Words by Nick Taras.
Photography by Sergey Galyonkin.
As I stood atop an asteroid, mesmerised by the cobalt aura of Earth viewed through an Oculus Rift headset, my meditative state spawned only one thought: “This is what it feels like to be God.”
My “voyage” through space was the penultimate level in a five-minute simulation developed for the virtual reality console known as Rift. Designed by Californian company Oculus VR, inside the Rift goggles you’ll see something so spectacular that Facebook paid $2 billion in March 2014 to acquire it.
Put the mask on and you’ll experience a 360-degree visual display so real that your mind can’t distinguish it from reality. Combine this optical hijacking with headphones, and the Rift is a completely immersive computer-generated adventure.
With such clear definition, the occipital lobe in your brain – responsible for processing vision – tricks your mind into believing that what you’re seeing is real. For decades, futurists predicted that virtual reality would become the next big thing in technology. However, the poor visual quality found in early virtual reality models only drew attention to the oxymoron that is ‘virtual reality.’
So what?” you may be thinking. “My HD TV has killer resolution.” The difference is that you know when you’re staring at your TV screen, whereas the Rift transports you to an environment that responds to your every movement in real time. For example, when I was orbiting Earth, I tilted my head to the left and saw Mars floating in the distance. Then I faced in the opposite direction and the Moon glared back at me. Looking at my shoes, I was presented with the perforated, brown rock of an asteroid. Just like your real vision, you see something different everywhere you look.