We Are VR: My first experience with Virtual Reality

VR is like, totally far out maaaaaaaan.
— Kyle Landstra

When I first heard about the return of VR with rumblings of the Oculus Rift some years ago I was a skeptic. I imagined it would be another fad like 3DTV, Motion Controllers, or Heelys. That may still turn out to be the case. However, it is my opinion that what we're seeing right now is the foundation of an entirely new pillar of the entertainment industry. I had my first experience in the virtual reality. Now I'm a believer, and it only took about 3 minutes.

I was anxious as I entered the side office aptly named 'The War Room' where my coworker had his computer on a standing desk with the Oculus Rift DK2 connected. The DK2 is a developer kit prototype, so from the start I had tempered expectations for graphics and fidelity of the experience, though I did have trouble tempering my anxiety. In the back of my mind I knew that there is a certain percentage of people who can't handle VR, it makes them sick. As I was putting the futuristic apparatus on my head I feared that I may be one of those unlucky few, that I would always be an outsider to virtual reality. Like some bad food allergy I would have to politely shake my head and watch as people around me experienced what I was unable to enjoy. As the screen activated I realized that those fears were well founded.

 Battle of Endor was created by James Clement you can download it  here

Battle of Endor was created by James Clement you can download it here

There are very few experiences that I recall being so immediately disorienting as this first time entering virtual reality. Suddenly I was inside the cockpit of an X-Wing. I looked around the virtual space for the first time and my knees buckled. When I looked down I realized my character was sitting, but my body in the real world was standing. My brain had trouble reconciling this, and a strange uneasiness came over me. I felt a growing pit in my stomach. I thought "this is it, I'm doomed to live on the sidelines of VR for the rest of my life". Then I looked ahead at the massive planet in front of me, and behind me at the Death Star 2 and in then I realized... the Empire must be destroyed.

I remember the exact moment my mind changed about VR. I was jacked in to 'Star Wars: The Battle of Endor'. In it you take control of an X-Wing and fly around Endor shooting TIE fighters, Star Destroyers, and eventually the Death Star itself. It has the graphics of an early xbox 360 game, but that didn't stop me from being impressed. The magical moment happened as I was turning my X-wing. I saw a TIE fighter zoom past to my upper right, and instinctively my head followed. When I stopped thinking about physical reality and succumbed to the virtual. I basked in that feeling, fully realizing that I had changed.

I proceeded to destroy a dozen or so TIE fighters all the while dodging between star destroyers. After another ten minutes of shaky legs and hotshot star fighting it was time to remove the Oculus and re-enter the real world. This was an entirely different experience. Having just enough time to acclimate to the virtual world only to jack out was weird to say the least. My mind struggled to process my experience for maybe an hour afterwards, that was when I came to an important realization. VR had clicked for me.

As for my technical worries? The head tracking fidelity was sound, the resolution was good enough, and while the game was limited in scope, I had a ton of fun. My experience was not soured by technical bugs or physical maladies, and all I can think about is the future of this technology. A future of fantastic experiences and dystopian situations.

I can't wait.





Derek Thompson