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Displays Input Devices Games Technology

The Road To VR 61

An anonymous reader writes "Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood has posted about how much progress we've made toward commercially viable virtual reality gaming — and how far we have to go. The Oculus Rift headset is technologically brilliant compared to anything we'd have before, but Atwood says there are still a number of problems to solve. Quoting: 'It's a big commitment to strap a giant, heavy device on your face with 3+ cables to your PC. You don't just casually fire up a VR experience. ... Demos are great, but there aren't many games in the Steam Store that support VR today, and the ones that do support VR can feel like artificially tacked on novelty experiences. I did try Surgeon Simulator 2013 which was satisfyingly hilarious. ... VR is a surprisingly anti-social hobby, even by gamer standards, which are, uh low. Let me tell you, nothing is quite as boring as watching another person sit down, strap on a headset, and have an extended VR "experience". I'm stifling a yawn just thinking about it. ... Wearing a good VR headset makes you suddenly realize how many other systems you need to add to the mix to get a truly great VR experience: headphones and awesome positional audio, some way of tracking your hand positions, perhaps an omnidirectional treadmill, and as we see with the Crystal Cove prototype, an external Kinect style camera to track your head position at absolute minimum.' Atwood also links to Michael Abrash's VR blog, which is satisfyingly technical for those interested in the hardware and software problems of VR."
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The Road To VR

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  • by satuon ( 1822492 ) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @02:54PM (#46260735)

    What would you consider virtual reality? A direct neural interface that simulates all senses like in the Matrix, or just putting some headset that shows a high-res screen before each eye, plus headphones?

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @03:34PM (#46260973)

    It's a big commitment to strap a giant, heavy device on your face with 3+ cables to your PC

    Granted, but then again, a lot of particular prominent, even more special purpose successes require a pretty big commitment. Rock band did well and no one is going to claim it's trivial to whip out the guitars and drumset. Granted their success did not endure, but primarily because the experience lacked sufficient variety, it did show people were committed to go through some hoops. Similarly, *really* sitting down to enjoy a feature length movie requires some commitment (doing so without commitment is possible, but much less enjoyable.

    there aren't many games in the Steam Store that support VR today

    And there weren't many games that supported accelerated 3D graphics when 3dfx voodoo came out. Being too discouraged by that leads to a chicken and egg situation. It's probably also off putting that the set of available titles are at best adaptations of existing games or very basic things. The reason being that the quality games take longer and as such are still in progress (Star Citizen is one I'm really looking forward to). Crystal Cove demonstrates they will have capabilities the dev kits aren't even equipped to help publishers prepare for yet. Oculus is doing the only thing that might have a chance, building up a lot of excitement and coming in at an approachable price point to try to break the chicken and egg situation.

    Having your eyes so close to the screens means the display is effectively very low resolution.

    This is one area that has me pretty worried and waiting (that and the availability of good positional sensing). I'm really hoping they will be able to use at least a 2560x1440 OLED display (thanks to the mobile resolution pissing contest, Samsung looks ready to announce a shipping product with 2560x1440 at 5.2", 560 ppi seems very promising to construct a display out of, even if magnified).

    VR is a surprisingly anti-social hobby, even by gamer standards

    Very, very rarely is gaming remotely entertaining to mere observers. A lot of very popular things are *always* equally anti-social (texting, reading books, listening to music on headphones, pretty much doing *anything* on a smartphone or even tablet, laptop, or computer).

    Notice how quickly we get into geez-this-is-a-lot-of-equipment territory.

    The same can be true of racing or flying games, but that doesn't stop the vast majority of people making do with simpler controls. Just because you *can* take things very far at a very high price, doesn't mean you have to. The external tracking of the head is going to be baked into the headset cost (and not that expensive, as Kinect has shown) Headphones are straightforward as is positional audio in the headphone situation. Beyond eyewear and headphones, things get optional pretty fast. Wiimote-grade tracking for hands I certainly see as a big value add, but things start falling off real fast beyond that (the treadmill I'm skeptical would do anything to pull me that much more in as I think it would still feel very very off, but would wear me out greatly).

  • by Alejux ( 2800513 ) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @03:54PM (#46261073)

    And your point is? Are you saying that because it didn't become a success in the 90's it is a failed concept?

    The card I have in my computer now, is many times more powerful than an $250k Silicon Graphics Onyx that you had back then. The displays you had back then were crap and had very low resolution. The latency you had in tracking was nauseating and full of errors. Not to mention the huge weight of the "helmet".

    Compare that to:

    - 1920x1080 resolution OLED with low persistency

    - Low latency 1:1 positional tracking

    - ~20ms motion to photon latency

    - High end PC GPU's capable of rendering realistic graphics at real time >60fps

    - ~200 grams of weight and comfortable as the average ski goggles

    - $300 price tag

    It is so tiresome hearing people who never tried the Rift say it's hype and a gimmick based on 20 year old attempts at the technology.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith