My Voice: Virtual reality first impressions

   Video games and the platforms of which they are played have evolved much over the years, but I feel that virtual reality will shake things up the most notably given the quick spread and accessibility of the hardware over the past few years.

   Recently, I got my hands on an HTC Vive system, which includes a virtual reality headset, two wand-like controllers and the sensors necessary to track them in real time. This is one of the most popular setups to use with a powerful computer.

   I’ll admit that my expectations for virtual reality were high before I even tried it, so high that I was a little disappointed when I immediately discovered some of the downfalls of adopting this technology so early.

   One of these downfalls is what’s called the “screen door effect” which means you can easily distinguish the lines between the pixels in front of your eyes, which makes it feel like you are looking through a screen door.

   Although this effect becomes less pronounced as the eyes adjust, it still takes away from the overall immersion of the experience.

   Another problem the headset faces is field of view.

   When you are wearing the headset, it feels almost as if you are looking through binoculars at another world rather than seeing it with your own eyes.

   Again, this problem’s effect on the experience fades with time, but it still affected my overall first impression of the system.

   Although the HTC Vive has some limitations, it achieves its overall goal to immerse you in the virtual world.

   The controllers are tracked in real time and are mirrored almost perfectly into the virtual world representing your hands or what you are holding.

   One of the experiences I tried was a version of Google Street View, where I teleported in front of my own house in virtual reality, which was wonderfully confusing as I had seen it in real life so many times.

   Other experiences and games I tried had me interacting with objects in the world using the controllers, mimicking how I moved my hands in real life perfectly.

   Setting up the device was easy in my opinion but may be difficult for someone expecting to be able to just plug and play.

   The sensors had to be mounted with screws in the room at a specific angle which was rather difficult for me to get right the first time in my awkwardly shaped room.

   After I had the hardware setup, the software led me through calibrating and adjusting it to my room. From there it was simple to launch any program I wanted.

   Wearing the headset is disorienting for me in some scenarios, although I was able to handle it without any issue. Someone who has issues with balance or spatial awareness might have issues with virtual reality.

   Overall, I think virtual reality is a wonderful experience that many people would find enjoyable.

   With that said, I think the technology still has some growing to do, specifically with the quality of the image and the field of view. After all of this is achieved and prices become more reasonable, I could see virtual reality being the next big product.

Sean Kahle
Reporter

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