The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in the early months of 2020 brought with it a general sense of doom among many populations. Finding reasons to remain positive, active, and connected to one another seemed too much of a struggle for some. Along with the more obviously useful tools like videoconferencing and social media, virtual reality had the potential to make a significant difference to huge numbers of people and this strange new experience we were going through. It had the potential and now it had the perfect opportunity to make its big move.
The Big Hitters
The widespread adoption of any new technology requires the existence of one key product. Something irresistible to millions and revolutionary to competitors. During the earlier months of the COVID era, VR was bolstered by two significant product releases: the Oculus Quest 2 and Half-Life: Alyx. The former, pitched at an affordable consumer-level price-point, managed to become the best-selling VR device yet and the gateway to a huge number of new VR users.
The world was already familiar with a few games that employed VR or AR elements – Pokémon Go was still going strong after four years, though it was no longer making appearances in the speeches of US politicians – but Half-Life: Alyx made it clear that, in the right hands, VR gaming could be pushed to incredibly immersive heights of pure first-person experience. And, leaving in its dust a number of popular VR headsets and devices that simply couldn’t handle it, Half-Life: Alyx demanded VR tech keep up with industry leaders.
Oculus Quest 2’s launch in October 2020 couldn’t have been better timed. With the ever-reliable holiday sales season approaching and lockdowns showing little sign of easing under the heavy weight of COVID, more and more people were considering a dip into virtual reality. Priced to move into average homes, not elite industrial or business bodies, Oculus 2 spurred Facebook’s competitors to both lower prices and strengthen tech.
The Nuts & Bolts of VR
The immersion provided by well-produced VR content and a quality hardware device is a huge leap from smartphone viewing. All one needs to do is sample the higher-quality experience and any smartphone-based VR is bound to look weak in comparison. As sales of VR hardware not only remained strong but accelerated during the COVID era, even among supply chain shortages, more and more users are discovering just how exciting a well-crafted VR experience on decent hardware can actually be.
Jumping into VR and experiencing an intimate sexual encounter with a world renowned VR porn star certainly counts as a larger-than-life experience, at least when it’s done as well as those adult studios now leading the VR field. During pandemic downtime, there were no doubt many users new to VR who decided to indulge in some rather racy entertainment for the first time. Top-tier VR porn can make a huge impression on users, especially those not yet convinced of VR’s more human side. After all, a virtual sexual encounter is about as intimate as two people can be without ever actually communicating. Or at least, in the hands of a truly skilled adult performer, it is.
Go Out by Staying In
The COVID era didn’t only result in the quarantined and locked-down using VR to look inward or experience solitary pleasures. Many found COVID the perfect opportunity to roam various parts of the Earth via apps like Wander, a virtual travel app that uses Google Street View to provide users with immersive views of places as disparate as a Northern Australian mangrove swamp, the Western Wall of Jerusalem, or the busy hutongs of Beijing. Though failing to deliver that much-needed vitamin-D, VR travel can and did provide a mental and emotional respite for the homebound.
Although we appear to be rounding the corner into COVID recovery – improvements have been made, vaccines have been rolled out and administered, and many countries are getting back on track to some kind of normality – the benefits VR has brought to those stuck isolated at home during COVID will undoubtedly remain and continue to provide.