Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality are perhaps the archetypical technology trends of 2016 but in fact, neither are new inventions, especially in gaming. VR in particular has struggled for relevance in the industry, a plight not helped by the fact that previous efforts to get gamers on board with VR devices have been awkward at best.

Nintendo, not Oculus or HTC, was one of the first gaming companies to try their hand at VR with 1995’s Virtual Boy. It was a disaster. The device was expensive, awkward to use, and induced migraines and various other health problems in players. Games had just two colors – red and black – at a time when the original PlayStation was on the market.

VR has obviously come a long way since 1995, but some of its more unique applications actually lie beyond consoles, in iGaming, a type of casino focused on mobile and online play.

Texas Hold ’em

The classic casino games are remarkably constant; games like poker, roulette, and blackjack have their variations on the market – Texas Hold ‘em, for example – but the basic rules stay the same. It’s perhaps a little ironic then that it is casino gaming rather than big action titles that is providing much of the innovation in the VR arena, pushing for multiplayer games and even spectating experiences.

But, in fact, the casino industry has a history of trying new things. A large corner of the industry has adopted cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as payment options they offer to customers. In fact, brands such as Vegas Casino have the currency ingrained in their identity, with a way for players to acquire free Bitcoin – a “faucet” – built into the site. They only accept only Bitcoin payments and bets rather than just allow them. Vegas Casino also has promotions centered on the currency and offers players the option to play bitcoin roulette free, among other games.

Poker games in VR already exist on the Oculus Rift. They’re rather embryonic (the graphics leave a lot to be desired, a problem across many VR games – just compare the PS4’s Driveclub game to the VR version, for example) and real money experiences are rare but the sector’s roadmap for the technology is exciting.

The potential exists for using VR to transport poker fans into official competitions like the World Series of Poker, the idea being that organizers could sell “VR tickets” that give fans a spectator-like view of the tables. Of course, the same applies for any event at all, but casino gaming is one of the more vocal proponents of virtual reality “experiences” (as opposed to games).

The addition of technologies like Oculus Avatars, an initiative to give players more of an in-game presence, could help foster interaction between players and provide a more immersive experience. It could also bridge the two very different worlds of internet and table poker, reintroducing the more physical aspects of the game (body language and player “tells”) to the digital versions of the sport.

There are obviously still a lot of unknowns regarding VR. Despite the tech’s advancing age, VR has only recently become a mainstream phenomenon. However, developments in both console gaming and iGaming paint a promising picture of VR’s future role in the entertainment industry.

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