Illustration by Stephen Bernier
This week I went to the newly opened VR World in midtown Manhattan. VR World is a digital playground for the public to experience the fun and magic of Virtual reality.
Virtual reality has been the “next big thing” in gaming and tech for years now, but unless you were going to a tech convention or shelling out over $1,000 for equipment, there wasn’t a good way to try it.
At VR World, you can experience 50 of the hottest games and movies in a three-story space that feels more like an upscale lounge than the usual beeping, flashing arcades. Each game or experience was accompanied with a VR staff member who help you put on the VR gear, learn the instructions of the game, and helped you throughout the experience. They answered any questions you might ask about the equipment, tech, and game play. It was often difficult to learn the game, and to manage quickly putting on and off the equipment, so this was super helpful.
Each game had a TV to showcase the experience of the user to other people, creating a bit of a social environment. Some experiences were more observational using 360 Videos, allowing viewers to sit back and observe the formation of galaxies, New York City traffic, music videos, or watch short films through Gear VR. Some experiences were much more interactive such as VR Fruit Ninja, the HTC Vive powered Zombie Training Simulator, or Walking The Plank. Other experiences were similar to childhood video games, with colorful characters and simple controllers.
VR Experience - Takeaways:
There was a wide range in variance of experience from critical thinking games (escape the room), physical activities (rock climbing, archery, racing) and a lounge area that is more calming and has various VR mini films or music videos.
Most emotional resonance is when other real world senses are mixed in with virtual reality. For example feeling the board underneath your feet in the real world when walking on beam on top of a skyscraper in the virtual world.
Best duration of experience: You don’t really feel like spending more than 10 minutes in the games. Some games can cause some motion sickness.
Most realistic: First person shooter games had the most realistic graphics.
VR Tech - Takeaways:
There were several different headset options, including the Samsung Gear VR, the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.
The Vive was the highest quality gaming experience with the Oculus coming in a close second and the Samsung was used just for the experiential 360 videos.
There were monitors for people not in headset to watch others experiences.
Multiplayer games made for a more interesting aspect of the experiences.
The balance beam was the simplest but most effective. All you do is walk - however the physical balance beam made it the most immersive game there.
Any AR? There was a green screen room that put the user in a virtual world and displayed it live on a screen.
Sound effectiveness? A lot of the games came with headphones which blocked out a lot of surrounding noise. But often the game/experience sound was of lower quality and volume.
While the experience of interacting with many VR experiences was definitely a magical and unique experience there's something to be said of how VR plays into a normal part of our life.
Definitely the most natural way to manipulate objects in virtual space will remain our hands, which means that the most comfortable controllers for virtual reality glasses can only be gloves. Luckily, this is the idea behind the glove Manus VR, which allow you to perform physical movements with your hands and control virtual objects.