We were lucky enough to get a hands-on preview of one of the most anticipated virtual reality headsets to be released this year, theHTC Vive.
First thing to point out is that there is ALOT of equipment, but this isn’t a bad thing and adds to the experience!
Headset It’s roomy and comfortable with various adjustable straps allowing you to move comfortably, ideal when you plan to spend a serious amount of time in your virtual world. The headset also has a front facing camera, which allows for a combination between real and virtual worlds when needed, somewhat like augmented reality (more on this later).
Base Stations The two little boxes are placed at the far corners of the room. It provides a motion tracker so the VR has actual context of your movements. These are particularly great for those realities that require a lot of movement.
Hand-held Controllers x2
The controllers have motion sensors for tracking and also triggers and buttons allowing you to engage with the reality around you. The front facing camera comes in handy here as it focuses on the controllers so they’re visible in the VR world.
Feel and Comfort When I put on the headset and earphones (any earphones will do) I found myself in the standby screen. The area was flat desert at night and to be honest, this already blew me away. It really captured the depth and distance of a wide open space and after a couple of seconds adjusting, in my mind I was there, a feeling that usually takes a little longer with other VR sets.
The headset is adjustable and super comfortable. Sheena had no problem using it over her glasses. There is also an adjustment for the lenses to move in and out to suit the position of your eyes.
In my earphones I could hear one of the coordinators ask, ‘can you see the controllers?’. This is where the front facing camera comes into play. It picks up the controllers and blends them into the virtual reality, so I could literally see two floating controllers in the middle of a desert. Reaching out I was now fully equipped to interact with any surroundings.
While I was waiting for the demo to load I could use the track-pad on the controller to blow up some very realistic balloons and knock them around. The Haptic feedback was perfect and it felt like I was, well, hitting a balloon.
Above: Steve enjoying the VR demo
Below, I briefly explain the virtual worlds included in the demo to give you an idea of the capabilities and application.
You find yourself standing on an underwater shipwreck, hyper-realistic surroundings with the ability to swat and swipe and the fish around you. Then a (1:1 scale) Blue Whale (a blue freakin’ whale!) passes you by and then approaches for a closer look. The whale’s eye up close is so realistic it was hard to stare for too long!
You find yourself in an office. This simulation is less realistic than the shipwreck and little more like a cartoon, but everything is to scale as you stand in your office cubicle. The hand-held controllers are now transformed into hands, with the triggers giving you the ability to pick up the items you see around you. You can interact with everything here; the photocopier, the phone, the computer - any item you can see can be picked up and thrown around.
You find yourself in a large grid styled room and discover that the controller is now a menu for different pens, paint brushes and materials. This room is the 3D Art demo. Here you can move around the room creating floating designs of different colours and patterns. This is super fun and the attention to detail is so impressive.
The final demo is a shooter game. You find yourself on a floating helipad; look down and your hands are now holding guns. One swipe over your shoulder and you’ve got a shield – awesome! The game begins with flying robots shooting at you as you fire back aiming to destroy each and every one. The game is a ‘wave’ platform with each level becoming increasingly harder. This is where the Base Station equipment shines! You can jump and move about quickly to avoid the oncoming bullets from the bots and the accuracy of base station was flawless.
The HTC Vive demo came to an end and it was back to plain old reality for me.
The Verdict: The device does exactly what you hope it will - blows you away! Increasingly addictive and very realistic. I want to live there!
Are you a fan of VR? I'd love to hear what you think, comment below.