Reality is looking pretty mundane these days. There's Google Glass, the original augmented reality (AR) headset concept and Oculus Rift, the poster child for virtual reality's (VR) comeback. Since then, an ever-growing number of headsets have snuck out of the woodwork, making us feel that whatever reality we choose to exist in, the un-modded version just won't do.
Usually, now is right about the time that we'd start going on about the myriad differences between AR and VR and the headsets that represent each. A new headset, still in development from Sulon Technologies, is about to make that entire conversation a moot point, however. The Cortex is at once an AR headset and a VR gaming rig. Simply strap this sizable headset to your face and you'll have entered what might be the most mind-bending sort of reality we've yet to see. It is at once reality and not, AR and VR, and entirely new.
Basically what the Cortex does is put you (and any of your friends with a headset of their own) in a VR environment, but the environment it puts you in can both be informed by and based on your actual surroundings. A camera mounted on the front of the headset collects visual data from your surroundings, feeds it to your 3D screens, and you see what is ostensibly a video of your apartment. But it isn't your apartment anymore —not really. At any time, VR creatures and constructs can be overlayed on top of your surroundings. Alien creatures can run around on your own floor, nipping at your heels.
But that's not the end of the Cortex's capabilities. Step through a portal and your AR apartment vanishes, only to be replaced by an entirely VR landscape. Here, nothing resembles the surroundings you are used to — yet your headset is still using data from your surroundings to create it. Where your living room's walls are, there are walls in-game, so you can forget about the need for a VR treadmill or tethering yourself to the center of the room.
The Cortex is still very much in development, but where it's going is a sort of reality that will have you jumping at shadows and scrounging for blaster ammo even when you've taken the headset off. If that sounds beyond amazing to you, then the good news is that you can already sign up for a dev kit version of the Cortex, due to be delivered by the end of the year. It'll cost you $500, and do bear in mind that both the hardware and software sides of this AR/VR monster still need tweaking, but you'll be getting two realities in one — both of which might be more exciting than the place beyond your door.