My First VR Experience
Virtual Reality is such a popular topic nowadays that so many people can’t help talking about it. Just by surfing the internet or tuning in on the regular public media like magazines, newspapers, watching TV or even listening to the radio, chances are, there is always something about or pertaining to Virtual Reality.
But VR as a technology is still in the early stages of commercial development or public use yet the potential it presents is huge, especially if you view it as more than a means to just play computer games.
There is a small catch or requirement however, for one to really know what VR is. You have to experience it yourself. The keyword is reality. Words and videos are not enough to describe VR, you have to be there in that reality as it is actually nothing at all like the pictures and videos you see in YouTube and other like sources. What is shown is only a fraction of what it really is.
The first time a VR headset was placed on my head was at a gaming convention I had to attend. Prior to that, I had already ingested a lot of information from videos seen and articles read. I was more curious than excited withstanding the fact that it was the HTC VIVE they where fastening to my face.
I took note of the room space provided and the two sensor towers positioned diagonally to each other enclosing the space. They where using a laptop to run the VR app which happened to be Job Simulator. Though you are provided a space to move around, you could still really feel the effect of the cables tethering the headset. The headset however was comfortable, it wasn’t heavy and it fit snugly on my face.
Once you have it on, that’s it. You will really feel being cut-off from your surroundings. Yes, you can still hear almost everything around you but it will sort of give you an impression of being in 2 distinct places at one time. All you see at the start is a blank white or start-up screen but when the app starts running, goodbye real world.
For those of you who still have not experienced VR at this high-end level (Oculus or VIVE), the experience is worth it. You will find yourself inside the reality, you’re perception of where you are will really be altered. The only thing that will only hinder a total complete immersion is the fact that you are not really there but in a room or booth as such was my case, with people watching how stupid you look and waiting for their turn to look stupid as well.
I chose the Auto-Mechanic Sleazy Garage cartridge and loaded it into the slot in front of me. At first it felt funny holding a couple of controllers (one for each hand) to act as your virtual hands and grabbing objects was an issue at the start, but then you get used to it. I was fumbling and doing my best not to drop things. If you drop them, you really have to stoop down to pick them up. Awesome!
The Sleazy Garage is just like what you see in the videos but even the 360 degree videos available today cannot really compare to the real thing. So, they sent in a car and you had to do your job as a mechanic. As a kid, I grew up watching cartoons be it Walt Disney or Looney Toons but I never ever knew what it was like to be literally inside the cartoons itself. That is what Job Simulator is, CartoonLand!
I was laughing out loud, pull that lever, push that button, open this, open that, slam it shut, grab that can and pour out it’s contents, grab those parts, toss them here and there and paint the car in the most outrageous colors that few would ever try to attempt in real life. It was crazy and amazing at the same time.
Knowing that I was in VR, I decided to check the limitations hehe… I started moving around. Once you reach the boundaries of the room sensors or what the app specifies, you will end up facing a blank wall. Your beautiful Virtual Reality that you are currently enjoying will disappear. Most apps will issue audible warnings or alerts so you’ll know you’re at the edge of infinity.
Next I tried to turn around. The wires tethering the headset got in the way so I couldn’t do a 360 degree. Nevertheless, this is what the videos on a computer or TV screen cannot fully actualize. The VIVE is the current high-end VR headset leader and it was really smooth. I didn’t notice any lag and as you look around, up, down, left, right and rotate, you are really there. It was really awesome, I was in CartoonLand Haha…
Also, my myopia has not been so good to me and even with glasses, when things get to a distance they really start to blur. They let me take off my spectacles and I was kind of worried of not seeing too well. Low and behold, I tried focusing on distant objects like the outside of the garage and everything was so clear! I’ve been cured! I can see! No blur!
Honestly, I didn’t want to stop, I was enjoying it so much but I could hear the people murmuring and snickering. Not that I’d mind if they thought I looked stupid but hey, it was time to pass it to the next person so he or she can also look stupid. I told the lady I had enough as they took the VIVE of me. Then wham!
The bright lights of the convention center hit me. I staggered as it sort of felt being hit by a heavy rubber sledge hammer, hit by a speeding car or falling off a BMX bike or something. It didn’t last really long but everything was really spinning.
I thanked the lady profusely as I walked groggily away barely noticing the next contestant and the lady wiping the VIVE with some disinfectant solution. I put my glasses back on, my myopia was back.
All I could really say was “awesome” as I wondered about the future possibilities of VR and went home with a smile on my face. Was my first VR experience worth it? Yes…definitely.