VR oooooooom

Monday brought a bit of excitement. I had a go with an Oculus Rift set up in a VR environment. Whilst I like the name Oculus Rift, I can’t help but think it might invite trouble – I mean it does smack a little of Westworld, doesn’t it? There was also that short story I read years ago by Ray Bradbury called The Veldt. I won’t spoil it for those that have not read it, but it featured a virtual reality nursery and …well it is science fiction.

This was not in a nursery but in the open plan office of someone with whose organization I work from time to time. He had been telling me about a couple of VR experiences they had been developing and invited me around for a go. He was a bit concerned that I would get freaked out – some people do apparently – but I pretty sure I could handle it. I had been in Second Life, after all and it was years since I read The Veldt.

The two simulations I had a go at were both of large scale building projects – like a virtual tour. It was great fun and did remind me of Second Life a bit, except that instead of watching your avatar move through the environment, you are in it – or feel in it. You an turn around 360 degrees and see behind you, but (at least in this case) I could not move around freely, I was basically moved from outside the building, to inside it, and in one case up on a balcony with no barrier – which did make me wobble for a sec. Actually, I did more than wobble  because when I took the VR goggles off, I had walked about a metre to my right without realizing it. I think I did it when I was on the boardwalk section of the tour and the voice over mentioned there were some restaurants up ahead. Well, it was lunch time.

The other program I had a go at was better fun. This put me in an arena that was just like the holodeck in Star Trek. There were a couple of floating hands immediately in front of me and it turned out they were mine. With a pinching movement I could create shapes with my ‘hands’, remove gravity and make everything float off the ‘floor’, bat objects around the space and make them come crashing down by restoring gravity. It was great. I am not sure how long it would have taken for the novelty wore off, but I didn’t get the chance to find out because they took the goggles off me. I may not have altered gravity outside the VR, but I can get a bit shouty-sweary when I get excited and thoughts of world domination start to build in my mind, and other people were trying to work.

The final application I got to trial was a movie theatre. The Oculus Rift goggles work with Samsung phones and they snap in to the headset. You can load up a movie on your phone with Netflix and when you are watching it with the goggles on, it looks like you are sitting in front of a small movie screen – say one that occupied a whole wall of your living room. They even gave you a couch – except as I was standing I appeared to be growing out of it.

Exciting times. I got a brief chance to play with the future, and of course nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong…..

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