Tested has provided a very thorough review of Valve’s entry into the VR space – the Vine. The main takeaway I got from it all is that base-station approach seems to give a tracking ability to their controllers to the same degree as the head tracking you can get for the HMD. If true, if the steam controllers can track to the same accuracy as the headset, Valve has solved the biggest hurdle facing VR at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still several hurdles to jump, but they all pale in comparison to having a standing experience with some way of properly interacting with the environment. We still need:
- Enough resolution to make out small text and dials (e.g. menus and flight sims)
- A way of moving around infinite environments without inducing motion sickness. I feel like a controller could solve this, but no game I’ve tried yet has made the movement natural enough to eliminate motion sickness. e.g. Alien Isolation. Redirected Walking is a great idea I’m hanging my hat on, but it may not be practical if research indicates we need a minimum of a 23-metre-radius area.
- Haptic feedback. I expect for the first 5-10 years of VR a controller that let’s us interact with objects that behave like air will be acceptable, but it really does make it hard to naturally interact with an environment. Can you imagine trying something that requires even a low amount of dexterity (e.g. opening a drawer) when not only are you unable to feel the handle, but your hand passes straight through it.
- Better optics. I have taken to putting in contacts when I want to VR – glasses are uncomfortable. It’s enough of a pain to make me not bother some times. Self-focusing lens, manual focusing lens, automatic IPD measurements, a more glasses-friendly fit – I expect all of these things to make an appearance sooner or later, but at the moment they are outstanding issues.
- General simplification of the hardware and software. When I want to use the DK2, I have to put in contacts, grab the headset (maybe plug it in), fire up the OR software, change my monitor configurations (issues with Extended Mode), somehow fire up and navigate demos and games that are often half-in and half-out of VR (e.g. Windows is out of VR, but in the game the menus are in VR… but require the keyboard to navigate which I can’t see.) A lot of these problems will be solved when more software utilises the Rift’s Direct Mode, but due to limitations within Windows this hasn’t been widely adopted yet.
- 180 degree field of view. At the moment the FOV of the DK2 is pretty good (and the Vine appears to be slightly worse in that regard), but it would really help presence and immersion if the engineers can get that FOV to encompass all of our peripheral vision. It doesn’t really feel like you’re looking down a tube, but you do find you can’t do some of the things you would in the real world – like catching things out of the corner of your eye. You have to move your head a bit more left-and-right than you would realistically to keep your situational awareness high. I feel like I’m a quarterback scanning the field … all the time.
The haptic feedback might be a tough nut to crack (but it is also something I think we can live without for the foreseeable future) and the rest I fully expect to be quickly solved in the next 12-24 months.
The VR news has been a bit quiet of late … this has me excited once again.