Suit up with the HTC Vive this weekend at NVIDIA’s booth, if you have a moment to spare during the IT Show 2016, to peek at what the future of video games and virtual reality might hold.
While there might be plenty of VR options coming in 2016, nothing seems to come close with what HTC has rolled out with its Vive headset. Granted, these might still be demo units, but being able to walk around in an open world, as opposed to keeping confined in one area, which is what the Oculus Rift offers, elevates the VR experience here to the next level.
Apart from the VR device itself, all that is needed would be upwards of a GTX 970 graphics card, and you can be immersing yourself fully in VR, in the comfort of your living room. If you’re already a hardcore PC gamer, I’m pretty certain that you might have the card or equivalent prepped and ready to go.
It can be tricky if you live in a small space, as the HTC Vive requires at least 5m of distance from the headset to the mounted sensors in order for the device to perform optimally. Yes, to be able to allow movement, the Vive uses two external wireless sensors to detect the outer boundaries that you’re able to travel. NVIDIA’s 5 x 5 metre booth gives you a good idea of just how much space is needed if you’re looking to take the plunge with the HTC Vive.
The demo set we used looks nothing like the actual thing though, and while the remote controllers here are the wired kind, the final retail set will not have wires. That said, the headset will need to be wired to the PC.
A Whale Of A Time
The first demo is that of a sunken shipwreck. Stepping onto the decrepit wreck, I was immediately surrounded by a rush of water. Having learned scuba diving over a year ago, the experience is pretty much spot on how the ocean looks and sounds, except for the lack of water. Depending on how brave you are in wanting to venture off the edge of the shipwreck, you can even peer into the chasm that the ship is tilting towards. That black space has enough details to remind you that there seems to be something there, but something is actually holding you back from venturing further towards the edge of the ship’s rails. If you do step up further, you might find yourself at the walls of the room in no time and that’s where the sensors come into play. A grid would appear onscreen, warning you that you are veering too close to an actual obstacle.
With my minders more than willing to guide me back into the centre of the room, I made sure to look around as much as possible, in case I happen to miss the best part of the experience. And that’s when I saw it. The whale. I was so focused on the sea and the edge of the ship that I did not notice that a whale was swimming towards me. I turned around and there it was, this massive shadow looming over me and there, no more than two metres in front of me was a massive mammal. It wasn’t that the whale was aggressive, but coupled with the fear of being underwater, I got the sense that something was approaching, and the fear in me was real.
And if reality is a measure of the success of VR, the HTC Vive made me feel real fear, and that is how good it is it.
The second demo was less of a video, but an interactive one. This time, you are a mechanic in the world of Portal, and the video has you look around a room, and interact with it. Each control in your hands become your hands in the VR world, and I was asked to open drawers with the controllers. The video says don’t look too closely at the contents in the drawer, so please, bend over and take a closer look.
Pretty soon, a damaged Atlas comes into the room and you are tasked to repair it. This is where the complexities of VR comes in. I had topull apart Atlas with my VR controls, to make adjustment and repairs on Atlas. And because the HTC Vive allows movement, I could walk into and around Atlas to get a closer look at the damage. Towards the end, the video indicates that you have failed and this is where the floor starts to open up and you can peer into yet another void, in the depths of space. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s best if you hang on to something.
A small detail that struck me was how comfortable the headset actually felt with my glasses on. It rests nicely on your head with plenty of cushioning around your eyes and on the bridge of your nose. Nice touch!
Check out the HTC Vive at NVIDIA’s booth this weekend March 10 – 13 2016 at Suntec City, 12 – 9pm. You can find their booth on Level 6. For more information on NVIDIA and VR, do check out the following link – nvda.ly/YJImH