One topic we are all talking about lately is VR. We have a Slack channel dedicated to it; we share news, and links, and predictions about its future. But at our company retreat we were able to actually try it out first-hand with the HTC Vive.
Every year, Four Kitchens whisks us Web Chefs off to a vacation paradise for three days of learning, fun and bonding, IRL. For many of us (myself included) this year’s retreat provided a first encounter with VR.
Let me tell you, there was a lot of awkwardness—it took me a bit to get used to the headgear and it was difficult to let my brain get okay with the fact that what I was seeing isn’t what I was really seeing, because then what does seeing even mean? See what I mean?
Serious Immersive VR
This particular HTC Vive setup belongs to our Director of Projects, Suzy Bates. It was her holiday present from Four Kitchens (we all received awesome future tech gifts ranging from VR rigs to 360° cameras and 3D printers), and Suzy brought the Vive along to the retreat because we’re all just a bunch of kids who have jobs but actually just love to geek out with new toys. You can check out the gaming PC setup she and her kids assembled here.
The setup for an HTC Vive requires a more serious gaming PC than an off-the-shelf model, which means that if you’re a Mac user you’re gonna have to set your pride aside and put one of these puppies together. However, it’s worth it. The tower and screen obviously need some desk space but the wearer—the person experiencing VR—will need enough space to move their arms and walk around. You should also make sure there aren’t any level differences on the surface you’re standing on, for obvious reasons.
Trying the device and playing games is exceptional. We were able to try a few different games, such as Tilt Brush by Google, Google Earth VR, Waltz of the Wizard and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.There is no other gaming experience that comes close since there is no other game system as immersive as this.
I played Waltz of the Wizard and shot a crossbow, dodged arrows, aimed, shot ( and failed) at a giant eye peeking through a tower window and mixed a potion that made me a giant. The first couple of minutes I felt incredibly awkward, as I was trying to figure out how sensitive the hand controllers are and what to press to do what. It’s pretty simple once you get going and surprisingly intuitive. It also helped that fellow Web Chef James Todd was there to walk me through it.
Games as Experiences
From what I saw at the retreat, the games for the HTC Vive are as much experiences—spaces to explore and new ways to interact with your world—as they are games with points, and goals, and winners and losers. For example, there was a lot of excitement about the bomb diffusion game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The team went pretty wild over it for good reason—this one requires that everyone in the room interact with you since they have to guide you through the process of diffusing a bomb before it’s too late. We thrive on collaboration at Four Kitchens, so clearly this was a win.
Then there was Tilt Brush. This might have been the most impressive of all the apps because the visual execution is stunning. This is the kind of VR experience that only gets better the more you do with it. Even if you’re just trying it out, it will still knock your socks off. In it, you can pick any color, any brush and any texture you want and create 3D designs with a wave of your controller. Several of us spent time drawing and experimenting on Tilt Brush and 10/10 would tilt again.
Being able to try VR out IRL and seeing what it can do brought about a larger discussion: “What is the future of VR and how are people getting involved?”
VR for Content
Where VR is headed is a question many people are asking themselves, and as a company that prides itself on making content go, we are curious about the possibilities of VR and what it will mean for business, tech, and the everyday person’s life. It’s still fairly new in the commercial realm and there is still a way to go before the equipment reaches a level of standardization or becomes democratized enough that anyone could have access to it.
Now we’re getting ready to throw our hat into the ring—some Web Chefs have already started creating virtual environments. Our curiosity has been piqued and we’re keeping a steady focus on VR and all its possibilities.
In the meantime, we want to hear from you. Have you tried VR yet? Which devices have you used? Where do you think VR will go and how do you think we’ll use it in the near future? Let us know in the comments!