back to article Guns, audio and eye-tracking: VR nearly ready for prime time

Virtual reality reemerged in the past couple of years as a hot tech topic. However, the unfortunate truth – fiercely ignored by its passionate advocates – is that it hasn't been ready for primetime. That situation has changed this week at the 2018 Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, USA. It's now looking as …

  1. Dr. Mouse

    Eye tracking

    Tobii's system really is pretty cool.

    I splashed out earlier this year and bought an Alienware laptop with Tobii, and it transforms several things. Outside games, being able to look at something, touch the mouse pad, and have the cursor in the right place starts to feel natural after a short time. In fact, going back to a normal PC without it feels decidedly unnatural.

    I haven't spent much time gaming with it yet (I'm working through Assassins Creed Black Flag at the moment, the newer AC games support it but that one doesn't), but the little bits I have felt brilliant.

    I wouldn't suggest that it replaces all computer input devices, but it certainly works better than I ever imagined!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Eye tracking

      The mouse pointer thing sounds interesting, I'm assuming that would help when using an ultra-wide monitor? I spend quite a bit of time moving the mouse across sometimes, plus I often lose track of it!

      1. Boothy

        Re: Eye tracking

        Thanks for the heads up, I too have an ultra-wide monitor, plus two side monitors (basically my hand-me-downs), and regularly lose track of where the pointer is at times.

        So i may well have a look at this myself (plus I'm a gamer, so bonus!).

        1. Dr. Mouse

          Re: Eye tracking

          I'm not sure how well it works on multi-monitor. I have only used it on the laptop screen.

  2. Toilet Duk

    No mention of PlayStation VR? I think it's pretty impressive for the price.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      re "no mention of PSVR"

      ... came here to ask that

      Anyone got any advice? Some mobile places offering Sony XZ2 Sim free 700 but with a free PS4 or PSVR which makes it over a third off. Not sure which to choose, but I could always use an extra PS4 if the PSVR is disappointing.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: re "no mention of PSVR"

        PSVR stacks up pretty well against the competition, according to people who've compared all of them.

        I use it almost every day. The biggest niggle with psvr is the move controller tracking, some games do well, others not - but even the best isn't a match for the oculus or htc tracking. Headset tracking is ok though.

        Whilst there are mixed reviews about the benefits of the Pro over OG Ps4 for psvr, I use a Pro and some games do use the extra horsepower - it's worth it unless you already have a ps4.

        As a 'pick up and play' kind of system, it's more than good enough and streets ahead of any kind of mobile based VR.

        Nausea is an issue for every system, but even though I suffer from terrible motion sickness I can now play pretty much any game without any comfort settings and have no issues at all, just takes a few weeks to get your VR legs, that's all. In fact, it's helped me with my real-life motion sickness too :)

  3. EddieD

    Tobii know what they are doing

    Back in the day I used to help researchers design experiments in eye-tracking. When you watch a film of the person reading, paying attention to the eyes, you see no movement of the eye - but the Tobii software captures minute saccades and fixations - it's incredible to watch.

    My introduction to it was designing an experiment that randomly put a distractor dot half the intra foveal angle from a target stimulus, to measure the time to recover from a distraction. As a lapsed biologist that was absolutely crap at Maths trying to work out how to move a dot, viewed from 25cm, an angle of 0.7 degrees was a wakeup call to go revise trig.

  4. ashton

    For years i've been saying eye tracking is going to be a necessity.

    That said it should get even better with increased field of view

  5. fpx

    Simplicity is Key

    One major advantage of the mobile phone-in-headset gadgets is its simplicity. You download an app to your phone, drop it into the headset, and off you go. You do not need a PC, and you have few compatibility issues. Sure, the quality is often marginal, but that's an experience that you otherwise only get with closed systems like the PSVR.

    Once you have a PC in the loop, you have CPU and GPU speeds, driver issues, cable form factors, connectivity etc. to worry about. Heck, why does the head tracking driver not install properly? Ah, it's incompatible with the Bios. Have you tried installing the latest updates? Flickering on the right-eye display? Oh, on Intel you must revert to version 158.1. Then how about a reboot!

    1. Boothy

      Re: Simplicity is Key

      I've had an Oculus DK2, and a Vive, these both connect via HDMI and USB, so not much that can go too wrong hardware wise, other than the hardware not being up to it (which admittedly does mean having a fairly good system ( i5 + GTX 1070 or better (or equivalent)).

      The only issue I had hardware wise was when initially setting up the Vive. It needs a USB3 for the break out box (the bit connecting to the headset), and it didn't like the port I'd plugged it into on the motherboards backplate. Plugging it into a different USB 3 port and it worked fine. Turned out the initial port was provided by a 3rd party chipset connected to PCIe, whereas the working port, was provided directly by the MB chipset itself (I found out later the same 3rd party chipset also had issues with some other USB3 devices, like HDs).

  6. DropBear

    So does anyone have yet anything that: a) costs no more than $200, b) is completely free of any involvement with Facebook or other snoop-ware (ie. works even with the WAN cable yanked out), c) is capable of displaying a video streamed over from a suitable partner app on the PC (while relaying back my head movements), and d)most crucially, either allows glasses to be worn during use or else can adjust each eye's focus INDEPENDENTLY? Honest question...!

    I'm asking because I have zero interest in watching 360 "interactive" videos or playing any of the crap specialized apps that typically come with Google Cardboard-class "insert your phone" goggles - I want to play proper games on my PC, assuming I can coax them into displaying a VR/stereo double-frame using said companion software. I can already do all that with basically any classic cheap-and-cheerful goggle (minus the focus thing, very few do that), it's just that they seem to tend to have rather shitty viewing angles, so I'd appreciate anything slightly better constructed and/or more purposefully integrated with its companion PC software...

    1. Boothy

      a) Nope, not anything good anyway, and probably not for a long time. You're talking about hardware more advanced/complex than a modern high end mobile phone, so we'll get *good* & *cheap* VR, when you can buy the equivalent of a current iPhone for less than $200 (by which times the hardware will be even more advanced of course!).

      b) Vive works fine off-line, as long as what you are running works off-line as well of course.

      Vive games/apps also don't need to be in Steam to use the Vive, the drivers and Steam VR software is managed via Steam, but once running, any app/game that supports OpenVR can use the headset.

      c) Not sure what you are asking here.

      d) I wear glasses, had a Rift DK2, and have a Vive, no issues wearing glasses with either (Vive especially). But obviously that's going to depend on things like size of your frames. Regular sized frames, or smaller, shouldn't have any issue, but oversized frames might have problems. Also bifocals and varifocals are not too good with VR, as the bottom part of the screen gets blurry.

      1. DropBear

        Thanks for replying; unfortunately, the Vive is in the same "can't justify" price bracket as the Oculus for me, so no joy there. As for a), I reckon some goggles with nothing but pair of LCDs displaying content piped over from a PC could easily be produced for that much, I just don't really see anyone doing this kind of thing. And by c), I mean something like TrinusVR or TriDef3D - they just fool your 3D renderer into generating two side-by-side pictures of whatever your GPU is rendering instead of a single image, and they capture and send it over to an app on your phone for you to look at, in some cardboard-like goggles (they also send your head movements - as sensed by the phone's gyros - back to the PC to control the view). As for d), glad to hear the major players have this covered, but unfortunately most Cardboard-class goggles seem distinctly glass-unfriendly - some people even explicitly test this sort of thing in their reviews: most goggles fail it.

        As I said, this already kinda-sorta works, for basically $0 (not counting licenses for said software and the price of a cheap Cardboard-equivalent piece of plastic), but it's far from optimal - I'd love to see someone do it with a bit higher quality and better integration, which is why I'm allowing the $200 headroom for. Unfortunately, as I said, this doesn't seem to be a popular concept...

  7. Barry Rueger


    pretty much every barrier to mainstream adoption has been solved by one of the companies in the Moscone Center's enormous rooms. It's just a matter of time before it all comes together.

    And what "mainstream" is that, aside from the subset of the market that includes young geeks playing videogames in their parent's basements? (OK, that was harsh.) Unless, and until, VR (AR, whatever other R they're using these days) happens without headsets, without headaches, and without fiddling with hardware, and offers something so incredibly wonderful that it's an order of magnitude better than just watching a big screen TV or theatre screen, VR is going to be exactly as popular as 3D TV.

    A handful of gee whiz novelty showcase products aren't enough to drive a "mainstream" acceptance. You need to come up with something that will encompass most of the existing media consumption universe, improving all forms of content in a significant way. Novelty pales awful fast, and novelty that demands technical doodads fades even faster.

    My guess is that VR/AR etc will remain a novelty item until many years after I'm no longer virtual or augmented in any way.

  8. HKmk23

    HA ha ha ha

    Are these the same morons who invented 3d TV? You know the one no-one what universe are they going to persuade the public to wear a crash helmet to use a computer?

    1. ashton

      Re: HA ha ha ha

      Actually there's tons of people who totally looked down on 3d tv as a gimmick but see vr as great future tech?

      VR has problems but there are many great possibilities, if anything majority of people are waiting for gimmicks to get worked out, more content and lower prices.

      Just cause it's not mainstream yet doesn't mean it has no future.

  9. Neoc

    "But apparently there are already VR warehouses in Europe and more are planned soon in the US (and, apparently in San Leandro in the Bay Area)."

    And a couple already exist in Australia, thank-you-very-much ( ). Why does everyone forget about the Antipodean Continent?

  10. ChaosFreak

    I gotta wear shades...

    "Once it becomes like putting on a pair of shades, things will really take off, but that could be a decade away."

    Have you heard of this company called Magic Leap?

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