FFD: Virtual Reality – Revolution or Gimmick?

FFD17012014

Virtual Reality, like stereoscopic 3D, comes back every decade to try and convince us that staring at a 2D screen just isn’t good enough. The 90’s saw a number of head-mounted Virtual reality units that were meant to take gaming to a new level – including the iGlasses from Virtual IO.

Check this out, from 1995.

Considering roughly none of you have ever heard of these, it’s safe to say that they just didn’t take off. the biggest problem with these sort of things is that they’re pretty expensive, heavy, unwieldy – and make people want to throw up.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a heck of a lot of noise about a Virtual Reality revolution, thanks mostly to the Oculus Rift, which looks to address these issues and make consumer-level Virtual Reality a viable platform. Pretty much the very things that Virtual I-O promised in 1995.

The Rift has high-res screens, lower latency, better head- and positional tracking, low persistence and importantly, support from Valve. It’s also got tech people like John Carmack excited enough to leave the company he founded, id, to concentrate entirely on VR.

Having used the Rift, I have to say that it really is impressive, and could potentially lead to some incredibly immersive experiences (possibly too immersive, but that’s a different argument). It’s undoubtedly an exciting bit of technology – but will it actually revolutionise games, or is it all a novelty gimmick, with history set to repeat itself?

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Author:Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.
  • ElimiNathan

    I think it USED to be a gimmick, with things like Oculus Rift coming out its becoming more and more of a revolution IMO

    • Admiral Chief in Vegas

      Good point

    • GalacticLordCaptainAwesomeness

      IF the game devs adopt if, and IF it works without you developing massive neck muscles (from the strain of the heavy equipement), and IF it is affordable etc

      • ElimiNathan

        Of course :)

      • RockMossel2014

        LOOL! I started playing this game about 3 weeks ago! Those neck muscles from headbanging!

        • GalacticLordCaptainAwesomeness

          That game has me in stitches permanently

  • Spathi

    Way of life… Can’t wait for the first working holodeck!

    • Hammersteyn

      Holodeck yes, Wearing a helmet or goggles no.

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        Aye aye

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    It’s a gimmicky gimmick for gimmick lovers, that’ll never be more than a gimmick right now. GIMMICK! Say NO to giant gimmick headsets.

    Which isn’t to say it’s a cool piece of technology, just that it’s a… erm… gimmick.

  • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

    I reckon it will still be more successful than 3D has been.

    From what I’ve seen, it seems like it will make the jump from gimmick to main stream once it hits consumer level

  • GalacticLordCaptainAwesomeness

    Vaporware…

  • ALKi1234

    What version Rift did you try Geoffrey?

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      HD Prototype. Would /love/ to give the Crystal Cove a bash.

      • ALKi1234

        Lucky bugger….I still believe playstation move Tech would work better with the head tracking instead of the Crystal cove prototype.but hay if it works why not.

        • BacchusZA

          The number of LEDs they’ve plastered all over the Crystal Cove suggests to me it’ll be *very* precise & work very well. I mean, my TrackIR with just 3 LEDs works extremely well, so I can’t help but think something with 10+ is going to be something special.

  • Umar digs KOS-MOS

    Better than 3D, still a gimmick….What will revolutionize gaming is the destruction of CoD

  • Hammersteyn

    G G G G G G G G G G G G Gimmick

    • Umar digs KOS-MOS

      T T T Tim Tim Timmeh!!

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        LOL

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      M M M M Monstrous waste of time ;)

      • VampyricSquirrel Monk

        And of M M M M M Money

  • Admiral Chief in Vegas

    I’m not sure, whatever it is, I just hope we are not milked

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Chances?

      • Umar digs KOS-MOS

        Chances = EA level

        • BacchusZA

          It’s not going to be cheap, especially with the way the Rand is in free-fall against the dollar, but it likely won’t be “expensive” in context. Palmer Levy has said since day one that the device is aimed at the the average gamer, & will be in the $300-400 region. So yeah, it’ll sting, but we’re talking mid-upper range graphics cards prices rather than R10k+

  • Kensei Seraph

    I’m looking forward to trying it out for myself but there’s a good chance it’ll go the way of it’s predecessors.
    That being said I’d be one of the first to jump on should they get true VR gaming, even though if there is a SAO incident I wouldn’t make it past the first week.

    • Umar digs KOS-MOS

      ROFLOL!!!!!! I would die in the first hour!….That is partially why I’m afraid of VR

      • Kensei Seraph

        I’d stay in the city for a few days, hence surviving nearly a week.

  • Anon A Mouse

    I think it is a gimmick at the moment, but with the fact that there are actually a few heavy weights behind this product, I will not be surprised if you get VR contact lenses in a few year’s time. I think some technology needed to make this truly mainstream isn’t available yet but companies are starting to take note.

    Take Google Glass as an example, I’m sure someone in already trying to incorporate that into some sort of 3D / VR kind of application. But for now it’s good technology, just not very user friendly.

  • Gareth L (That Guy)

    LOL! I upset some people already the other day with my views on the current state of VR – or as I see it “a rehashed 90s fad”.

    It’s bulky and impractical, just like in 1995. It’s popular now because most people raving about it were too young to remember it last time around.

    *prepares for many down-votes*

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      What this Cheesey fella said!

    • Hammersteyn

      What we need is VR contact lenses, to really really immerse us in the game

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        Pfff implant to direct brain streaming

        • Hammersteyn

          Johnny Nemonic!!!

      • Gareth L (That Guy)

        Not necessarily contact lenses, those are a bit too invasive. I’m happy for Google Glass-style equipment that is light-weight and portable. Not a permanently-worn gadget though, I still feel that is as silly as those stupid Bluetooth earpieces. :P

        Heck, with Bluetooth it could pair with our phones and we could play our mobile games / browse net etc. at any time. If it’s portable enough it could be taken out and worn anytime and anywhere.

    • Brady miaau

      Have an upvote instead.

      I too remember all that crap from the early 90′s. Lawnmower Man indeed. I was so tired of the phrase “Mind Blowing” in relation to the movie.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I refuse to read or watch anything that has been described as a “tour de force”. It’s critic-speak for utter crap.

    • Rags

      You got downvotes because you said their has been no innovation for the device in the last 20 years ;)

      • Gareth L (That Guy)

        Yup, and in my opinion apart from the stereoscopic support there still hasn’t been; it’s still bulky and runs on a cord.

        Supporting higher resolutions and the latest graphics engines isn’t innovation, it’s the same thing that was used to market it 20 years ago. ;)

        • Rags

          By your criteria there cannot be any innovation of anything since it is still the same thing. Its like saying there has been no innovation in cars over the last century because you still sit in it and have to drive from point A to B. Never mind all the new technology, safety and things that make it better, it is still a car. What you really want is a teleportation device. :P

          • Gareth L (That Guy)

            Not really, bud. :)

            I understand your point that cars are still driving on four wheels with
            you in it getting from point A to B, you’re absolutely right. Innovation though has caused cars to be faster, more economical fuel-wise, safer in a collision, have better sound systems and are more comfortable drive. They’re designed to play part of our way of life, not *just* a form of transport.

            I’m not seeing that innovation with these VR headsets. Evolution, yes. Revolution, no.

          • geelslang

            Maybe they had the right idea back in the 90s but not the technology to implement it correctly, and now the technology exists?

    • geelslang

      Not really, I just couldnt understand your negative attitute towards it. I dont like Justin Bieber, but I dont hate him, I just ignore him.

      Actually, most people agree with you that it will fail so dont expect too many downvotes.

    • BacchusZA

      Heh I’m sure you’ll agree that I’m anything but too young to remember the original VR stuff from the ’90s, and I’m **very** excited about the direction the OR & things like the Leap Motion can take us ;)

  • Umar digs KOS-MOS
    • Gareth L (That Guy)

      Okay, now *that* is an uncomfortable VR headset. ;)

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    Thing is, I’m old enough to remember the VR craze of the 90s, so I honestly can’t see it as something other than a gimmick. We’re still essentially taping two TV sets to our eyes.

    I can see some potential in VR (from Flight sims, to car sims to even an interactive detective game), but Kinect has taught us one thing, the promises of true innovation and revolution are never guaranteed. Even to this day, developers struggle to make sense of Kinect, because of the control issue. Of course, VR is not Kinect, and the control issue isn’t an issue, but the buck stops with how developers will use the system and how it’s to be implemented. In that regard, I have very little faith in VR. I also have very little faith in VR units that will be cost-effective – which as you’ll remember was one of the many reasons it failed 15 years ago.

    • VampyricSquirrel Monk

      Showing your age Banana Man! lol

      Don’t worry, I remember it a bit too… even though I was quite young.

    • RinceThis2014

      You’re also probably old enough to remember being inside the Apple 2 *runs

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        Inside an Apple 2? Mmmm… SCSI ports were so sexy!

        • Admiral Chief in Vegas

          O_O

          Also lulz since of the flatness of your *ahem* “member” required to fit in scsi…

  • Devourer of Small Bunnies

    Biggest gimmick on the planet. Lets face it, who is going to sit and play all their games with a sunglasses case strapped to your face? I mean honestly?

    some of you knwo the woes of setting up an Eye/Wii/Kinect. Other than being a plain pain in the ass it was slow, innaccurate, cumbersome and needlessly complicated. Do you think this will change now that its an output device? Certainly not. Fucksake, the thing is still wired??

    Give me something useful and relevant to the market. Why not a multilayer LCD screen for proportionally better depth? 180 degree curving/bendable screens? Fuck, Holograms. We are at the peak of human techonological prowess but all they can come out with is a pair of glasses that would make Steve Urkel look like Chris Hemsworth with contacts.

    • Umar digs KOS-MOS

      Wii was the best working device of said peripherals

  • Willem Swanepoel

    Gimmick…Oculus is a waste of money…

  • VampyricSquirrel Monk

    It’s a gimmick for those people that have nothing better to do with their money… and have too much space in their house

  • Uberutang

    The Rift and Valves new prototype is going to change things dramatically in the gaming space.
    I have put all screen buying in my house on hold, I would rather get a few of these for tv and movies (and games!)

    Oculus founder Palmer Luckey on stage, he’s doing this session
    Palmer says Valve’s VR experience is the best VR tech demo in the world right now

    http://steamdb.info/blog/

    http://garry.tv/2014/01/16/steam-dev-days-day-1/
    http://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/1vc9gz/im_a_dev_that_got_to_try_valves_vr_demo

  • Ricardo Harvey

    REVOLUTION and I cant wait!!! bye bye big screen tv’s

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      hello, tiny but massive eye googles and constant orthopaedic and optometrist fees and appointments :P

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        And chiropractor for incorrect postures etc

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          EA Medical Services. Fake doctors fixing fake reality injuries.

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            O_O

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            I can see the lawsuits already!

            Billy Bakey and co vs EA, SONY, Microsoft, Carmack Industries etc.

            It will make the tobacco lawsuits look insignificant.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            He’ll lose because he didn’t read his EULA which gave them ownership of his body :P

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            Muahaahahahah! “Your Spleen belongs to us Now!” EA’s EULA

      • Ricardo Harvey

        Still cheaper than a 4k TV.

      • RockMossel2014

        You know what you are doing know? Sounding just like my mom did when I sat infront of the TV for hours all those years ago. And my eyes are perfect! lol no, they are actually quite shit. But I blame that on genetics! But seriously though…has there been studies done on the effect this will have on ones eyes?

        • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

          Not that I know of, but that’s definitely going to be an issue.

        • Rags

          Probably the same effect as looking at an LDC screen. Some temporary eye strain. Otherwise harmless.

        • Gareth L (That Guy)

          If it’s the same stereoscopic tech behind the one used for 3D movie glasses then I’m in for one HECK of a headache using these headsets. Studies aren’t required, ask anyone that gets a headache from 3D movies. ;)

        • Uberutang

          Yes. You can sit as close to a screen at any age without any damage at all. Urban myth that people take for gospel.

          If you do it 24×7 you might get under developed eye muscles, but your eyesight will be the same.

  • CrasH

    Is that a gimick on your head or are you able to see me…

  • Brady miaau

    What is VR?

    Can someone give me a solid definition? I think not really.

    Will it be cool? yes. Will it be practical? not so sure. Try playing a game with VR helmet on with your wife / husband home? Yeah, that sounds interesting.

    Seems to be in the hands of marketers now.

  • LollyDaLolDragon

    VR.. next step in porn.. whooohoo

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      If there’s anything that’ll stop it from being a gimmick it’s porn, not games.

      • RockMossel2014

        It’s like you’re there! Participating! lol better not let Lardus learn of this.

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          There was an article posted a while back, I think by Darryn (because who else), with a prototype 3D porn setup with various… peripherals. :/

          • RinceThis2014

            I saw that. Horror 0-O

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            heh, “peripherals”

            Jikes

  • RinceThis2014

    Where is OVG when you need a rant about VR?

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      You mean OVRG?

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        lolz!

      • RinceThis2014

        lulz

  • RockMossel2014

    Actually I dont know if you guys have experienced 3D in the new Digital cinemas from ster kinekor…it’s absolutely fantastic! I used to hate 3D, but you can actually see depth this time and I found myself ducking for arrows in The Hobbit!

    • SheHulkNigri

      I have not had the same experience, honestly. From where I sat, it was still crap.

      • RockMossel2014

        Damn that sucks. Maybe the one I went to had a higher resolution? Also I was sitting in the middle, it might make a difference…dont know.

    • geelslang

      I saw avatar in 3d on Imax and still dindt like it. It always look blurry to me. Dont know it the tech have changed since then.

      • RockMossel2014

        The new cinemas (in Tyger Valley) are basically HD. I was quite impressed. Like I said, you can actually se depth, and I don’t mean you can see that a guy is standing infront of a tree. I mean you can see that the tree is about 3m behind him!

  • Rags

    The Ouya is a gimmick. This is the real deal. It’s totally going to change how we experience many games. And you are going to ditch your xbox, ps with GT6 game and instead get project cars, steam machine and an OR after experiencing it. ;)

    • Ricardo Harvey

      Its so simple to integrate with current gaming. simply configure the right analogue stick to the players actual head movements and boom, its a much greater experience. Based on the feedback of EVERYONE that has tried out the rift it actually works

      • SheHulkNigri

        If that is all that VR will do, why would I want to pay thousands of rands for it?

        • Ricardo Harvey

          Why do you pay thousands of Rands for TV’s

          • SheHulkNigri

            So my family can all watch movies/tv together.

          • Uberutang

            Do what I will do: Get a VR set for each family member.

        • geelslang

          Technology is not cheap, and being the first adopter even more expensive. I cant wait so Ill get one, you can buy the better cheapr version in 5 years time.

  • Kromas

    Then the first car came out it was thought of as a gimmick.The telegraph company of america told Alexander Bell that his telephone was a gimmick. I think we should stick to a wait and see approach.

  • matthewlake182 .

    Lazygamer? Lazy article… The new oculus rift demoed recently has blown away everyone that have used it. You’d have to be a fool to think this is a gimmick. They HAVE addressed issues that VR had before! The issues with VR before was that the technology was never there to make it real enough and not make you feel sick. Only in the last 2 years has real VR been a possibility. Years before were unfounded ‘hype’.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Sorry for the confusion; this is FFD – our weekly flamebait thing, where the community lets /us/ know what they thing, based on a question. It’s not an “article” as such.

  • BacchusZA

    Personally I think VR / AR could be the next big leap forward, in line with the jump that came with the first 3d cards way back when. I hear what G & others are saying that it’s an evolution rather than a revolution, & there’s certainly merit to that. But it also doesn’t automatically mean it’s a gimmick and doesn’t have the potential to be ZOMGAWESOMESAUCE!!!. It could also be crap, sure, but it’s looking like the tech has caught up to the idea, & it’s something that can actually work properly now. And it’ll only get better.

    I do have an idea it may be something of a niche product though, as for some kinds of games it’s going to be phenomenal, while for others it’s going to be completely pointless. Things like simulators, driving games, and FPS stand to get the most out of this, but I really can’t see it being more than a gimmick for RTS, things like Sims, and a lot of action adventure games.

    From my perspective, given the kinds of gaming I do, I cannot wait to get my hands on one of these. I’ve spent a fair amount of time (and a metric fuckton of money…..) on the DCS simulators, and I cannot overstate how big a difference just good head-tracking makes in those, with a TrackIR. Do yourself a favour & look up some videos on youtube to see what I mean.

    Now combine that with an HD screen with 110′ FOV? About the only thing that could excite me more is winning the lottery, or having Kate Beckinsale return my calls.

    We’re talking “I’ll be in my bunk” levels of excitement here ;)

    My *only* concern with the OR is the way it completely covers your eyes, though it’s pretty much required by the design. It will mean that using the keyboard may be a challenge in games that need it though, unless you can touch type & are *very* familiar with your keyboard layout.

    TL:DR Your mileage will very likely vary dramatically depending on the kind of gaming you do.

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