At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), virtual reality was everywhere, both in headsets as in games. There are several companies developing consumer hardware for this incipient market, but #Facebook and Sony are at the forefront and will be facing off earlier next year, when they launch their headsets in the market. Facebook bought Oculus and promises to release the Oculus Rift at the beginning of 2016. Sony is working on Project Morpheus and plans to enter the market somewhere in the first half of next year.
I had the opportunity to try both gadgets at E3, in Los Angeles, and confirm how good they have become compared to what I've seen last year. The technical aspects are practically ready for prime time, and now is the time to invest in content, as that's the key to make it work - we learned that much from 3D, which didn't offer enough compelling content to make it massive. Here's my take on how the virtual reality experience is right now.
The headset is huge, as you can see in the image, but it is very light and adjustable. It fits comfortably around the head and allows the user to adjust both the grip and the image definition; it also has extra space in case the person uses prescription glasses. The downside, when I tried it, was that the headphones kept falling when I moved, which is something Sony needs to take care of.
I tried a few different games and didn't feel any headaches, motion sickness or dizziness from being immersed for around half an hour - it had happened to me before, so that was a huge improvement. There's absolutely no lag, which is why the experience feels so real. One of the demos I tried, Kitchen, had me screaming and curling up, trying to escape a living-dead creature that had just murdered my friend in front of me. Because I was tied down in a chair inside the game, I didn't try to get up and run away. The visuals are so powerful everyone I saw trying that demo screamed for help. It definitely has a lot of potential in suspense/terror plots, as much as first person shooters, like The London Heist, that I also tried.
The big question is price. Consumers will need to have a PlayStation 4, one or two Move controllers, the headset and a handful of games - Sony is currently working on 21 VR titles.
This was the second Oculus version I tried. The first time around, it made me sick in 5 minutes. This time, I was able to smoothly navigate the game with no side effects. I tried Crytek's Dinosaur Island 2 and was blown away by the beautiful scenario, with such graphic detail even Jurassic World feels shabby. The proof that eyes and ears fool your brain is that I was terrified to look down during the demo, because my character was climbing a mountain and below me was nothing but death by free fall. I felt vertigo every time I tried looking down and about. Being able to watch dinosaurs very close was an amazing plus.
The latency was also incredibly low, providing a seamless experience that is fundamental to fully immerse you in the made up world. The downside to Oculus is that it didn't fit as smoothly as Project Morpheus and I could see a shred of light from the real room I was in coming from below. But this is still a prototype, I was reminded.
The verdict: virtual reality is finally ready to blow your mind. #Videogames