From wielding a light saber to hearing in 3D to surviving in the boxing ring, our top picks from the Game Developers Conference (GDC) all include Oculus-enabled virtual reality.
The virtual reality (VR) splash at the 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) became a tidal wave in 2015. The Oculus headset was everywhere this year, and most new product demos included it in some way.
But while the gaming industry pushes VR, some experts wonder if there is actually a mass market for this $300 to $400 piece of hardware. Will we really use it pervasively, more so than for a five-minute visual experience every so often?
As I wandered around the massive GDC expo floor this year, held in the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, I searched for truly inspirational demos, Oculus or not. I wanted to find mind-blowing technology.
I tested almost everything that was testable (except for Valve and HTC’s new headset). And I wasn’t disappointed. From a massive array of new games, hardware, and APIs that could appeal to any sort of developer, here are the top three I can’t forget:
Sixense STEM system
Talk about mind-blowing. This motion tracking system uses a big electromagnetic field that is sent in your direction from the charging base, while the two motion controllers in your hand receive the signal and translate exactly where they are and in what orientation.
Paired with an Oculus Rift DK2, the demo takes you into the world of Star Wars, where you can deflect lasers and play around with light sabers.
What’s amazing is that when you first put the headset on, you don’t have the controllers in your hands—they are shown in the VR world. But all you have to do is extend your hands out to them and they are exactly where your eyes perceive them. It’s extremely intuitive. The tracking is flawless, highly reactive, and really puts the “reality” into the VR experience.
Oculus Rift’s Crescent Bay
Obviously, this list couldn’t exist without Oculus. Their headset has an army of developers preparing content for their official launch, and it was again the star of the show at GDC. Their latest model, Crescent Bay, is the 3rd iteration and the best yet.
The step between DK1 and DK2 was huge, and focused on reducing the lag of the virtual world while adding a few capabilities including head tracking. Crescent Bay is a big step toward a consumer release.
Its overall design has been made more consistent and headphones have been incorporated directly. The demo experience was crisp, the audio was great and in 3D, and the amount of available games and experiences is increasing exponentially.
The REALM system
These guys have built a game controller that actually makes you tired, unlike what Nintendo predicted when releasing the Wii, where most people ended up on their couches swinging their wrists.
You have to wear a strap around your chest, which links to two elastic cords attached to grips that you hold in your hands. The device is meant to add force feedback to motion controlling, so when you push your hand forward the cables pull it back, which in turn requires more strength.
The demo was a game of boxing (against a fellow GDC attendee) and consisted of three rounds of the longest minutes of my life. Both players are facing the screen and the harder you hit the more damage you do.
A camera tracks your body to help you avoid your opponent’s strikes and jabs. By the time the second round ended, I was in deep need of some rest, but the combat continued. This was some proper exercise!