It’s no secret that, for VR to succeed, it’s going to have to hit the ground running. It can’t just sell to the gaming enthusiasts because then it becomes a niche product and has to claw for every inch of distance it makes into the mainstream, assuming it can. Valve and HTC announced their VR system today with a trailer that, despite the headset’s gaming focus, is very clearly geared towards mass-market penetration.
First, though, the goodies- The headset it called Vive, and comes with two 1200 x 1080 screens, one for each eye. While they’re describing the range of view as 360 degrees, what this actually means is that, wherever your pupils wander, there’s going to be screen there to complete the illusion of immersion with a full field of view. The screen refreshes at 90 frames per second, completely eliminating jitter, and while they promise “photorealistic imagery”, that’s going to be up to whatever program you run to provide. The headset comes with two extra pieces of hardware as well. The first piece is a base station that detects movement, letting you wander around a space up to 15 by 15 feet in area, assuming you’re lucky enough to have a room with that much unused floor. The other hardware is a pair of handheld controllers with positional tracking, so your in-game hands can mimic your real ones. These controllers haven’t been shown yet, but this week’s GDC should spill all the details on how this works. Honestly, it sounds great, and I can’t wait to hear more about how everything fits together.
That trailer, though. If ever there was anything that could make VR seem unexciting, it’s the trailer below. The video is a series of people looking at amazing things. Standing there, staring, doing mostly nothing. The message is supposed to be “look at these amazing worlds, filled with experiences you could never attain otherwise!” but instead comes across as “stand and look at stuff”. Gaming is about doing, making choices and taking action. It makes sense that penetrating the mass market is going to take more than showing a bunch of people flailing around to things only they can see, but VR is so much more than standing and looking at neat things. VR’s ability to immerse the user into a new world has applications we’re still only just figuring out, but maybe we can do better at showing everyone what it can be than stepping into pretty pictures.