So Overclockers had a demo day at Mercedes World, Brooklands today, giving the opportunity to try out a VR Racing simulator, powered with the HTC Vive VR headset. Being only a couple of miles from my front door it would have been rude not to have gone and checked it out.
OcUK had brought along a full blown racing cockpit simulator setup - frame with fully adjustable car bucket seat, feedback type steering wheel with flappy paddle gear change, foot pedals, and of course a potent PC running Project Cars for a spin (literally lots of times in my case) round Donnington race track. All that was missing was a set of racing leathers.
The Vive VR headset (retails at well over £750 and will need potent GPU to power it) sat comfortably on my face, even with glasses. Various strap adjustments so it didn't dig in, slip, and wasn't unduly heavy. Like a good pair of headsets I suspect it would be OK worn for a while.
I did immediately notice the image had a number of regular dark dots across it. These are the gaps between pixels. That was a surprise, and whilst I suspect many might get used to it, you don't see that on a regular monitor. As the image is supposed to be equivalent of 1080x1200 per eye, something there doesn't add up and it must be down to the proximity of the screens to your eyeball. But then I don't understand how your eye is focusing on something so close up, you can't do that for real, so there is some clever tech in place to desensitise this.
But, my eyes are screwed up. I have longsight, shortsight, my eyeballs aren't totally round. So my right eye is very different to the left eye, as evidenced by the prescription for glasses. And this is where the VR starts to let me down. There is an adjustment on the Vive to slightly change slightly the distance between each Vive lens and your face, which may help with thicker glasses, but at a possible risk that your field of view changes. There is also an adjustment that widens, or narrows, the distance between the lenses, to match the distance between your pupils. But that is about it, so I found my right eye was blurry, and that is normally my better one.
But the biggest problem, and why I won't be buying into this was nausea. Within only 5 minutes or a couple of laps I was feeling unwell. VR does something to your brain. Your brain is being told you are being moved about, but if you are seated, that sensation is missing. Your body is confused. Apparently this nausea isn't uncommon but affects some more than others. Perhaps you can get used to it. They suggest that if you are playing a game where you are more mobile, i.e. standing the effects are less pronounced, but if you are seated, so in a cockpit of some sort the risk may exist. They did have a setup to try some standard VR games as if in a standard living room, but I wasn't recovering enough to give that a go.
So in summary, I think the tech still needs a bit of development to give better resolution. I can see the attraction of the immersive experience and I would have liked to have seen what else was possible, but the risk of puking is too great for me. I believe this is tech you need to see and experience hands on before you splash the cash.