Virtual reality will soon be your reality.
Virtual reality was all over the Game Developers Conference this year, and soon it’ll be all over your living room. Before that happens, we’ve rounded the best VR experiences we had at the show to give you a preview of what will soon become your reality.
I came into Sony’s Project Morpheus demo skeptical: how could console VR ever compete with something hooked into a custom PC? Well, I can’t tell you how the PS4 managed it, but man, it sure did.
Graphically, Morpheus is nipping at the heels of Oculus. It’s not quite as good, but it’s close. More importantly, the demos Sony used to show it off were exciting and emotionally engaging, and made great use of the its under-loved Move peripherals. Far and away the stand out was the Heist, which opens with an interrogation scene, using the player’s seated position to make the looming interrogator all the more intimidating and surprising when he demands that you stand up.
Read my hands for more on what it’s like to get into a shootout in Morpheus VR, or get harassed by a shark underwater. Spoiler alert: it’s awesome. -AR
With a series of new demos, the best of which was a Portal-themed vignette set inside Aperture Science, Valve and HTC‘s partnership on a SteamVR headset have convinced me that Vive VR is a viable, interesting platform for interactive experiences. Vive’s headset/controller combination bears enormous potential for fascinating new ways to explore enormous, ambitious, and entertaining worlds. Given the physical space necessary to engage with these sorts of experiences, I’m not convinced it’s a viable, long-term product for the mainstream—but I am on board.
Vive erased my sense of reality in a way no VR headset, VR game, or VR experience, has. Each demo achieved an impressive sense of actual space that I wanted to explore. In the Job Simulator demo, a robot barked orders and cracked jokes about making soup and sandwiches. I could take ingredients from across the kitchen and combine them to create dishes, or make an absolute mess of everything, using the simple hand controllers. Triggers on the back and grips on the left/right sides of each controller give a convincing sense of controlling things in the world.
For more on the HTC Vive and SteamVR, read about my hands-on with it at GDC. -MD
Oculus Rift Crescent Bay
We’ve seen a good handful of the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay headset already—after our demos at a September 2014 press event and CES, the consumer-focused Crescent Bay clearly shows just how much motion tracking and 3D sound will help flesh out the VR experience. It helps reduce motion sickness and eye fatigue, and the ability to walk up to elements in a scene (and then also walk away) makes environments feel more tangible.
Between Epic’s “Thief in the Shadows” demo, which places you directly into the heart of Smaug’s gold-filled lair, and Crytek’s “Back to Dinosaur Island,” which dumps you right in the middle of a dinosaur nest full of eggs, the Crescent Bay demos at GDC seemed to promise nothing but a lot of soiled underwear once Oculus’s final consumer headset launches. It was one thing to have a T-Rex come charging down the hall at me during CES; it was another to have one stop right in front of me, put its snout up to my face, and just stare down at me for long, prolonged moments while deciding if I was friend, foe, or food. (Turns out I’m as insignificant as I hoped I’d be.)
I’ve managed to train myself to jump a bit less when a huge VR creature lunges at me, but if smell ever gets incorporated into the VR experience, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to keep myself together. -AY
The VR experience within the Cortex headset isn’t as visually advanced as the competition, but Sulon has made major headway in tackling another problem that no one else seems to be addressing: movement and spatial awareness in VR space.
The Sulon Cortex is capable of scanning the space you’re in and scaling your VR experience to it. The results are uncanny; my demo at GDC dropped me into the android melee of Unreal’s matinee demo. The white walls of the demo room became the chipped tile walls of the VR space. Even though I couldn’t see my own hands in the demo, being able to reach and touch an actual wall when I was arms length from a virtual one was an uncanny experience. -AR