The Rise of Virtual Reality?

Are these next couple of years the first tentative steps in making the promise of VR, something pretty much everyone has thought about since there were video games, a reality?

Valve seems to think so. They say a consumer priced, VR headset with the specs listed below, can be a reality by 2015.

  • 110 degree FOV
  • 95 hz refresh rate
  • 1Kx1K resolution per eye (or about the resolution of a 2160x1600p panel
  • 3 ms pixel persistence (low persistence)
  • 20 ms latency

Here’s an interesting PDF on the technologies involved and the work Valve has been doing to make this happen: (warning PDF!)

As pointed out on the PDF, and by the Oculus Rift people, this type of experience will require the evolving ecosystem of PC gaming and PC gaming hardware. Consoles can apply next gen, but for now, this is looking like the next big thing to hit the PC this generation.

From the presskit PDF I personally find a lot of the low level processes that are running even before we are conscious of them to be fascinating. The visual cortex, apparently does a LOT to the visual input before it even gets sent to the brain.

Another interesting thing about VR is the pace at which it’s been developing. Even the crude developer kits form Oculus Rift out there in the wild are said to be able to deliver incredible experiences. Also, my current gaming PC has the hardware muscle to output immersive experiences at the specs being targeted by Valve. It won’t run Crysis 3 at Ultra at 95 FPS 2560x1600, but it CAN at medium-high settings. And I’ve got GPU’s that are a generation old now, not to mentions that an even more modern game engine is likely to be even better optimized than Crysis 3’s engine was back when the game came out.

In 3 years then, hardware capable of driving these unique experiences should be even more affordable.

What do you guys think about VR? Interested in it? Have you tried the Oculus dev kit? Think it’s just a fad like 3D?

I’ve been waiting for this since the 90’s. I will almost definitely buy the consumer version of the OR even if that means upgrading my 2y.o. PC.

ooh, forgot to talk about the main crux of Valve’s VR machinations. Why they think VR will take off and be popular and be wanted. They call it: presence.

They say people describe it a being teleported - a sense of being someplace else in VR. They claim that ti is a powerful sensation and that, of course, it’s unique ot VR. No other medium can make you feel this way.

Heh, reminds me of BTL from Red Dwarf :slight_smile:

It’s really going to be up to the game developers to take the technology and run with it. From what I understand, the OR system is going to be affordable and should work on most of the current generation of medium/high end gaming boxes out today. I’m certainly going to get it when it finally ships next year. The inclusion of a camera to track head movement supposedly have made the system much more responsive and usable. The only drawback I see is the known issue of VR disorientation/sickness, but I’ve never had that issue with the older VR stuff I’ve used in the past so shouldn’t be a problem for me…but might be a problem for a more general adoption of the tech unless they can work out a way to overcome it in people susceptible to it.

I think the games that will be using this tech are going to really be something in the next few years. I don’t play a lot of FPS type games, but perhaps the new Fallout 4 will be OR ready, and they should be coming out around the same time. Playing a Fallout game with VR tech will be quite and experience I should think!

Unique to VR? Nobody remembers going to Circlevision 360 at Disneyland?

Yes, that was limited and very much not portable. But it was OLD and it wasn’t VR. So no unique for you.

The way this is headed, the Oculus Rift is going to be it. They’ve solved pretty much all the hardware issues such as latency and they’ve got not only the backing of Valve but bunches of other developers. It certainly helped that the main developer of the Rift was prone to motion sickness and so wanted to create a VR machine that could excise any hints of motion sickness or eye strain at all. Not only that, but they’ve worked out how to move your head up and down spatially, which helps incredibly for gameplay and immersion. Peripheral hardware addons are already being created by others. It’s all set to have multiple games ready at launch. The technology is incredibly cutting edge, because the OLED screens that made the latency reduction possible at a high enough resolution only started being manufactured within the last year or so. This is nothing like last decade’s VR.

They know they have to stick the landing 10/10 for consumer version because of all the previous gimmicky failures in the realm of 3D and VR (big news recently was Vizio dropping 3D TV support because nobody liked it, for instance). One little mistake and it’ll be all over for them. It really looks like they’re about to do it though, and this is going to be a game changer (pun intended). Hell, people are working on 3D VR porn for it already, which is a great sign as to marketability. I can’t wait to get into a virtual movie theater myself.

I am buying the Rift the day it comes out.

How does that figure?

I don’t think most people are going to want to strap themselves to their PC, which is what this requires. It’s expensive and only benefits a single genre, but not its multiplayer aspect. I think the hype really comes from a “PC gaming is king” vibe that started when the new consoles were announced.

Think about how often people complain that a game doesn’t support borderless full-screen mode. People want that mode because they alt-tab while gaming so they can message their buddies, flip through their pandora stations, or whatever else. This is a product that goes against that mentality.

I think this is one aspect where VR has a long ways to go: convincing people that it’s not just about immersion - which is the feeling of being surrounded by the experience, but that it’s about PRESENCE. It is your lizard brain (having been tricked by VR at a very low level - before your conscious mind gets it’s hands on the data) being convinced that you are not where you think you are. That you are IN the virtual space.

Valve does mention that it’s difficult to convey this. That you need to experience it to know. Which I can imagine is going to make marketing problematic. Maybe on hand kiosks or something?

But yeah, Disney’s 360 screen does not in any way shape or form = VR.

I could be wrong, but isn’t 1600p 2K res?

I think “this only benefits a single genre” is a bit naive. We don’t know what genres will spring out of this. It’s uncharted territory. And it’s not like you cant do RPG in first person. Or who knows… Civ V as a god like creature traversing the map?

Yeah, that’s true. Genre is the wrong word, and if you change it to “perspective,” it’s a lot less limiting. Never mind the potential for new genres or experiences.


And no, VR isn’t going to go mainstream tomorrow. Burger flipping teenagers probably won’t be able to go out and buy a Pc + headset ready to go for the price of a console. But that doesn’t matter. They WILL be able to do that, eventually.

In the meantime those of us with the expendable income and interested in truly immersive gaming experiences will not be hindered by the masse’s inability to get their hands on this just yet.

Heck, millions of people around the world game on PC’s for it’s unique games and it’s powerful hardware, even without VR. Will people pay a premium for what VR offers? I think so. They are willing to pay a premium for what PC offers right now.

Will the number of early adopters and short term adopters be enough to lure developers to create unique experiences for this? I think you’d be out of your mind to say no. IT’s ALREADY happening.

And in 3 years, when hardware is cheaper, more people will be able to give it a try.

While it is a product that goes against that mentality, I think the point is that once you’ve tried it you won’t want to flip screens because you’ll be too into it. The thing with the Oculus Rift that everyone is reporting is that within 15 minutes you have forgotten that the world you’re seeing is not the real world at all.

However, I believe people are developing programs to have pop-up head displays for other computer screens or a small window to show you what’s going on in the real world while you’re playing a game, but they have to work a lot at making it feel “real” inside the VR world you’re experiencing. You can’t just have a screen pop up out of nowhere and hover in some sort of non-dimensionality. It has to have some sort of substance because your mind believes you are in a real space.

Anyway, that problem is being worked on and may already be solved (I didn’t keep up with that developer).

With the demos going from anything from virtual roller coaster, to floating about the ISS, to virtual porn you can walk around, to being in a movie theater and playing whatever movie you want, to gender studies stuff, to actual games, I think the Rift has more marketability than it first seems outside of the strict confines of “gaming” and what gamers want. They started this machine but I think it’ll go a bit further than that.

Hey, y’all, I just checked out the webpage and my first concern was: Wow, Oculus Rift is BIG.

How heavy is it? Assuming the visual unit is not absurdly light given its size, I can imagine some serious neck strain and backaches coming from using these things for any extended period of time. I know I move my head around a lot when I am ‘flying’ a fighter in a sim, even if the sim doesn’t track it. That’s fine when it is just me using a keyboard and trackball, but with one of these weighing anything more than a few ounces or so, moving around is going to be problematic.

Perhaps the software incorporated in these marvels obviates these possible issues. I am fascinated and as a gamer and scientist I want to know more about how this works. So, I didn’t mean to be negative. It is just that I have worn similar gear in the past and found the wearability to be a concern. Also, does this allow people who wear glasses to use the product?

But, if properly executed this could be amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us, Kinthalis.

This is pretty much everyone’s first concern. Definitely was mine. Thing looks heavy.

But apparently the prototypes, which have obviously NOT been optimized for form factor/weight yet are comfortable to wear at least for short periods of time. People describe it as wearing an ordinary pair of goggles.

I have an Oculus Rift dev kit, and the technology is pretty amazing and immersive. And there are already some pretty cool apps for it.

However, there’s a big roadblock to VR - motion sickness. Everyone I have shown the rift to has felt motion sick. Some people have come close to vomiting, after just a minute or two. I get very motion sick almost immediately, and the sick feeling remains for quite a while after I take the headset off. It also induces headaches.

I really want this technology to work, because it’s potentially revolutionary. The immersion is incredible, even in the low res dev kit. But I don’t know how they’re going to solve the motion sickness problem. Partly it will be game design - avoiding in-game movements that trigger nausea. Partly it will be reduction in latency and other UI improvements, but I’m not sure they can fix the fundamental problem that your eyes are seeing something that your semicircular canals don’t agree with.

If you read the Valve PDF presentation I posted in the OP, you’ll see that Valve has found that the closer you get to “Presence” the less people suffer from motion sickness:

The dev kit as it stands now is insufficient for achieving presence. So as good as that experience feels (minus the sickness :wink: ) imagine what the Valve prototype would feel.

Yeah the news articles have exploded over the last month becase Oculus has almost “figured it out” as to motion sickness with their latest prototype. They managed to create their Crystal Cove prototype and it’s latency is already chopped down by 1/5 from the dev kit release. Their main developer suffers from motion sickness even in FPS games right now without a headset so this is his number one concern to fix. I can attest that I get motion sickness from simple FPS games myself and headaches are a symptom of the sickness even without a headset. Weight could make it worse, though, who knows.

Reportedly they have an internal prototype that has AMOLED screens in it that are proprietary from Samsung, and they have the latency down to under 50 milliseconds. There are no other screens on the market that could chop down the latency at a high enough resolution, or so I’ve heard. It sounds as though Oculus is managing to strike a deal with Samsung in order to get their proprietary screens into the Rift, but who knows. Maybe some other player in the tech game figured out a good enough AMOLED screen and that’s who Oculus is dealing with.

These things have to be big, to accommodate a long enough optical path, but most of that volume can be empty air, so they don’t have to be heavy.