Quote of the Day – The Optics of VR

The games with peripherals that do the best are highly social games that demo well at parties – think Rock Band or the Wii.  Both were compelling experiences that made observers immediately want to rush home and buy their own.  VR, on the other hand, makes you look like an idiot to observers.

Damion Schubert, I’m Still Skeptical of VR

GDC came and went last week up the road in SF and Virtual Reality was a major topic (and gimmick fest) at the event.  Mr. Schubert was there and came back with a few bullet points for one post and then a whole post about the harassment potential of VR in multiplayer experience that needs to be addressed.

Out of all of that, probably the most trivial bit, how VR looks to other people that tickled me.  It isn’t as bad as made out by that Time magazine cover…

Time Magazine

Time Magazine

…which became such a meme that my Google search to find a copy of the cover was almost nothing but parodies.

Feel the Bern... erm... Burn!

Feel the Bern… erm… Burn!

Nothing right now is going to get you up and running around and jumping in your living room with that tethered headset.  Not without some lawsuits.  VR right now is about your head being in the game, so to speak, with the player being able to orient their view in the way we do in the real world.  It will be a long time before it is something akin to bad interpretive dance.

But even then VR is something that you cannot really get a sense of until you are the person sitting there in the sensory deprivation mask and headphones actually experiencing it.  Watching somebody else don the equipment and begin to play is a bit eerie or comical or silly as you watch them move and react to things to which you are not privy.  Having the mask on, being the person in the gear, is a very solo experience.

9 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – The Optics of VR

  1. Jenks

    There aren’t many people whose opinion I outright discount no matter the topic, but the world’s greatest hotbar salesman is one of them.


  2. Sylow

    I have to admit, you completely convinced me. I mean, we all already know that from MMOs and computer games in general: all the people playing them are basement dwellers, with no social life of any kind, not intereacting with other people, no friends and definitely they will never procreate… right? :D

    That being said, i agree with a small part of the problem: indeed if i’d have VR glasses and would be using them, i’d be “away” from my actual environment, so i’d really be disconnected from other people next to me. Thus using the device would not be a “any time” thing as other games are, but rather a “my girl is in bed, i still game for a while in VR” thingie.

    But even that could be just a matter of personal attitude. I mean, she also games, and we play many games together, so what would actually stop us from both having VR glasses on and playing together? While i have do admit that this thought for me “feels” a little weird, this could just be a sign of me being an oldtimer…

    So the other thing, the one that really matters for me at the moment is: VR right now still is quite expencive. You don’t just need the glasses, but also a state of the art GPU. Needing two of them at the same time for my girl and me is an investment i don’t want to do right now, and i think for many people out there it’s not just a matter of “want” but “can afford at all”.

    On the other hand, we all know how hardware prices develop in the run of time, so i would expect VR to be much more affordable in a few years.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Sylow – I don’t even know where you are coming from with that first paragraph. Did you just look at the pictures and think I must have written something negative about gamers?

    The TL:DR point was that it is difficulty to convey what VR is like by watching somebody using VR, not whatever the hell you think I might have written.


  4. bhagpuss

    I think VR is going to face a lot of problems in gaining anything even close to mass-market acceptance. Looking like a prat is likely to be the least of them.

    Leaving aside the cost, the social isolation and the “why would I even bother?” aspects, it won’t be five minutes before the media begin talking up the health issues, real or imagined. Every single technological innovation of this kind, starting with the magic lantern, has attracted a plethora of scare stories but the copy for strapping a converted phone to your forehead and staring at a screen an inch away from your eyes is going to write itself!


  5. Isey

    While I agree with the VR not taking off quickly or easily, how many frequently game in a room with other people? Sure, married people and people with kids tend to want to be aware of their environment, but when I was gaming hardcore as a single guy in my own place from 20-30 the only other living soul I’d see while gaming were those through the screen. VR may make that experience even better.

    I won’t know, since I am that married with kids gamer mentioned above, but a lot of single people may enjoy it.


  6. Fucknuckle

    If you’ve used VR to view sport events you’ve seen a glimpse of what it’s going to be like. It basically puts you there, and there is no reason it can’t put you in there together even though you’re sitting in two different countries.

    Once companies move past what they are doing now, which is focusing on a full body experience and instead start focusing on the head then things are really going to take off.

    You could attend a video conference and actually be inside the room with other people… Sitting alone on your couch. Which will work in gaming eventually, allowing co-op to feel even more social than it is now.

    Along with voice recognition software and selfdriving cars VR is the most promising tech were going to get in the next 10 years.

    It’s kind of hard to imagine until you try it yourself though, and a lot of the current VR projects are utter shit. Which makes VR look gimmicky like, say 3D, but once you attend a sporting event and get first row seats it’ll blow you away.


  7. Sylow

    @Wilhelm Arcturus:
    I am sorry. I guess the irony of my first paragraph wasn’t obvious enough with the smiley in the end. This surprises me a little, considering that basically all of us gamers have experienced the predjudice against people with our hobby. Alas, i am sorry for not marking it more heavily.

    Next to that, my first paragraph does not (only) reply to pictures, but also to your final sentence: “Having the mask on, being the person in the gear, is a very solo experience.”

    So to say it without the irony on top, it boils down to this: i think VR glasses will turn gaming as much into a solo experience they already are. Additional hint: i met my girl in a MMO. But even that info doesn’t stop some people concluding that gamers are all basement dwelling singles. This prejudice is rooted deeply in some peoples mind. At some time I had a conversation with some former schoolmates (20 years anniversary of our finals) and there was one who was convinced that gamers are by definition no social activity. Even with being told and thus knowing that my girl and me met in a MMO, she still was firm on her point that online games are no social activity. Ever, period and out.

    So my point really is: as long as only few people have VR, it might indeed be a “solo experience”, but once it is widespread enough, we will have VR MMOs and the likes. (Also remember that Facebook owns Occulus, so i in time expect a VR version of Facebook. )The “solo experience” you mention will be a short termed effect, if any at all. The predjudice against it, on the other hand, is something which we’ll have to bear for a decade or two.


  8. Sylow

    So yes, I might have interpreted that sentence (and thus what you were aiming at) in another way you than what you intended to say. (Forgot to add this last line).


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Sylow – Sorry, this is the internet. I am quite used to people saying things, often horrible things, meaning them fully, but thinking that somehow putting a smiley at the end makes it all okay. The appended smiley has been abused to the point of being meaningless in my mind, so you appeared to be accusing me of perpetuating the gamer stereotype.

    And yes, you do seem to be wandering far afield from the point of the post, though that seems to be the common element in this thread which probably just proves that VR is a current topic with some emotion behind it, which is that looking at somebody using a VR headset doesn’t give you any sense of what they are experiencing. Only one person can wear the headset at a time, which is what I meant by “solo experience,” and experience what that headset has to offer.


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