Science and Tech
PC Gamer Tech - The 5 Coolest from CES 2016

CJ Miozzi | 27 Jan 2016 01:30
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3. Virtual Reality so Real You Can Touch It

I wasn't completely sold on VR until I experienced the HTC Vive. Powered by an MSI gaming PC, the Vive demo immersed me in a Portal-themed world embedded with the charm we've come to expect from the franchise and a degree of realism that had me physically reacting to events as though they were real.

The great thing about the Vive versus, say, the Oculus, is that two "lighthouse stations" - sensors mounted on tall poles - track your position in a 15 foot by 15 foot space. This gives you an entire room to walk around in in virtual space, allowing you to use your actual feet to move rather than an alternative, immersion-breaking mechanic. Additionally, the Vive's head-mounted display feels more immersive by allowing the image to extend further along the periphery of your vision, which really made me feel as though the world stretched on around me in all directions.

Two handheld controllers tracked the position of my hands in space and allowed me to feel as though I was interacting with objects in the virtual world. I reached out to open a drawer, and the tactile response of having to press the trigger on the controller actually made me feel as though I was grabbing onto the drawer's handle. But what was most telling, to me, about how immersive (there's that word again!) the experience was, was when the floor began to open up beneath my feet, and I instinctively backed away to avoid falling. My brain was so completely captivated by the illusion that survival instincts kicked in.

The obvious downside of the Vive is that you need to dedicate up to 15 by 15 feet of space to it - that's effectively giving up a room in your house just for VR. I'm not sure the living rooms of America are ready for the Vive just yet, but I'd love a future in which we have dedicated VR rooms in our homes.

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