Saturday, March 7, 2015

Visiting PAX East Part 1: Oculus Booth

Growing up in a generation that has seen so much technological change in one lifetime it takes alot to impress me these days but a visit to the Oculus Booth at the PAX East Convention yesterday was well worth the ticket price. I left the demo feeling awestruck and humbled to live in such a technologically rich lifetime. Seriously, we will probably see Skynet.



If you haven't heard of the Oculus Rift, it's a stereoscopic (you can see full 360 degrees) virtual reality headset that is going to be affordable for consumers. If you signed up for the PAX East App, you were able to schedule in advance a short time with the Oculus Cresent Bay demo. After experiencing the satisfaction of cutting the 2 hour line, you were taken to a dark room with the headset, a mat to stand on, and of course someone to guide you through the process.  The demo plays highly detailed example scenes from as a beautiful Minecraft-ish meadow full of animals to a realistic Jurassic Park like scene with a T-Rex charging towards you. Anytime during the simulation you were encouraged to look all the way around you and change your position from standing to sitting etc.  Besides being able to peak at a very small section below me (which worked out so I didn't fall off the mat), the entire world was virtual. The scene that really got me was the high platform on a skyscraper overlooking a city. I literally backed up as my stomach dropped from the soaring height between me and the "ground". I found myself many times reaching out to touch and interact with the environment but there's nothing you can do during the demo.  The finale, which convinced me I could actually get into video games again, was a scene from an alien invasion where you are part of the police team trying to take them down. Bullets, glass, lasers and even a car fly all around you as you move closer and closer to the target with bullet time right out of a Wachowski brothers movie.
Samsung VR Net Gear Demo

Right now it's only available as a developer's kit for game designers (and the quite tech savvy librarians like those over at Ames Free Library in Easton where I had my first demo) to have a chance at testing/improving the tech and designing games for the Oculus.

Many big name companies are trying to create their own head sets for virtual gaming. In the Oculus booth was the Samsung VR Net Gear (another very long line to wait for) which had a controller to play a few demo games.

If there was an interest, I would love to add this to a Makerspace like Easton did. Imagine budding game developers getting a chance to come down to the library to program and later when the consumer device debuts library patrons can play what they have designed.  Libraries can certainly get on the ground floor of this awe-inspiring technological development. Buyers beware on this one though it does take alot of work to set them up and configure which Jed Phillips over in Easton can attest to. Also after the initial set up, just to demo already made games requires a very robust computer and money for games but imagine if people would wait 2 hours outside the library to demo the Oculus?



 

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