The HTC Vive VR is Coming!

HTC and Valve got together to create a baby, and that baby is arriving in April. In what is shaping up to be a pretty important year for virtual reality, the two big names are shipping with a rather hefty price tag. We already saw Oculus announce their headset with a pre-order price of $599, which left some early adopters waiting to see what HTC would ship their Vive VR at.

Well the answer is here, and it’s $799. If you’re in the market for a brand new VR headset, then you can pre-order from the device from February 29th, with orders shipping in April. The Vive VR will ship with two wireless controllers, which helps to really complete the package.

HTC also unveiled a brand new feature, Vive Phone Services, which allows users to take and make calls, texts, and check their calendars, without ever popping the headset off. Sounds interesting! Combined with the front facing camera that will allow users to still interact with their immediate surroundings, this is shaping up to be a very interesting device.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you plan on jumping into the realm of VR, or are you going to hold off a little longer? If you’re joining in, then will you be going with the Oculus Rift, or HTC’s Vive VR, or maybe someone else? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Let’s Play: Alien Isolation Oculus Rift

Well, after taking Alien Isolation out for a spin on the Oculus Rift, I know that I’d be absolutely no use to Ripley against the Xenomorphs! This is perhaps the most terrifying game I’ve played on the Oculus Rift and I’d even go as far to say it’s the best virtual reality experience I’ve had.

The game looks absolutely fantastic with a huge amount of attention to detail. Exploring the ship and taking a look at what’s on display can take forever because there is just so much to see. The effects look fantastic, with steam rising from vents and really adding to the atmosphere.

The dark corridors make it so much harder to see that pesky alien and with it’s random exploration things get really interesting. This isn’t a game thats just filled with jump scares and set pieces, this is a game where the alien is hunting you, listening out for any sounds you make. Now, combine that with the Oculus Rift and that makes Alien Isolation one hell of a game!

If you’re interested in seeing how terrified a grown man can get then check out my gameplay videos below:

 

News: Google Cardboard gets an update

The Google I/O has been taking place today and one thing that got announced was an update to Google Cardboard. Now, as a fan of VR, this is something that I find quite fun and intriguing, and after taking the first Google Cardboard out for a spin I was surprised by how well it works.

So what’s new with the latest build? Well, for starters it supports devices with screen sizes up to 6″ which will come in handy considering how mobile phones seem to be continually getting larger. Google have now shrunk the steps to build the device from twelve to only three, meaning once you unpack your new D.I.Y VR kit it will only take a couple of minutes to get up and running.

Perhaps the biggest update is that Google Cardboard will now support iOS, meaning that all of you iPhone users out there will get to have fun with some makeshift VR.

For anyone out there who wants to experience virtual reality without handing over a huge sum of money then this is probably worth taking a look at. Google can now boast to having over 1 million Cardboard users and over 500 apps available for the VR market. Not bad eh?

Oculus fires out special press invites for June 11

Well it looks like Oculus are preparing to share some more information on their consumer device after invites were sent out to the press for a special June 11 event, tagline “Step into the Rift”.

Oculus VR recently announced that their consumer product would be launching in the first half of 2016 with pre-orders going live later this year. Hopefully at this event we will get to see finalised specs and pricing for the consumer device along with some more concrete dates for pre-orders and launch windows.

The press event ties in nicely with getting demonstrations ready for this years E3 event. Fingers crossed there will be hands on time and some first impression reports shooting out all over the web.

VR is coming! I’m definitely going to need a replacement heart at this rate as mine still hasn’t recovered from the horror gaming I’ve been trying in VR so far.

While we wait for the event, feel free to check out my early impressions of horror gaming on the Oculus Rift DK2.

Cheaper VR Gaming

If like me, you’re looking to experience the intrigue of VR gaming, but you don’t want to invest in the short term solution of an Oculus Rift developer kit then I may have the solution for you! For a while now I’ve been following VR, especially when it comes to gaming. I love the idea of immersing myself in a game, but the VR headsets out there aren’t built for the consumer yet and they come at a price.

We either need to fork out our hard earned cash and pick up a developer kit, which will get a consumer release at some point in the near future, making our purchase almost redundant, or we can try a different route. Now I need to point out that this isn’t going to supply you with the perfect VR solution, but what I have to tell you does give you a pretty good idea of the future of gaming!

For this to work you’re going to need a few things:

  • Android Handset
  • Google Cardboard type headset
  • Trinus VR
  • Limelight Streaming
  • Nvidia GPU

So how does it all work? Well I picked up a relatively cheap Google Cardboard equivalent from Amazon and combined this with my Google Nexus 6. With these two devices alone you can have some good fun with apps downloaded from the Play Store, but the real fun comes when you download Trinus VR.

Trinus VR is an app that you download for both your gaming PC and your Android handset. The app allows you to customise how your PC and Android handset communicate, giving you different levels of connection options, e.g. wifi direct, USB etc. It will also give you a number of different options so you can chose how your games are streamed to your device, either in VR or non VR.

The great thing that Trinus VR offers is the ability to work alongside Limelight. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Limelight it’s basically a reverse engineered version of Nvidia’s Gamestream software. Limelight turns any Android device into an Nvidia Shield and allows you to stream your games from PC to your phone or tablet. Trinus VR takes this and turns it into VR.

The ultimate result is your Android device becomes the screen, that when inserted into your VR goggles gives you a pretty good virtual reality experience. As I mentioned, it’s not perfect, but it’s an awful lot of fun. While you’re stuck waiting for the final consumer versions of VR to hit the market this is a pretty good solution.

So why not check it out? You’re in for a lot of fun, and maybe some motion sickness, but hey, it’s worth it!

My Virtual Experience

Its been a week now since I started playing with my Oculus Rift and I’ve got to say I’m more than a little impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Of course my feelings are mixed, but I can safely say that I cannot wait to see some finalised consumer products hitting the market.

 
The Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 isn’t meant for consumers, but I wanted to give it a go anyway. So far my experience has been amazing, but VR sickness is a very real thing (as you can tell if you watch my gameplay videos)

 
Its been a while since any form of technology blew me away, but when you find yourself in a piece of software optimised and made to work in VR, you’re in for a real treat. Playing games that aren’t made for VR is intriguing, but it’s not a great experience. I tried to force games like Skyrim and GTA V to work in VR and even got them running, but things just didn’t look right and I couldn’t get that sense of presence everyone who uses VR talks about.

 
I moved on to try games and software made with VR in mind like Elite Dangerous and that’s when the fun began. Suddenly I was in a world I felt a part of. While sat in my spaceship I felt as though I could really reach out and touch the controls or interact with my ship. The feeling is just breathtaking.

 
It was this kind if gaming experience that made me believe that VR can be the next big step in gaming. On the flip side, using other demos available, I also came to the realisation that VR is going to be huge in other areas such as education and communication.

 
Walking around virtual museums, or taking a tour around locations around the world in the Rift is pretty impressive. Watching a huge virtual cinema screen is another big win. Unfortunately due to the low resolution of the developer kit these things aren’t perfect, but once the consumer version lands I can imagine myself using VR to replace things like TV’s and monitors.

 
The possibilities of VR are endless, and although the technology isn’t quite there yet, using the Rift has made me realise how close we are and what a massive potential the technology has.

 
I have to wonder, especially since my background stems from retail, what the impact of VR will be on online shopping. As these devices become mainstream I’ll be interested to see what companies get onboard and transform their online shopping experience.

 
Imagine being able to slip on your VR headset and walk around a virtual store and interact with the products. The sales staff, instead of being webchat advisors, would be real people using a VR headset themselves, interacting with you in your online session.

 
If this is done right it really could revolutionise how we shop online, but also help to bridge the gap between online shopping and high street retail. Most people might think this is a long way off, but I think it’s a lot closer than we believe.

 
So in conclusion VR is amazing! The time with my Rift has blown me away and left me a true believer in the technology. As I said, its been a long time since any form of technology really impressed me and now I can’t wait to see the final product.

Feel free to check out my two VR gaming videos!

 

Project Morpheus

Sony have just unveiled their take on virtual reality with their new Project Morpheus. It should be interesting to see how his turns out and will also offer virtual reality for consoles, something that the Oculus Rift wasn’t going to deliver.

The device will run at full 1080p resolution and offer and work with existing Playstation accessories. When paired up with the Playstation Camera things get a little more in depth, offering another level of head tracking.

So the future of virtual reality is looking healthier, with a first party hardware and software manufacture joining in on the action. It will be interesting to see how the Oculus Rift team respond to this, but I’m sure they’re not worried, battling in the PC arena rather than console.