It is rare for me to say that something reminds me of a TV show set in the future. Yet, I have to say just that after having experienced HTC’s HTC Vive for myself.
Virtual reality seemed to have taken forever to arrive in our homes. But, while this first generation product is not perfect, all‑in‑all, I can honestly say that VR is now nearly where it needs to be.
What makes virtual reality truly work is when it is fully immersive. Put differently, there must be nothing that can take you out of being in the zone of virtual reality. More on those imperfections in another section. For this series I am overcritical on purpose, so keep that in mind.
I have enjoyed things in virtual reality more than I thought I would. Standing on the edge of a mountain and peering over feels slightly dangerous. Your body does not want you to do it. That is virtual reality working excellently.
Or, throwing a stick and having a robot dog thing go after it and bring it back. This example works because the stick flies the way you think it will. It is not like a normal game, where you are never really sure how far you are throwing. Plus, robot dogs are really cute.
Initial impressions of the included motion controllers are great too. They are represented in the 3D world excellently, and can change visually to adapt to the games. That said, VR games can work with keyboard or mouse too, assuming you can type without looking of course. I plan to test out other peripherals too, such as my Leap motion controller, which does finger tracking.
Wile I am not yet able to get it to work yet, I want to try out my steering wheel for Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator. I was able to get the VR portion to work, and it is an all new experience to driving a truck. To put it another way, I cannot imagine a more real and immersive way to truck, save from the actual real thing.
Traditionally games are limited to certain camera views. Poking your head out of the truck window when backing up means you cannot see the front tire turning, because it is out of view. Which VR you have full degree of camera movement all the time, so you can quickly look at the wheel and then back to the back of the truck. The fact that everything is in 3D also helps with depth perception too.
The reason why virtual reality works is because the human brain cannot process both the real world and a virtual world this immersive at the same time. Consequently, the virtual world becomes the only world. This simple limitation of the human mind means we can experience everything we like in VR in the near future.
VR games can also create situations that do not make sense in other games. For example, I was playing with my robot dog and I threw the ball for him to fetch. At least I think it is a he, I do not know how to tell with robot. I accidentally wedged the ball under a shelf where he could not get at it. So I went over there, sat down and carefully reached my hand to grab it for him.
In a traditional game you could either reach it easily, or not at all. Either way, not excited in the slightest. But VR turned this into a whole different ball game. I did not have to reach carefully. It is virtual after all. But my mind went there, so my body did too. I felt like I was helping out the robot dog. If this had been a traditional game I would have been wrestling with the game mechanics most likely.
In another experience, I was standing around with other people, in a sort of talk show. One of the many things I noticed is that everyone was as tall as I am. I was walking around in a world where everybody is my height, finally! This sort of thing works great in VR, because it equalises differences that have no real function outside of the real world.
Virtual reality is great at making imperfections into something good. I could write so much more about how great VR is. You really need to experience it for yourself however. If you are on the fence between Oculus’ Oculus Rift or HTC’s HTC Vive, go with the latter option. As far as I am concerned, walking around in 3D is the way VR should be experienced. That said, it is not perfect yet, so keep reading the rest of this series.