Consumer VR: First Impressions
Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)
Astounded... awed... tired jaw from holding mouth open. Physically drained, emotionally charged and mainly just sitting there... still taking in what I had just seen... no... wrong word... experienced. As a longtime freelancer and extremely jaded on and off gamer I was still coming to terms with some of demos and cinematic experiences of VR. Long tired of first person shooters and time consuming puzzlers I was enthralled to be in a dungeon... albeit a cartoonish one... looking around corners, finding clues, and loving every minute of it. In fact, I was relishing it and took my time looking at everything that was... well... right there! Even after working on some indie VR projects I had never experienced VR in its present form. Never felt the immersive experience and never stood in a room with a life size character or shared immediate space with a larger than life monster.
All I can I say is... it was well worth the wait and then some. This first generation of consumer VR is amazing and in some ways following the tried and true method of going back to simpler apps, simpler graphics and simpler tasks whilst making us love it all the way. I'm still having a hard time believing I spent a good three minutes staring at a table full of candles, a skull and other things while lighting every candle and torch on the way as if on a mission. In fact, I think it was part of the mission but I digress. Things I would laugh at, ignore or dismiss outright in a monitor based game were instead examined in detail with either a big smile or as I mentioned earlier... my mouth slack jawed in outright awe. Not at the artistry so much... there is that... but the fact that you WANT to touch it and lose all sense of the real world room you are in or the direction you are facing in the real world. In fact, it can be so immersive that losing your balance or having a mishap can happen but all one has to do is remember to close your eyes (and don't try to lean on what's in front of you... it's not real) or pull up the headset and reality sets back in.
Psst... buddy... Want some VR Tech? Nobody else has this. It's good stuff man!
While underwater and reaching down to touch various flora and fauna (with the controllers) I saw the chaperone wall pop up so I gingerly reached out felt something soft! Raised my headset and saw that I was touching my couch... a few feet away from where I had started this experience. I couldn't help but laugh and just contemplate how interesting that couch was in a VR headset. While in the Apollo capsule I eagerly pressed up against the small window on my side of the tiny space capsule because you CAN see more the closer you get to the window! And then to turn and see your fellow astronauts next to you is startling. More important and I just realized this as I am writing... the Uncanny Valley never entered my mind. As an animator you KNOW I'm attuned to this and it never came up... never entered my consciousness as characters that, at worst I would describe as great wax figures belonging in a museum, sat within inches of me and there was nothing uncanny about it. I'm not saying others won't feel different...but I think VR just might help us climb out of the uncanny valley and hopefully never look back. One can always dream.
Just like our phones... we don't expect a lot at first but we want more and VR is no different. Yes... we're living a sci fi movie now. I want my VR Tech. I don't care if you are standing on a cyber street corner hawking it like cheap dope... I want it and I won't be the only one!
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.