Archive for May 9th, 2018

YeeeEEEsss, Neo.

Wed ,09/05/2018

Well, it was bound to happen. I had my first VR experience last night – very, very cool.

A buddy of mine is a local software CEO, and invited me over to test out some VR setup(s) – yes, plural – they have at their office. After some scheduling snafus, I was finally able to get over there last night, and he did not disappoint.

quick note – for the YouTube video links below I included (so you can see what the games looked like in action) – you may want to turn down the volume considerably or skip around in them – the narrators for some reason in most of them are YELLING loudly (probably overexcited nerds) and it usually detracts from simply checking out the game – just a warning.

First up was Oculus Rift. He had me do an orientation video first, which was similar to being in Wade Watts‘ trailer, standing in front of a DAT recorder, and putting various disks into a 3D printer, assisted by a floating robot that looked mostly like Wall-E. So you can print a series of things (butterflies, etc.) and check them out, then eventually like so many of these simulations, you 3D print a gun and shoot Wall-E – the human race is doomed, basically.

Next up with the OR equipment, we did a version of The Matrix ‘bullet time’ scenario (akin to the rooftop battle by Neo and Trinity) – I think the game is called ‘Superhot‘, you can watch a bit of video as to what it looks like here.

This was very interesting – not sure I ever really got the hang of it, basically if you don’t move, the ‘bullet time’ doesn’t advance – so you can move your head around (advances *very* slowly) and get a sense of who’s about to shoot you, then start grabbing guns and shooting once you are oriented to the scenario (there were several, most similar to the movie scenes). The YT videos show players throwing stuff at the bad guys, but I could never seem to pull that off, the best I did was hit them (besides of course shooting them).

Next up was a Valve VR setup, a bit more advanced than the OR one. First we did a shooter called Raw Data (video example here). I was able to blast most of the robots, but it was a good thing I had shields because in the later scenarios, they start coming very fast, until you see the big “DEAD” floating in front of you. Also, I kept trying to actually lean on the virtual console in front of me to crouch and hide from the robot shooting – which doesn’t work (there’s nothing actually there in the real world, after all) so almost fell over a couple times – funny.

With that same equipment, then we looked at Google Earth – setting aside my usual privacy rant for another day, this was pretty cool otherwise. You can go to any major city on Earth and (effectively) virtually fly around like Superman and look at things from the air, streetside, etc. After a brief look at Hong Kong, we ‘flew’ to WA and looked at Fremont, then my own neighborhood, then went to the cone of Mt. Rainier and ‘skied’ off the top, the impression of which scared me a bit because the sensation of going right off the edge is pretty decent.

Clued in by my Rainier ski commentary, my buddy figured out I was scared of heights, so (of course) he wanted me to try Richie’s Walk the Plank Experience. So I tried to go in the elevator, but it took off upward before I was actually ‘in’ it, so the effect was of me shooting up the OUTSIDE of the building – yipes! Then, you are virtually at the top of a HUGE skyscraper, with a tiny board under your feet. I couldn’t do it at this point, had to take off the gear – too real for me!

We next tried ‘Augmented’ Reality with Microsoft HoloLens – ‘augmented’ means instead of being completely in the virtual world, you wear goggles that let you see what you are doing normally *and* you see additional stuff floating in the air. Think of (kinda) Minority Report, you can see a YT demo here.

This one, despite its obvious potential, didn’t really work that well for me. Ideally you make gestures at it (kinda like ‘pinching’ in the air in front of you – this is in lieu of the computer mouse) and you can manipulate stuff. But I just couldn’t get it to work for me, probably was doing it wrong or not holding my hand in the correct place for the sensor. So maybe next time on this one.

The final VR thing we tried was the Star Trek Bridge Crew game, on the Valve setup. This one is arguably the coolest of them, given the series connection, and apparently you can select from different ships/series, various missions, and different characters to play (captain, navigator, etc.) YT demo here.

At first I was in some sort of (very cool) shuttle flyby of an earlier movie era Enterprise-like big ship, much like the flyby in Star Trek:The Motion Picture (and nearly every other Star Trek series or show at one point or another) – I kept expecting the shuttle to take me into the landing bay but it then went right on by to circle around again.

So we logged into a game already in progress, I ended up as Engineer. There were three guys in a room, already discussing Star Trek stuff (seemed like they were talking about the merits and realism of the game – they didn’t really seem to notice me). Then the mission started, and I was Engineer on the bridge, to the right of the navigator station. Here, i was trying to route power to the warp/impulse engines, shields and phasers, but it wasn’t super intuitive on how to do it. I couldn’t really hear the ‘Captain’ saying anything (likely something weird about my login) and the helmsman/navigator guys kept arguing about some esoteric stuff that I didn’t really follow. I was able to get power to the warp drive, so we went to some asteriod belt where some Klingon attack had apparently happened, and we started cruising around the wreckage a bit.

The controller has some weird mode where you can see a perspective that is as if you are floating above and outside the ship – very cool (if surprising). I can see where this game would be VERY addictive if I had access to this type of VR hardware on a regular basis. My only gripe is that the way you use it is as if your head is floating on a crewman’s body, and in some camera perspectives it’s like you are floating on a disembodied marionette – but that could have also been because I was a newbie to all of it anyway.

In the end, VERY cool and interesting – it will be neat to try it again someday, hopefully soon – Thanks Jason!