Virtual reality has spawned massive interest in the video game industry by enhancing what gamers already know about their virtual worlds and planting them in the position of their controller. Here are the game technologies that caught our eye at the International Consumer Electronics Show:
Oculus Crescent Bay
The new prototype of this headset transports you into the virtual world with all the usual bells and whistles (360-degree head tracking, HD resolution) and something new: 3D audio. “Now that we actually know where your head is, all the old spatial audio that just assumes you’re looking straight ahead changes because we actually have the data of where your ears are,” says Jason Rubin, head of Oculus virtual reality studios.
The audio is one more step in making the experience more immersive. During a demo, I looked a towering T-Rex in the eyes and flinched as it roared. I reminded myself not to look down as I was transported to the top of a skyscraper, overlooking the bustling city below. I dodged bullets rocketing at me in a Call of Duty Advanced Warfare-esque shootout with a giant, one-eyed mech. The demo lasted a whopping five minutes yet it felt infinite. Oculus.com.
Virtual reality’s all fun and games until you break a piece of furniture or go barreling down some steps. So, Virtuix Omni is crisis averted in a big box. “We’re nothing more than a glorified, great big game controller,” says Robert Brackenridge, Virtuix’s director of developer relations. The Omni allows players to walk and run on a pod-like, concave platform while a harness around their waist keeps them in bounds for safety. Virtuix is currently taking pre-orders for the platform at $499 and they plan to ship in May. Virtuix.com.
Open Source Virtual Reality
As one of the top leaders in gaming hardware, Razer sells everything from Chroma keyboards with customizable key colors to 12-button, 4G laser sensor mice. And now Razer is dabbling in virtual reality.
While their open source virtual reality, or OSVR, has a lightweight headset with 360-degree head tracking that allows you to view your hands in the simulation, one of the coolest features is the software. Razer offers up a constructible developer’s kit for $199. Scheduled to launch in June 2015, the open source software allows developers to customize a virtual reality experience from the ground up or add OSVR support to their games already in progress. Osvr.com.
If standing’s not your style, this alternative is a balance between comfort and mobility. 3DRudder allows you to move freely with your feet, using a 14-inch plate. The plate is programmed for all kinds of movement, such as a bird’s flight, with practice.
CEO and founder Stanislas Chesnais says it takes just 60 seconds to get the hang of the initial controls. I took the rotating device for a spin and after minutes, it became as automatic to use my feet in virtual reality as it is on the gas pedals of a car. The 3DRudder currently works with PC games and can be purchased for $110. 3Drudder.com.
What about if you want to take the game outside? Using smartphones and a “lyter”–a handheld device similar to a Wii remote–LyteShot offers some live-action fun in the form of a large-scale laser tag game. Accommodating up to 60 people at once, players clip on square devices that act as hit detectors to prepare them for battle. Knowing when a player is down and communicating among your team is easy thanks to cloud-based technology. Lyteshot.com.