This week is the largest annual gathering for professional video game developers, the Game Developers Conference. This year has been a head to head virtual reality brawl. The future of virtual reality is close and Sony, Facebook and Valve are all stepping up to the plate.
Sony showed, Project Morpheus their VR system to work on Playstation 4. It has a 5.7 inch OLED display with a 1920×1080 resolution and 120 Hz refresh rate. People who have used it have been praising its games and comfortability of use which has been a problem with previous VR headsets. At GDC they showed off a couple demos; including a game called “the deep” where you are in a shark cage watching the fish and then sharks. The demo thats drawing buzz though is, “The London Heist” where the player is tied to a chair threatened by torture then is given a ringing phone. When the player lifts the controller to their ear they hear a voice on the other line. The demo takes you on a mission to steal a priceless jewel in a London heist. Users actually feel like their immersed instead of just pushing buttons.
Facebook’s Oculus Rift is still the best-known name in the VR industry. Back in july they shipped the second iteration of their dev kit with a 960×1080 per eye OLED display and 75Hz refresh rate. Oculus hasn’t made any changes to the hardware yet but were at GDC showing off demo’s including Crytek’s, “Back to Dinosaur island” where the player interacted with a T-rex staring at them and reacting to their head movement. Here at SparkNET we’ve been able get first hand experience with Oculus and our consensus is it offers a great experience hardware wise its more the implementation of software that doesn’t make the user nauseous.
Valve has teamed up with HTC and shown their VR headset, HTC Vive for the first time. The HTC Vive supports a 1200×1080 display and a 90 frame per second refresh rate. It works with a gyro sensor, accelerometer, and laser position sensor. HTC Vive requires two laser-tracking boxes bolted onto the ceiling, two nunchuck-like controllers and the headset itself which is cabled to a windows PC. This is because the headset needs to transmit too much data to go wireless. The Vive also requires a 15×15 foot room cleared of furniture because it encourages you to walk around to interact with the virtual world.
With so many companies in the race to be, “The VR” experience it will be interesting to see which gains traction and is able to create an early adoption rate. This is where Sony and Valve have the upper hand. Sony has been able to move 20 million PS4s since its launch in november 2013 and Valve has 75 million active users on steam. However all these devices require a HDMI cord to be plugged into the headset. I feel the first team to make it wireless while retaining the frame rate and resolution to keep it immersive will be the one to take the crown.