20.03.2014 8:02

The Second Coming of VR: the pleasures and horrors of new virtual reality helmets

Behind the hype that has risen around the new wearable designs Google, totally unfair lost two news from adjoining area of ​​virtual reality. Tonight Oculus VR Inc. start taking orders for the second working prototype helmet Oculus Rift, and yesterday a working prototype of a similar device – Project Morpheus – showed Sony.

About Oculus Rift and so you probably all know, the new model differs only slightly higher price ($ 350), but curled TTX (in particular the resolution on the eye 960 × 1080 for both – with partial overlapping areas of – FullHD; connection to PC’s still wired). Unit from Sony, in general, similar – except that is positioned as an accessory for the PS4. But this duo announced important is not so much the pixels and milliseconds as the names of participants: the inclusion of Sony in the race a virtual reality refers to the formal recognition of this technology ready for the second coming.


After VR did not start with the announcement of Oculus Rift two years ago. “Old man” who remember the eight-bit machines, and have a wonderful time to remember the second half of the 90s, when the virtual reality has already tried to get out of the laboratories to penetrate the consumer computing. That was the first “Pentium” and 486, rudimentary graphics accelerators (high Givet 3dfx Vodoo!), So that the computing power lacked. But nothing could stop trying to apply VR games.

Unreleased then VR-helmets were dreadful even by the standards of prehistoric times: remember though VFX-1 , which has become the de facto standard. Frame rate measured stereopicture pieces per second, the actual resolution was less than 320 × 240, the viewing angles are not even reach 60 degrees. And with all of this cost VFX-1 and the like for a thousand dollars, that is, were too expensive for the home.

However, in computer clubs are accustomed. Use such devices more than an hour is not officially recommended – but fans were sweating in them for hours, tiring eyes to exhaustion and earning a headache. And even impressions from those helmets with grainy image beyond measure and severe inertia always been suicidal. Dive! This reality!

It turned out science fiction did not lie: the brain quickly gets used to the imperfections of the picture, and a stereo pair of forcing the user to believe that he really was there. So, of course, helmet VR – it is a piece that is required to try out for yourself. And if there is not the possibility, at least see how you react to it children and elderly people. puppy dog enthusiasm , otherwise you could not tell.

Oculus Rift

Alas, because if excessive prices or technical damp consumer VR revolution did not happen. Virtual reality limited professional niche, and today are literally dozens of manufacturers produce mounted head stereodisplei (HMD) for special applications. But that’s also why Oculus VR, on which all pray as a pioneer, actually not that misunderstanding, but at best, the heir of the great pioneers who opened a “second reality” Fifteen years ago, overcoming unimaginable hardships.

The guys from Oculus go the beaten track. At their disposal are cheap high quality liquid crystal matrix, ready cheap spatial sensors, fantastic computing power of modern graphics cards. And even if they manage to screw it up, losing sight of the important stuff. For example, almost everyone who did Oculus Rift intuitively looking controls – and there are in this helmet is simply no, and the keyboard is not visible. So even wrote one enthusiast aaplet transforming tapping his helmet (which is captured sensors) in a mouse click.

On the other hand, underestimate the work done by a team of Oculus, too impossible. To create a sense of presence, to deceive consciousness must withstand extremely accurate mass parameters. The man on whose eyes “pull” synthetic stereo, keenly feels the slightest false. Reaction Images for head movement should not be slower thousandths of a second, the position of the helmet in the space should be monitored to arcseconds, frame rate – to be several times higher than the television. Plus desirable viewing angles comparable to natural (in the OR and Morpheus – about 110 degrees). Oculus Rift creators of the first participants in the second assault VR said these characteristics at the sane price.

The main problem Oculus Rift that it resembles home-made: a device created by a handful of enthusiasts with very limited resources. Yes, behind it the acknowledged masters of digital technologies (one item that John Carmack about um!), But two years after the start they have not yet finished product (which, unlike the developer prototypes must be wireless), and support for developers games leaves much to be desired (all promise that will catch up about, but so far these are only words). There is not even the exact timing of the launch: will the end of the year as expected?


And that is why it is so important appearance here Sony. She is no stranger to industry VR / HMD, but Morpheus is its first product of this kind, focused on citizen. And even shown yesterday prototype already furnishes Oculus Rift picture quality, but also for him ready wireless controllers (from PS4). In short, Sony demonstrates the class from the beginning – and it is easy to explain: the company is going through a difficult time getting rid of failed projects and units, aggressively seeking new bright ideas, and virtual reality for the mass market, obviously considered such ideas (see ” Sony farewell to personalkoy “). But Sony – is a brand with a capital letter, just about the most important name in the gaming universe. It will not convince game developers, it may require them to support his helmet! So – thank you for your courage Oculus VR, but it was the arrival of Sony marks the second coming of VR.

How will this period, just do not know, of course, no. But we can assume that will form at least three fundamental trends. First, there will be a standard API for OS Independent virtual reality helmets – facilitates software developers support various VR-devices from multiple vendors. The same Sony does not wish even to think about it, but let it brew situation at least a couple of years, let appear on the shelves Oculus Rift, Morpheus, just announced Sulon Cortex , not officially announced, but the suspect Xbox VR, cheap Chinese hand-made articles – and the need to in a universal programming interface (a la OpenGL) be designated by itself.

Oculus Rift

Secondly, from the statements of Oculus and Sony is already clear that they are concerned not so much realistic images, as the problem of higher order – the difference between the user tactile sensations in reality and virtuality. Roughly speaking, when the player’s hand “stumbles” on the virtual obstacle, he feels nothing. And this, of course, prevents the creation of great immersive effect. So, most likely, we will see very quickly VR-manipulators with accurate feedback may like popular among professionals haptic gloves – gloves, creates the illusion of touching virtual objects.


Thirdly, the illusion of reality created helmets level Oculus Rift and Morpheus, crossed an important psychological point at which the user becomes susceptible to the so-called diseases of the simulation. This sister is familiar to all “disease of the sea”. Discrepancies between the “testimony” eye, hearing and vestibular system – say, by jumping from a balcony in virtuality, you see and hear the process of falling, but your vestibulyarka naturally silent! – Cause a person to dizziness, nausea, sweating, headache. Furthermore, even on a flat screen, many feel uncomfortable in games-horror movies like Doom. And the helmet, though not threatening heart attack, but could well provoke an acute aversion that hit sales.

So: it is time to consider how to alleviate the negative physiological manifestations of virtuality. And if the games-horror stories solution at least viewed (age limit players make the characters less real), how to treat a simulation sickness (and it is already rampant among developers VR-toys), and no one has no idea.