Virtual reality headsets are coming, and I’m not ready

Outerspace expands infinitely in every direction. Countless stars twinkle all around you like fireflies on a warm summer evening. You crane your head to the left then right, up and down, letting the vast universe wash over you. Suddenly, your ship’s heads-up display flares to life with a cacophony of alarms warning of incoming enemy fighters. You look all around as the ships buzz in circles, your own ship’s weapons systems targeting based on your head movements. You spring into action by taking the controls and engage
in a space dogfight. If you have nerves like mine, it only takes a second for motion sickness to set in and to become completely disoriented. I would make a terrible space fighter pilot.

What I described is video game developer, CCP’s, tech demo turned full-fledged video game, “EVE: Valkyrie,” coming soon with the Oculus Rift VR headset. Oculus VR has been turning heads, figuratively and literally, since 2012 with its bold ambition to create a marketable video game VR headset. It first revealed a standard-definition version of the headset in June 2012. Shortly after that, it began a crowdfund campaign via Kickstarter to secure more funding and have since shown off a full high-definition version of their VR headset. It is expected that the Oculus Rift will release around the summer of 2014.

Sony is set to reveal a virtual reality headset add-on device for the PlayStation 4, most likely at the Games Developer Conference this week between March 17 and 21. Alongside Oculus VR, Sony is hoping to bring virtual reality at a relatively affordable price to the market. Rumors are the Oculus Rift could release for a seemingly unheard of $499.

 

 


At the PAX Prime 2013 in Seattle, Washington Oculus VR had a corner booth off the beaten path. For four days, I walked by its booth and watched as PAX attendees sat on benches, heads moving slowly in every direction, as if they were staring off into space. It looked ridiculous, but I knew the growing reputation behind Oculus VR. Every person I had heard who experienced the headset came away awestruck.

The fourth day, before I left PAX, I finally worked up the courage to look like a fool with a large black device strapped to my head. Unfortunately, the space dogfighting simulation, “EVE: Valkryie” was not on display. The lines had gotten so bad they weren’t even letting people choose between the two available demos, a ride-along on the PC racing game “iRacing” and the first-person mech shooter, “Hawken.” I got lucky. I drew “Hawken’s” number.

The booth attendant strapped the Oculus VR to my head and handed me an Xbox 360 controller. The demo itself was nothing more than piloting a giant robot around an empty map except for a stationary robot that would occasionally shoot missiles at me. It was fascinating. I looked left, right, up, and down. In seconds I knew that this wasn’t some hokey early 1990s gimmick like “The Lawnmower Man” or Nintendo’s epic failure, the Virtual Boy console. This was the real deal.

I stood for a moment on a bridge and I wondered, “What if I jump off of this bridge to the ground below?” So I did.

The ground rushed up at me and my stomach lurched into my throat. I immediately felt nauseous. I sat for what seemed like an eternity, not moving, afraid I would vomit right there on the show floor. It was probably only about 90 seconds. That’s when I realized that virtual reality is about to storm mainstream video gaming – and I’m not ready for it.

Reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike