Playing with VR and the infinite possibilities

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to a Friend’s Studio to play with a HTC Vive VR kit!

What we all think of when we think about VR.

I hadn’t been convinced by what I’d seen of VR until this point. It seemed, like 3D TV before it, expensive and gimmicky, ultimately destined to be abandoned long before it’s potential is realised. We’ve yet to see if VR proves to be a fad or not but the technology is incredible!

The wow factor!

After playing with the settings for the Vive, setting the lenses to the right distance and calibrating the positioning of the controllers it was play time. The immersion was absolute. During one of the demonstrations the floor fell away and I jumped back. the sense of immediate danger from that was stunning. The amazing thing about VR, particularly the demonstrations we were using (mainly games…) was the way in which you modified your behaviour when playing.

In Budget Cuts I’m playing the role of a secret agent climbing through air ducts. I naturally duck and lean around corners checking for enemies. There is no need for me to duck, there is no need for me to lean around corners – the game even accepts this. If you stand up your head poke up out of the map. If you lean forward you can put your head through a wall to check what’s there. The beautiful thing about the quality of the experience is you don’t want to – you want to go along with the game, you want to duck down in air ducts, you want to cower behind desks waiting to move.

If Budget Cuts doesn’t convince you of the fun you can have with VR then you only need to look to Valve Robot Repair demonstration. Graphically it’s the most impressive and because of this creates a greater sense of immersion, plus you get to come face to face with GlaDOS! The demo is largely scripted offering limited interactivity with the world but the level of detail is incredible. Every little decal and texture looks real and builds towards that final moment with the floor falling away. It was at this point that I jumped back feeling as though I would fall where the floor was coming away.

More than just games

The games blew me away! But the most mind blowing application that we played with was Google’s Tilt Brush. The app is an intuitive Art program, allowing you to quickly sketch out ideas with the VR controllers. So what? You ask, you can already do that on pretty much any device or computer and you’d be right. There are some excellent Art and Design programs out there that allow for quick sketches and more refined digital Art work. But Tilt Brush allows for complete 3D modelling! Using Tilt Brush is amazing, intuitive and frustrating (at least to start with) all at once. The addition of the 3rd dimension forces you to think in a new way, drawing as though you are working on a piece of paper will result in uneven and disjointed imagery as you move around your work. From the start you need to consider the whole of the model, you can’t just rely on drawing it from different angles and pasting it on to a rudimentary model. Your drawing is the model!

The possibilities for this are amazing. Not only the amount of time it could save for 3D modelling in a variety of settings. For example imagine you have employed an Architect to design your new home, rather than going to their office to see plans and a card model they simply hand you a head set, you strap it on and see a fully rendered version of your home in front of you. Imagine that you visit a gallery and rather than standing in front of a painting, you strap on a head set and can walk through the painting, around the painting viewing it from any position you wish, and as an Artist imagine creating work that caters for this!

Enough of my rambling about it! This video demonstrates it far better than I ever could explain it:

Blown away and ready for more

I’ve been hugely impressed with VR and cannot wait to see the future developments of it, I know Google are working on a physics led animation package which looks incredible. If it’s more than a fad or a gimmick for consumers we’ll have to wait and see, but from an Art and Design industry perspective this technology has limitless potential and I can’t wait to see what talented people do with it. Now all I have to do is convince the wife to let me invest the £2000 plus needed to set it all up at home…