Hidden in plain sight between an art gallery and a gourmet cupcake shop, The Void’s virtual reality experience at Downtown Disney is one of the best VR experiences currently available to consumers. From the outside it’s a set of glass doors that open onto a small, crowded lobby with none of the style that Disney incorporates to lure people to enter. To the side of the door is a window display of monitors showing Stormtroopers and some Star Wars motifs, but nothing specific. The reflections on the glass make their presentation blend into the architecture. The crowd management in the lobby makes it look a shambles that rebuffs the casual passers-by. Realistically, this low key appearance serves their purpose because tickets are sold out for months in advance with none available at the venue. Continue reading “I tried The Void’s Star Wars VR experience”
Every year I look forward to October 1 because that’s the day I get to start with Halloween. The decorations, the music, the movies, and all the spoopy stuff – October 1 is when that begins. Some years we start planning ahead and other years, like this one, we’re sort of behind. I’ve only just started thinking about having friends over to play some horror in VR. Over the last year we’ve held a few gatherings that were PSVR-centric and those experiences have revealed certain titles are better for group play than others. Sadly, horror titles so far haven’t made the list of good group play. I have a friend who has specifically requested playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (RE7), but I don’t think that will happen in a group setting. Sure, it’ll be fun to watch him jump, but the game itself is mostly incompatible for showing many people a good time. I know that there’s been a long and sustained call for quality long-form VR, but there’s also a need for quality short-form too. Continue reading “I would like a good horror VR app for parties”
A couple of years ago I watched a proof-of-concept video on YouTube of “warehouse scale” virtual reality. It showed people walking through darkened, real world spaces wearing VR goggles over their eyes. Their goggles worked as high tech blindfolds, keeping them from seeing what was really around them but also showing them a virtual world that was synced to the physical space, thus preventing them from colliding with anything physical. That’s the premise of warehouse scale VR. Once actual implementation occurred, the gear the users tote includes hand tools and haptics and the physical space has props and atmospheric effects to round out the simulation. While many teams worked/still work on the manufacture of warehouse scale VR, The Void was the first to deliver in the US. They brought their setup to TED 2016 and delivered next level virtual reality to a wide audience. A year and a half later warehouse scale installations are beginning to appear across the country. Continue reading “The rise of warehouse scale virtual reality”
A few days ago I got a plush JobBot in the mail. It sits on my cubicle desk, looking at me with that screwed up expression on its face and delighting me. When I make eye contact with him my mind fills with thoughts about virtual reality. Today he has me thinking about the early days of new gaming systems. I got my start with an Atari 2600, followed by a ColecoVision, Commodore 64, and first gen Nintendo Entertainment System. I have fond memories of games on each system, from Pitfall and Adventure to Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. It seems like every console has those games that people play at launch and then later develop nostalgia for them. Job Simulator has already hit that spot for me, as well as a few others. Early in 2016, before any headsets were shipping to the public, there were titles that people working in VR discussed. They cranked up my desire to try VR and to try those titles in particular; as headsets started shipping I had a list of experiences that I sought to try. I did my best to get to them all. Here in the middle of 2017 some of the titles from a year ago already sound outdated. In the space of a year they’ve already developed an “early days” vibe akin to 8-bit graphics. I haven’t even had a chance to try all the titles on my list and I’ve started striking some because they’re too aged to interest me anymore. Nevertheless I think titles like AltspaceVR, INVASION!, theBlu, and The Brookhaven Experiment are destined for whatever future hall of fame is developed for virtual reality. Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, and The Climb are modern day classics. In ten years’ time I’ll be quipping that, “in my day all we had was Temple Run VR and we liked it.” I did like it. I still do. I’m enjoying these games, bonding with them. In twenty years’ time I’ll be running a Gear VR emulator to try and re-live these experiences under the goggles.
As tethered virtual reality headsets started shipping in early 2016 there was an eruption of content for them. One of the titles that stood out was Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs. It got big laughs, big reviews, and was used to showcase the whimsical side of virtual reality for those new to VR. It was one of the first experiences I bought and played once my PSVR was delivered. Even though the game only lasts a short while and has limited replayability I developed a fondness for the main character, JobBot. I strongly considered cosplaying as him (it?) at San Diego Comic-Con and was stopped only at the challenge of transporting the costume on the train along with my luggage. Back in March I pre-ordered a JobBot plush toy from iam8bit.com and it has just arrived. Continue reading “I love JobBot”
Even though I’m not connected to the world of high tech consumer electronics I enjoy following news of them. I follow tech news sites with my RSS feed, I listen to tech podcasts, and I follow a bunch of tech journalists on Google+. I’m equally not connected to the world of virtual reality, but I’m an even larger consumer of its news and podcasts. Between getting into tech and getting into VR I got excited about 360° photography. I spent time chasing a basic knowledge of its dos and don’ts, with the lessons learned being completely applicable to virtual reality. This stew of a hobby steers me into events and talks about how virtual reality and immersive settings gets made. It gives me appreciation for the work that goes into the things I enjoy, plus I also like knowing a few things about a few things. When I was at San Diego Comic-Con in July I attended as many panels about virtual reality as I could and I learned a few more things. Continue reading “Recap of virtual reality panels at San Diego Comic-Con 2017”
Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con. Like every year, the reviews are that it was a total blast and can’t wait to do it again. Also, the lines and line management were out of control. This year there’s a special addendum to those complaints: virtual reality lines take too long. I wasn’t an attendee before Hollywood took over the convention, but I was there to witness the before and after of the virtual reality invasion. I can honestly say that I can’t tell the difference; the lines for everything are lengthy. Further, virtual reality lines take a long time everywhere. I’ve tried VR arcades, VR expos, and VR in my living room and they all take awhile. The real question is were the waits in VR lines at San Diego Comic-Con worth it? It depends upon the attraction. Continue reading “Bring something to read if you’re lining up for VR at SDCC”
This year is my second year of attending San Diego Comic-Con as a “virtual reality blogger.” That title bestows no special privilege, though. In every measure I am just an average attendee only my schedule is slanted with a specific agenda: do all of the VR stuff at the con. I have given up on the big pop culture panels in order to maximize my virtual reality experiences. It worked out pretty well last year and I’m eager to try again. One of the things that I did last year was to post about the VR offerings at the con, updating the post as new info was learned. This post is where I do that all over again, as though I’ve started a blog tradition. Continue reading “Virtual reality at San Diego Comic-Con 2017 (updated 7/14)”
Palmer Luckey did the same for virtual reality as Apple did for mobile phones. He saw improvements in all of the necessary technologies and knew enough to assemble them in the right order and how to excite the public about his creation. He worked for years developing headset prototypes in his garage. When he had a winning model he founded Oculus VR LLC, demonstrated the prototype publicly, and then began a highly successful Kickstarter to fund production of the headsets. He became the face of virtual reality when he was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Within two years of founding Oculus he sold his company to Facebook for a mint and is now personally worth more than three-quarters of a billion dollars. He worked for Oculus, and thereby Facebook, until earlier this year, when he left as quietly as a VR giant can leave a company.
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”