutionary way as live dealers were.
Virtual Reality is a concept that has existed since the 1950’s. Science Fiction writers of the time began exploring the idea of virtual reality in their novels and then in 1966 the first virtual reality flight simulator was introduced to the United States Air Force by Thomas Furness. It was only 2 years later in 1968 that the first virtual reality system that included augmented reality via a head mounted display system was introduced, although the head mounted display was so heavy that it had to be anchored from the ceiling.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and the term virtual reality was becoming a popular trend. In 1985, a company known as VPL Research developed what they called the ‘Data Glove’ which was later licensed to the toy company Mattel and went on to become the first form of affordable virtual reality controller systems. Most of you now know it as the Nintendo Power Glove. In the 1990’s more advanced but still early forms of VR was utilised for many video gaming applications, most notably it was Sega who released a VR head set for both their arcade units and the Sega Mega Drive console. Since then, these early types of virtual reality systems have been overshadowed by much more sophisticated offerings, with NASA leading the charge with a VR driving system for the Mars Rover and other VR applications including military training simulators.
How it all works for online casinos
To be able to experience this new way of playing you’ll need a pair of Oculus Rift VR goggles. This is going to be hard because they’re only available in prototype form at the moment, with the full release version scheduled for 2016. So you can still buy them, only they’re not being sold as ‘retail’ versions just yet, branded more as a developer tool for the time being.
Once you don a pair of these augmented reality glasses and log into the online casino lobby, you’ll be instantly transported into a virtual casino where you’ll play on real versions of all your favourite online casino games such as popular branded slots or table games but in a virtual reality setting. You’ll be able to wander around the entire virtual casino landscape and view it all in full 3D, access all the slot machines by actually ‘pressing’ the buttons, check your virtual cards in real time at the poker or blackjack table and throw some virtual reality dice around with your buddies at the craps table.
The alternative to the virtual reality version of this casino software comes in the form of a 3D version that doesn’t require the use of Oculus VR goggles. This is aimed at the casual online casino player but is no way near the same level of immersive experience as its VR counterpart.
The Question of Ethics“You’ll be able to wander around the entire virtual casino landscape and view it all in full 3D, access all the slot machines by actually ‘pressing’ the buttons…”
From a responsible gambling standpoint, it is quite a huge deal that the player will be fully immersed in a virtual gambling world. Practically speaking, the cost of the headset will probably deter a lot of people from even trying this out, but the question will be asked whether it’s healthy to be inside a virtual casino for any prolonged length of time. With video gaming addictions also on the rise and with the possibility of multiple players being in the same place at the same time akin to a gambling MMORPG, the temptation to live a life far removed from reality for some could be a potential side effect with this type of online entertainment.
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There’s no doubt that the sheer magnitude of such an application of software and technology required some serious brain power to come to fruition but not everything that’s technologically complex or advanced is necessarily positive, just ask the residents of Hiroshima for example. Only time will really tell whether or not this becomes something totally mainstream or just for the select few. Our money’s on the latter of the two, mainly because of the cost involved but also because in truth the virtual representation is still not quite ‘real’ enough.
For complex video games where you’re already creating a world that’s virtual, this sort of VR works really well, but when you’re recreating something that we’re already used to on a day to day basis it either has to feel realer than the real thing or people will simply not be interested. This is why Live Dealers work so well as a concept and in real terms. There is a physical person being broadcast into your game, you can’t touch them but you know they’re real and naturally the whole experience becomes more interactive because they’re human, not a machine.