The Vee Arr and Assembly 2013 wrap-up

Assembly 2013 came and went. All in all a less-than-average Assembly, but it wasn’t all a waste. Let me talk to you about the Occulus Rift.

Occulus Rift is a set of VR goggles, that are in the process of coming to the market (with a consumer release probably happening in 2014), and is now making the rounds  in the form of a dev unit. The dev unit is a pair of goggles, slightly larger than proper diving goggles, and they are not very heavy. There was a comfortable strap that wrapped over and around the head. The development version has a resolution of 640×800 pixels per eye, while the consumer version will be (hopefully) 1080p. The development version also need separate headphones to play audio. It was hooked via wire (or wires) to a computer. The consumer version, again, will hopefully be wireless. In addition to the goggles and the headphones, I used a game-pad to control my character in the VR environment.

There were a few different applications on display. I tried one of them, which was a virtual space, which housed a small yard and a building with a few rooms. It had moving objects, such as ceiling fans, and directional audio playing in the different rooms. The first thing I noticed was the low resolution. I kept trying to focus, as if looking through a pair of binoculars or eyeglasses, but it was just the resolution which was poor. It felt out of focus at times. The first instinct was to look around. This worked great. You had a fair amount of freedom of motion: you could look at the ceiling, down at the ground, you could tilt your head and “bend” your body, to say, look behind a corner.

After a brief adjustment, I thought, wow. This is really immersive. I quickly forgot where I was in the real world, though keeping your balance IRL felt strange. As I steered my character around the yard and inside the building, I felt my body try to maintain balance in the real world. It felt strange, and slightly disorienting. I avoided a wall in the virtual world, and noticed that I made that same movement (albeit a less extreme one) in the real world. Also not really walking around felt a bit weird. You used an analog stick to move and turn the character inside the VR world, and your perspective sort of “floated” around, with your view at head-height.  I did not try if there was a jump or crouch function: I only used the analog sticks.

The other two applications were a game called Jink, that ended up taking third place in the gamedev competition at Assembly 2013, and some kind of rollercoaster application, which my friend M tried out. He’ll hopefully read this, and give us his take in the comments.

The dev kit supports Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS and Android (so that takes care of most of the platforms this’d ever be used on). The estimated price (this is just a guess, and has not been confirmed AFAIK), would be 300 or less. A price I will gladly pay once this comes out. The amount of applications that could run on this, plus the wireless nature will make this a killer device for any tech-head. The Occulus Rift homepage is telling me that Half-Life 2 (and I assume any and all games with the same engine, at least eventually (I hope!)) will be officially supported for the Rift.

Oh. Wow!

Also, apparently anyone can get the dev kit right now for the 300 dollars + what ever applicable fees to your  country.

On to Assembly. This year we were there with a four person crew. We had machine seats, and brought our own computers to the party. To sum things up:

  • The network worked well with just a few glitches during the 72+ hours.
  • The audio was great, despite certain microphone tomfoolery (which happens at all such events, I’m sure, not just Assembly!)
  • The big screen worked fine, though, the encircling LEDs were like… super bright and murder in the midst of the otherwise dark arena floor.
  • Intros & Demos & Music:
    • Music kicked ass in all categories. Good entries.
    • 1K and 4K Intros were of excellent quality
    • Short film and Real Wild were great, I really admired the work done on the reverse engineered Helsinki Metro sign, and the associated Real Wild entry “Next train takes no passengers”
    • Demo and Oldskool categories were disappointing, really. Demo only had 7 entries and one that I would consider good, a second one that was so-so, and the rest being of ‘meh’-quality.
    • It’s not that they were outright bad, but they just didn’t have the Wow!-factor.
  • Game of the year seemed to be League of Legends (or LoL) as well as SC2.
  • No clear new memes that I could pick up.
  • More girls than ever
  • Younger kids
  • Fatter kids
  • Cory Doctorow KICKED ASS. Great speaker.

I can’t be asked to write more. I spent the nights at home, like a true old curmudgeon, but I was there for all but a few compo entries. And that’s the main reason I go anyway, since I don’t need permission from mommy to play games all day at home.

Best quote? “These tickets cost me 145 euros, so you will do exactly as I say!”, by a mother to a kid in the long line to get into the arena.

Peace out.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occulus_Rift
http://www.oculusvr.com/
http://www.assembly.org/summer13/news/final-competition-results
http://archive.assembly.org/2013/real-wild-demo/next-train-takes-no-passengers-by-sooda
http://archive.assembly.org/2013/gamedev/jink-by-taat-2013
http://www.assembly.org/summer13/

 

3 Replies to “The Vee Arr and Assembly 2013 wrap-up”

  1. Short comments on Oculus Rift and VR. The rollercoaster experience was a short track on which a cart continuously moved. You could only look around while the cart was moving. But even though the resolution was low I must say I was immediately immersed in the experience. My eyes had a 180 degree view of the scenery passing by and when I turned my head, it was exactly as if looking around in the cart. As a result my brain immediately assumed I actually sat in a rollercoaster cart.

    The funky part was when a downhill section approached me. My body tensed automatically and as the cart started accelerating down, my inner ear went berserk. “Clearly you are accelerating downhill but why is there no physical sensation of wind or changing gravity?” I quickly became nauseous. This literally happened within 10-15 seconds of wearing the goggles. So I’m amazed at how immersive the experience was, even with the shitty resolution. It was nowhere near photorealistic. I can only imagine how well the brain will be tricked when the scenery *is* photorealistic.

    So maybe rollercoaster experiences aren’t the best application for those goggles unless you like being nauseous. Or, of course, if you can sit in a chair that turns with the application and rumbles, intensifying the simulation. I could envision this being possible in arcades where each game instance costs a euro or something. I don’t really foresee everyone having a hydraulic chair at home…

    The other applications are of course examining potential apartments and houses without physically visiting the location, very handy if the apartment is far away; likewise planning a new living room or kitchen and walking around in your “renovated” room to simulate different decorating solutions; various exploration games… And of course, a new more immersive DOOM experience. 😀 Aaaand other first-person angle games. I’m sure a whole lot of new games of that sort will be created with the advent of these goggles.

    I’m also thinking of viewing stuff recorded with Google Glass with the Rift. A modified Glass pair, of course, with dual cameras. Apart from really wild movement (again, because that would cause nausea), you could really experience someone else’s life through this combination. Parkour through a city, walking inside and around the Angkor Wat, jumping out of an airplane… Many experiences that would otherwise cost a lot of money or demand peak physical condition would be available as an almost first-hand experience. Think about the paralyzed, bed-ridden for all their lives… They could still see tremendous beauty through the eyes of others.

    The big difference therein is of course that if you view recorded video, you can’t look around any more than the person did who recorded the video for you. But it’s still a much more immersive experience than watching that video from a desktop screen using 3D glasses… It’s as if you’re there.

    All in all, a very cool product with lots of promise.

    1. Did you see the video of the guilliotine simulator for Oculus? The woman looked really terrified when her head got cut off in the vr environment, and then rolled on the ground before the view faded to black.

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