I Am Ready To Believe In Virtual Reality

It’s very rare that a technology, once ridiculed and cast into an abyss of false nostalgia and parody, manages to clamber out of the hell hole and back towards relevance. Human beings are a stubborn bunch. Once we’ve decided something is a ‘little bit shit’, it’s tough to convince us otherwise.

But here we are. 2014. And Virtual Reality is somehow back in vogue. We are talking about it. We are talking about it and we are not mocking it. Virtual Reality is a thing that gamers, once again, are excited about.

Yet, in the recesses of our sub conscious, do we really believe that Virtual Reality in the home is a genuine possibility? As excited as I’ve been about the technology I’ve always felt that mental block. How will Virtual Reality truly hit the tipping point? Does it have the potential to infiltrate our living space? For some reason I’ve always had difficulty truly believing it.

The issue was always with this perceived grand leap. Virtual Reality has always felt like science fiction. How do we take this strange, otherworldly tech and make it accessible. At the moment it’s a difficult thing to parse, mainly because it’s so out there. It’s the purple cow that’s just way, way too purple. How will it be sold to consumers? What form will it take?

So many questions. A gap in the road. We see the endgame, but the path towards that endgame appears beset with obstacles and difficulties. We look at the technology, we read the impression pieces laden with hyperbole, we watch the videos, we hear the promises, but do we really believe in the potential of Virtual Reality gaming.

I do. I had my doubts, but now I am certain. I am ready to believe in virtual reality.

All of the pieces are falling into place.

First there’s the Oculus Rift itself. Even as a blurry, low resolution development kit (that made me want to throw up) it felt like the future of gaming. In its current form, with higher resolution, motion tracking and reduced latency it feels unassailable.

But the Rift was never enough. It’s not the device itself that gives me faith. It’s the culmination of two other products: the Steam Box and Valve’s newly released SteamVR Virtual Reality SDK.

My worry with Virtual Reality has always been ‘how’. How do we make the leap from celebrated, niche technology to a plug and play device that anyone can use? Before that seemed far-fetched and impossible -- now I can almost imagine it…

Picture this: Oculus VR creates their own Steam Box. A Steam Box custom designed to be used with a refined, well marketed Oculus Rift headset. The SteamVR software is already pre-installed onto the Steam Box.

You turn it on. There is a simple set up process. It takes 10 minutes. It works seamlessly. There is a walkthrough demo built into the device. A simple game that makes full use of the unique set of features the Oculus Rift has at its disposal. Then you head back to the store. Using the headset and a simple controller you scroll through and buy a number of VR enable games from Steam with relative ease. The games download directly to the Steam Box sitting in your entertainment center.

You play. There is no sickness. There are no technical hitches. It’s simple, fast, and accessible. It simply works without any real need for the level of expertise currently required to get an Oculus Rift development kit up and running.

Imagine that. Simple accessible Virtual Reality. Before it was a distant dream. Now it’s more than a possibility -- it feels like an eventuality.

And I think that’s what I find so exciting about Virtual Reality and the Oculus Rift. I can see the end game. The fog that existed between exciting technology and consumer device is evaporating. I believe in Virtual Reality. I believe it’s a thing that can go mainstream. I believe it’s something that has the real potential to change video games.


Comments

    What does this article have to do with adventure time? That's kind of dodgy.

    I clicked this assuming there would be an Adventure Time game on the rift, and it's convinced you this is a worthwhile technology.

    Last edited 15/01/14 2:09 pm

      A particular combination of words can mean multiple things. The title of a TV show, AND and indication that this is a time of adventure!

        That's true. Maybe if it said 'Oculus Rift Assassin's Creed' he would be just referring to how VR is going to assassinate the old technology whilst abiding to some sort of creed.

        As opposed to obvious clickbait by including the name of a popular franchise.

      Fair point. I wanted to use an image i had of myself using the Rift, but that's the only version of it I could find.

        Yeeeah... could've edited out 'adventure time' in 10 seconds in MS Paint.

          Yeeeah... Could of done that but probably didn't because the words "Adventure" and "Time" have been put together multiple times prior to a TV show that started in 2008...

          English! A language where every sentence can only be read one way and has only one meaning.

    and then Akihiko Kayaba locks you into a game on the Oculus Rift.

    My first experience with VR was back in the 90s at Tilt in Miranda. The game was an on-rail shooter with more crates than enemies, but the headset feedback was INCREDIBLY immersive and the motion sensor gun was insane. At $10 per credit it was bullshit to play it too much, but it was popular and fun as hell. At no point did anyone comment it was a "little bit shit" unless referencing the price - Which I imagine has been the real problem. That and the weight of CRT goggles - There's no way LCDs could have been consumer friendly in that respect until the mid 2000s.

    Do those wireless video sharing things actually work? If so, I think that would be a massive draw card for the Rift, if you could plug a base station into the pc & broadcast data to a battery powered Rift, that could really help you lose yourself in the game, trip over your furniture/relatives and entertain youtube for years

    feels like unassailable.

    This portion of your article is a bit of a fragment.

    Otherwise, I don't really see any new information. It just feels like a bit of a fluff piece to be honest. No technical details, no explanation for those unaware. Where's the meat of the article?

    I'd need to try it out for myself first before I buy into all the hype. I already have problematic eyes, so I'm not sure they would enjoy having a monitor basically strapped to my face :\
    It's a shame, it seems like impressive tech :(

      How problematic is it for you to use a monitor at the moment? Because it's basically the same thing. The screen might physically be a couple of inches away from your eyes, but the lenses in the headset make it so that your eyes are completely relaxed and focus is at far, distant point.

        Using a monitor just for browsing the Web my eyes get quite fatigued after around 30 minutes to an hour. I don't really play games on PC because the monitor is quite close, and my eyes are pretty sensitive to light so they get strained really easily. It's hard to explain what exactly is wrong with my eyes, cause I hardly know anything about it myself :\

    I think one of the big hurdles is making it more user friendly. stuff like desktop, menues all that not in game stuff needs to work with it on. maybe even a front facing camera so yiu can switch to irl vision. and fewer cables.
    its just a bit too cumbersome to use all the time in its current form

    Nah. Not sold. Prepared to stand by this being a fad that will never take off in any meaningful way, no matter how many youtubers make videos of themselves getting visual orgasms from the oculus rift.

      Don't knock it till you try it.

      I've played a few minutes with one. I don't think it's ready for first person shooters but there are a lot of gaming and non gaming applications that are purely mind blowing with this tech.
      The important thing is that it's only going to get better.

    I think now that they're starting to get the headset right (hd, motion tracking etc) the next obstacle is how to treat the controller.

    Is there a Wiimote-like set up? So that you can swing if you have an axe? But how would that work if you switched weapons to a gun? Or a traditional controller ala Xbox/PS? But would that create a disconnect by not making use of the 'immersive' technology?

    Hmmm...

      Check out the STEM system. It's an upgraded version of the Hydra, which already works pretty well as a motion controller that also has all the standard buttons of a regular game controller. Another really interesting thing that I'd love to get to try out is Tactical Haptics' Reactive Grip tech. Shame the kickstarter fell through, but I'm sure they'll find a way to get it up and running yet.

      Everyone seems to default to FPS games when they think of VR.

      Here's one for you. A rift headset, a chair, steering wheel and a good racing game. This particular future is already here.

      The stuff you're talking about is the next step, for sure, but that doesn't diminish the coolness of the Rift.

        That's definitely a good idea, although it wouldn't really be that different to say having a large screen setup, or a curved screen setup as you generally tend not to look around too much while driving, you're mainly focused on whats dead ahead.

        I think first person adventure games would be very interesting, not so much shooty/stabby but more about exploring the environment and needing to look in all directions to find out how to get over/under/around obstacles.

    I'm ready to try it, that's for damn sure. I've bought into the fact that some people love it, so it obviously works - but for me it needs to be simple, accessible, and it needs to work without any tinkering required whatsoever.

    theres a thing. company (not really a 'company') called Zero Latency based in melbourne doing stuff with the Occulus Rift.

    room outfitted with a whole bunch of Playstation cameras to track your movement, a modded iPhone used to track the movement of a gun prop.

    still very early in development, but its working & theres a 'trailer' for it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTs1QMF5irI

    Edit: cc @roh probably the most immersive controller you can get. though not overly practical for many games.

    Edit #2: also cc @markserrels

    Last edited 15/01/14 3:11 pm

      Looked into them. Seems fun. They are demoing at Pause Fest in Melbourne in Feb.
      However, $200 for a festival pass is a bit steep in my opinion.

    I'll be all over the OcRift for flight sims, once a retail version is ready.

    That said, I'm not sold on the Steam Box yet, seeing as it'll take a while to get more titles released on Linux.

    Last edited 15/01/14 3:22 pm

    I think one of the biggest selling points is actually that you don't need a TV to play your games. It's a pain in the arse for me, because i have some posture-related back issues, to get into a comfortable position to view the telly. I would buy the Rift purely for the fact that it eliminates the large screen TV.

    The potential of virtual reality is kind of scary. Imagine whacking on a visor and suddenly being thrown into the middle of the Trojan War with photorealistic graphics. It's exciting sure, but also dangerously immersive.

    Once the resolution and response times catch up, it could threaten to make reality feel dull by comparison. Brrr...

    Wake me when you don't need a big box on your face to use VR and I will be interested.

    While it's awesome that Oculus are teaming up with Valve, I find it a shame they aren't interested in teaming up with Microsoft or Sony. Removing the barrier of buying a whole new system, and simply buying the 'Rift and plugging it into your console would be make it incredibly accessible.

      Simple reason, Oculus already said that the XBone and PS4 aren't powerful enough for what they need.

    I read Neuromancer again recently. VR is still the future, man.

    To be honest, it seems really cool but more in an arcade fashion. I've got a few mates who are gagging so hard for this that it's a little off putting. It's talked about with a reverance that kind of denies that this tech existed in a more basic form before, like it's new and never before tried. Yes it's being done better (I mean like way better but still). It's uber cool and it's application to scenarios outside of gaming (such as walking through your house BEFORE you build it) are really interesting.

    I'm looking forward to it, but my feeling is that it'll be only for the super hardcore gamers (maybe some mainstream industries will also take it up for various things). Fairly casual gamers, or people who game together physically a lot aka "Hey dude, look at this thing that's glitching on my screen!" "woah, what is that cow doing?" "Returning to it's people?" and LAN parties, or couples who game together; won't be able to find enough value in it to justify the purchase.

    TBH for me AR is a touch more interesting than VR. Not Google Glass post-it note attack, more like the META. That is some cool tech.

    Anyway, yeah this article just seems like a bit of filler.

    I have a rift, and everyone I show it to loves it, but the big problems remain for 'mainstream' use.

    1) Only one player can play at a time, and no-one else can watch in a meanigful way. This limits you to single people playing on their own for the most part. My kids *love* it, but the one at a time thing is frustrating in a family environment. To use two headsets, would mean two computers, the cost and complexity starts getting tricky.

    2) Controllers. This will mean added expense in most cases. The STEM setup is okay, but won't work for a lot of game types.

    3) You can't use the keyboard, as you can't see it. You easily lose track of where the desk is, as you can't see it. Same for the mouse, joystick, other controllers.

    4) Motion Sickness. Even with no lag and great screens, any game that causes a disconnect between the inner-ear and the movement the eyes are seeing still causes problems. Game design can get around this (Driving games work great) but it will limit mainstream appeal.

    4) The HMD. No matter what you do it will be fairly heavey/bulky. It has to be to get the really wide field of view. People with glasses are problematic too. There is consumer backlash against having to wear what are comparitively really lightweight glasses to view 3D, the headset will be a harder sell to the mainstream.

    I see potential for the rift to sell to gamers who love racing titles, flight sims and who already have the wheels, flight controllers etc. Mainstream though I think there will be an initial geek take-up, but that it won't sell in huge numbers outside the hardcore market.

      Isn't #1 essentially a problem for *all* PC games though? Outside of those that provide controller support, and if you're set for that then #2 isn't a problem either :P

      Also I don't get how anyone can call the HMD heavy. The thing's a featherweight especially in comparison to what you used to have to wear.

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