Virtual Reality and OSS

I’ve recently gone for coffee with a colleague of mine and we happened to touch upon the subject of virtual reality. I can safely assume that the majority of you knows what virtual reality stands for, but for those who don’t know, here is a brief description of it: Virtual reality is a simulation of a place or an environment created by computer technology that we can access via virtual reality headsets. What is very interesting about VR is the fact that it is still prominent – back in the day, we really thought it wouldn’t be in demand; that it would simply die out. But to our amazement, it’s still going strong.

Since I predominantly write about open-source software and its links with practically everything, I thought that I could introduce you to something that has to do both with OSS and VR, and that is VR powered by OSS codes.

Virtual reality and OSS? You have to be joking

Believe me, it exists – or let’s say, it existed. It existed as a project (called OSVR) between a famous tech company, Razer, and a company which designs high-quality head-mounted displays, Sensics. The idea behind the project was to create games (in which both companies would take part) which could be played with any headset or any game controller; while I do understand that it may not sound amazing to you, you have to realize that this happens very rarely in the gaming industry. Usually, the company that creates a game, creates a game for a specific game controller or headset and you can rarely do exactly what OSVR proposed, which is why the project was deemed groundbreaking.

Apart for this groundbreaking idea, another plan they had with the project was to create both software and hardware for the VR using only OSS codes! Their most popular model is called the Hacker Development Kit and it was launched in 2015, garnering a lot of interest for the project.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many games that they developed together and in the end, one of the partners dropped the project and moved onto another project.

OK, but what is the point of this article if this project is dead?

I’m so glad you asked! The point of this article is to inform you how many things can be made just using OSS codes. Not only that, I also wanted to introduce you to this topic, so that if you are interested in making your own VR someday, you can rely on the codes these companies used. You can study them, play with them, change them completely and adjust them accordingly for your own use. There are many articles I stumbled upon (while researching for this article) whose authors took it to themselves to code their own VR headset in the way they preferred. Isn’t that fun? If you ask me, it’s not only fun because it is entertaining, it’s also fun because it’s educational… and well, you know, almost free. You would just have to buy the headset first – or google the codes they used.