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CES 2016: HTC Vive impressions from Kingston/Hyper

by: Dan -
More On: Vive CES 2016

John visited with HTC yesterday to get some hands on with the Vive, but I also was able to get some time in with the VR equipment too at our visit with Kingston/Hyper last evening. Let me just say, I agree with everything John posted yesterday as the Vive is incredibly comfortable, light and the ergonomics of the controllers were top notch.

I went through three demos that were loaded, including two that John did. First up was a Zombie shooter that took place in what appeared to be outside an Old West Mine in a canyon. This was used to get me used to the game, the headset and controllers and I really liked how this played out. Essentially, there were waves of zombies sent after me from all directions, front, left, right and even behind me. Between the 360 degree view and the audio provided by the Hyper headsets, I was able to detect when zombies were approaching and had to twist around to find them and then gun them down. The integration with the VR, headphones and controllers was awesome, as I was basically double-fisted with a pair of 9M Glocks and taking out zombies left and right with precision shots. You know that scene when John Wick was causally lighting guys up from all angles with his pistol while making his way through that sketchy Russian bath house, yeah that was how badass I felt.

Second demo was the underwater one that John mentioned, where you are walking around on the bow of a sunken wooden ship and the sea life is going on all around you. There are countless schools of small fish that get up in your face and then the shadows of the larger creatures overhead start coming at you. There was a good size manta ray that zipped by almost where I could touch him and then Big Blue, the massive whale decided to take a look see to understand what I was doing on the deck of that ship. Overall the experience was quite immersive and definitely had the feel of being underwater, without the claustrophobia or panic one might expect to feel when 70 feet under the water’s surface. What really made this demo was the use of the lighting and shadows to accompany the underwater effects. It gave depth and perspective to what was going on around you and created what I believe was probably a pretty authentic visuals.

My last demo was with the 3D paint experience, where your canvas is the air and you are basically limited by your imagination. It was a bit of a learning experience to make my mind start being creative from a 3D perspective when I was drawing lines and they weren’t lining up like they would on a 2D piece of paper. After a minute or so I got the hang of it and it was just trying to come up with what would look cool. After signing my name in the air, I decided to basically draw a 3D beach ball. So you have to draw the circle for the outline, then you have to start moving around the previous circle slowly adding more circles and trying to get them to line up at the two axis points. Very creative and most satisfying when the image you were thinking about starts to take shape basically in front of you. And then having the ability to walk through it and look at it from the side, top and bottom or inside out, amazing.

After the 3D paint demo my time was up with the HTC Vive, but it was also time to find out how my body would react after “going under” for about 10 minutes. I can tell you that I had zero after-effects when I took off the gear. I was a little warm around my face with from the VR helmet, but no fogging of the screens took place and the cool air rush is all I felt. I did not experience any dizziness or issues with balance or queasiness in my stomach. So that to me is a great sign that VR when used in conjunction with free movement will be quite an experience. The only real item that was a bit of a hindrance was the tether back to the PC running the programs. Although I was in the R world, I was always cognizant while walking around the real world 10’ x 10’ space to make sure I picking up my feet and not shuffling so I didn’t get tangled up in the cord. In the future it will be interesting to see the creative ways people handle the tether, whether a battery wireless solution is created, special VR rooms are added in addition to gaming and home theater rooms in households or will they create a vertical umbilical, with the tether coming down from the ceiling with a 360 degree movement like the wand at the car wash. Just more things to think about and explore as the VR movement gains ground to mainstream.

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