Losing my VR virginity

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I attended the SenseVirtual VR Event hosted at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock a short while ago. The organisers had to move the event to a bigger location due to the overwhelming interest, unfortunately more people did not spark a magical delivery of more VR gear. Nevertheless – hard core enthusiasts didn’t mind the longer queues – we all knew that this was a rare opportunity and were grateful for it.

My first encounter was with the Nokia OZO.

It’s been very easy to forget about Nokia’s existence lately, unless you’re one of those who struggle daily with your Lumia phone. So – if you’re wondering what they’ve been up to since releasing the Lumia – this is basically about it. For a cough-worthy $60,000, you can own one of these bad boys to live stream content to your VR heart’s… well… content. Check out the Nokia website for the specs for more details, and what this hefty price tag buys you.

The live streaming demo was an out-of-body experience. The camera was right next to where I was standing, and I saw a 4 second younger version of myself through the Oculus DK2 headset (FYI: the view was quite pixelated on the developer’s kit, unfortunately the retail version “got caught in customs”, but the captured quality was amazing). The eight wide-eyed lenses on the OZO camera ensures that the stitching is 98% flawless – if time equals money, the less time that’s spent on editing is a win for client and supplier. The content quality was also incredible – but the camera does come with quite a few limitations. Besides the obvious bank balance issue, the camera can’t be used in excess of 25°C – this is problematic though, as to ensure the highest sound quality, noisy cooling fans were a no-go. For more insight on this product, check out Andrew Williams’ interesting article.

From here – I joined the HTC Vive demo queue.

The queue was an experience in and of itself – chatting to companies conducting research to gauge market interest on possible product offerings, watching others experience VR immersion for the first time, and also realising how many demo guides are necessary for one person! Assistant numero uno initially assists you with the headset and earphones, and then eventually hold the cables away from your body to ensure a tumble-free experience. The second person mans the PC, starts the demo and calls you back to the grid if you venture too far (you can see it in your view – but, its function isn’t always apparent to the first-time user). The last person is a friendly who answers any questions from those in the queue. I also tried the Samsung Gear VR in the queue, but had to take it off after 30 seconds due to severe motion sickness.

And then it was my turn to try the HTC Vive.

Mind. Blowing. It’s incredibly difficult to explain to a VR virgin how intense your ‘first REAL time’ is. I’ve played around with Google cardboard before – it was a kinda, maybe sorta, not really sure if it was my first time, first time. But, OH MY WORD, HTC Vive – *rolls over in bed* - thank you! The demo was an underwater shipwreck experience, standing on the bow of the ship, peering over the edge. I don’t do heights. I was just about ready to tap out with my sweaty palms when a whale swam past. I first heard him calling from behind me, and did NOT expect to look directly into his eye when I turned around! You’ve not experienced VR until you’ve experienced binaural sound. As I took off the gear, I realised that I was wearing goofiest smile. It was such an incredible experience - and we’re making it our mission to bring this to as many people as possible.

So watch this space, VR sluts and virgins alike.

Posted on April 28 2016 by Mel van der Linde
Melanie has brains in her head and feet in her shoes. She is the most organised person on the planet and keeps the team and suppliers in check.

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