Virtual reality tech shines at G-Star 2016

Virtual reality tech shines at G-Star 2016

BUSAN — By strapping on a virtual reality headset at the G-Star 2016 game convention in Busan, South Korea, one can fight in outer space, pilot a plane or throw fire grenades at a fellow gamer in the digital realm.

VR is a technology that completely immerses users in computer-generated worlds via a head-mounted display, transporting them out of the real world and into the virtual.

It held a strong presence at this year’s G-Star, as the world’s leading makers of VR goggles and software such as Oculus VR, Taiwanese tech giant HTC, graphic tech firm Nvidia and Sony Interactive Entertainment Korea showcased their products to a curious public.

While VR is expected to be applied in diverse sectors in the future, the game sector has been the first to embrace this cutting-edge technology and its vast potential to revolutionize user experience.

At the Busan-based gaming convention, SIEK set up a major booth where visitors formed long lines to check out the PlayStation VR console device.

Wearing Sony’s PS VR headset, visitors turned their heads and pointed their gaming gear in mid-air to shoot down monsters in a foreign planet and encounter ghosts in empty corridors.

“I knew it was a game, but it still felt so scary to be standing alone in the VR world that I took off my headset at one point,” said Shin Jung-hyun, a 23-year-old university student, after playing the VR version of the horror-survival game “White Day: A Labyrinth Named School” set for release next year.

Over at Nvidia, which develops graphic technologies for VR games, visitors could immerse themselves in virtual game worlds delivered by more high-end VR systems such as the Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive.

Despite all the hype, VR today remains an eye-turning yet distant technology for most gamers and the public, given the scarcity of VR games and services in the market, not to mention the expensive price tag on VR headsets.

Yet, this situation will soon change as the technology advances and prices fall, expanding virtual reality’s scope and accessibility, according to HTC’s Vice President of VR New Technology Raymond Pao.

“Virtual reality, we think it’s the next generation (technology),” said Pao during a presentation Friday on the sidelines of the G-Star 2016. “Starting from this year, and next year, you will see game content showing up to really drive the trend moving forward to the VR.”

According to a January 2016 report by Goldman Sachs, the VR hardware market is expected to hit $31 billion while the VR software market will reach $27.7 billion by 2025. Of the revenues generated in the VR software market, around 48 percent will come from games, it said.

As VR could become the next big thing in tech, Korea, home to a booming game and tech sector, has begun to embrace new efforts to boost local businesses engaged in VR tech development.

On Thursday, Busan City and HTC announced a new partnership for the joint operation of a new center in Busan dedicated to VR as well as augmented reality technology. Differing slightly from VR, AR technology overlays digital images on a person’s view of the world.

Busan City plans to invest 1.3 billion won ($1.09 million) toward building the center, which is scheduled to open in March 2016. The center aims to discover, nurture and support promising VR-related startups in Korea and help them reach out to global markets.

Earlier this year, the Korean government pledged to invest 405 billion won in the development of original VR technologies until 2020.


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