At gamescom 2015 I got to try out some of the most advanced VR equipment available.
This time round I decided to focus on the controllers that will be the next step of immersion and quite a different experience compared to sitting in a chair with a PS or xbox controller.
The obvious vision of VR is to move, act and see everything as we do in real life but with the experiences of fantasy worlds filled with dangers and fears we could not have dreamed to face in real life.
If you’re an aware of what the best VR Headset to choose then check out vrbound.com
To check on how close we are to this idealistic point in VR I visited the many different exhibitors at gamescom 2015 in Cologne.
In this article you’ll find:
- An in detail overview of the VR controllers on show at Gamescom.
- How these pieces of tech affect our experience with Virtual reality.
- The limitations and effect of combining the different technology.
Firstly I met up with Bob Vlemmix to take a look at the ManusMachinae data glove prototype paired with Samsung Gear VR goggles.
These gloves are very easy to put on and are made of a very light and comfortable lycra fabric with ventilation holes.
To my surprise the little box containing the power cells and wireless transmitter on the wrist was very light and bareley noticable within the VR. Demo wise I tried out something very similar to this demo that was presented at E3:
Although I had some minor alignment issues, I was very impressed that the whole setup fits in Bobs satchel and can be powered with nothing more than a Samsung smartphone (but remains compatible with the majority of VR setups like Razer OSVR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive).
I was even more impressed when Bob told me that the cell in the gloves keeps the gloves powered for 5-6 hours of heavy gaming.
The glove will cost under 200€ after its consumer release in the first quarter of 2016.
Now that we have focused on the hands, let’s look down and try to find a solution on how to move your feet in VR.
The guys from Cyberith may have found the best solution to this problem with their controller pod called the “Virtualizer”, which has been in development since 2012.
Inspired by the Wii the CEO and founder of Cyberith, Tuncay Cakmak wanted to move the VR gaming experience away from the desk.
The product presented at gamescom does just that.
You put on a pair of overshoes, hop in the pod, belt yourself to it and the show begins!
Your feet are tracked by sensors in the slippery polished base and makes you walk the same distance in the VR as you would in real life.
Their demo featured a very unusual experience in a south american jungle.
You could walk, look around and eventually discover an ancient Maya temple with different movement skill based puzzles.
It felt a bit weird since the vision axis was not detached from the walking-directional axis and sidestepping was disabled but this was an intervention by the developers to make the Virtulizer more user friendly with the booth visitors.
Currently the devs need to modify heavily, if not make their own games to make them work with their pod, however this will soon be a work phase of the past since they’re closely working together with developers of different studios.
This technology will not only be part of our living rooms but could be used in a bigger and more solid construction by the military in simulations to make it match real life all whilst sparing the soldiers the dangers of a real life battle.
The Virtualizer will be available for purchase at the end of the year with not one but two versions available, the Virtualizer for 1699€ and the Virtualizer HT which will provide haptic feedback to the user for 1999€.
Of course the virtualizer will be compatible with the whole range of tracked VR goggles like the Oculus Rift, Razer OSVR and HTC Vive.
Next up was a more bizarre booth by China Animation Characters Company Limited.
Their vision is to make VR available for everyone with the establishment of VR gaming halls in China.
They had VR goggles that looked surprisingly similar to the Oculus Rift.
The thing catching my eye was a P90 submachinegun style controller that had all the buttons and sticks of a xbox controller built in the grip element of the gun.
It turned out it was galled MAG P90 and is made by an Asian company called g-mate.
In this demo I found myself in a FPS zombie scenario where I as the player was equipped with different weapon types from shotguns to assault rifles.
The crosshair was attached to line of sight rather than the controllers barrel axis and the movement with the bumper stick felt bad since the character was “gliding” on the floor.
They also had some major hardware problems regarding in-game framerates and focus of the VR goggles, which lead to a headache very fast.
The thing that really matters though is the controller
It felt very unique and real, especially when wielding weapons of similar kind in game but when the reloading animation started I felt a detachment from the game, since I was doing no such thing in real life like exchanging the empty magazine with a loaded one.
It might take the unknown chinese competitors of other VR projects a couple of months to catch up to the most recent developments of other major projects but their controllers at least are top-notch.
Speaking of controllers:
This was a less serious VR component I tried out but might become relevant in VR especially in combination with airsoft guns and other replicas in VR:
The UzBRAINNet Co Ltd. Rail Gun.
A similar technology like the G-Mate MAG P90 but a little bit different in concept. The controller is no longer part of a gun but attached to one.
Real gun, replica, airsoft gun?
Doesnt matter as long it has the required RIS / RAS rails to attach their hardware to.
Their demo was Call of Duty MW3, although not in VR but on a large flat screen, with their controller mounted to an M4 style pistol (no stock).
You had to aim in the center of your ingame crosshair to begin with the campaign section. Moving was done by a bumper stick on the front rails of the gun while shooting and other buttons where attached to the pistol grip and trigger.
Although it felt weird to move an angle in reality while the ingame crosshair stayed on centre on the flat screen this technology might be really useful in VR especially in combination with the Cyberith Virtualizer and the Manus Machina data gloves.
This would be for people who want to play a specific weapon system ingame while having the same weapon as a replica available on their living room wall.
Just attach a tracking system to the rails and hop in VR to shoot some virtual opponents.
So, what’s the conclusion?
To come to a conclusion of all the VR controllers I’ve tried at gamescom I firstly have to say that it is regrettable that it was not possible to try the equipment all together, especially a gun controller in the Virtualizer.
I’ve seen that the technology surrounding VR has gone a long way from being just a gimmick.
What we now have are mostly very solid pieces of equipment but with a massive lack of game support.
However this could change pretty soon…
Most of the development teams of the controllers work closely together with video game publishers and developers to give the next generation of video games the compatibility that is currently lacking.
While the tech already exists another aspect are the finances surrounding it.
The single pieces are not that expensive however building up a VR corner in your living room will be quite costly if you decide to buy more than just the goggles but also add the data gloves and a movement pod
You’ll easily pass the 2000€ mark pretty quickly and this is calculated without the extra cost PC that would be capable of even delivering the raw horsepower to support a set of 75+hz VR goggles with an acceptable resolution.