Since 2012 and the first time people heard the phrase “Oculus Rift,” virtual reality has marched steadily into the cultural imagination. Headsets are a common sight in commercials and television shows, and it’s getting harder and harder to find someone who has never tried VR in some capacity. But another kind of Oculus rift persists: a gap between virtual reality as a concept and virtual reality as an experience.
What you can do in VR—where you can go, who you can be, and how you can do and be those things with others—gets better all the time. Delivering those things, though, has been a journey of frustrating half-steps and trade-offs, even as consumer headsets came to market. If you wanted to be able to move around in VR, what’s known as “6 degrees of freedom” (6DOF), you had to be tethered to a PC or a game console; if you wanted to lose the umbilical cord, you’d be stuck in place—able to spin around but unable to physically move in virtual space.
The better you wanted VR to be, the less convenient it was. Even worse: The reverse held true as well.
Attempting to slice through that Gordian knot