Are we witnessing a revolution in VR?

HTC Vive, Occulus Rift, Playstation 4 ‘Project Morpheus’ are all coming out with their VR headsets this spring or summer, and it got me thinking of the larger applications/appeal of this, obviously there’ll be problems with the headsets, the specifications for operating them etc etc, but those kind of problems existed in the beginning of the video game/home computer industry, what can we expect to see in this ‘brave new world’ of VR? Is it gimmicky? Or something else?

Remember how 3-D television was all the rage a few years ago. Electronics manufacturers were making 3-D this and 3-D that. The current boom in VR is the same thing.

The biggest problem I can see with VR becoming main stream is the ability of people to devote space to it. I can set aside a 5’x5’ area for my computer desk and chair for gaming. I can also use that space to work on my computer, so it’s note even a total loss of “useful” space. I cannot set aside a 25’x25’ space clear of obstructions so I can walk about for VR. Confining VR to a small space will severely limit the immersion for many games (flight sims being the notable exception and perhaps the perfect VR app).

Hardware demands are steep for Oculus and Vive, but I think they’re in the range of what core PC gamers may already have. (Yes, those are beefy graphics card requirements, but they’re in the range of a current mid to high-range build. I don’t meet the requirements, but I’ve been eyeing a PC upgrade because my system is aging.)

I’ll sit back and watch the technology mature. Maybe I end up with a VR flight sim somewhere down the line, but it’s too early to tell.

We’ve had several ‘revolutions’ that didn’t pan out, like 3D TV and Segway. I’m certain that VR will catch on at some point, but I suspect that what we’re seeing right now is more hype than a ‘revolution’. I’d love to be proved wrong, but so many times a thing gets the media’s attention, they run stories and then… a handful of people have an expensive toy and most people forget about it. As VR develops I will be interested in seeing what people actually do with it, the lack of big open rooms to game in is certainly a limiting factor.

Heh, MS Flight Simulator was THE big gaming app on PCs in the 80s, it’s funny that something similar (MS sold the game off) now might be an ideal app for VR.

But MS flight simulator X shouldn’t be too much of a hard task for a VR and specked up comp?I’m not bothered too much about graphics as I am about immersion.

My opinion is that it will eventually take over a niche very much like the Wii. In other words, people will have it set up in the living room or game room.

Honestly, I think it’s going to be augmented reality that wins the day, not VR. Microsoft’s Hololens is, IMHO, the wave of the future and VR will be basically a dead end except in very vertical applications as it is today. That said, I can see VR as being a thing in high end gaming if you have the right things to go with it such as Virtuix Omni or like devices.

I’m not sure what you mean by immersion in the context of VR if it’s not graphics.

I think I know what he means and I understand it. The point is more about immersive content rather than ultra-realistic graphics quality. Flight Simulator X and X-Plane are good examples because they are already virtual reality in many ways but they could use a lot more of it. For example, you can already ‘look around’ the cockpit or in various directions outside of the aircraft if you know the various commands but that isn’t natural. It would be awesome if you could use a virtual reality headset to look around like you would in a normal cockpit and be able to interact with the myriad of controls or even look at the scenery.

It doesn’t take a ton a of graphics power to do that at a 3,000 foot view let alone a 30,000 foot one but it would add a lot to the experience. That is only one example for a great use for it but it is a good one and there are others. You could make some great and fairly realistic hunting games with hardware that only has modest requirements.

However, the best use I have heard proposed is virtual tours and experiences. It would be like Google StreetView - the interactive addition. Imagine if you could tour the Louvre, the Great Wall of China or even the street you grew up on without leaving your couch. That possibility has real promise because the development could be subsided by companies that want people to go there in person.

I have a Samsung Gear VR and I’m very impressed. A 3D movie or TV is still just a rectangular screen, but a VR headset really is immersive. Granted, I haven’t found anything useful to do with it, but once the software developers figure out how to take advantage of the hardware, I’m convinced it will revolutionize our computer usage experience. I’m sufficiently impressed that I now have 2 headsets on order (Oculus Rift and an AuraVisor).

What specs are we talking about for an Occulus, is that even the best one? Should I wait? How about PS4 VR?

This is correct, there a few Minecraft cities which aren’t realistic but what would be excellent to walk around in.

I think it would be cool to try Fallout or Call of Duty on a really immersive headset. All the hype I’ve heard about this is that they’ve finally overcome the technical difficulties and have the devices at a point where it is practical to do so. The big issues in the past were mostly motion sickness and low res graphics.

I remember playing a VR game back in like '99 or so. It was just a rail shooter, but the camera would track the movement of the player’s heads if they looked left and right and stuff like that. The problem was it looked like garbage, in that the graphics were vastly inferior to what was available on my home PC. It felt like I was playing “StarFox” rather than “Half Life.”

And while I am keen to try it out, I do agree with others who worry it will peter out like other fads. I remember playing DOOM when it first came out and actually flinching or trying to duck my head because it was so immersive… But after playing it for a few weeks what was revolutionary quickly became mundane. So when I read stories about people who claim the new Oculus is so incredible, I think, “Sure, but what happens when you’ve owned it for a year and the novelty wears off?”

The other problem is the degree to which it is “immersive” in the first place. Is the sensation really overwhelming and transporting? Or are you just playing a game with a screen strapped to your face? What happens if something goes wrong in the house that requires my attention? What happens if I die six times in a row and have to take it off to look at the internet walkthrough? I like the idea of it, but even if the effect itself works very well there are a lot of practical problems that might interfere with the experience.

I’m currently collaborating with several teams developing games for PlayStation VR. I have some strong opinions about where VR is headed, but because of confidentiality, I have to be circumspect about what I say.

Motion sickness is still a real issue even with the new hardware. There are a variety of tricks that you can use to mitigate it, but they put a lot of constraints on game development. You can’t just port an experience straight over from a 2-D screen and expect most people to tolerate it.

VR will certainly open up new ways to play and new experiences to have. But it’s not a replacement for existing display technologies. There are just too many limitations.

If you’re talking about the PC specs required for the devices, they’re here and elsewhere: (http://www.technobuffalo.com/2016/02/23/htc-vive-pc-requirements/).

A better comparison of the devices is here: (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/136023/20160224/htc-vive-vs-oculus-rift-comparing-the-features-specs-and-pricing-of-the-world-s-hottest-virtual-reality-headsets.htm).

Details are thinner on the PS4 VR.

IMO, wait and see. These could be the PS Move and X-Box Kinect of technology (i.e. interesting dead ends), or they could be the Wii (interesting and quickly adopted).

These are all great points, I’m sure because we’re at the beginning of this being rolled out, that this will be worked on in the next 20 or so years. I hope anyway.

Would you say this introduction is a parallel to the early Video game industry?

No, the Oculus Rift probably isn’t the best one. The HTC Vive is more expensive ($599 for Rift vs. $799 for the HTC Vive), and I understand it has better position tracking and better controllers. I don’t think the PS4 VR price and specs have been announced yet.

Personally I have no interest in games, so I don’t think position tracking is all that important. I’m much more interested in 3D photos and video, as well as any social networking and general computing/internet applications that may come up.

No. When it comes to player comfort, there are few limits on what you can show on a 2-D screen. You can pretty much do whatever you want (short of a few special cases like avoiding rapid flashes that can trigger epilepsy). So worrying about player comfort (as opposed to, say, fun, or challenge) hasn’t been a big part of game development up until now.

That isn’t true with VR. There are *lots *of ways to trigger simulator sickness, some of them very counter-intuitive, and if you’re making a VR game you have to spend time thinking about how to avoid putting the player in those situations. A set of best practices is emerging as developers learn what sorts of things to avoid in their games, but it definitely limits the sorts of experiences VR can deliver.

Again, it’s not that VR can’t provide really cool experiences. It’s that it can’t replace 2-D screens.

OK, that makes sense. Being able to look around at your cockpit and its controls hadn’t really occurred to me, I was thinking more in terms of what you’d see outside. And when I think about it, of course a VR of something like WOW could be immersive even sticking to cartoon-style graphics.

So how does ‘walking around’ get handled in the current generation of VR - do you use controls to move around and just turn your head to skew the view, or do you need a really large open space or treadmill so that you can actually move?