What I’ve learnt demoing VR to first timers.

Those who have the privilege of owning a Virtual Reality (VR) headset I’m sure has shown VR to someone who hasn’t experienced it before, I like to tag these people as VR first timers (jokes), I don’t actually like labelling things but for the sake of this post I will use it. Anyway back to the subject at hand.

I own a HTC Vive and it’s currently set up in my spare bedroom at home, I feel very privileged to own this hardware and to actually have a PC that runs it. I take advantage of this by allowing anyone to have a go on my VR rig.

HTCVive

Most of my family and friends have never heard of VR, they aren’t exactly geeky tech heads like myself, one of my friends thought it was some weird spy camera rig set up, having described that it’s the next big thing called Virtual Reality, my friend still didn’t get it and just brushed it off, I even had to plea with him just to give it a go, I was begging him to try it to see…I had a similar experience with my girlfriend as well.

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I have demoed VR to a lot of people at various technology conferences, typically at a Unity booth at a conference we would have some form of VR demo set up, whether it’s an Oculus VR, HTC Vive or GearVR. The advantage at a technology conference is I don’t have to beg people to try it.

What’s the different between the three? Quite drastic in my opinion and this question is relevant to the topic of this post because you need to think about what type of VR experience you would like to show to a VR first timer. I don’t want to delve into this question too much though but in simple terms Oculus is a sitting or standing VR experience connected to a PC, GearVR is a mobile experience, a device that has a slot to place your Samsung device into and the HTC Vive (saving the best ’till last) which is a room-scale VR headset connected to a PC (can also be a standing or sitting experience).

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GearVR has probably been the most accessible VR experience available on the market at present, given there’s some hundreds of millions of Samsung devices in the hands of consumers that are VR ready puts Oculus and Samsung in very powerful position, I personally believe in using the highest quality experience for showing VR to newbies, so that leaves Oculus and HTC Vive. In my experience demoing a mobile level quality VR demo to VR first timers hasn’t delivered the same experiences as other VR headsets, I would love to hear if someone has seen the opposite experience so please comment on this post below.

Let’s start with Oculus, Oculus delivers a higher level immersion, from my experience demoing to consumers, reactions to the Oculus have been along the lines of higher quality graphics, better immersion, this is partly due to the technology which in turn allows developers to push the barriers of immersive experiences. Considering Oculus runs off a high-end PC and not a mobile device (same for the HTC Vive). I’m not saying GearVR apps can not create high levels of immersive experiences…Immersion is not defined by graphics quality and or technology but it can help.

Moving on to the HTC Vive, In my opinion and from my experience demoing to VR first timers and talking to professional developers, the HTC Vive delivers the best VR experience on the market. Partly due to the room-scale features it offers, this is a complete game changer in a VR experience, being able to physically move around the virtual room or space you are experiencing is extremely powerful and is a superb feature for us developers to experiment with with new game designs.

What’s really strange is the ability to move around a virtual room seems to confuse consumers at first, almost every VR first timer who tried the HTC Vive didn’t think about walking around the room, it seems to come across as an unnatural thing to do, which is true, think about it; Almost all core gaming experiences are static, since the beginning of video games you have never had the opportunity to physically move around a virtual space to effect the gameplay, the Wii was really the first global success in doing physical movement to effect gameplay (is there a term for that?) but you were limited as you had to face towards the TV.

Content on the HTC Vive has introduced various input designs that allow you to traverse virtual environments in various ways, there has been a few talks on this and is a constant topic at present, many developers experimenting with new ideas and also defining input standards within VR. Teleportation is one common technique which doesn’t really work for all experiences, the ability to teleport already defines the genre of your game, I mean..surely your game has some sci-fi based advancements right? As teleportation is not a natural experience for a human, the power of teleportation can break the immersive experience you are having within the content. In a general positive VR empowers you to experience what a teleportation might feel like, in reality it’s a win win situation for a consumer.

From a VR first timer perspective the teleportation technique completely freaks people out at first, I tend to show VR first timers Valve’s demo called “Aperture Robot Repair” which has a cool teleportation implementation, but it takes a few times to get used it at first, especially amusing is when the first time they use it and mess it up by teleporting up against a wall it strikes shock. Other implementations involve various techniques which I won’t go into in this post.

My brother tried a VR experience which placed the player up on a high beam, this totally freaked him out, having a fear of heights didn’t help but for my amusement seeing him try and balance himself on a flat surface (i.e. the bedroom floor) was rather good.

So, moving on from this, I would highly recommend showing VR first timers the HTC Vive, it really delivers the best experience VR can currently offer, the room-scale capabilities enhance the experience tenfold.

My order of content I demo to VR first timers:

theBlu:

theBlu.jpg

A cinematic experience which introduces VR first timers to room-scale VR with no interaction required, limiting the senses and allows us to adapt to the virtual environment and power of room-scale VR. Everyone I have shown this to has been blown away by this experience, especially when a big whale swims by. Generally people are super convinced at this point.

Aperture Robot Repair:

Adding an extra layer into the room-scale VR experience with the ability to be able to interact with objects in a virtual room, the human senses are going a bit more crazy with this experience, usually receive a lot of nervous laughter and “whoa!!” outbursts. Introduces teleportation input technique, which freaks people out at first. Generally; feedback has been very positive with this experience.

TiltBrush:

TiltBrush.jpg

An artistic VR experience, empowering the user to be creative with painting and drawing in VR, user can move around and interact via painting strokes or objects into a virtual space. Usually at this point a majority of users have adapted to a VR room-scale experience and everything is starting to feel more natural. As far as I know there’s no teleportation technique implemented.

After they are done with these three experiences, I offer a choice of content next, this means they can pick something that might interest them or pick something that might enhance a human emotion such as fear as in horror or fear of heights, so here is my list in no particular order:

  • Job Simulator
  • The Rose and I
  • Fantastic Contraption
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • AudioShield
  • The Brookhaven Experiment
  • CloudLands: VR Minigolf
  • Skeet: VR Target Shooting
  • Selfie Tennis
  • The Lab

I  acknowledge content and peoples interests plays a big part in personal VR experiences and notice I mentioned “personal”, from what  I’ve seen everyone’s VR experience is unique and personal, people react to different experiences differently, it can effect them emotionally, such as being excited, nervous, funny, scared, peaceful etc…it would be great to hear what content you like to show to VR first timers and also the reactions from these experiences you’ve seen, please comment below.

So what have I learn’t exactly, lets summarise:

  • Demo the best technology on the market i.e. HTC Vive with room-scale VR
  • Ask the individual if they have any fears before letting them play
  • Always ensure the player doesn’t step on the headset cable
  • Start with the most basic / limited experience for example theBlu which is awesome
  • Begin introducing more complex VR experiences which involves interaction and movement
  • Then go wild if they feel comfortable continuing

Notice I haven’t covered nausea in this post, content on the HTC Vive and the technology shouldn’t cause this but may be experienced with specific people, I haven’t had one person experience nausea with the HTC Vive but I’m sure someone out there has.

Thanks all!

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