I don’t understand what Microsoft is doing with virtual reality

The console wars are long and storied and skirmishes still occur. Last year the battlefront was virtual reality. Sony fired first by announcing their PSVR accessory for their PlayStation 4 and by delivering it during the 2016 holiday season. Without any real hype from the company fan demand was strong enough to keep the product out of stock for months. They’ve recently reported that in its first nine months on the market over one million units have been sold. It took them until earlier this year to get a handle on supply; expect a heavy marketing push later this year. Microsoft fired back with the announcement of the heir to their Xbox line, called Project Scorpio. It was rumored to be a high-spec performance beast that would be capable of powering HTC’s Vive VR goggles. Fans of both companies clashed online with barbs generally being about how PSVR was for suckers who’re too eager to part with their money/better to hold out for Scorpio versus I’d rather have something now than wait for vaporware. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last week Microsoft officially unveiled Project Scorpio, only they’re calling it Xbox One X. Sure enough it’s a high-spec console that’s quite capable of handling virtual reality due out this holiday season. Only Microsoft left the stage without discussing VR, leaving me with an unclear picture of their VR plans. Continue reading “I don’t understand what Microsoft is doing with virtual reality”

I’m thinking about buying a VR mask

One of the things I do when I’m bored is that I start thinking of all the things I want to buy. This is followed by a lengthy period of convincing myself that I truly need these things and that I need them immediately. A quick glance at my bank account and brief thought about why I’m trying to save money are the final process before this fool parts with his money. It’s a bad process, I admit it. Usually once I look at my bank account I realize why I haven’t bought yet. So here I am now, bored, thinking that I need a re-usable VR mask to use while I’m at San Diego Comic-Con. I went last year and tried all the VR experiences that I could. I plan to do the same this year only this year I plan to also consider hygiene. While I was at VRLA I saw some sample masks. Continue reading “I’m thinking about buying a VR mask”

I like some isolation in virtual reality

I’m not really a gamer. When I was a wee tot I got my first gaming console. I played it into the ground. Every couple of years I’d get the next gen console and do the same. Somewhere along the line I got my first home computer and I gamed on it until it was obsolete. Then rather abruptly, in my late teen years, I was done with video games. I didn’t know it at the time, though. It wasn’t a conscious choice. It’s taken years of hindsight to see the pattern and to stop identifying myself as a gamer. The entirety of my early video gaming life was done before the internet was a thing. When I needed an opponent it was a friend sitting next to me or it was the lying, cheating computer opponent. It wasn’t until my first MMO that I got used to playing with people I’ve never met. I remember joining a guild and they all spoke with microphones while I had to enter text through my keyboard. I didn’t last long with them. I wasn’t social enough to take it to the level of voice communication. I wasn’t gamer enough to take it to the level of voice communication. Continue reading “I like some isolation in virtual reality”

Wherein I gush about Farpoint

I was hesitant to buy Farpoint on its release last week. More precisely, I was hesitant to buy Farpoint and the Aim controller on their release last week. I’m okay to spend $50 on a game and I’m okay to spend $30 on a new controller, but when they come bundled together I feel like I’m spending $80 on a game. If the game sucked and I spent $80 on it then I’m going to have a hard time with that situation. Fortunately, upon buying the bundle, what I got was the exact opposite of suck; Farpoint is the best virtual reality experience I’ve had to date. Continue reading “Wherein I gush about Farpoint”

Choosing to spend on Samsung or Sony

My wife and I used to frequent San Diego Comic-Con but a couple of years ago she stopped coming with me. It went from being something we expensed from our shared accounts to one that I expense out of my own. The convention is a pricey affair and one of the impacts of paying for it from my personal funds is that I have less money to spend on virtual reality and other tech. Last month there was a new Gear 360 camera that I really desire. There was also a new Gear VR (which didn’t interest me) and a Gear VR controller (which did). This week is the Sony Aim Wireless VR Controller for PSVR. Those are the three goodies that have my attention. I made myself wait until all three were released and reviewed before deciding which one to get. Last night I visited Best Buy and made my purchase. Continue reading “Choosing to spend on Samsung or Sony”

YouTube needs a better VR presence

I routinely access YouTube on my phone and tablet and I Chromecast it to my TV. Less often, but still periodically, I pull on my VR goggles and watch YouTube in 360°. I do this with Gear VR, PSVR, and Cardboard headsets. Of those three YouTube is best viewed on Cardboard. Maybe I’m being naïve, since I know that Google owns both YouTube and Cardboard, but I really expect the better headsets to deliver the better experience. Continue reading “YouTube needs a better VR presence”

Exit Reality brings virtual reality to the people

As I first walked into the Exhibition Hall at last weekend’s VRLA Expo I scanned left to right to take in the sights. One of the first things that caught my eye was the shiny metal stepvan of Exit Reality. At first glance I wasn’t sure what these guys were all about so I approached them for a better look. Even up close I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing. They had the van with a line of people queued to enter it and they had a metal pod with a line of people queued to enter it as well. It was clear that both the van and the pod had Vive headsets, so I got why people were in line, but I didn’t really understand what Exit Reality was hawking. It was about an hour long wait in line until I was able to enter the van. My friend and I put the time to good use by getting to know the people of Exit Reality. Continue reading “Exit Reality brings virtual reality to the people”

VRLA Summer Expo 2017 recap

Los Angeles has quickly become a hot scene for virtual reality. We have a new IMAX virtual reality theater, the Upload LA virtual reality training and networking space, and the VRLA Expo. The Expo took place this past weekend and I was fortunate enough to attend on Saturday, making it my second time at the event. By comparing the 2016 gathering to the 2017 gathering it’s clear that the Los Angeles VR scene is getting hotter still. According to co-founder of VRLA, Cosmo Sharf, there were “over 170 exhibitors this year, filling out the single largest hall of the L.A. Convention Center.” For reference, the first meeting in 2014 had 150 overall attendees. Continue reading “VRLA Summer Expo 2017 recap”

Anticipation of VRLA

VRLA is about a week and a half away. It’s the biggest virtual reality expo in Los Angeles. It started a few years ago when a couple of college kids realized the lack of a coherent VR scene in town and set about creating one. It’s gone from 150 attendees in 2014 to 6000 last summer and I imagine it might double this year. I’m reading and hearing about people buying badges like it’s just a fun weekend thing to do and not because they’re gonzo about VR like I am. Next year I might have to bite the bullet and buy a pro pass just to deal with a smaller crowd in the exhibition hall. At this point VRLA has become a must attend for me. My experience last year was so good that I don’t want to miss one. I’ve been looking forward to it for so many months that my anticipation is becoming dramatic.

I’ve attended a few years’ worth of San Diego Comic-Cons. Last year’s VRLA was about a month after SDCC. I went into the Los Angeles Convention Center with the same mindset as I take to SDCC: I expected too long of lines, bumping through crowds, and overly packed rooms. I also allow myself to be an embarrassing fanboy at Comic-Con. VRLA is a bunch of industry professionals mixing with the general public. I don’t think most of the industry folks are recognized by the general public folks. I went into VRLA telling myself not to be a fanboy, but I slipped and geeked out on Cosmo Sharf (one of the founders of VRLA). He wasn’t prepared for that and it got awkward. This year I need to approach the expo with a bit more tact and a modified mindset. The expo isn’t overly crowded and bumpy. Yeah, there are lines in the exhibit hall and they can take a while because queues for VR experiences take a while. It’s not okay to become a goofy fanboy in front of Maureen Fan or Bryn Mooser or Kent Bye, even though I’m an appreciative fan of their works (CEO of Baobab Studios, co-founder of RYOT media company, and host of Voices of VR podcast, respectively). I’m attending enough local VR events that I’ll likely encounter these people again and shouldn’t carry the reputation as being “that guy”. Keep it together, Hembree.

My visit to IMAX VR Experience Centre

A couple of weeks ago the first virtual reality arcade in Los Angeles opened: the IMAX VR Experience Centre. I had planned to wait a month or so before visiting but enthusiasm got the better of me and I impulse bought tickets for Monday, February 20, 2017. Even though I’m pretty well experienced with virtual reality I hadn’t yet tried an arcade. Plus IMAX VR was offering things that I don’t have access to at home. I went in jittery with excited fanboy adrenaline. Continue reading “My visit to IMAX VR Experience Centre”