Over Christmas, my son and I had the opportunity to play around with the HTC Vive. Straightforward to set up, you need at least 2 by 2 meters of free space to enjoy the full range of motion. Overall, that was a couple of weeks of awesomeness. Follows a few lines on the games and experiences we have tried out.
“The Lab”: After the tutorial, this is the first place from where you start and learn the trick of the trade of the Vive. The main thing is to get use to moving around by pointing, with one of the controller, a ray of light on a virtual grid on the floor. Then, pressing the trigger will teleport you to the pointed location. I am not totally convince by this method. It still gives me a kind of thickness and definitely reduce the feeling of presence.
“Rec Room” : my son’s favorite. He played in there for hours. The stranger thing in Rec Room is that you play with strangers; you talk to them like they are just in front of you in the room. Well in a way that’s where they are, virtually next to you. Then you make a team and go playing a exciting paintball or football game, even though they actually are in another country.
“Portal Stories: VR”: love it, my personal favorite game. Really good adaptation of an already so clever and fun game. A perfect match for the HTC vive. In one sentence, the game is about getting out of a room to the next. It is all about the room. Your living room suddenly develop an infinite potential.
“Irrational Exuberance: Prologue” : this introduction to a new kind of experience is really well design with subtlety. It starts from a very dark environment with just the title and some strange sphere of energy in your hands. They are encouraging you to use those to follow the sphere that goes along the title itself. Then you start to perceive some pieces of stone floating around. Instinctively, you want to push them away, then they break in smaller pieces. Doing the same movement a bit further, at some point you will hit something bigger which will break as well to bring you a glimpse of the outer space. This is the actual wall that surrounds you. By break the wall, you realise that you are standing inside a meteorite. The experience is very immersive, and taking you to a place you couldn’t have imagine. We want to see more of that!
“Google Earth VR” : bring you as a giant on earth. It is a fantastic feeling to be able to jump from one city to the next. I loved landing effortlessly at the top of the world on Mount Everest
“Engage” is a Educational Virtual Learning Platform. That is where I get very exited. That is the core of my research project: how can we use this amazing technology to enhance the learning experience, to change education for ever?
We tried a few other applications as well like this architectural walkthrough “Bund88” which was not easy to load up probably due to the very quality of the render. However, the experience was so realistic. This is definitely a game changer for the architecture and real estate industry. The Roller coaster just made me sick, no comment. No problem for my son though.
The HTC vive is just one more convincing step towards the development of a new medium with a huge potential not only for entertaining but more for learning and sharing new skills and knowledge between people all over the world.
I was in those virtual worlds more than two weeks ago and still, I can close my eyes and vividly remember the different environments and interactions I lived then as it was this morning. We learn through experience. That is what VR is all about. We are barely scratching the surface of this new tool that has the potential to positively impact the world.
In the same spirit of the Saydnaya project mentioned in an earlier post, although with a much bigger budget, Giant seems to be a really promising VR experience. It is using VR to immerse the participant in a story based on real events. I didn’t had the chance to experience it yet. I just went through this in depth article from the Unrealengine website, it definitely worth the read. If reading is not your thing, Winslow Porter, Giant’s producer and co-creator, is presenting her work in this video.
This is the kind of VR experience we would like to hear more about.
The next move in the VR world is the Google Daydream initiative. It sounds more like a big marketing push to take advantage of Google Cardboard success though. Nothing is really new in that product. The neat fabric covered headset comes with a remote that nicely fits inside. Take the remote out, place your phone instead and there you go in VR. As we can all do already with any cheaper cardboard like version. So what is the big deal?
Well, it is about the experience, the user experience (UX). A comfortable headset, a powerful phone and a VR app interface will allow you to navigate between your different apps without the need to take the headset off. They want to keep you inside for longer. Sounds good to me.
However, the first question that comes in mind is what phones are Daydream-compatible? Obviously, the recently released Google Pixel phone is. How clever, right? But what qualifies a phone to be Daydream-ready or compatible? This is not so clear yet and it gets too technical anyway. (check this article if you want to know a bit more). My LG G5 with his LCD screen will probably not make it because of the too high persistence. Only the low-persistence of a Full HD OLED display allows to reduce motion blur enough to make the VR experience long lasting (explanation on low-persistence here).
Anyway, it is good to propose a better VR UX at that affordable scale. Clearly the “future proche” of VR is within the mobile market. Now, do we have the content to keep people inside for longer? And do we have the platform to develop more content? Perhaps we do with the WebVR. I will dig that up in a future post.
Check Nathie’s vlog. His enthusiasm for VR is contagious. If you want to know where we stand in the VR sphere, just watch a couple of his last video and you will be up to date of what are the latest trends.
His take on VR headset in a nutshell are that the Rift without controls is not so fun; the HTC Vive has played a big role for the last couple of month; now, let’s what the Playstation VR has to offer.`
Now from the a Vlog point of view, this kid is definitely working hard on his vlog. He is making things happening all by himself, investing in materials, props and time to make a quality vlog.
In the world of high quality immersive VR experiences, so much is about the big names! With Oculus Rift starting the trend a few month ago, HTC Vive bringing the level up an inch (or two) with touch controllers and room scale option and finally Sony just releasing his Playstation VR, the market is now open. For that matter, there are a few other smaller companies finding their niche working on some pretty exciting projects. Let’s have a look at one of them in today’s post.
Project StarVR, for instance, making their first go at VR in June 2011, game company Starbreeze is in a strong position to deliver high quality VR experience on the Steam platform, but not only that.
Their specificity is to offer a wider field of view called Natural Panoramic. “At 210 degree the immersion is total” is their selling point. Coming end of the year with a 5K resolution, I am so curious to try that one on! However, it seems that we will only try those headsets by going to the cinema or to special events. Not really a home based experience.