The State of VR

I have wanted to experiment with VR for sometime now, so during Golden Week I decided to take the leap and get HTC Vive. I choose Vive over Oculus Rift because it seemed to have better integrated experience, more interesting looking controllers and looked to be easier to setup (Plus maybe I’m not too enthusiastic about the Facebook Oculus aspect either).

While I do not have the space for full room-scale, my office room is still enough for basic room scale experience (abt 2.1m x 1.9m without obstacles). It works surprisingly well for teleporting movement, although occasionally you’ll hit a wall.

The initial setup was easy by using some camera tripod equipment and a bookshelf. Two sensors is all that was needed to setup, then the mapping of the play area, and everything was working in 30 minutes.

First experiences were really wow! Playing VR games is extremely immersive. It works much better than I was expecting. I think it’s something that people do need to experience. And I don’t mean the smartphone experience but really room-scale experience.

Getting into VR

There have been articles encouraging people to get into VR, and I agree. VR, AR, MR are technologies that definitely will change many things of how computers are used, how skills are learnt and how people interact.

The current state is that lots of improvements are required in various categories – the ecosystem, the equipment, the monitors, the controls, wearability, webVR and even apartments will need to be designed in a way that those technologies can be used smoothly.

None of them are easy, but it is easy to get started especially with content.

I downloaded Unreal Engine and had a HMD working and Vive controllers usable in game in less than 30 minutes with help of youtube tutorials (though it helps that I had some previous experience with Unreal Engine).

I experimented with developing small VR experiences. And even won a Startup Weekend with one idea. I will continue experimenting and we’ll see how it goes…

I have been inviting friends to experience VR and the reactions are really interesting, but extremely positive. The games are fun of course, but there’s something incredibly fascinating in Google Earth also.

Basic problems with current VR

  • The resolution of the headset could be better, have more FPS (Vive is only 1080×1200 per eye).
  • The headset is heavy enough to make you tired after a while.
  • You can get sick when you move in a game, but do not move physically. Some of the things that do not use vive controllers made me feel like this.
  • Basic homes might not have enough space for excellent room scale VR experience (especially here in Japan)
  • Controllers do get some time getting used to. Especially exact clicking is hard in the beginning.
  • The ecosystem is not there. There are very few really well done titles, but lots of small fun experiences showing the amazing potential. But more is coming all the time.

What’s great

  • The experience is really immersive, and just works!
  • Controllers (only tried Vive) are a new, more natural way of interacting with things. Oculus controllers look also really nice, though haven’t had a chance to try those yet.
  • Archery, shooting games, table tennis, golf, boxing and so on just works nicely.
  • Simulations like racing and flying games are also really good with HMD, but I found myself get bit dizzy from most of what I tried. I think there needs higher 120 or so FPS and possibly higher resolution also.
  • 360 videos are cool, but they are just videos and you cannot move. I would not call it real VR. But fun especially with high resolution.
  • Virtual Desktop is a very cool concept. I can feel the productivity potential although it’s just a very basic desktop now.
  • It is extremely easy to get started with Development.

Conclusion

I think VR is something people need to experience now. Especially the room-scale experience. It’s still really only the first generation, but it’s already really good. In next few years they will get much more common.

Now is also an excellent time to get involved, especially in building content like games, productivity, education, fitness apps. Or even just getting VR headset and enjoying (though unless you’re developing I might want to wait for what next generation brings…)

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