The Future is Now
April 5, 2016 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Virtual Reality, a tech geek dream for decades, was long hobbled by high latency, clunky hardware, and perennially absurd reports on network news. That all changed in 2011, when Palmer Luckey, then 18, built the first Oculus Rift prototype in his parents' garage with iPhone repair money. Awed by its powerful sense of presence, developer John Carmack became a fan and demoed it at E3. The ensuing Kickstarter campaign shattered all fundraising goals, and Facebook controversially bought the rights for a whopping $2 billion -- alienating erstwhile partner Valve Software, the iconic creators of Half-Life/Portal/Steam. A Cambrian explosion of headsets followed: Morpheus, HoloLens, Google Cardboard, Gear VR. But perhaps most interesting is Valve's own counter-project: a breathtaking "room scale" VR set-up with Tron-like "Chaperone" and tracked motion controls called the HTC Vive. With this week's commercial launch of Rift and Vive bringing us to the threshold of a new interactive medium, look inside for guides, notes, and killer apps for this, the stunning arrival of consumer VR.

The Contenders

At heart, modern virtual reality renders immersive stereoscopic 3D imagery with millisecond-fast, millimeter-precise head tracking. To wit: Look wherever you want, and there you (virtually) are, with realistic fluidity and depth perception. With contemporary tech, this can be accomplished as easily as slotting your smartphone into a cheap Cardboard case with fisheye lenses -- the phone's on-board graphics and accelerometer is equal to the task. But while you can gussy things up with a throwback plastic casing, this is the merest entry-level stuff -- mediocre image quality, weaksauce graphics, poor interactivity, and simplified tracking.

A cut above is the Oculus-produced Gear VR ($99), which pairs a top-of-the-line Samsung smartphone with a custom head-mounted unit. Touch controls at the temple afford more interaction with the scene, and connection to the Oculus store provides dozens of engaging experiences, from virtual Netflix dens to 3D documentaries to full-length games.

On the console side, Sony has unveiled Project Morpheus PlayStation VR ($399), a high-quality OLED display powered by the PS4 and a bonus "breakout box" for extra graphical horsepower. Sony's indie pedigree promises a number of exciting titles, though the tech won't debut until October. Meanwhile, Microsoft touts the HoloLens ($TBA), an augmented reality visor that projects imagery on top of the real world. An ambitious approach, albeit one marred by a limited field of view.

The Rift and the Vive

At the apex perch the Oculus Rift ($699) and the HTC Vive ($799). Both require serious gaming rigs to enjoy (more on that below), but offer high-end performance to match, including positional tracking for leaning and ducking, binaural surround sound, best-in-class graphics, and intuitive motion controls (though the Rift is relegated to an Xbox gamepad until its Oculus Touch controllers launch later this year for an additional fee). The Oculus headset beams an infrared Constellation pattern tracked by external sensors, and is focused on seated experiences like racing and starship piloting, though it can support limited standing and movement. The Vive, meanwhile, uses a passive Lighthouse system based on twin infrared beacons tracked by the headset itself, encouraging movement across a room-sized area; the built-in Chaperone marks boundaries and prevents players from blundering into objects with virtual grid walls. Its touch controls are similarly tracked, allowing tight interaction with the virtual environment.

Aside from the differing techniques, both Vive and Rift offer similar tech specs: 100-ish degree field of view, 1080p resolution per eye, 90 frames per second, imperceptible latency, and a limited "screen door effect" (which you can simulate here).

How to Play

To achieve such performance, both headsets recommend at minimum a PC rocking 8GB of RAM, an i5 equivalent or better CPU, and a high-powered NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 graphics card. It's an expensive proposition, especially if you buy it pre-built, but you can save a lot building a rig yourself, and the internet is here to help. Ars Technica offers a slate of suggested components for multiple price ranges, or if you're reasonably tech-savvy you can find your own deals on compatible parts with the nifty PCPartPicker.com. If you're willing to wait, both NVIDIA and AMD have a new generation of cards on the horizon (Pascal and Polaris) that promise increased performance for comparable prices, implying eventual discounts for current models.

The Games

Too many to list, but here are some highlights, with exclusive titles marked where relevant:
  • Hover Junkers [Vive]- An ingenious multiplayer spectacular. Turn your room-scale area into the deck of a Mad Max: Fury Road-esque hovercraft, then take potshots at passing marauders taking cover on their own vehicles. Uses natural gestures for actions like reloading.
  • Job Simulator - Perform manic, slapstick versions of rote routines in a futuristic museum of work. Don't miss this nifty mixed-reality view.
  • Cloudlands VR Minigolf - Play putt-putt among the clouds in a vast fantastic fairway in the sky. Realistic physics and haptic feedback make this a compelling use of room-scale.
  • Elite: Dangerous - The pre-eminent VR starfighting simulator. Pilot sleek spacecraft for mining or warfare from within detailed wraparound 3D cockpits.
  • EVE: Valkyrie [Oculus] - A dogfighting variant of beloved interstellar strategy RPG EVE Online.
  • The Lab [Vive] - Valve's own collection of VR experiments, set in the Portal universe's Aperture Science facility. A follow-up to the earlier Robot Repair demo.
  • Rock Band VR [Oculus] - This official sequel from Harmonix lets you rock your heart out directly from the stage.
  • Budget Cuts [Vive] - Use handheld portals to stealth around an office while throwing knives to kill the robots hunting you down. A free demo launches today!
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - One player sits before a virtual suitcase bomb complete with Hollywood-style nodes and wires, while the rest flip through physical instructions frantically trying to coach them through the hilariously complicated defusing process.
  • Chronos [Oculus] - A dark fantasy adventure; your character ages one year each time he dies, gaining power each time.
  • ADR1FT - This Gravity-esque thriller has you venturing through space station wreckage in a desperate fight for survival.
  • Unseen Diplomacy [Vive] - Creep through a dense room-filling nest of clever spycraft puzzles without getting caught.
  • Lucky's Tale [Oculus] - A charming third-person platformer in the vein of first-gen 3D titles.
  • TheBlu - An astonishing journey through the deep ocean.
  • Fantastic Contraption [Vive] - solve physics puzzles by constructing complex machines from parts in a fanciful VR sandbox.
  • Tilt Brush - This Google-produced app lets you paint in 3D space with a variety of brushes and textures. Watch Disney animator Glen Keane demonstrate the power of such "sculptural drawing."
  • Windlands - Leap and grapple-hook your way through this beautiful fantasy platformer.
  • AltspaceVR - A social VR platform that enables avatar-based chat around shared activities like video watching, chess, or tabletop D&D.
  • Modbox [Vive] - Go nuts in a vast virtual playground of dozens of scriptable physics-based objects.
  • The Climb [Oculus] - A visceral mountaineering game from the makers of Crysis.
  • Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine [Vive] - Wield a virtual lightsaber against a variety of dark side foes.
  • Audioshield [Vive] - Absorb incoming musical notes from your own library with handheld shields -- like a first-person Guitar Hero!
  • Virtual Desktop - Port your PC's desktop into virtual space in a variety of guises -- movie theater, space billboard, log cabin TV, etc.
  • The Gallery - An episodic fantasy exploration game inspired by 80s fantasy adventure films.
  • The Brookhaven Experiment [Vive] - A terrifying wave-based zombie shooter.
  • My Neighbor Totoro VR Bus Stop [Oculus] - Experience the memorable Studio Ghibli scene firsthand with a larger-than-life Totoro at your side.
  • Space Pirate Trainer - Defend against waves of space invaders with your choice of guns or shields in each hand.
  • Realities.io - a showcase of photorealistic 3D VR scenes rendered from photographs.
  • Van Gogh's Night Cafe [Oculus] - Step inside a painterly world made from Vincent's vivid artwork and see how many references you can recognize.
  • Minecrift (or Vivecraft?)- While not officially supported, this VR mod for Minecraft makes the game even more compelling.
  • Apollo 11 VR - Relive the Apollo moon landings with this educational NASA collaborated simulator.
  • Universe Sandbox 2 - Hurl planets, moons, and asteroids like ping pong balls in this chaotic cosmic simulator.
  • Unity and Unreal VR editors - the future of game development in the making?
More resources:

Some helpful NeoGAF threads: The VR-PC Game Thread - The High-End VR Discussion Thread - HTC Vive Launch Thread - Oculus Rift Launch Thread

Stress Level Zero's visualization of room scale tracking volume

VR Hater Bingo

An hours-long Giant Bomb livestream of the Vive, already in progress
posted by Rhaomi (127 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite
 
As long as you have to wear something on your head, I'm not interested. Holodeck or bust.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:48 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


Morpheus PlayStation VR ($399), a high-quality OLED display powered by the PS4 and a bonus "breakout box" for extra graphical horsepower.

The box doesn't add any 'graphical horsepower' - the only processing is positional audio, and a social screen/system crossbar layover.
posted by synthetik at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


This very funny preview of the escape-room-esque I Expect You To Die is what convinced me that VR might really be a thing soon, or in any case I really want to play it super bad
posted by theodolite at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is an amazing post. Thank you.
posted by emmet at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I gotta say, that Apollo 11 sim looks pretty wicked. I might have to invest in a GTX 970 for ... er, neural net training, yeah.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jesus wept.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow. What a post.

I didn't know I cared about VR until I went into my T-mobile store looking for a new phone. Staff had a demo Gear unit that they were giving away with pre-orders for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. I sheepishly put it on and five minutes later I was turning in my six-month old Note 5 for an S7.

I was telling my teenage son about it -- you can look around you and see things moving past you! I'm underwater and I'm looking up at the bright surface and then a shark is coming at me from the left, I can turn and face him!

"Can you walk around in the scene? Can you pick stuff up?"

Uh, it's free. And the last VR headset I tried was a Viewmaster in 1974.

Freaking amazing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


And the last VR headset I tried was a Viewmaster in 1974.

The kids got a ViewMaster VR headset for Christmas. I spent more time with it than they did.

But that one Google Cardboard demo, the one with the forest and you turn around and there's a gorilla right in your face....holy shit.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's also the OSVR
posted by I-baLL at 9:08 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ah, thanks for reminding me to buy stock in TV manufacturers since folks aren't going to wear their wrist straps and will inevitably throw those controllers into whatever delicate electronics are nearby.

But wait, VR is going to lower the demand for said TVs.

*mind blown*
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:09 AM on April 5, 2016


And the last VR headset I tried was a Viewmaster in 1974.

80's kids had to make do with Beastmaster
posted by thelonius at 9:09 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Still not buying this. VR has been promised so many times as the next big thing and it never pans out, because people don't want to strap a heavy weight to their head and be mocked by people around them. If you can't sell the idea of wearing glasses to watch 3D TVs, why on earth do you think you can sell something even more isolating from the world around you?

This New Yorker piece from last week is worth reading in this light: The Breathless Rhetoric (and Prosaic Economics) of Virtual Reality. My favorite bit:

Perhaps Smith is correct, and virtual-reality boardrooms will replace real ones in the future. His company isn’t alone in seeing possibilities. But then, you hear similar rhetoric whenever Silicon Valley invests in a new technology that promises to change the way we work and live. (Tablets! Google Glass! The Internet of Things!) Often, what we actually get is a solution in need of a problem, even as organizations feel compelled to adopt it in order to stay relevant.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:17 AM on April 5, 2016 [19 favorites]


But thanks for the comprehensive post!
posted by crazy with stars at 9:17 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, the reason that only Jedi really use lightsabers is that the blade doesn't have any mass and cuts through anything pretty easily. It's hard to keep track of a blade that will cut your own head off without a hint of resistance when it doesn't feel like it's there.

It's also hard to make a sword fighting game because the controller needs to look and FEEL like a sword with a blade.

A Playstation move controller though, already feels like a lightsaber would (no blade!) and with these VR goggles, it should now be possible to make a light-saber fighting game in which being good at the game=being good in real life.

More importantly, someone can now make a game where the play can come SCARY close to living out my childhood fantasy of being a Jedi Knight and fighting bad guys with my lightsaber.

The games I play right now are Gran Turismo (car racing) and Mechwarrior online (pilot giant robots) both of which are PERFECT applications for VR. I'll likely watch these 1st gen products and end up getting the 2nd gen versions when they get cheap enough (as I do with most new tech) but I'm really looking forward to it.
posted by VTX at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow. I am experimenting with using VR in education, so I have an Oculus and a massive computer rig coming to my office. This is an amazing post, and I can't wait to dig in.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I tried a very early VR headset years ago and it was perfect. Well I had to take my glasses off so the VR world was just as real as the real blurred world. Then I remember being amazed at the first haptic interface (force feedback), but few apps. The coolest feedback interface was just two rolling pins, each on a stand, rotate one and the other rotated, friend across the room pushed back and you felt it. Best demos ever.

I'm a VR lover, not hater, but as much as I really really want to leap into cyberspace and fly between the servers on a lightcycle this just feels like the release of the biggest demo party ever. A solid week of inviting every friend over to be amazed and then back to sitting side by side whacking ninjas on the xbox having like actual fun.
posted by sammyo at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


My brother bough a couple of Google Cardboards as stocking stuffers for his kids last year. They were by far and away the biggest hit on Christmas Eve. The whole family had to have turns with it. We used a forest walk one and a mountain climbing demo. They were incredibly compelling, even for the 80-year-olds. I can just imagine how immersive a real system might be.

Hard on the phones' battery though; I've never seen them hotter.
posted by bonehead at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


And the last VR headset I tried was a Viewmaster in 1974.

80's kids had to make do with Beastmaster


No way! We had Battlezone!
posted by sauril at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Reminds me too much of Ray Bradbury's The Veldt (1950). AKA "The World the Children Made."
posted by Carol Anne at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Interactive erotic software. The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!
posted by Bob Regular at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm honestly scared to try it because I know I'll love it and will just disappear forever into a tron like existence. It'll be like platos cave eating it's own tail.
posted by pwally at 9:22 AM on April 5, 2016


If you can't sell the idea of wearing glasses to watch 3D TVs, why on earth do you think you can sell something even more isolating from the world around you?

TV and video games are often VERY different animals.

When I play video games, I'm in a room all by myself. The people I play with are alone in rooms all over the world. Even two people that know each other outside the context of the game and live near each other go to their own homes and communicate using Team speak or some other VOIP software designed for that purpose.

Heck, I'm already wearing a pretty big, clunky set of headphones with a mic built in. Adding a visor in front of it wouldn't be that much more stuff.

Maybe it will make it's way into living rooms as a way to watch TV and movies someday. But once the price starts coming down a bit, these things are going to be a big deal for video gamers and porn consumers (and there is a LOT of overlap between those two).
posted by VTX at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


people don't want to strap a heavy weight to their head

Disagree. If you watch movies on planes and you get to choose between watching a 4" inch square screen that takes up 5% of your field of vision, and putting on a headset and watching that movie from the 10th row center seat of a movie theater (or a home theater, or any of the other available theater experiences), you're going to go for the immersive experience everytime. And the Gear VR is is not heavy.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tried the Oculus and while it was very impressive, I personally felt nauseous afterwards. And maybe that's something that goes away with more use, but right now, it's not for me. I'm glad that this technology exists and I look forward to future iterations/versions that improve the experience. It still seems like something in a very beta stage of development. I'll let you early adopters enjoy the VR experience.
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the Oculus Rift Designed to be Sexist?

The new revolution in VR games is exciting, but not so much if it takes the discrimination woman face in gaming from the social to the physical realm.
posted by happyroach at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I got my husband a ViewMaster VR headset which can be used with a smartphone - it is basically a plastic Cardboard viewer.

Of the iPhone apps that I tried I liked the ones which present 3d video best: VRSE and RYOT and Jaunt VR. (the following links can be viewed on a computer but for best results use a VR viewer and download the respective apps, which can also be put into a 2d swiping mode if you don't have a headset.)

New York Times uses VRSE - there are some nice short journalism pieces like Walking New York with street artist/photographer JR.

There is also a cool VR horror thing for VRSE called Catatonic where you are virtually pushed through a sort of haunted asylum in a wheelchair. With VRSE you can pre-download the files, so playback is pretty sharp and responsive compared to some where you are streaming.

RYOT is also journalism-oriented and has partnered with the AP. There are pieces on Nepal, New Orleans, solitary confinement, etc.

Jaunt VR is a little more fully-integrated, with a VR menu system you can navigate. Use with Wi-Fi is recommended because of intensive data use. Some of the content is corporate-sponsored, with a mountain-climbing segment sponsored by a sporting goods company, for instance. There are also some live music performances such as one by Paul McCartney.

Collisions is a documentary by Lynette Wallworth which was part of a VR section at this year's Sundance Film Festival which is about the impact of nuclear testing on Aboriginal Australians. It is viewable through Jaunt VR (in their virtual menu, go to Film, then Collisions is under Editor's Picks - when you launch the app, it is in headset mode by default but you can click 2D in the lower right to view it without a headset - you'll have to move the phone so the selection you want shows, and then touch the screen to make selections when an image is highlighted.) Collisions is one of the best VR things I've seen.
posted by larrybob at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think the nausea will be a factor. I can't wait to do 3-D painting. Oh this is awesome. I think I just bought this computer setup. I needed a video card that would drive a 4k monitor, and I ended up with this on somewhat of a custom build. Yeah. Oh yeah. Some school will buy that headset for me, and I will lend the machine. I can park 16 more gigs of ram on here and have 32 to work with.
posted by Oyéah at 9:36 AM on April 5, 2016


As for interactive use in the boardroom, that will arrive sometime after tech leaps across the "uncanny valley" and is first able to render real time a non-disturbing version of a human talking and interpreting an existing face real time without gluing dozens of tiny dots all over the face.

Close so very very close.

And yes excellent post, just waiting for the vr.metafilter.com subsite where we can all meet and gesture wildly about our opinions.
posted by sammyo at 9:36 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the nausea will be a factor.

We had quite a few people trying the Cardboard things that get violently car sick. None of them reported vertigo problems and those often show up immediately. I think because your head is turning with the headset, your eyes and balance centres actually do tend to stay in synch, reducing nausea. Certainly there was none of the instant motion sickness I remember the first time I played even Castle Wolfenstein.
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2016


I can't wait for 3D live enhanced reality Google Deep Dreaming.
posted by ian1977 at 9:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I had a similar experience to Fizz, 40 seconds on the Oculus, 3 -4 minutes of feeling dizzy. I'm not someone who gets travel or seasick so not that, but can't see me wanting to do this again.
posted by biffa at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2016


This is especially interesting to me since I'm in the midst of writing a story about giant screen cinema and the possible implications of increasing access (mostly through digital image capture and projection).

This looks cool, but all of the VR systems that I know of right now still have significant motion sickness problems and are so wildly inferior in image quality to what's going on in large screen that the potential for real, immersive, mind-bending experience still looks like some level of smart overlay through goggles while in a giant screen projection — like, the difference between the immersiveness of Super Mario Bros. versus Super Mario World. (Like, seriously, one of the things that is being worked on is using stereomicroscopy to project a 3-D magnification of body parts so that robotic telesurgery is possible. You can see things on the giant screens that you can't even see through the diopter physically.)

Similarly, one of the advantages there is that it's much, much easier to massively multiplay — you can have your whole guild (or a whole theater's worth of 300 people) all interacting in one scene at once.

I'm just kinda hoping that the fast/cheap/private VR doesn't stomp out the custom-built spaces.
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I tried the Oculus and while it was very impressive, I personally felt nauseous afterwards.

Fizz, what kind of thing did you try it out with?

My hypothesis is that people are more likely to feel nauseous in situations where their avatar (the character or thing that represents them in the game and who's eyes they see out of) is moving vs. ones where the avatar is stationary inside something else that isn't.

So running around an open world on your own feet might make your nauseous where driving around in a car or flying a play (seated but able to look around) might not.

I think the next step would be where the avatar doesn't move at all and can only look around. So I guess something like sitting in a theater, watching a movie. I think there is still some value there since you can now customize the size and shape of the screen at a whim.
posted by VTX at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've tried a bunch of things with Google Cardboard. It's was enough to know how much fun I'm going to have when I decided that I can spare the cash to buy in.

Games look fun but what I'm super interested in is the potential to experience virtual places based on historical and archeological data. I want to be able to walk through iron age villages. I want to wander around old towns and cities. I'm also super interested in the potential for using VR for research in these fields. I think there is a lot of potential for new insights in how and why things were built and structured in certain ways with the ability to 'see' from a more first person perspective.
posted by Jalliah at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm wondering about the resolution, would one be able to "throw up" 5-10 high res computer screens and do cut&paste by grabbing a chunk of code and throwing at another virtual monitor?

Oh gosh and what will the VR-smiley turn out to be?

;-)
posted by sammyo at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2016


I very much wish the HTC Vive wasn't 800 dollars. I put the 100 dollars of trust in Steam over Facebook though. So it would take a lot to get me to get an occulus rift over the Vive if I have the spending cash at some point in the future.
posted by Twain Device at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's also hard to make a sword fighting game because the controller needs to look and FEEL like a sword with a blade.

Yeah, also, having objects with very sharp points makes it easier to exploit defects in the physics of the Metaverse, meaning some hacker with sufficient knowledge (and, say, a katana) might be able to sneak inside protected buildings there.

Seriously, I'm guessing Neal Stephenson is pretty excited to be alive right now.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh and virtual museums. I've already come across some people thinking about how to implement this.

It would be awesome to be able look at exhibits in museums that I could never afford to travel to and see in person.
posted by Jalliah at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


able to render real time a non-disturbing version of a human talking and interpreting an existing face real time without gluing dozens of tiny dots all over the face.

Like this?
posted by mayonnaises at 9:58 AM on April 5, 2016


Interactive erotic software. The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!

A technology isn't an actual social phenomenon until people are making porn with it.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 9:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


A couple years ago I Asked Mefi about breaking into game development. Today I can say that a game I made with a hugely talented team is a Vive launch title! Life is weird. Viva leBlu!
posted by GilloD at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2016 [34 favorites]


I'm going to withhold judgement until the technology is a lot less virtual and a lot more reality.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Is the Oculus Rift Designed to be Sexist?

The new revolution in VR games is exciting, but not so much if it takes the discrimination woman face in gaming from the social to the physical realm."


Super interesting article, very interesting findings in the paper, but I found the headline a bit sensationalist. And that paper is SERIOUSLY old (2000), shading cues that were possible in realtime in 2000 are massively different than what we can provide now on modern hardware the paper makes assumptions that same cues are impossible to do, that are totally doable now. It would be interesting to redo the study using modern hardware/techniques and also "ideal" images to try to determine what are the cues that are more important ('depth from shading' is only vaguely described).

Vive & Oculus can address some of the parallax and stereo issues, and do research to provide guidance for the shading, but it is actually up to the developers producing software/assets for the headsets to do it right.

My personal experience on those (I'm a very sea sickness prone diver), the first Oculus didn't work for me at all, but I found the Vive very comfortable for the time I used it (30min).
posted by coust at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


It is just really hard to know what tech will grab the world. No one would have guessed in the 80's how pervasive email addresses and smart phones would become. But the big future tech that everyone predicted is something almost everyone with a smartphone has available. Now honestly when was the last time you had a video chat?

Will the the sudden commercial availability of functional VR headsets find a killer app?
posted by sammyo at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2016


I'm actually a bit surprised that augmented reality (a la Vernor Vinge or David Brin) hasn't caught on, at least among very techy, universal wifi places like the Bay Area. Who doesn't want to draw virtual mustaches on everyone around them? Basically the shenanigans people get up to with snapchat filters but everywhere and persistent.

Also re: Neal Stephenson I bet he is excited but his VR swordfighting game went bust.

Happyroach's link about depth perception and sex hormones is fascinating, I wonder if anyone could convince the USAF to pony up the cash for research, one assumes they'd have an interest in VR sim training for all sexes.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2016


Is the Oculus Rift Designed to be Sexist?

The new revolution in VR games is exciting, but not so much if it takes the discrimination woman face in gaming from the social to the physical realm.


That headline is disingenuous. The thesis is that there are biological differences driven by hormone levels that might cause women to be more sensitive to VR related nausea than men.

So no, the Oculus Rift isn't designed to be Sexist. Assuming it's true, it just means that BIOLOGY is sexist and we already knew that.
posted by VTX at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Neal Stephenson is the chief futurist for Magic Leap, a shadowy organization with over a billion dollars in venture capital from the likes of Google. I imagine he is having a good time.
posted by TemporaryTurtle at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


A friend brought a Gear VR to my birthday this year and I was way more impressed than I thought I would be. I can't wait until the higher end devices become more affordable. Besides the video card (I have a GTX 960), I'm all set with the computer r/buildapc and pcpartpicker.com helped me build last year, but paying over $1k for the card and the device itself is a tough sell. I hope there are enough early adopters for the technology to take off. Maybe if VR porn becomes popular....
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2016


Hey folks,

Now that movie licenses are really expensive, Facebook reformed their notifications policy, and the App Store is overstuffed with content, we'd really appreciate it if you all just went with us on this and gave us all your money.

Thx,
The Game Industry
posted by GameDesignerBen at 10:09 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


A technology isn't an actual social phenomenon until people are making porn with it.

I'm not going to include any links for obvious reason but people are doing this and have been for a little while. A little google searching should show you more than you ever wanted to see, it's not hard to find.

I think you'd have a hard time trying to figure out who is more excited about VR, the Porn industry or Game developers.
posted by VTX at 10:15 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I work on Altspace (one of the apps listed above) so I have tried many existing VR demos and games. Right now my money is on VR being a big thing for gaming immediately, and a small thing for everyone else.

A subset of the games are genuinely really fun in ways that VR enables -- mostly cockpit games and rhythm games (e.g. Audioshield is about as fun as DDR and requires no clunky pads; there's a PSVR rhythm game that's like a gaze-tracked Osu clone which is also fun, whose name I forgot, and a PSVR Rez sequel (!))

A lot of the rest of the stuff is fun for the novelty factor, but I don't think the hardware is quite good enough that people are going to want to just do everyday stuff in VR, like watch movies. Not sure about porn. (Using a VR HMD as a computer monitor is another obvious application that doesn't work well, because the current resolution isn't high enough to provide sufficient readable screen space.) Wait 1 hardware generation and we'll be there, and maybe it will get cheaper too.
posted by value of information at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm excited about the eventual maturation of VR, not because I game or do much with graphics, but because I still carry the scars of someone who lugged a 17" CRT monitor over many, many apartments, and through many, many states, in my college years.

My life would've been soooo much easier just hauling around a small headset.
posted by eclectist at 10:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and another interesting thing that the post didn't touch on is the co-evolution of VR/AR and interesting new input hardware. Leap Motion makes a hand-tracking system that is improving very rapidly and does a pretty accurate job of tracking the exact position of your hands and fingers (using a camera rather than having you wear anything on your hand.) Noiton makes the Perception Neuron, a consumer motion capture thingy that does full-body tracking, although it's still moderately janky. There are a bunch of other people working on variations of this stuff. It's possible that there will be a lot of cool applications of this outside VR if it gets really good.
posted by value of information at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Neal Stephenson is the chief futurist for Magic Leap, a shadowy organization with over a billion dollars in venture capital from the likes of Google. I imagine he is having a good time.

Considering the last time he was involved with spending other people's money on a tech project, I've got zero expectations for this.
posted by thecjm at 10:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Those IR motion trackers on the Vive look amazing. Hey, there's a way to get your daily workout, play an hour worth of TF2 with the Vive.
posted by bonehead at 10:27 AM on April 5, 2016


My hypothesis is that people are more likely to feel nauseous in situations where their avatar (the character or thing that represents them in the game and who's eyes they see out of) is moving vs. ones where the avatar is stationary inside something else that isn't. [...] I think the next step would be where the avatar doesn't move at all and can only look around. So I guess something like sitting in a theater, watching a movie.

yes, for now, until these dedicated rooms/spaces get affordable and are more or less built into every new house etc, and thus we can sort of grow into the experience.
posted by philip-random at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2016


Writing a New Language of Storytelling with Virtual Reality - "Chris Milk calls virtual reality the 'ultimate empathy machine'... Milk describes the ways virtual reality production veers from the traditional techniques of filmmaking, and why the results can transport people to places and feelings that we've never experienced — except in the real world."*

-Gender Swap
-Embodied Empathy
-These Tricks Make Virtual Reality Feel Real
-Oculus Rift, Empathy, and The Fate of Civilization
-Where every moment is not just shareable, but experienceable
-Could Virtual Reality Make Us Better People?
-Virtual Reality is real virtual empathy
-Virtual Reality, The Empathy Machine
-Guillotine Simulator
-Touch: VR Input
-VHIL News

Virtual reality: the opiate for the masses? - "Mark Zuckerberg has been singing the praises of the burgeoning technology. But will it make our lives better, or turn us into mindless drones?"*

Apple hires leading virtual reality researcher - "Doug Bowman recently joined Apple after going on sabbatical from his post as computer science professor at Virginia Tech... His experience spans both fully immersive VR, as used in Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive headsets, as well as augmented reality, where transparent visors such as Microsoft’s Hololens, Google Glass and secretive start-up Magic Leap mingle digital images with the real world still visible."*

Optical Properties of Current VR HMDs - "With the first commercial version of the Oculus Rift (Rift CV1) now trickling out of warehouses, and Rift DK2, HTC Vive DK1, and Vive Pre already being in developers’ hands, it’s time for a more detailed comparison between these head-mounted displays (HMDs). In this article, I will look at these HMDs’ lenses and optics in the most objective way I can, using a calibrated fish-eye camera (see Figures 1, 2, and 3)."*

Perhaps Smith is correct, and virtual-reality boardrooms will replace real ones in the future. His company isn’t alone in seeing possibilities. But then, you hear similar rhetoric whenever Silicon Valley invests in a new technology that promises to change the way we work and live. (Tablets! Google Glass! The Internet of Things!) Often, what we actually get is a solution in need of a problem, even as organizations feel compelled to adopt it in order to stay relevant.

The Long View - "Range of adaptation refers to how comprehensively economic activity must be reorganized before positive impacts on output and productivity growth materialize... Thus, the steam engine had an immediate positive impact... because... its application... did not require widespread reorganization of economic activity elsewhere... In contrast, electricity and the internal combustion engine required much more widespread adaptations before their positive impact on productivity could be felt."*
posted by kliuless at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Seriously, I'm guessing Neal Stephenson is pretty excited to be alive right now.

What's Jaron Lanier up to these days?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hey, there's a way to get your daily workout, play an hour worth of TF2 with the Vive.

The Giant Bomb stream had a few minutes of Jeff Gerstmann squeezing sweat out of the foam inserts on the googles after a couple of hours of moderately active play (under studio lights). They speculate that they could get pretty funky over time.
posted by figurant at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2016


Yeah, hockey bag bad, given that they're made with synthetics.

New dirty job: VR gear disinfector.
posted by bonehead at 10:38 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


...someone who lugged a 17" CRT monitor over many, many apartments, and through many, many states...

Back in MY day, I worked at Best Buy selling computers. Which meant putting away all the product on truck nights.

At the time, we didn't yet sell LCD monitors so the best that could be had was a flat-tube. It still used a big glass vacuum tube but the front (and therefor the image on it) was flat. It took more glass to get it that way so they weight more than the same size "round-tube" monitor.

The trick was to start with the 19" flat-tubes, then 19" round-tubes, 17" flat-tubes, etc. By the time I got down to the cheap little 15" round tube monitors, I was literally throwing them up to the guy on the platform/ladder to put into "top stock".

Around Christmas time, we got a 21" flat-tube monitor and some genius thought it would be a good idea to put it on the very top of a stack of 19"s. And of course I got the customer that made the special trip out to my store because we had the only 21" monitor in existence or something and he had to have it right now. I ended up having to get the extra tall ladder (really they were stairs) which had a much smaller platform and was less stable. Even then, I had to stand on the top railing. We'd think nothing of hopping up on the lower railing since you could still brace your legs against the top of the rail and be plenty stable. I was pretty comfortable crawling around on the things and pretty regularly felt totally safe and in control doing stuff that other thought looked really dangerous but that was pretty scary.

The shift to LCD has pretty well solved that problem for current retail employees so dealing with CRTs is already my personal version of "walking to school, uphill, both ways."
posted by VTX at 10:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


haven't read the full thread yet (or really begun to pick through all the links) but has there been much discussion of not so much the creation of simulated realities (ie: gaming, movies etc) as teleported ones. IE: fix a VR recorder/camera to a drone and let me fly it around the peak of Mt. Everest from the comfort of my Lazy Boy.

This is where I see a lot of this going. Not so much inward as out ...
posted by philip-random at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hey, there's a way to get your daily workout, play an hour worth of TF2 with the Vive.

On the flip-side, now physical ability can make you better at video games so now the jocks will be better at video games than the nerds. :(
posted by VTX at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


START OF MESSAGE
VR LAND INITIAL REPORT STOP
MOVING YOUR HEAD IS WAY MORE WORK THAN MOVING YOUR EYES STOP
THIS IS PRETTY COOL THOUGH END OF MESSAGE
posted by ethansr at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2016


I think the killer app for this might be getting really high and floating through space, or at least playing some kind of reboot of Wipeout.
posted by Damienmce at 10:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


So in the early 90s I was all into VR and was super excited to finally experience it when a local mega-arcade got a Virtuality setup. What a letdown. I honestly didn't mind the flat-shaded polygons and low framerate. What let me down was the fact that it just looked like a screen floating in front of my face. Looking up specs it looks like the Virtuality had a 60 degree FOV. The 100 degree FOV touted for Oculus and Vive is indeed larger but if it doesn't fill my entire field of view, it's just another screen floating in front of my face that happens to look larger. I wonder when they'll manage 180 degrees.
posted by zsazsa at 10:52 AM on April 5, 2016


My favorite Giant Bob bit in recent memory, from last week's Oculus stream.
posted by kmz at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2016


I wonder when they'll manage 180 degrees.

Probably eye tracking is a prerequisite for this, because the way that people know how to get acceptable graphics performance on such a large high-resolution screen is to only render in detail the part your eye is looking at, and leave the rest in less detail. Progress is happening.
posted by value of information at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nausea remains a real problem. A gaming journo friend said of the latest round of VR that it was like being on a roller coaster - great fun, but you should only do it in short bursts.

I've had a lot of experience of VR over the years, and I remain unconvinced that it'll be yuge this time around. It does keep getting better, but the things it hasn't fixed yet are:

1. You have to bolt a big thing to your head that blinds you to the outside world. It's not a good look and has a lot of practical drawbacks. Good luck answering the phone and, as Bruce Sterling said the last time around, you can walk up to and kill someone who's in VR, with a sharp stick.

2. Controlling stuff in VR is a lot further from RL than the visual experience.

3. Good gaming is already VR; you're immersed, you're involved, you're not aware of the outside world until you choose to or have to be (on which transition, see 1 above).

4. The industry is absolutely gagging to have a new big thing. The hype is overwhelming, and experience counsels caution.

Immersive VR can work well - you can get type-qualified on an aircraft using VR, and the first time you take the controls of the real thing is with hundreds of lives at stake. But so far, it has only worked where you don't bolt stuff to your head and you don't have cartoon claws for hands.
posted by Devonian at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


You have to bolt a big thing to your head that blinds you to the outside world.

I'd think that with the availability of tiny high quality cameras for phones integrating one into the headset would be a nobrainer, add an easy to use toggle to insert a "heads up display of the room you're actually in" perhaps in a tiny insert. Hear the door open and instead of pause, remove headset, blink at bright lights one could do a quick check that it's your buddy and not an annoying relative :-)
posted by sammyo at 11:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Re: seeing the world around you, via the Ars review of the Vive:

"The Vive headset’s front-facing camera can also save you the trouble of taking off the headset in many situations. Double-tapping the Steam button at any time brings up a special view that shows your surroundings as a trippy set of squiggly blue edges. This is useful if you need to untangle the Vive’s quickly twisting cable or move the cat out of the way (I assume). If you need a more detailed view, you can get a full-color view of the room on a small viewscreen that hovers by your hand as well."
posted by Tevin at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2016


How many frames per second does reality have? Because that's the system I'd like to use.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand is Facebook bought Oculus Rift, so where the hell is Facebook VR, where you can interact with your friends in virtual reality? Let's start putting these picture-to-3D body and lip-synching technologies to use! They're leaving money on the table by not enticing non-gamer facebook users.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2016


Four days ago Google dropped Google Cardboard Plastic

THE FUTURE IS CLEAR
BEYOND VIRTUAL REALITY. ACTUAL REALITY


Technology that’s as powerful as you are. But not any more powerful than that.
posted by otherchaz at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is this something I need a 3D TV to understand? I kid, and wow, I never realized Hololense had such a field of view shortcoming.
posted by furtive at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2016


One of my former student's grandparents know Luckey's grandparents or something, and they were sent one of the first dev kits, which was given to the student, but his parents didn't know how to set it up, so it came to school as his 'share', haha.

I've run everything from Minecraft to ocean rift to Chicken Walk to Solar System Explorer with my class, and I have to say, the educational potential here is just astounding. None of the objections about thing on head, feeling stupid, or dizziness apply to any of the students I've tried it with. They're totally comfortable moving around in virtual space with a controller.

I get that there's tons of hype, and if you've tried it and don't see it, cool, but if you haven't tried one of the new systems, you really should. For me as a teacher, the first Oculus dev kit totally lives up to the hype... maybe not the future of gaming hype, but as an experience.
posted by Huck500 at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


This current generation will not be massively popular. Media will crow a little bit about how it isn't A Thing and then the second generation is going to hit and be compatible with hardware that is too expensive for everybody to enjoy now but will be affordable a little later, and this is all going to explode.

I think it is going to explode because I think the killer app is going to be anything that allows people to interact however they want in shared spaces. Minecraft, with people building right beside you. Facebook chat where you are talking to someone in VR while sitting next to each other looking over the Grand Canyon. Playing board games with dad face to face while a thousand miles away. It's going to explode because there will be far less friction getting people involved. Using the Minecraft (or similar) example again: imagine how easy it would be to get people excited about a crafting game if you don't have to teach them controls? If you only have to say, "hey can you hand me that block? Now put it here." Twenty minutes later you've built a castle together and nobody had to read a wiki to figure out how to do.

When real and virtual spaces start to bleed together and hopping between them is easy as putting on a hat people are going to fall all over themselves to have it.
posted by Tevin at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


How many frames per second does reality have?

We do have a frame rate. It's however long it takes for your nervous system to filter-decode-register an impression. That thing you just saw-felt-heard -- it happened a brief moment before you saw-felt-heard it. And so on.

I'm pretty sure this is one of the things that psychedelic drugs do -- they increase our frame rate, get us closer to the actual reality of an event. Likewise, alcohol slows us down some.
posted by philip-random at 11:59 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've run everything from Minecraft to ocean rift to Chicken Walk to Solar System Explorer with my class, and I have to say, the educational potential here is just astounding. None of the objections about thing on head, feeling stupid, or dizziness apply to any of the students I've tried it with. They're totally comfortable moving around in virtual space with a controller.
[about the $3 million fined from Mr. Burns]
Lisa Simpson: Oh, what a boon it could be for our underfunded public schools.
[in Lisa's fantasy]
Miss Hoover: Children, it's time for your history lesson. Put on your virtual reality helmets.
[the children do]
Genghis Khan: Hmm, excellent... hello, Lisa! I'm Genghis Khan! You'll go where I go, defile what I defile, eat who I eat!
via: The Simpsons: Marge vs. the Monorail
posted by Fizz at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've played with a Vive and a few of the Oculus development kits along the way. They have tremendous promise but delivering on it is still going to be a few years away. Up until the last demos I played with last month, I'd say everything felt very beta. Games and environments had shallow plots and stories. You didn't move much in terms of space (both because of physical constraints as well as motion sickness problems), so there's only so much you can do standing in place. Every game or app did basically one thing well and that was it. Nothing had yet combined 2 or 3 compelling things. The most time I spent in any one game/app was maybe 5 minutes. They also require a pretty powerful PC that not a lot of people have lying around.

There were a few "wow!" moments though that made it clear this was really something else and made all the drawbacks worth it. That new Valve video gets to the heart of the best moments from my first experiences with VR, but I still think the high barrier to entry being a ~$2k PC plus ~$500 worth of VR gear plus apps is going to keep it out of the mainstream for now, but maybe in a couple years things might be more accessible.

Actually, I love the Galaxy Gear VR because it only requires a phone plugged into it and you don't have to have that giant set of cable dreadlocks coming off your head display that leads to a PC, so maybe Samsung will be the short term winner for simple VR that any Galaxy user can use.
posted by mathowie at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


^ can't read all the comments during lunch but I by some contingent accident happen to have 5 years of experience in the VR industry . . . From back in the 90s natch

I've expressed my general pessimism on Reddit VR threads a lot -- the problems we had with VR in the 90s was mainly with the HMD -- head-mounted display.

Just the name alone warns what's wrong with VR at the basic level.

Anyhoo I caught the VR bug the first time ca 1989, fun seeing the next generation getting it again
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:09 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm really hopeful for the PS VR version (because I have 0 pc gaming setup, so it's my one real option). I currently have a Yay3d plus a hands freei headgear holder that Ms. nobeagle awesomely got me for solstice this year. (It's plastic google cardboard for a nexus 7) So pretty much anything is going to be lighter and a more optimal setup than what I have.

Even though it's not a consumer friendly product, I really like this for movies, or even TV shows if I'm watching alone. I use Cardboard Theater for viewing because it perfectly handles cifs streams via intents so it's easy peasy to get access to media on my servers. I like seeing the giant screen up in front, and just really how much more immersive it is to have the large apparent screen.

Yes, there's definitely screen door effect. Heck, ignore the screen door; if I don't force myself to ignore it I can see the rgb pattern of the pixels. So in a lot of ways it's a downgrade for viewing fidelity. I still feel it to be a lot more satisfying.

With all of that said, I think that I end up using it only 1-2 times per month. Part of it is that the hands free yay3d is ... unoptimal. It's heavy; the comfort is lacking (hard, 3d printed plastic; no foam) and it takes about 30+ seconds to get the tablet in the holder; connect charging cord (drains battery about 35% per hour otherwise) and headphones, get on head, and adjust for least amount of discomfort. Pausing, getting out of this, answering that 10 second question from one of the kids, and then getting setup again is beyond annoying. Meaning I need to make it a "thing" to set aside time when I'm unlikely to be bothered by the kids. And truth be told, most of the time is getting spent with Ms. nobeagle.

Having something consumer ready, that takes less than 10 seconds to get situated would definitely change the equation in my likely to use mental setup.

Having seen the audioshield videos, I really want something similar for the ps vr. Additionally, crossy road was pretty fun on the yay3d, but having to tap the screen that's attached to my head, vs. using a controller would be a total game changer. And granted, crossy road 3d probably allows game controller input; I just don't have one with my tablet (but do have six-axis , so technically I do, I just haven't set it up since my last rom reinstall.

But given how much I like the 3d VR cinema experience (bonus: no fake-butter popcorn!) despite all of the current negatives (hard plastic, screen door, pixels, lag, judder and low framerate just for start), that makes me excited for PS VR. Even something marginally better would make a superb experience. Add in that the controller, or wands will make gaming something practical, and I'm surprised that I haven't already pre-ordered the bundle, instead of hoping to get it for slightly cheaper in Dec, or a black friday sale of some sort. Stupid weak Canadian dollar.
posted by nobeagle at 12:14 PM on April 5, 2016


The fact that Ready Player One is probably the best-case future for VR isn't super reassuring.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:27 PM on April 5, 2016


The fact that Ready Player One is probably the best-case future for VR isn't super reassuring.

More like Tad Williams Otherland.
posted by Fizz at 12:36 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nausea is a really strange thing. I tried a HTC Vive set for maybe two minutes two weeks ago. It was great! The only negative thing I can say about it is that I felt a bit woozy for the rest of the day, but it was quite minor really.

However, ever since even thinking about VR I feel a bit sick in the stomach. It is as if my body revolts even at the name of the thing that tried to poison me. I don't think I'm going to buy a VR headset anytime soon.
posted by ikalliom at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nausea remains a real problem. A gaming journo friend said of the latest round of VR that it was like being on a roller coaster - great fun, but you should only do it in short bursts.

This seems to vary wildly from person to person. I've yet to experience it really at all with the oculus DK1/2 or cardboard. I have friends who were definitely nauseous from it, but it didn't seem to really follow the gender split mentioned above? It's been a holiday/family even "lets pull it out and give everyone a turn!" toy more than once and while a few people were like "wow that's disorienting i need to sit down for a while" no one was super nauseous. I definitely wouldn't describe it like they did, but that's just me.

This current generation will not be massively popular. Media will crow a little bit about how it isn't A Thing and then the second generation is going to hit and be compatible with hardware that is too expensive for everybody to enjoy now but will be affordable a little later, and this is all going to explode.


The amount of power you need for Good VR is greatly overstated. I have a system that could handle it pretty smoothly and it cost me about $600. It isn't off the shelf, and it took me a couple months of hunting deals online to build... but it was fairly easy. You don't need this years fastest CPU, and last years higher end GPU is enough(i have a 2500k and a radeon 290x)

Is that still, with the headset, a lot more than the console setup like sonys? A bit, but those are pushing $800.

The most expensive part of this is the VR unit itself. As soon as the VR equivalent of those $300 27in 1440p korean monitors come out(which will be the slightly defective screens from sony, HTC, or oculus units in the cheapest possible plastic box) every "ZOMG PCMASTERRACE" shitposter on reddit will buy one. They wont be able to keep them in stock on ebay.

I give this maybe 6 months from the oculus launch to be a Big Thing among internet and gaming nerds. I think next years models will be the Cheap Enough ones everyone buys.

When it's like, $1000 for a PC and the headset this will explode. People spend way way more than that on a TV and game console.

I'm really not some huge VR fluffer either. I just think that these things are begging for a knockoff that gets you 90% of the way there for half the price. There's nothing in these headsets that is some super expensive unobtanium. It's one(or a couple) smartphone(or smartphone pixel density and technology) displays and some sensors/cameras that are also from the smartphone parts bin.

I was saying all the same stuff when 1440p monitors were a bajillion dollars. Now you can buy one for like $250 on sale, and the main thing was that they hit almost that price point in less than a year.

The real trick is gonna be, do the software packages/APIs for valve or oculus start trying to block the "fakes"? I get the distinct feeling that we're about to see some nvidia API sort of shenanigans here where certain games only work right with one brand of headset, etc.
posted by emptythought at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2016


why on earth do you think you can sell something even more isolating from the world around you?

Because that sounds awesome?
posted by Dalby at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


You know what? I don't think we need to cross the uncanny-valley before this gets used in a business setting. We can have cartoony looking characters and that will be just fine with me. I'm a home based employee so just about every meeting I have is a conference call.

I would give several limbs just for the ability to see those little visual cues that someone has something to say so that we don't end up talking over eachother for the whole meeting. It would be super easy, our conferencing software (webex, which incorporates screen sharing) already shows me who is talking automatically so it would be a small matter of adding an avatar that moves or something when the person it represents starts talking. I just need some easy, natural, visual que as a person starts talking would make things so much easier for me.
posted by VTX at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


In a few years when it's even better and cheaper I would love to run a VR DMT simulator while on DMT.
posted by juiceCake at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spend a lot of time staring at and changing words on a screen. There's only one bit of gear that I really want, and that's something that can float the words over the world, ideally while I'm walking. And without getting the words in the way of the important parts of reality, like sunlight and eye contact and things that might hit me in the face.

VR will make some games fun in new ways, and probably the highest end will be very useful for remote surgeons etc. But the potential (non-distopian) impact of eye-buckets seems small compared to the potential impact of such AR tech. I wonder how many generations out it is.

(Great point by value of information that the input side is really important too, and VR and AR can share input hardware.)
posted by joeyh at 2:31 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've had a Rift DK2 for a while and should be getting my CV1 soon, and have spent a little time with someone else's CV1. Its pretty great.

That said, so far I prefer "seated VR". In particular, Elite Dangerous is amazing in VR, especially if you have a flightstick and throttle. At that point its a pretty great "flying a spaceship" simulator.

The main problem with "room scale" VR for me is space, I don't have anywhere in my house set up to both accommodate the space and my PC. Plus my experience from Wii and Kinect is that eventually I get sick of having to move around to play games (its not _enough_ movement to be real exercise, but enough to make it less relaxing to play).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


joeyh -- thats what Microsoft's HoloLens is all about (augmented reality). They have dev kits shipping now, so I suspect we could see a full consumer version in 5 years at most, possibly quite a bit less.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:34 PM on April 5, 2016


Interactive erotic software. The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!

Yesterday someone dropped a great "Are you surprised at my tears, sir?" over in the Teaching Men to be Emotionally Honest post.

If this is some kind of a developing trend, I fully support it.
posted by Team of Scientists at 2:38 PM on April 5, 2016


Yeah, the next few generations of Augmented Reality are what really excite me, because the Holo Lens, for all its limitations, is already much closer to a Dennou Coil-style reality than I would have expected. It's a little exciting and a little scary.

Also, seriously... Dennou Coil did an absolutely amazing job exploring the implications of AR from the perspective of a group of kids who are basically the first generation to have grown up in it and treat it as part of reality. If you're interested in AR and haven't seen it, it's truly a must-watch, even if you don't generally watch anime. It helps that it's a gorgeous and tasteful anime, with a mixture of strong, non-sexualized male and female protagonists.
posted by gilrain at 2:42 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not convinced VR will become quite as big as some are predicting, but this time around, it's going to be hard for VR to fail. Computers in general are dramatically faster than back the 90's leading to a better experience, but more importantly, most people already carry a smartphone, they're already quite powerful, and most upgrade every few years.

The Gear VR proves it's possible on a high end smarphone today, so in 3 years time it'll be possible to have a reasonable VR experience using the hardware in a brand-new low-end phone.

The market doesn't explode when factories start stamping out knock off Oculus headsets for $250, it happens when they churning out $12.99 plastic Google Cardboard knockoffs at every BestBuy, Target, and Wallmart register, and everyone's phones are able to deliver a decent experience. This solves where the mass-market audience will come from.

Combine that with video games consolidating to a couple very popular engines (Unity3d, Unreal Engine, and CryEngine) where I'm sure adding some level of VR support to any game will become an easy feature to add via the respective engine app stores. This solves the problem of needing VR content.

That's both audience and content, which 3D TV always struggled with.

(Part of my theory involves all cell phones moving to USB-C and implementing DisplayPort mode so the smartphone becomes a dumb display hooked up to a laptop for the most demanding of games. I'm just dreaming about when USB-C takes over though.)
posted by fragmede at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2016


There's also different levels/areas of success. Look at gaming video cards. This is a relatively niche market with high prices, but one that still continues to improve.

"Gaming" VR like Rift/Vive will be one track, and continue to push the edge on tech and price (like the $1000 video cards).

There will probably be a mid-tier track that works with laptops and consoles (like PSVR, although probably it wont sustain its current high price point given its comparative weakness with Rift/Vive).

Then there will be the Cardboard/GearVR track that works with phones and is somewhere between free and cheap.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I recently bought a Samsung S7 Edge, and getting a Gear VR for it would be an entirely reasonable $99. I'm tempted, but nothing I've seen yet has risen beyond the level of tech demo. Not entirely sure I want this to be a $99 paperweight after the initial novelty wears off.
posted by naju at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2016


From what I understand nausea is not a problem with cockpit styles games.

I think the killer app is driver training for teens. What parent wouldn't pay to put their kids on a virtual representation of their neighborhood and nearby highway for an hour with simulated scenarios. Take my money.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:59 PM on April 5, 2016


I am doubtful that my kids will get to go to Europe as tourists, but I am excited that they will certainly get to walk it's streets and wander its museums (and maybe soar over the fields and swim the coasts) via VR.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:30 PM on April 5, 2016


Ctrl-F DOOM

Nothing?!? The Hell?
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 5:42 PM on April 5, 2016


Heck, I'm already wearing a pretty big, clunky set of headphones with a mic built in.
posted by VTX at 11:26 AM on April 5


Thank you for that. I just ordered a set online. My current 'phones/mic combo pretty much sucks. I'm looking forward to the upgrade.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:13 PM on April 5, 2016


Penny Arcade have been good on VR, mainly in Tycho's newsposts:

I was telling Brenna about [the Samsung Gear VR], specifically how it is an evolutionary fork from the stuff I have in the office, and then her brain started to spin inside her skull and create language. She feels, and not without reason, that these technologies are isolating and therefore inhuman in some way. She doesn’t think that a game where you strap yourself into a computer and pretend to work is funny. She thinks that is some cyberpunk bullshit and she wants to know how we can stop it before its too late.

But the form factor of the portable, the fact that it’s based on so universal a modern totem as a phone, and the fact that it requires no external processing and is not attached to a trunk of cables out of the back of your head cranked her the fuck up for some reason. I think it started to change when I talked about watching Netflix on it, on a “huge TV,” in some kind of chalet. She started talking about how such devices would allow us to occupy substantially smaller spaces while still satisfying our needs. Then we started talking about virtualizing real world objects like televisions and computers, where their meaning and utility was retained but they had no physical presence. Jesus Christ, it was hot.

posted by Sebmojo at 6:35 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


use vr to travel you say? how about to Mars ?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:10 PM on April 5, 2016


I worked at Second Life for a while.

I'm never buying hype like this again.
posted by gusandrews at 7:53 PM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Then we started talking about virtualizing real world objects like televisions and computers

this is an important line of thought, yes.

wealth at is root essence is the state of being well, of having your wants and needs met.

The goods and services that fulfill our wants and needs are also forms of wealth, as is the capability -- capital -- we employ and consume to be goods producers and service providers.

To really blow your mind, just make the leap that physical goods are ALSO service providers, they provide the service of meeting our needs and wants, giving us what the economists have defined as 'utility'.

Anyhoo, yes, so much of our daily life can in fact be sucked into a virtual world. We don't even need VR to demonstrate it, just look at what happened to the millions of WoW players over the past 10+ years.

Entertainment is a basic human need, along with food, shelter, and safety. Since the mid-1970s I've seen computers grow more and more capable of taking on this "job to be done" in the words of Horace Dediu.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:39 PM on April 5, 2016


I would give several limbs just for the ability to see those little visual cues that someone has something to say so that we don't end up talking over eachother for the whole meeting.

We have video conferencing and yet this still happens. There's just enough lag that the visual cues come too late to prevent one side from talking over the other.

Then there's one on one video conferencing, where you can either look at the screen and see how someone is reacting or look at the camera and simulate meaningful eye contact - but not both. (One of the things Firefly got very, very right was how during video conferencing people would stare at the screen and not at the camera.)

I would love it if VR could allow me to have calls with people like I was sitting in the room with them; it would make my work life so much easier! But the amount of data means lag will be a problem for a while to come.
posted by rednikki at 9:11 PM on April 5, 2016


"Ctrl-F DOOM

Nothing?!? The Hell?
"

Maybe on the Vive, but with ZeniMax suing Oculus for misappropriating trade secrets I doubt we'll see the new Doom on the Rift.
posted by Tenuki at 9:31 PM on April 5, 2016


I think it's wildly optimistic and also rather unrealistic to hope VR will improve/expand our empathy.

Its first adopters are the gaming and porn industries, which means sometime soon we'll already have the option of murdering and raping virtual people in lovingly crafted fully immersive 3D detail.

If there's something I worry could happen, one day, when the technology is good enough, it will be an Ender's Game scenario where we use people who think they're playing a game to actually kill real people. As technology advances, how are you supposed to tell simulated drone strikes on your game screen from real ones?

And then I worry that we won't even need to lie to them that it's a game.
posted by Cozybee at 9:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to Rez in VR.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:39 PM on April 5, 2016


"I'm looking forward to Rez in VR."

Too bad they have no plans to sell the suit.
posted by Tenuki at 10:12 PM on April 5, 2016


And the last VR headset I tried was a Viewmaster in 1974.
You'd be wanting Morton Heilig's Sensorama for a true 1960s VR experience. Back then it also featured "Aromas" (a choice of 10) and "Wind". More. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Oculus!
posted by rongorongo at 1:01 AM on April 6, 2016


Howard Reinhold's 1991 book "Virtual Reality" did a lot to kick start interest in the subject back at that time. To write it, he went on a global odyssey of big budget research labs and low budget garage inventors (like Heilig) - he spent time telling the people at each place he visited about the others he had come across - and thereby got many people together who were not previously aware of each other's work. Still an interesting book after all these years.
posted by rongorongo at 1:47 AM on April 6, 2016


She started talking about how such devices would allow us to occupy substantially smaller spaces while still satisfying our needs. Then we started talking about virtualizing real world objects like televisions and computers, where their meaning and utility was retained but they had no physical presence.

yeah that was a pretty good black mirror ep
posted by klangklangston at 3:07 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Another VR anecdote for the pile: I didn't get Seasonal Affective Disorder this year.

It seems that hanging around sunny, bright virtual environments has nudged my brain in a really quite primal and unexpected way. I almost didn’t notice I was doing it, but looking back over the past January where I’m usually ready to crawl into a hole and hibernate until spring, I was instead taking time out in artificial daylight. It’s both pleasantly surprising and slightly concerning in a self-medication kind of way.

The problem with explaining what I mean is that there's no way to put it without sounding random, such is the power of VR to give you utterly arbitrary experiences. As an example, just this weekend I spent forty-five minutes lazily watching an episode of QI on the BBC iPlayer, but instead of using a tablet or phone like a sane person, I watched it displayed on a gigantic floating screen, set upon a backdrop of a brilliantly lit sunset as seen from the roof of a Los Angeles skyscraper.

It’s pure artifice of course, It's not like it's convincing. It’s perfectly obviously still a screen in front of my eyes displaying a panoramic photo with some video superimposed on top. Apparently just the impression of a blue sky above, a horizon in my peripheral vision, is enough to fool my pineal gland into waking up and cranking out some melatonin.
posted by Eleven at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


As technology advances, how are you supposed to tell simulated drone strikes on your game screen from real ones?

I'm not going to lie. When it comes to VR, the idea of playing a space flight sim (a la Elite: Dangerous or Eve or whatever) that's akin to vocational training for an age I'll never see, well, that appeals to me.
posted by avalonian at 8:59 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


As technology advances, how are you supposed to tell simulated drone strikes on your game screen from real ones?

Be sure when playing any soft of bombing/team games to periodically give in to the urge to go berzerk with the friendly fire. Absolutely destroy your team, and then destroy the base. Smoking crater left from your largest weapons. This will ensure that you'll never be considered worthy of the transparent real life overlay missions.

More realistically, I suspect that because of human trolls, people randomly quitting a game because of real life concerns, etc coupled with there not being a shortage of people willing to intentionally bomb villages via knowingly piloting drones that there really won't be a need to use games for input from civilians for such missions. Sure, it might have been a neat plot point in Ender's game, but it wouldn't have worked outside of the dedicated military training already coupling the "games."

Imagine if at that very last level where upon seeing the hugely protected homeworld, coupled with the old flying hardware instead of diving for the goal Ender gets about half way, and then gives in to his parents' nagging him to go out to the park or take the trash out and turns the game off. Or heck, maybe he is that dedicated, but his parents physically turn off the game for him. Or there's a power failure in the civilian quarters and they don't have a sufficient power backup system as it's just a game. There's far too much to go wrong, for the little benefit of farming consumers instead of making use of willing military recruits.
posted by nobeagle at 9:41 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to lie. When it comes to VR, the idea of playing a space flight sim (a la Elite: Dangerous or Eve or whatever) that's akin to vocational training for an age I'll never see, well, that appeals to me.

Sadly, I'm seeing the future where the application process for FastFood requires one to put in 16-40 hours of (unpaid) testing via their work simulator. Upload your score instead of resume, complete training before you can play, all on your own time instead of the company dime.
posted by nobeagle at 9:44 AM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's capitalism for you: let's put all our energy and resources into literally adding a new layer of convolution to reality instead of actually focusing on living in reality and facing it, even when there's evidence all around we're still on the clock in that old reality and not doing a very good job. Update to the old (possibly apocryphal) Cree wise saying: when the last river is poisoned and the last forest cut down, maybe we'll finally understand you can't eat Bitcoins.

Social and bigger picture dimensions to this aside, though, the technology seems to be heading in some exciting directions at least. Valve's VR project sounds especially cool.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If there's something I worry could happen, one day, when the technology is good enough, it will be an Ender's Game scenario where we use people who think they're playing a game to actually kill real people. As technology advances, how are you supposed to tell simulated drone strikes on your game screen from real ones?

previously! :P

otoh...
-Vice Uses Virtual Reality to Immerse Viewers in News
-Project Syria (where you experience a bombing on a Syrian street)
-Using virtual reality to generate empathy and end homelessness
-Digital empathy: how 'Hunger in Los Angeles' broke my heart in a virtual world
-Autumn, the Oculus Rift experience tackling the post-traumatic stress of surviving rape
-"This is an article about walking a mile in a homosexual person's shoes."
-Strangers with Patrick Watson
It’s an experience filmed with a 360-degree 3D camera. It’s akin to the genre of Slow TV in the 2D world, video coverage that documents the minutia of everyday life over several hours. Strangers only lasts five minutes, but it lingers in the psyche for much longer.
-'conflicting realities'
posted by kliuless at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is Virtual Reality for Men Only?

A recent paper, for those who were complaining the tastier paper I chief was too old to be relevant.
posted by happyroach at 1:49 PM on April 6, 2016


The device they used is still 10 years old, which is always the problem with this sort of thing. Research takes time, and the tech is evolving crazy fast right now. Studies using current gen tech probably won't be out for 5 years or so, from what I've seen.

Its certainly worth studying/looking at, although looking at the differences reported in that paper its certainly not immediately clear if they are fixable or innate. At least they don't mention nausea like some of the others, although that is an area where you really can't compare old vs new tech. Even the DK1 vs CV1 Rift models are significantly different in that way (lower resolution and more lag on the older model made it more likely to induce nausea).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


The first thing I thought of when someone brought up the idea of watching movies in VR was that I could sit on the couch, with Mrs. VTX, we'd both have VR helmets on and could see and talk to each other in game along with whoever in the hell else we wanted to watch the movie with via the internet.

Or maybe it's that I don't really want to watch "The Vampire Diaries", Mrs. VTX does but she doesn't want to watch it alone. So she and her sister a few counties over could both pop on VR helmets and watch it together without having to wait to be in the same physical space.

I think that, just like any other internet enabled anything, some people will use it to connect, some will use it to isolate themselves.
posted by VTX at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some others I have not seen mentioned here:

castAR is different than all the others, as it has a dual projectors on the glasses, and uses retro-reflective material in your environment. So you would use it for game boards, monitor screens, etc. I tried a prototype at a Makerfaire a few years ago, tracking was great and in a dark room the image was very good.

The Meta 2 Development Kit is Augmented Reality like Hololens, shipping Q3 at 1/3 the price of Microsoft's headset. It uses a "pepper's ghost" display, which looks very similar to one by PhaseSpace.
posted by Sophont at 7:33 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


More realistically, I suspect that because of human trolls, people randomly quitting a game because of real life concerns, etc coupled with there not being a shortage of people willing to intentionally bomb villages via knowingly piloting drones that there really won't be a need to use games for input from civilians for such missions

I now sort of want to write a short story called Jenkins' Game in which the Earth is wiped out due to youthful hi-jinks from one of the kid VR pilots.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:01 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Virtual reality is amazing. In one of my classes last year, we had a graduate student come in to talk to us students on how she uses virtual reality in the classroom. It was so cool to see how it can not just be used for entertainment purposes, but for educational purposes as well
posted by gatorgirl4114 at 1:40 PM on April 11, 2016


CG VR Squarepusher "Stor Eiglass" music video has really bright dayglo colors and can be viewed using VRSE app, Youtube 360, or its own app. (Previously)
posted by larrybob at 3:31 PM on April 11, 2016


CG VR Squarepusher "Stor Eiglass" music video has really bright dayglo colors

My favorite part of this video is after this crazy day-glo spirit journey comes to an end, you find yourself (the body of you, the VR participant) naked and bloated in a chair, looking around at a depressing, dark hovel with a tiny CRT television in front of you, an empty box of pizza on the floor. You can spend as long as you want in that room, looking around at your grim surroundings. The creators don't seem to have a very optimistic view of the future of VR.
posted by naju at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2016


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