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An Inside Look at Virtual Reality

By: Russell Potvin

The newest trend in online casinos is virtual reality, but is it really a trend? This development has become more than just a simple idea or concept, and more than a proposed gimmick...it's now a reality. With the introduction of virtual reality to online casinos AND land-based casinos, we're confident that this technology is certainly here to stay.

At Grizzly Gambling, we've been curious about virtual reality in casinos for quite some time now, so we jumped at the chance to sit down with an expert and talk about all things VR. Sam Forrest, the Director of Global PR at KamaGames, was kind enough to chat with us about this exciting technology and dive into some of the deeper questions we have about this mesmerizing simulation.

GrizzlyGambling (GG): Hi Sam, it's great to be able to talk with you about this very interesting topic, thanks for taking the time! How about we jump right in? Can you please describe virtual reality (VR)?

Sam Forrest (SF): I think Wikipedia sums it up quite nicely - Virtual reality (VR) typically refers to computer technologies that use software to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment (or create an imaginary setting), and simulate a user's physical presence in this environment, by enabling the user to interact with this space and any objects depicted therein using specialized display screens or projectors and other devices. A person using virtual reality equipment is typically able to "look around" the artificial world, move about in it and interact with features or items that are depicted on a screen or in goggles.

In other words, VR technology allows you to immerse yourself in a computer generated world or environment via the use of goggles and controllers that allow you to look around and interact with the world itself and any objects within.

GG: How interesting...and what do you think the future will look like? Will we start seeing homes equipped with VR headsets and technology?

SF: I would say we are seeing VR make its way further into the home already so yes, I definitely expect to see its use growing and expanding. Technology is moving at a staggering pace at the moment and I also think end users are becoming hungrier for the next evolution in home entertainment which makes it a perfect match for the future.

Technology is moving at a staggering pace at the moment and I also think end users are becoming hungrier.

The biggest challenge is always going to be the hardware install base vs. software. Will the big developers and publishers really step up the product top-end software whilst install bases are still quite low? We've heard a number of the major players all say that they are going to be getting heavily involved in VR but are just waiting for the install base to grow that little bit more. This leads to the whole chicken and egg scenario ñ will the platform sell if there isn't any top end software available and will top end software be made available whilst the install base is still (technically) so low.

Saying that, with the launch of Oculus and PlayStation VR, we will definitely see the install base grow and overall awareness of the platform expand. Pushing it out beyond gaming is the next challenge as its definitely going to be difficult to convince more casual players to wear headsets. There are still a lot of concerns about motion sickness, quality of heads sets, and much more, and they obviously simply take a while to get used to.

GG: That will definitely be a challenge. And now that VR has been introduced to a small number of online casinos, do you see it growing rapidly?

SF: I don't think we are going to see it skyrocket overnight, no. I think it will be a slow (but steady) process that will gather momentum in line with how the general public perceives and uses VR outside of iGaming. Again, it all depends on driving the install base and making VR and augmented reality (AR) mass market, and we have a while to go until that happens. That said, I do expect to see some significant jumps in 2017/18.

GG: When and how was VR first introduced to the online casino world?

SF: It's still very much in its infancy right now, but it is growing. There are a couple of VR slots games already out there with a number of other companies experimenting with the platform for other table-based games too.

The gaming industry has been experimenting with interactive gaming for quite some time now. A number of online casinos have been experimenting with 3D graphics and real life human dealers, in an attempt to make the entire "virtual" or "digital" gaming experience feel more realistic.

GG: Do you think the online casino industry will be the most popular industry for VR? Or different industries?

SF: It will definitely be one of the main ones, yes, of that there is no doubt. I would also anticipate the adult entertainment industry and the travel industry will also benefit from it tooñfor very different reasons of course!

Video games industry will most definitely be a significant driving force in increasing VR's install base.

The video games industry will most definitely be a significant driving force in increasing VR's install base. You just have to look at the likes of PlayStation VR that has already been reported to have sold hundreds of thousands of units, and, considering Sony's 40 million+ PlayStation 4 install base, I anticipate that we are only going to see year-on-year growth.

In addition to Sonyís offering you also have the high-end headsets like Oculus, the google Daydream, and a host of other lower-priced headsets that are flooding the Western markets from the likes of China. Whilst these are absolutely not on the same level as Sony or googleís offering, they do help familiarise people with the platform, to give them a chance to experiment with it and be exposed to its possibilities which when building an install base is half the challenge.

GG: You have a lot of experience in the key difference between virtual reality and augmented reality, can to explain to our audience?

SF: Keeping it short, VR (currently) requires a headset and places the user in a generated environment/world where they can interact with, not just the landscape, but any objects within it. AR simply enhances the real world by supplementing it with additional digital imagery, sound or video made visible through (predominantly) mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

GG: Do you anticipate AR being introduced to land-based or online casinos?

SF: There is obviously no reason it shouldnít be but at the same time, why would it? If you are in a real world casino, sat at an actual table why would you want to play AR games for anything more than a gimmick? It would be amusing to sit at a table in Vegas and maybe see Elvis sat across the table via AR but that is more of a short-term, fun use. Personally, I think it will be primarily used for online casinos.

GG: Where do you see the future of VR and AR - are they here to stay or just a fad?

SF: I think we are going to see AR become a lot more established quicker than VR simply because the entry to market is that much lower and easier (cost, no need for headsets, etc.) and let's face it, Pokemon Go really hasn't done AR technology any harm by introducing it to the masses with a pretty impressive 500+ million downloads of the game since launch!

GG: You're certainly right about that! And on that note, we'd like to thank you for chatting with us today!

We're appreciative of Sam Forrest for taking the time to chat with us about virtual reality, augmented reality, and the near future. For more info on this topic, please take a look at our full article on virtual reality.

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