The bunny from Invasion! (Courtesy of Baobab Studios)
Virtual reality has been phenomenon of science fiction. That all seems to change coming in the next week. Unless you have been living under a rock you probably know that The Oculus Rift is set to release on March 28th, followed by the HTC Vive on April 5th and then the Playstation VR. There are many of different brands and companies out there trying to take their stake in the industry but those are just some of the big names. This is an exciting time for the consumer as you will hopefully be able to experience some really spectacular virtual reality. Trust me, this is definitely a step up from any Samsung VR or Google Cardboard but you also pay for it. There are a bunch of predictions on whether or not VR is going to actually succeed or be just another gimmick. I don’t know! However, I can say it is pretty dope.
When I attended the Consumer Electronics Show this year I experienced a little snip-it of VR but mostly watched as someone else was immersed. After going to the Game Developers Conference last week and testing many of the products out, I feel I have a much better understanding. VR presence was overwhelming at CES but at GDC it was a tsunami.
As of now, I have tested out a variety of the headsets and I can say without a doubt in my mind, virtual reality is more real than I ever thought it would be. Images look good, I don’t get sick and everything works to satisfaction. Though I can tell I am in a head set, it was enjoyable. That is the key for me, it has to be fun. In the past when I have messed around with VR, it was more for the cool factor and not for the actually practical “Wow! I am going to do this when I get home” type of thing. Now I can actually see myself going to play in Virtual Reality.
Eagle Simulator 2016 (Image taken from gamespot.com)
One of the first games I demoed was Eagle Flight by Ubisoft. This game was a blast. I loved playing as an eagle and battling in an abandoned city. The tutorial and track challenges were okay, but when we got into the 2 v 2 multiplayer, capture the flag variant, my adrenaline began to pump. It was difficult at first! I began to learn the tricks of the trade to fly like an eagle and return my prey to the nest. I flew low, dodged through buildings and picked off some eagles from a distance with my screech pulse. In the end we won 3 to 0. I am truly proud of my flight capabilities.
I realize now that I had literally just played an eagle simulator. I think it is so interesting because half the time when you ask people what animal they want to be, they say an eagle or some type of bird. So VR is great for allowing us humans to be other animals. Man, I cannot wait for Velociraptor Simulator 2016.
I saw these crazy awesome 3D printed Velociraptorz at GDC and I almost died.
Going away from my reptilian fantasy, I also has the opportunity to fulfill one of my other dreams through VR, being a Space Pirate. Now anyone who knows me is well aware of my obsession with Space Pirates and velociraptors.
I can say I am a sucker for virtual reality simulations. I tested out the HTC Vive while playing Space Pirate Trainer. This experience was accelerating! I got to rock out with duel pistols or a combination of a reflective shield and pistol. I could switch simply by reaching behind me. Enemy robots would come from all different directions trying to blast me with their own laser eyes. In the end, I chose to primarily use the shield and pistol combo. I felt like there was no way I could shoot multiple directions and dodge at the same time so I liked to use the shield to cover my blind side. My strategy worked well and I felt like an actual riot shield SWAT member from Rainbow Six: Siege.
Below are some awesome pictures showcasing the game! (Taken from their website www.i-illusions.com)
It may have only been a trainer, but I feel well prepared for my inevitable space pirate adventures.
Shying away from the gaming side I also got to see a chunk of the new movie Invasion made by Boabab Studios. This is entertaining and seems to showcase the classic vibe we get from Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks but in a virtual reality world. I could not interact with anything, however the characters broke the fourth wall and made direct eye contact with me. I felt like I was actually there, I may be powerless, but I had a presence in their space which gave them more of a presence in my own space. I liked this! It was more real than any other movie viewing experience I’ve had to date.
The aliens are coming! (Courtesy of Baobab Studios)
Now down to the knitty gritty: controllers! I used an Xbox One controller and the HTC Vive controllers. I liked both of these options. Nonetheless, I definitely felt that having a little stick in each had in the case of the Vive controllers was much more immersive.
The Vive in all its glory! (htcvive.com)
As I snooped around at GDC I saw a variety of other options for VR control.
Such as gloves! The Manus VR looks like it works pretty well. I saw people demoing prototypes who looked very satisfied with their VR experience.
I look forward when we all just wear full body suit and every microscopic movement we make is tracked!
Then there are hand trackers or cameras that make so you can see your hands in VR. The one below is the Leap Motion. This looked awesome and practical for immersion. Having no hands is an auto eject from the matrix.
This is the beginning of full body immersion! (Courtesy of roadtovr.com)
Also, there are intense sensors to track controllers in large spaces. Apparently they are link-able to create tracking for even larger spaces.
Movement is still a struggle. “Room space”, a VR setup where you can only move about the room, is great if you want to stay in the space of your room. What do I do though if I want to travel across an entire map? Check this out!
The shoes are really slippery! (Image taken from www.thedanse.com)
There was lots more and plenty of other brands of VR present at GDC. Unfortunately, it would take me the rest of my semester to cover it all. Here, I wanted to highlight some of the biggies that made me realize how far VR has come and really how dope it is.
Do I think it will change the world? Yes, but not in the dystopia sense of sci-fi or South Park were we get lost in VR. Additionally, it isn’t going to replace gaming as it is today. From a competitive stand point a player will never be able to turn their head as quickly as they could if their sensitivity was set up to 10.
I think Virtual Reality will allow for huge strides in the media industry and education. We can heal patients with a new approach and teach students through experience rather than a text books. It is exciting for what the future holds! Hopefully it includes something with velociraptors and space pirates too.
-Ollie, wannabe space pirate (Wants to return to the matrix!)
Follow me on twitter @OllieAKALogan