I Shot Targets With The Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

If you have even a passing relationship with video games, you've probably picked up a gun controller. It's a gimmick, sure, but it's a great one. And thanks to the Oculus Rift and Trinity VR's Magnum, it's about to get even cooler.

Much like your old Nintendo Zapper or your Sega Saturn Stunner (you dweeb), Trinity VR's Magnum is just a gun-shaped controller you play video games with. It has a trigger, but also some buttons, and a couple of out-of-the way joysticks. And in that way it's instantly familiar as a "light gun". The difference is that until now you've always pointed your plastic guns at a screen.

Early light guns used an ingenious system of inserting frames of pure black (with white spots for targets) to tell a photoreceptor in toy-gun barrel if it was aiming in the right place. More modern (and generally waaaaay lamer) solutions like the Wii use motion controls to let you drag crosshairs across a screen like a glorified mouse. The Magnum doesn't have to rely on either of those solutions though, because it doesn't need to point at a screen. Instead, it uses a camera to keep track of where it's pointing in relation to where your eyes are pointing. The effect is awesome.

The first demo I got to try was a simple target range. I was a nameless, faceless, armless videogameman standing by myself in a field inexplicably littered with explosive barrels. So I started firing a gun at them, as one does.

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

Pew pew pew

The most immediately awesome thing about using the Magnum is that you're not holding it in front of a screen, you're holding it what feels like through the screen. It's like reaching right into the game with your toy plastic gun instead of having to interact through a window. It's nuts how natural it feels.

Trinity VR's demo was stripped down, so the gun just floated there, which took away from the effect a little; this demo isn't quite as immersive as Project Morpheus's Move-powered demos. But with well-modelled arms and fingers, it's easy to see how this could be incredibly convincing.

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

The only thing missing is more wires.

But maybe what's craziest is how hard it is to really appreciate what actually holding a virtual gun means for gameplay. I'm so bound to the tropes of traditional shooters (where your crosshair is always the center of the screen) that at first, I just looked down the virtual sights, pivoting around in my chair as though my gun and my line of sight were duct taped together.

But then I realised I could shoot at anything I could see. Also stuff I couldn't see. I started looking one way and shooting the other, waving my firing hand wildly until I heard a tell-tale boom from that direction. And though neither was an option in this demo, it's easy to see how you could use this to shoot down into trenches, or blindfire when ducked behind cover. This new freedom was a delight to discover, like being a baby and realising the world is actually more than just what you can see at any given time.

By the time I got to the second demo — a psychedelic shooter where you shoot at stuff while also piloting some sort of spaceship with the Magnum's control stick — I was feeling pretty at home.

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun
I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

As you can see from the gun I was using, Trinity VR's Magnum is in very early stages. What I got to try was the first functional prototype. The road to a finished product will be paved — take a wild guess — by Kickstarter, and the project just launched today.

By the time it's done, Trinity VR is aiming not only to have a slicker-looking finished product, but also a pretty low price point as well. Under $US100, maybe lower. And it damn well better. While the Magnum is definitely awesome and potentially revolutionary, it's not exactly a unique idea. Motion-tracking style guns are not new, and Hey we should do this with VR! is a pretty obvious application. Trinity VR's main challenge is going to be becoming the first, the best, and the most ubiquitous.

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

It's off to a good start. The Magnum will work with any old webcam you have lying around, which helps keep down the cost. And with a projected release date of "right alongside the consumer version of the Oculus Rift," Trinity VR is on the inside track to be coming the Oculus gun if enough devs get on board.

The biggest potential holdup, though? There are also rumours that Oculus VR might be working on its own motion controllers, and if one of them is a gun it could seriously submarine the Magnum's chances of being a must-have for the system. It would be wise to hold onto your dollars for now.

Regardless of whoever winds up making the gun for the Oculus Rift, this motion-based gun tech is already awesome in its infancy, and it will only get better with bigger budgets, better hardware, and more clever minds devoted to putting both to work. I haven't been this excited about stupid plastic guns since I took down my first Duck Hunt mallard.

I Shot Targets With the Oculus Rift's Coolest New Virtual Gun

Originally published on Gizmodo Australia


Comments

    I wish i had this when i first played half-life source on the rift.

    You could actually calibrate the wiimote in lightgun shooters, so it worked pretty well, and at a much higher refresh rate than any webcam-based solution. Working in IR occludes all irrelevant information from view, which also boosts accuracy and processing efficiency several-fold.

    This controller is old news and only works within the confines of current gameplay. It relies on either bounding boxes or DA for handling turning, oh and it still has to point at a camera (just like the move and wiimote).

    Geomagnetic gun controllers like the wii u zapper have far more freedom of movement, a gentle learning curve, and improved accuracy.

    http://youtu.be/D_Q5oYo3T8I

    Aren't these guys essentially reselling the move controller? It's exactly the same tech, and even that gun frame is familiar.

    Last edited 23/07/14 3:32 pm

      The Wiimote's pointing ability was also camera based: it just had the camera in the end of the controller tracking the relative position of the sensor bar, rather than having a fixed camera tracking the position of a glowing ball.

      Assuming this works like the PS Move, then the controller doesn't need to be pointing towards the camera: the ball just needs to be visible. This is because the camera is only used to determine the absolute position, while gyro/compass sensors determine the orientation at that position.

      If the main concern is that you might obscure the ball from certain directions, one obvious solution is to set up a second camera in a known position relative to the first. You could probably also perform some of this calibration by simply moving the controller around in view of both cameras.

        I did say that the wiimote was camera based. It provides just as good a seated experience as the move because when the camera loses sight of the sensor bar the gyro can maintain positioning for long enough before drift starts to take hold. Red steel 2 used that to great effect, you never noticed the difference when it lost view, and it was even used as a mechanic to broaden the bounding box limits.

        My main concern with this solution is that it's not any different to what you can already do when parked in a chair.

        You could put stereo cameras on the front of the rift and directly detect the orientation and position of the gun, and put it straight into the game without being constrained by a stationary reference point. THAT would be new!

        http://nintendoenthusiast.com/article/3ds-vr-headset-concept/

        Last edited 23/07/14 4:55 pm

          I would disagree with the Wii solution being as good as an external camera solution. If I take a PS move controller rotated 90° away from the camera, the position tracking works just as well as if it was pointed directly at camera. In contrast, with a Wiimote the sensor bar would be out of view of the controller's camera.

          So the external camera solution gives you a lot more freedom of movement before you need to fall back on estimating the position based on accelerometer data.

          Also, the current Rift dev kits come with a camera to to help with absolute position tracking (similar to the Move). If you're marketing to users who are already working with camera based tracking, why not make use of that camera to track the controller too?

            Yes, but in THIS application where you can't move your body there's no real point in aiming behind you for extended periods of time. If you're pointed in one direction then you might as well take advantage of the wiimote/trackir's improved refresh rate and accuracy (the 2 point sensor bar gives absolute yaw position and improved depth perception).

              You might not want to "aim behind you", but with VR, you might want to turn away from the sensor bar/camera: there is far less reason to be staring in one direction if the screen is attached to your face.

              With the camera solution you still have accurate position tracking in these cases, which seems like a pretty clear benefit. I'm not sure why you think you wouldn't be able to move your body here.

    I wish they'd drop all these silly looking mote-light-guns and go back to the old school, force-feedback Time Crisis/ Virtua Cop guns.

      guns aren't allowed to look like guns anymore :sadface:

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