Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Carlo's Take: Is VR any good?


With the announcement of Playstation VR getting sold out despite not being launched yet, as well as the large focus on the subject at E3, it's easy to see fans are excited to see what the advancement of technology in terms of virtual reality has in store for the video game industry.
However, it's just as easy to be a skeptic compared to being a supporter. Remember voice control? Siri and the Kinect weren't what we expected; it could barely recognise a verb let alone an entire sentence. On the subject of Kinect, that was also a key member of the motion control movement, and it let people down as well. It was difficult to even get excited for anything related to motion, but VR is the real deal.

To truly see if the case is the same with Virtual Reality, we have to look at it from a few angles. The first is the actual innovation it brings. While some could argue VR had been tried and failed at before with the Virtual Boy for the NES, technology has evolved a hundred-fold since then, and now it truly feels like you exist in another universe. The graphics are better, the motion-tracking more accurate, with the ability to look anywhere and have the game go with you further adding to the immersion. This had simply perfected what people had been trying to do for years, and 3D does not come close in terms of immersion entertainment. Its innovative in that no-one has experienced that yet, and innovative in the sense that it actually works.

Next aspect is accessibility. Here is where some of the more advanced VR hardware e.g the Vive caters to few where others, e.g the Oculus, PSVR and Samsung Gear cater to many. Essentially it comes down to two things when talking about accessibility: Space and money. The Vive requires a large room's worth of space, not to mention a nearly £700 (approx. $800) price tag and a great computer due to motion technology present. Naturally that limits that customer-base. Oculus Rifts cost £410, needing a good PC as well. PSVRs cost £350, requiring a PS4 and Gear VR only costs £70 with a Galaxy phone as a prerequisite. Already it provides more options than previous "innovations", namely gesture attachments like the Kinect, or motion controls like the Wii (Playstation Move did not have much support) to make sure that everybody can experience Virtual Reality technology.

Finally (and arguably the most important) side of VR is the experience itself. While I haven't tried out something like the Vive, I have used another VR device, the Gear. My experience, as small as it was, still served to show the possibilities available with something as simple as a phone and goggles. A 110 degree field of view made sure I was fully immersed in whatever I was doing, be it exploring a Jurassic Park, flying around in a VR game or diffusing a bomb. Where I looked, I was. It's not for extended use however, as after an hour I started getting headaches and feeling sick.

Overall, VR is something completely new to the public, and unlike previous attempts to introduce something new to gaming *cough* voice control *cough* motion control *cough*. It's not got much now, but the possibilities are endless - find a way to try one if you have any doubts.

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