I am sure that many people had a childhood memory where they imagined themselves being a giant robot or a superhero, fighting against waves of imaginary monsters to save the world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a long time for individuals to realize that this dream is impossible to achieve in real life. However, in the virtual reality world with high-end setups like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, there are no limits to what you can become. About 3 weeks ago, I decided to buy the Oculus Rift for my first virtual reality experience. Although I now have an empty wallet, I do not regret buying it and have enjoyed every moment of it so far.
Oculus Rift, is it worth it?
Oculus Rift costs $499 on Amazon right now, which is $100 dollars cheaper than the Vive. It comes with the Rift headset, two motion sensors, an Xbox Controller, Oculus controller and touch controller. It also comes with 6 games which are Robo Recall, Luckyʼs Tale, Quill, Medium, Dead and Buried, and Toybox. Unlike the HTC Vive, you need to purchase another motion sensor for 360 degrees viewing experience, which costs about another $60. Also, if you don’t own it already, you will need to spend another $1000 to buy a gaming laptop with a graphics card powerful enough to run VR games. Despite its major price drop from $599, it is still a very expensive gaming device that not everyone can afford. The question is : is Virtual reality experience worth the hundreds of dollars? My answer is a definite yes.
VR feels more real than the ‘real’ world
Oculus Rift comes with two touch controllers that track the motion of your hands. With three motion sensors installed, you can also have room-scale movement just like the HTC vive. Before buying the device, I watched many VR game videos on Youtube and I was quite suspicious about how real it would feel. I thought there was no way a simple headset could give someone such a realistic experience. But after having my own hands on them, my whole perception of reality has changed. I realized that seeing is believing and what you believe is the reality. On the first day I played Climb, a rock climbing game. The game has beautiful scenery with so much detail. Bugs that skitter away from your hands, eagles spreading its wings above your head and the sound of deep breath as you pull yourself up to the top of the canyon to gaze out over the darksome panorama. This overall visual fidelity made it so real that I felt like I might die from falling, even though my feet were on the ground the entire time.
Oculus Rift’s VR experiences are nothing like those you get from smart-phone VR devices like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. Not only do the games on the Oculus store feel far more polished and fun compared to mobile VR games, but the touch controllers give players so much more freedom. The touch controllers are so accurate in tracking that you eventually start to forget that it’s not your real hands you’re seeing and controlling. This makes the games on Oculus Rift so much more exciting and engaging than regular PC games because it requires players to be active and physically control their movements.
The Social Aspect of VR
Before Facebook bought Oculus VR in 2014, Oculus games were mostly focused on single user experiences. It is no surprise that after the world’s largest social networking company got in charge it started to make many social games like RecRoom and VRchat. According to the social VR product manager Mike Beltzner, “The more game-like it is, the less you interact”. I absolutely agree with him because even though these social VR games do not have as many gaming contents as other first-person shooters or role-playing games, they are just as enjoyable due to the of social interaction between players.
Not only was I mesmerized by the realistic graphics and creativity in VR games, I was shocked by the Oculus’ social aspect. It is a completely different experience to make friends in VR than in PC games. Because people are immersed in the virtual world where they can touch things and observe the surroundings in 360 degrees, interacting with others feels way more real and engaging. Because the virtual reality system make you believe you are actually in the same space with others and that they are not strangers from the other side of the world, it is so much easier to socialize and make real friendship. It is also a perfect environment to hang out with friends who are too far way to meet in person or even go on virtual dates with long distance partners because the interaction will feel way more realistic than just chatting online.
The future of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has so much more potential than just being solely a gaming platform. It is already used for training purposes in the military, including battlefield simulations and medical simulations for students. According to Mark Zuckerberg during Oculus Go 2017 presentation, “The most innovative technology doesn’t start mainstream”. He acknowledged that at first, many of them seem too insane and even confusing to get your hands on. The orthodox people will always ask for something that is more familiar. Why do we need small computers in our pocket when all we need is texting? Why do we need virtual reality when we already have a good 3D platform on our PC? The technology is improving ever so fast because of the people who believe it could be better. In the near future, I believe that everyone will use virtual reality to not only play games but to improve how we work and live.