Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My VR Story: answers to a 7th Grader's questions about VR.

I recently answered a 7th grader's questions about Virtual Reality.

Answering these questions is the first time I've really thought about a lot of these things since I dove head-first into VR development a couple of years ago.

What do you think? Would you have answered differently? Sound off in the comments! 
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What makes you interested in virtual reality?

I love the sense of experience you get from VR. The next best thing to doing something in RL is doing it in VR. It has a much more profound impact than watching a video or even playing a game on a single screen.

Do you think that in the coming years the idea of virtual reality will be more wide spread than it is now?
Yes, completely. The market for VR is growing incredibly fast. On the hardware side, you have some incredibly amazing companies building awesome tech. Last year around this time, the best headset available was a somewhat crappy (i loved it) dev kit, the Oculus Rift DK1. This year we have a pretty great consumer headset on the market w/ Gear VR. Im pretty sure we're going to see some amazing new tech at GDC in a couple of weeks too.

What are some obstacles, in your opinion, that virtual reality has to overcome?
The largest obstacle is motion sickness. It's incredibly easy to make a VR experience that can make people sick. Many developers are struggling to make non-sickness inducing VR apps. 

The next barrier is breaking down the walls built up by VR's false start in the 90s. When you mention VR, people look at you like you're crazy. Once they try it however, they want to experience more.

What features do you think are essential to good virtual reality?
Number one is keeping a consistently high frame-rate. Skipped frames, judder, hiccups, all the crap that is merely annoying in mono-vision games are vomit-inducing in Virtual Reality.

Attention to User-Experience is also essential for a great Virtual Reality. Donning a Headset is as disorienting as putting a blindfold on. If your player can't figure out what to do, they get even more disoriented, uncomfortable, and unlikely to continue playing.

What aspects of virtual reality should make people excited?
I think the experiential aspect of VR is overlooked by many. It's an incredibly tough sell until you actually try it for yourself.

Education will be revolutionized by VR. Whether it's virtual field trips to ANY place in the world at ANY point in time or exploring the insides of our bodies from the view of a nanomachine. 

At this point, we're only limited by our imaginations.

How did you first find out about virtual reality?
My first experience with VR was at Epcot Center when I was about 12 or 13. They had a Disney Imagineering demo set up where they chose people from the audience to race against each other in an Aladdin Magic Carpet. They had these crazy sci-fi looking headsets and sat on a platform that moved as you steered the magic carpet. I was sold.

They took the Aladdin VR experience to Disney Quest some years later but without the motion platforms.


What is the best experience you've had with the technology?
By far my best experience was in the Valve Room last March. The next best experience was with Crescent Bay at Oculus Connect last Sept. The largest difference between the two was that I was free to roam around a room the size of a bedroom with the Valve Headset. The Crescent Bay experience was great but I was limited to an area of about 4 sq feet.

What would you like to see in future iterations of head mounted displays, if any?
I'd love to see full positional tracking on all headsets. If you could optically track my hands too, that'd be rad.

Do you have an opinion on inputs for virtual reality? Have any of the kickstarter projects appealed to you?

Motion-tracked input is incredibly appealing. Interacting with an object in virtual space that corresponds to it's real space is super powerful. (Imagine seeing your 360 controller on a virtual desk in front of you, reaching out and grabbing it to find it's there in RL....I've played with this. It's awesome.)
The Sixense and Nimble projects look awesome. I've tried Leap Motion, but my experience with their tracking has been poor. They just released an update, so it's something to play with more.

In general, are there any peripherals you are interested in when it comes to head mounted displays?

I'm excited to see which input devices take off.
I'm a big fan of wireless peripherals. Wireless controllers, headphones, that sort of thing. It makes the experience that much more approachable. Otherwise with all the cables, getting ready for a VR session is like suiting up to go SCUBA diving.

Do you have any ideas for types of experiences that could be made in virtual reality, that have not yet been created?

That's my job. :)

What device did you use for your first virtual reality experience?

In one hundred years, do you think people are going to look back and think that virtual reality was a very important innovation for humanity?

Absolutely. I think they'll also look back and laugh at all those people with funny looking things on their faces.

What is your opinion on the competitors of Oculus? 

The more the merrier. When one company gains too much of a monopoly, Quality and Diversity suffer. Look at the lack of creativity in the mainstream film and games industry. History repeats itself unless people take an active roll preventing it.

Do you believe that competitors drive innovation? 

Yup! See above.

What are some interesting things that are unique to developing for virtual reality? (if this applies to you)

As VR content creators, we have the ability to physically affect how our players feel. It's incredibly easy to accidentally make our players sick and it's such a crappy feeling when it happens. Rule number 1 for VR devs needs to be: Don't make people sick.

The other unexpected thing has been the over-the-top reaction from players to when they play it. Live demos of my VR games have been sooo much more powerful than games I've demoed in the past. Responses went from "Yeah, that's fun!" to "OMG, that's better than going to Six Flags!"

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See ya next time when I post my impressions of Day 2 of the Project Tango Game Developer Event!

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