VR sounded shit in the 90s
My opinion hasn't changed since.
The much-hyped virtual reality headset Oculus Rift is finally shipping to its first customers this week, and the Facebook-owned company dished out a few of them ahead of time to select publications. The embargo lifted Monday morning and we have waded through tens of thousands of words contained in nine reviews so you don't …
It was a pity they went bk before the 3dfx powered pods and games shipped. The last prototype headset I played with was smaller and more comfortable than any of the new offerings, sadly also uncompleted.
Sadly several decades on Moore's law still hasn't quite got us to 'finished' hardware at an affordable price.
I tried VR in the 90's, I also had access to a DK2 last year for a while and I can tell you that it's a hell of a lot better.
There's times using it when you'll go "bloody hell, this is amazing!", and there's times when you'll wonder "why am I wearing what feels like really heavy ski goggles indoors?", and with each iteration they're moving from the latter to the former.
I'm not sure it'll ever become a truly widespread thing, in the same way that PC gaming itself is a niche, but I think it'll carve out it's place.
If you've not tried the recent generation of VR, give it a go. You'll probably walk away without any desire to get a headset yourself, but you'll almost certainly get enough of a "wow!" moment to understand what everyone's banging on about.
You need some goggles, two LCD screens, and an accelerometer? And after you've paid six hundred bucks for that, you need to pay twice that to get a computer that can drive it fast enough... amazing what people will spend money on.
Mind you, it's obviously a mature technology: the basic stereoscopic view theory was first discussed at the Royal Society a couple of years before photography was invented, round the 1840s.
"You need some goggles, two LCD screens, and an accelerometer? And after you've paid six hundred bucks for that, you need to pay twice that to get a computer that can drive it fast enough... amazing what people will spend money on."
Yeah I can't believe that they needed Facebook's money to develop it at all!
On a related note a car is just four wheels, a steering wheel, a few pedals and an engine, why do people spend so much on *those*?
Just see how disconnected from reality its CEO is:
Luckey argues that virtual reality is a bigger turning point in technology than Apple II, Netscape or Google. VR, he says, is the final major computing platform that's not a transitional step to the next big thing.
Words almost fail me.......
Luckey isn't the CEO.
The question is whether he actually believes the BS he's spouting or whether he is just trying to push the product and create hype. Maybe he knows full well that the product is lacking but needs to keep up the appearances just to appease Zuckerberg and to boost his Oculus/FB share option status.
You want to turn around repeatedly to explore your new virtual world, but as you do, that trailing cord wraps around your legs in the real world. This becomes a distraction from the visual splendor because you can feel the cord looping around your legs, preparing to hogtie you, Gulliver-style.
So, not wanting to end up trussed-up on the floor, you end up self-consciously doing things like turning to the right to look at something, and then you realize that you had better turn to your left to see the next thing, even if it is little further to your right. So you do a 270 degree turn to the left to escape the lariat forming around your legs, or avoid yanking the cord out of your electronics, or pulling the electronics over when the cord doesn't disconnect, all instead of a natural 90 degree turn further to your right to where the next cool visual is.
Also a surprising problem.
1200 x 1080 x 8 x 3 x 90 bits/second is a raw, complertely uncompressed 2.8 Gbit/sec. Surely a local wireless interface with a range of a few feet is completely feasible? (I almost said "trivially").
Why wasn't it designed to be wireless from the start?
Too bad we don't know how to make devices with high resolution displays and hours of battery life. If only we had something like that in our pockets today, it could be used as a model for how Oculus could achieve this.
As for the 2.8 Gbps, 60 GHz wireless can accommodate that at short ranges, but better yet they could compress it so they don't actually need that much bandwidth. Decent real time HEVC compression is a bit too intensive for current PCs, but MPEG4 is more than good enough to cut that data rate requirement by well over 90% without noticeable visual artifacts.
All smartphones have time real MPEG4 decompression and many have real time HEVC decompression. Hell, the last couple iPhones have included real time HEVC compression, which is far more computationally challenging, without any problem.
I think your views on how hot and power hungry MPEG4 decompression is are a decade out of date.
...The Reg hits back with it's usual predictable sneery theme. You really have become the Gogglebox of tech news websites now.
"We're not going to actually write a review about the Oculus Rift (really we're jealous we didn't get sent one), we're going to read other stories about it and sneer at them."
Talk about a snooze-fest; the 5 minutes it took to drag myself through this car crash is time I'll never get back again.
"In short: don't be an idiot and spend $600 on a first-gen [anything]" - a cheaper, sleeker more reliable version will be along in eighteen months.
Unless, of course, you have the so much money that you can afford to spend a bit here and there on novelties. In which case, fair to play you - I'd have spare cash too if I didn't spend it on beer (Augmented Reality?)
Funnily enough, I thought the article eventually homed in on *exactly* the point of this product and then failed to notice.
This product is supposed to be bought by commercial games writers (for whom the price can be called an investment) so that when version 2 (or 3) eventually turns up good enough for Real People to use, there will actually be some decent software for them to buy for it.
The hope of all the players in this game is that the best titles will be written for *their* gizmo, leading to an MS-DOS-style monopoly of VR in the next decade. As venture capitalist punts go, it's not the silliest proposition out there.
Unfair to complain about the wearing over specs comment, far too many of us wear them and it was a serious pia the 1st time round with VR in the 90s. I want a solution for that before diving into VR again.
Also worth noting that every vr device available to preorder recently sold out nearly instantly. Even the lacklustre Rift ;) Just have to hope they don't kill VR all over again with poor launch products.
The extra costs of the Rift (monetary and otherwise) would be justified if its image quality were dramatically better than the Gear’s, but it isn’t. Both are like looking through a screen door.
This is why I'm not parting with £500 (plus, since I have an i3 and GTX960, another £500 for upgrades) - the visual quality doesn't reflect the cost and the field of view isn't really that great either.
Sticking with my Note4 and GearVR for now, which at least allows you to freely rotate 360*, even if it hasn't got the graphical oomph to run Elite Dangerous.
It was in a review of Elite dangerous that I first heard of IR Head Tracking for gaming.
Basically you play on a monitor as per usual, but using some IR lights on your head, and a modified web-cam, you can 'look' around your cockpit. If you're already wearing a gaming headset (or headphones) for audio, then it won't add any significant bulk to your head, and the cost of entry is low, especially if you roll your own:
I haven't tried such a system myself, but one of these days I might just build a gaming PC, play Elite and surrender my social life!
"Basically you play on a monitor as per usual, but using some IR lights on your head, and a modified web-cam, you can 'look' around your cockpit."
One small problem: you have to turn your head to "look sideways" but you have to keep looking at the same spot (your monitor). Not to mention having to keep still if you want to look straight ahead. Doesn't sound like much fun.
>One small problem: you have to turn your head to "look sideways" but you have to keep looking at the same spot (your monitor)
You are quite right, DropBear, I had that thought too. Then I remembered that these PC gamers often have two or three monitors side-by-side, or a very wide monitor with a 'cinema' aspect ratio (extra monitors are fairly inexpensive compared to enthusiast-level GPUs and fancy flight-sim controllers). Also, the IR trackers don't track eyeballs, so there is some margin. Plus, the movement of the gamer's head doesn't have to be translated in a linear fashion to the virtual avatar's head movement.
Like I said, I haven't tried IR head-tracking, but if I became a gaming enthusiast the low cost of entry means I might give it a go.
EDIT: I now see Gordon 10 has confirmed that the head tracking doesn't have to be linear. Hmmm, I wonder if people have tried using it for productivity software and having a very wide virtual desktop... :)
I was very impressed, it is not a fad (this time) and shouldn't be dismissed lightly. Yeah it's expensive and yeah it's still a gen 1 product which everyone knows is buyer beware (apple watch anyone?). If I could afford it I would have one right now and there are compelling experiences on iit (Adrift, Radial G to name a couple).
It's very easy to sneer, which this article proves in spades.
Indeed, most of the reviews are very positive about the hardware, and the concerns voiced are those largely common to most MKI products. Most reviews also say to wait and see, because:
- You can't buy one yet anyway, and won't until the pre-orders have been fulfilled in a couple of months
- No available game yet makes a killer case for VR
- The Rift's handheld motion controllers won't be available til later in the year
- Competing products will be around by the end of the year or sooner (HTC, Sony, Samsung)
- It can only get cheaper
-It's going to be summer time soon, so you should be playing outside!
(okay, the last point is mine)
Oculus needs to go wireless and bump maximum framerate to 120 Hz. Which means an epic fight against latency. Going wireless also means a battery problem, which can only be partially solved by very dense battery-tech-of-the-week coming onto the market. The battery would add extra weight when iterations of the hardware need to be lighter. Smartphone VR bypasses most of these problems and is accessible to a wider market. The reduced real-time visual quality is a small price to pay and both Oculus-like headsets and smartphone VR should be able to handle pre-rendered video equally well. Or equally badly, if your internet connection is slow.
The external sensor looks annoying too.
The faceplate could be a great place to commercialize a coating that is both hydrophobic and oleophobic. Let the disgusting fluids just drip right out. Another good reason not to be seen while wearing one, though.
The problem quoted was of course the cable between the head and the computer. But if the cable was between your head and something else you're wearing, you wouldn't have any of the tangling issues.
Given that capability, we can stick all the heavy crap (batteries, wireless gear, etc.) into a nice pack we belt around your waist. Cable up from there up your back to your head. We don't have to worry about it getting tangled because your arms don't normally reach there and you can't spin your head 360 degrees anyways. Now we've got much less of a problem with battery mass.
"Given that capability, we can stick all the heavy crap (batteries, wireless gear, etc.) into a nice pack we belt around your waist."
I don't see this being implemented as anything than an optional battery life extender, but it sounds like a neat solution. Might as well belt up for fantasyland.
Now the gamer set won't have to look at the dusty, cobwebbed windows in their m[ou]mmy's basement. Must be a good thing. Kinda. Sorta. Ish. If you squint.
 Side-note: Speaking of squinting ... what kind of ocular havoc will this cause with long-term use? I'm pretty certain that's a serious question ...
> Side-note: Speaking of squinting ... what kind of ocular havoc will this cause with long-term use? I'm pretty certain that's a serious question ...
The military might have some data on that, because the Rift works on the same principle as Night Vision Goggles - that is, the image is presented to you as being around 1.3 metres from your eyes - which is where their focus falls without any muscles being used.
Contrast this with reading a book, or watching a television a few metres away - both activities require the eye to be actively focused with muscles.
The only one that stands asby chance of success is PlayStation VR. It's from a proper company, has a far more accessible total price point (half the price, and much less if you already have a ps4), and has a 53m strong userbase of potential customers by the time it launches.
I've been writing oculus rift demos for 2 years now. I've got the DK2, and the samsung Gear VR (S6).
And I've always been into VR - I final year thesis was on it at uni (1992 - they amiga stuff), and I've had all sorts of headset since then (sony glasstron, olympus eyetrek).
I've made my own, I've modified once I've bought, etc, etc).
Right now, I find the gear VR is the most impressive - no cables, no PC... just yer phone in the headset.
Saying that, I wrote a rollercoaster sim for a corporate demo (at conferences, etc) and spent all day on the stand taking about 600 people through it.
Of them about 10 felt a bit sick, and 3 or 4 said it was crap - all the rest loved it. And this was an AWS conference - so we're talking techies here.
In my own experiences I've found, surprisingly to me, it's the VR video (and 3d VR if you can get it) that is the most impressive.
I fly paramotors and paragliders, and by shooting video with gopros I can create a very immersive half semisphere for playback which most people I've tried it on think is pretty awesome.
For me, that's where the future is - 'analogue' content if you like. i.e. real world. there you don't need to supercomputer lump - you decent optics and decent resolution and you can really be transported to somewhere else.
VR will get amazing once real time motion capture (perhaps using multiple LIDAR tranceivers spaced around the player and a bit of clever maths to map the results onto a skeletal model) can represent the body and limb positions of the player with that of their character in the game world. At that point, rather than being a disembodied pair of eyes, the player's mind can latch onto the new representation of their body, if it moves lag free and in accordance with their sense of proprioception. This also allows scope for a lot of cool stuff like gesture recognition and control. Why need a clumsy controller if, with the right movement of your hands, you can cast that spell in the game world? Or swing a sword or point a gun and have it accurately reflected with the movements of your character as he fights that monster?
Trust me, if you can meditate well, or take a hit of acid before playing, or are suggestible and the right induction is used, reality will skew for you. It'll be awesome. All you VR naysayers have no idea what is coming soon,
I had the opposite experience in real life the other day. I felt a blow to my face and saw lots of blood, which put me into shock for about 30 seconds (though the nature of shock is such that it could have been 5 seconds or a minute). The result was that I could see my hands about a foot from my face, but I just couldn't get them to move. It was as if someone was stood behind me with their arms substituted for mine (the trick they used in Labyrinth to swap a jugglers arms for David Bowie's). The result of the shock was itself scary - I started imaging some motor-control part of my brain sliding out the side of my skull!
I'm all good now [Slowly, control returned and I was able to turn off the table saw (that had launched a metal ruler into my lip... I shouldn't have used it anywhere near the saw). Within a couple of minutes I had rolled a cigarette, without a couple of hours I had been very expertly stitched up, and now a month later the scar is visible but not noticed by people if I don't point it out. ]
Hmmm. Full-body mocap would appear to be unnecessary if you have haptic gloves with motion tracking features; you're far more likely to care where your fingers are than your elbows, and the positional details of your legs can be similarly vague. Aside from which, your hands are usually in your normal field of view, which cuts down on the volume that has to be motion-captured.
While I myself am in the "Not quite there yet" camp, I *am* grateful to the early adopters who are buying this kit and thus creating the necessary preconditions for manufacturers to go that last vital, expensive, troublesome 10% of the way to "There it is!"
I'm looking forward to putting on VR kit, sitting in the cockpit of a virtual starfighter, and feeling the clicks as I press the buttons on the virtual control panel. Or even being able to type on a virtual keyboard (hey, now it's a work-related partial-disability adaptation to mitigate RSI from decades of beating on an actual keyboard!)
I've only tried the DK2 and I've only used that in one game - Elite Dangerous.
The DK2 only runs at 75hz and the screen resolution is lower than the CV1. In Elite it changes the game completely creating a pretty immersive experience. But the game puts you sitting in a cockpit chair so it's pretty ideal for that kind of simulator. No idea if it'll work in other types of games, or excel or whatever.
Yes you need a beast of a machine to use it but, if you're buying it for games you should have a decent setup anyway.
Still a bit pricy for the CV1 mind......
I've also only tried DK2 in one game, but Prepar3D (the Lockeed Martin version of Flight Simulator) not Elite.
Again it completly changes the experience, to start with I was even reacing for switches that I could see but of course weren’t there. Looking outside the cockpit was much more natural so flying a visual circuit where you look over your shoulder to judge when to turn was just like in the real thing. Admittedly with the DK2 the cockpit gauges weren’t that readable but I don’t do a lot of instrument flying so it doesn’t really affect me and logically the CV1 should be better.
I think for any sort of simulation where you’re seated, i.e. aircraft, car, spaceship, it’s worth considering, depending on your addiction level, it’s certainly cheaper than making your own dome simulator.
The price point alone always meant it would be in the category of something you hoped your neighbour would buy.
I'm assessing it to be similar in many ways to 3D monitors. I have a passive 3D monitor I occasionally use, and for the right game and video, it's superb. For other games, it adds nothing extra.
I briefly used a DK1 at Replay:Expo 2013 where a developer was showing off their dungeon demo, and it was lots of fun. Yes, it was low res, there was an odd movement disconnect because of the vision/inner ear disparity, and it involves a bulky headset, but the point is that it's a genuine new experience that isn't available elsewhere.
I think the question is more 'wait to see how the first gen pans out, and choose the best one' rather than 'wait for a revolutionary second gen'. The second gen will no doubt be improved over the first, but the limiting factor is GPU gunt; whilst the generation of GPUs turning up this autumn are looking like a sizable improvement over the current generation, the generation after that won't be capable of such a leap.
The next step beyond the current gen, would be 4K split between both eyes (1920x2160x2). At the moment, it's not feasible to do 4K at 90fps with recent games, using any available graphics card.
I'm definitely considering one, but that's partly because I'm well overdue an upgrade to my aging systems, and I'm a sucker for new and interesting ways of interacting with systems.
3D TV was supposed to be a Game Changer and look what happened there! Would much prefer a gaming monitor with the same viewing angle and instantaneous refresh rate as CRT which, i think, was in the nano-second range not in the millisecond range. Would also like speakers on the front of the set, this frameless nonsense should stop now. Also the screen coating should be tough and resilient enough to withstand being cleaned with a duster rather than a medical grade microfibre cloth....basically i want a thin 144hz widesceen 4000 line surround sound CRT telly to play games on, not a pair of 'funky swimming goggles'......might have helped facebook if they could have got hold of Sonic or Mario for a killer app.....got nuthin ave they?
I'm going to be very picky and say this is technically the 3rd generation in Oculus' short life. I am including both DK1 and DK2 because even if they weren't widely available or classed as consumer products they are still generations of the technology. For a 3rd generation release this is pretty poor and considering the price it should be a lot better than it is currently. I am very eager for widespread VR but at this pace it's going to be quite a while before it comes into relatively affordable territory.
I never quite understood the hype surrounding this. VR headsets are as old as the hills, with Virtuality doing pretty much all this in 1991. The only thing that makes this headset different, is the high resolution and more accurate head tracking. But this tech has been round since the early nineties, and never caught on, due to some fundamental issues. If it was going to catch on, then Google Cardboard when have been a much bigger success that it was. After all, Googles solution gave you about 80% of the oculus experience, for the price of a pint of beer.
The primary problem is that while wearing it, you're blind to the real world, so unless you either have a huge empty flat space, or are happy smashing your shins on the coffee table, you're fixed in one spot. You also can't keep spinning round, because at some point you'll strangle yourself with the cord. While being able to look around 180 degrees is nice, it doesn't deliver on the REALITY part. If you're playing this in a room with other people, at best they're pulling faces and waving fingers at your unseeing face. At worst, they're making plans to set fire to your hair.
Another minor point is that this limits your in-game abilities to your real-world physical dexterity. In a shoot-em-up, you can spin 360 degrees and sniper a bad guy in a fraction of a second with a mouse. Your neck would seriously suffer trying the same in this kit, and don't we play games for escapism? When was the last time you played a game where the hero protagonist hobbled about complaining about a trapped nerve?
No, the real tech to keep an eye on is HoloLens. This really is something new, and has great potential. Augmented reality with astounding accuracy. Imagine creating a game of Worms 3D with your mates on your coffee table?
Suddenly, an empty pizza box becomes your battleground, a crushed beer can a strategic sniping point... Create your own Little Planet, or Lemmings map using DVD boxes and see how they work?
Proper holographic calls where Grandma in Sydney is sat in a chair in your own living room. The potential is almost limitless.
I think the WSJ sums it up for me! I'm really excited about seeing how the latest generation of VR performs but there is no way in hell I'd buy one yet. When a new (or revitalised in this case) class of tech item comes on the market you are normally bit of a mug if you rush out and buy the first one. First off competitors are launching products later this year (Playstation, HTC) and I think this market will need competition to drive prices down.
Secondly it will take a while to see which the best supported platform is! I'd rather wait a year or too until prices come down and we can see which platform has the killer apps. Or of course, see if it all dies a death!
I was excited to the point of deferring an upgrade to my PC to handle it. Through a combo of modern video cards not working with some non-UEFI BIOSes (mine), and the cost of the Rift. I ended up upgrading my i7 3770 PC to a GTX 660 card instead. Been quite happy with it, and it only cost $85 for the card, instead of the R9-390 I bought for $260 that wouldn't work in my system. Guess I'll wait a few more years.
I guess this won't go mainstream until the headset is a self contained device - which could require another couple of iterations of Moore's Law (depending on desired graphics quality). In the near-term, they could build the PC into a lightweight backpack to avoid the snagging cable issue. You'd be lucky to get an hour of game-play while running power hungry graphics cards on a practical sized battery. Also your back might get uncomfortably warm....
Firstly: Head tracking.
The head tracking system clips onto your cap or headphone band and a little camera sits atop your monitor.
With non-linear curve settings, slight head rotation is magnified in game such that an experienced user barely needs to move his or her head to effect a much larger directional change in the view point, rendering the POV hat completely obsolete. Quite literally within the hour it becomes second nature, and you end up finding yourself doing amusing "Matt Parkman" head turns in games which don't support it.
I was given a DK2 by a wealthy friend of mine who said it gave him a headache. I have been using it for a couple of months with the killer app: Elite: Dangerous and it seems to suit me in that department. I am able to spend several hours at a time without discomfort. It was a bit heavy at first, but I think I have developed muscles to cope since I started using it.
It quite literally opens up a new dimension in gaming. Sure the DK2 has a ridiculously low resolution compared to my 4k monitor but it makes up for it by having a much "larger" canvas that you have to actually look around to see. You feel far closer to the action, nay, IN the action. Moreover the lack of resolution becomes much less noticeable when actually piloting because your head is constantly in motion and your brain's ability to overcome visual impairment is quite astonishing.
When other people are likely to be around, I go back to playing Elite with my regular monitor. The change is jarring, to say the least. It's like you've lost one eye and are staring at everything from far away. It's a far less convincing experience and honestly, the DK2 has quite literally ruined non VR compatible FPS and space shooters for me, even with head tracking.
I, personally, was impressed enough with the DK2 to pre-order the v1.0 product. I have since put the DK2 up for sale on Yahoo Auction and it sold the first day for 82,000 yen, just 10,000 or so less than what I will pay for the v1.0 when it ships. So it looks like the kit will certainly hold much it's value post purchase, at least for some months while numbers are limited. In fact, one could say that the waiting list is so long that you might actually be able to resell it at a higher price than you purchased it for if you decide you don't like it.
Head tracking. Fantastic solution to in game POV. Definitely the best bang for the buck. feels far more natural that you'd think.
VR: VR won't blow you away, but if you have GOOD software tailored to it, it will literally add an extra dimension. It's a case of how much money do you want to invest/waste now when you know that within two years a better bit of kit will come along.
"With non-linear curve settings, slight head rotation is magnified in game such that an experienced user barely needs to move his or her head to effect a much larger directional change in the view point,"
This seems damn weird and disorienting, but necessary given the cable and gameplay.
What's tbe prospect of using head tracking and a mouse at the same time (for a game like Thief)?
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