1 month in the Vive - Part 4/4

The final post in Michela's 4-part survey of her first month with the HTC Vive. Read part 1.

COMFORT

We've been surprised to see people staying in the Vive for over an hour if the experience grabs them, TiltBrush being the clear winner to-date.

What's more, when needing a break, I've seen people rest their head, encased in the HMD,  on the floor rather than take it off. The fact that a standing user of the Vive can always choose to adjust their position, or even sit or lie down while still using it, makes a huge difference for comfort.

Many users have suggested that we should have a ceiling mount for HMD cables that would reduce the risk of tripping. We haven't taken this advice as yet and one disincentive is the limited cable length. Is it more desirable to reduce trip hazards vs give the user more cable-length to move around further? When trying out Björk’s VR experiences at Carriageworks in June I found I couldn't sit on the floor as the cable went taut - arguably as risky as tripping.

FUN

It's been very interesting watching the reactions of our community as they try the Vive for the first time. Not everyone has been blown away but enough people have been amazed for us to feel somewhat privileged to be working at the cutting edge of this space.

It's not all about what's going on in the headset. The best fun appears to be when groups are sharing the experience, one person in the holodeck and the rest watching a screen showing the HMD's perspective. We already live vicariously through the adventures of our friends. Watching others play VR games and other types of experiences is now part of our culture.

I can honestly say that I've had more fun developing for the Vive than I have in years. As someone who doesn't code full-time for a living there always has to be a big payoff if I'm going to get my hands dirty. There is something very satisfying about building and then sharing a VR experience.

We've had a steady stream of friends and colleagues enjoying their time in our holodeck so much that we've opened it up for public hire as a VR Arcade.

What's clear is that the immersion everyone is talking about is no illusion. Or actually it is but you get what I mean! Room-scale VR, where you can walk around, is a new experience and it offers, for me at least, a tantalising suggestion that we may in fact be able to claw back some proper reflection time in creating virtual spaces. There will be no shortage of high adrenaline action adventures to be had with this gear, and I'll be digging them, but there is mainstream potential here. You won't have to muck around with controllers for all experiences. You won't have to even walk around. But in the same way as museums and galleries host all manner of exhibitions and ideas, VR hardware is going to open doors to new experiences.

NEXT STEPS

For Mod, the next step is clear. We'll continue to explore and we'll be testing the market to see what's out there for us. This isn’t the first time around for me (dotcom boom/bust, Web 2.0, and now whatever this is) so I wouldn't be surprised if the hype doesn't continue to build for a few years. The progress we've made in our first foray suggests a bright future for those who can effectively stage engaging mixed reality. That's what we're looking to do.

We've started collecting a bunch of useful requests for our software platform Rack&Pin's VR support. Soon we'll be making a sandbox available for developer testing and feedback.

There' a lot to do. Having seen countless bemused faces over the last year grappling with VR hardware, there's a lot we creators can do to craft more rewarding experiences. For starters, we need to facilitate more sophisticated and subtle interactions between the HMD wearer and others. So far Vive helpfully provides a "Knock Knock" feature for getting the user's attention (Settings | General) but we can do better. Much better. It will pay off in every sense.  Comfortable physical spaces, personable hosts and effective digital platforms. These  will be the some of the key ingredients in getting mixed reality right. I think we can get avoiders and tasters over the hump to engage with short-form and long-form VR. But with a new medium like this we really need to use every trick in the book to communicate. Which is why I won't stop blogging just yet.



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