VR Experience

This seems to slowly becoming a gaming than a UC blog but it is really more of blog my thoughts and reference than anything else.

I went to EGX on Sunday which is the large gaming event in the UK but is nothing compared to E3 or Gamescom.  I had seen online last week you could prebook sessions at EGX for Playstation VR and HTC Vive/SteamVR and was lucky enough to get a timeslot for each.

My only experience with VR before Sunday was from last year’s EGX when I queued for about 2 hours at the Oculus stand and played Eve Valkyrie using the DK2 headset. At the time I thought it was awesome although I did get a bit of motion sickness in the beginning of the session.

On Sunday my first VR session was with Playstation VR which thankfully due to the prebooking I didn’t have to queue for and I just turned up at the PlayStation stand at the allocated time slot.  By chance, I got to play Eve Valkyrie again. It was much smoother than with the Oculus and there was no motion sickness this time and the head tracking was much better too.  The ergonomics of the Playstation VR headset are much better than the old Oculus DK2 and HTC vive headset, I would describe it as a bit like putting on a baseball cap with two hands and it was very straight forward. However as great of the PlayStation VR experience is, I do worry whether the PS4 it up to drive the FPS without dropping the quality.  They are double framing to take 60 fps to 120 fps which is why it felt smooth but it isn’t like every PS4 game is 60 fps anyway with just one screen or on per with high-end PC graphic now, which is why I think it is right to be concerned. Also although apparently there will be 12 VR games at the PlayStation VR launch, PC systems already have about 50 VR compatible in the steam store today, I think I’ve now 4 or 5 games in my steam library alone.  But the headset is really impressive, but it is sadly probably unlikely to support PC or SteamVR API as ergonomically it is really good and I think there will only be a small number a VR games for it in 2016.

Again with the HTC Vive session, I just turned up at the allocated time.  I was scheduled into a sitting VR experience which was playing Elite Dangerous, it was essentially the first 3 training lessons from the game.  No joke the PC powering the headset had the biggest case I’d ever seen, it was pretty noisy and god knows what was in it powering it all.   The flight stick/HOTAS I think was the Saitek X52 or pro. Personally speaking, it felt flimsily but it was better than using a controller for this type of game.  The HTC Vive headset was a little uncomfortable compared to the Playstation VR but the head tracking was really good as like I was playing Eve Valkylie you get quickly use to using your eye and head to look up and around and behind for the other ships rather than straight ahead at the main view.  I did find it a little difficult to read the text in the game, the pixelation was on pair with the PlayStation VR headset and both were much better than the Oculus DK2.   I will say I did have a bit of motion sickness at the beginning but it quickly past.  Having completed the 3 training mission at the end of the session they had be stand up and look around the cockpit of the ship which very impressive. The HTC guy said the Elite Dangerous experience was just a prototype for EGX.

I was a little disappointed with the VR experience of playing Elite Dangerous on the HTC vive but that was probably as I had a really good experience with PlayStation VR only about an hour before and although the game are similar in being space combat based they are very different games with Elite Dangerous being more slower paced to the very fast pace of Eve Valkyrie but Elite Dangerous has a lot more depth in term of game.

However…With that the said the guys and gals in the HTC Vive booth allowed me to try the standing up VR experience too.  I was a bit sceptical of VR standing up beforehand. The session was in a 5m x 5m darken room with two ceiling/wall sensors and a computer in the corner with the HTC person helping you.

I started off the VR experience in the white room a bit like when Neo starts his learning in the matrix, you can walk around this white room and the HTC personal helping you get you to experience walking to the virtual wall which then appears as a grid in the VR world (like the holodeck in Star Trek) this representation is so you know that your close to the physical wall which they then have you touch the wall in the real world.  Then they hand you the motion controllers and have you playing with helium balloons which you can knock around so you would in the real world as a kids.   It was very simple but the physic are perfect

The next experience was on a sunken pirate ship were you be knock the fish with motion controllers and you can look over the edge of the ship deck into the abyss and you watch amazed as a massive whale swims past.

The following experience was doing some painting/sculpting in 3D which was very impressive but not as great as the Oculus Medium demo using Oculus touch from Oculus Connect 2 last week.  What is can well imagine in the future is that it is completely possible to send your creation to a 3D printer.

The final VR experience there was the Valve portal game VR experience where you can get to interact with things in a room in the Portal universe in here I think I did lose touch with reality. I was complete blown away by the standing up VR experience, at no point did I have any motion sickness and everything was just second nature and you completely forget that it isn’t actually real.  It felt very weird when the headset was taking off at the end of the session as your mind was still in the VR world.

As I said the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR were very similar in term of pixelation and head tracking. Pixelation (being able to see individual pixels) is something live with for generation 1 of VR headsets until the move to 2K or 4K.The view of field of both isn’t perfect as in at the IMAX, I felt initially it was a bit like looking though a pair of Ski googles . The HTC Vive is still very much a dev headset and according to the guy in the HTC booth there is going to be an announcement in December about the consumer unit. I think with consumer unit the ergonomics of the Vive will be similar to the PlayStation VR and Oculus CV1 and also the motion controller will look completely different too.  I can imagine the dev headset it probably quite old tech now for HTC/Steam so I think there will be a massive leap forward with their consumer unit, which will be a worry for Oculus and PlayStation since the dev headset it really good already.

Overall I am very excite about VR, as much as I love the PlayStation VR and have a PS4, I just think PC is the way to go and I’ve largely switched over gaming from PS4 to PC in the last 12 months to an old Sandybridge 2500K based system now overclocked and have added a 980ti recently which is a massive step forward graphically from the PS4. Hopefully will be enough for VR, although I can see having to go to Intel Skylake next year.

At this stage very little in actually known about the final VR headsets which will hit the market early in 2016.  All the key VR players (Steam/PlayStation/Oculus) do at the moment seem to be very much watching each other and holding off announcing final specs and other things including preorders until they know what each other are doing whilst thinking they still have an ace in their hand in terms of yet released information whether it be features, games or price.  I think nothing will be said until at least late November by Oculus or HTC/Steam or even until following the PlayStation Experience in December although I can imagine PlayStation will hold off a full announcement if nothing has come out from the others since their unit will probably hit the market last.  But in reality everything is largely finalised for all three already and they will be into or at least starting manufacturing very soon, it just nothing is announced to consumers really.

I won’t say anything about Facebook buying Oculus but I do think it is a factor for the kickstarters who backed it in the beginning and also VR early adopters too and we have already seen what happened with Xbox One launch and how market sentiment affected sales.

It is going to be an interesting 6 months and it is difficult to comment on which one is better as it is not just about the headset tech spec or ergonomics, motion controllers or game support now but I do hope we don’t see console style exclusively come to the early years of VR. however with the standing up experience alone (and tech) I think SteamVR is the one to beat already, I just need to find somewhere to put it.

And this is just the beginning of VR….the possibilities are mind blowing.

REFERENCE

Introducing Oculus Medium
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IreEK-abHio

HTC VIVE Developer Edition Setup guide pamphlet http://media.steampowered.com/apps/steamvr/vr_setup.pdf

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