Like I said in my last post, the “Dream Deck” is one of several free pieces of content to help you discover what VR is like. The deck itself, is a handful of mini experiences that last a few minutes and then fade to black inviting you to experience the next thing.
I also described the input mechanism here as a bit archaic. In fact, through much of the more simpler and/or utilitarian UI (like the video player), the “head cursor” is how it works for now. How it works, is that you’d look at the button/item you want to select – aligning a small subtle dot over the item, and then use the Oculus Remote to click on the item.
I want to talk about a few of my favorite experiences in the deck. Before that, I did want to say that they are all varying degrees of nifty when you experience them. And also before my favorites, I want to talk about a couple of notable experiences. One is simply you standing in front of a very alien looking alien. Another puts you in the middle of a couple of robotic arms doing all sorts of loud and frantic mischief. These two experiences, while not the best of the breed for me, DO explore a concept unique to VR – and that’s making you uncomfortable without necessarily doing anything expressly so.
With both the alien and the robotic arm, you experience a closeness to something you as the user can’t anticipate how it will act. You can imagine seeing both in the real world, but having it before you in VR is something new. Both are extremely close to your virtual presence. The robot’s frantic activity and the alien’s lack of activity push your personal space boundaries in different ways – both end up making you (or me at least) a bit uncomfortable.
Night at the Museum (with a Dinosaur)
Speaking of uncomfortable – this museum setting feels a bit eerie, but also a bit curious. I found myself wanting to look around to see the environment. This last for about a second. Then of course, a T-Rex wanders in.
It’s a bit interesting how different folks experience this one. Some of my friends got frightened of the dinosaur and wanted to remove the headset. For me, from a ways back, it was a tiny bit dread inducing – but I could easily write it off as something that didn’t exist and therefore didn’t scare me in the least as the experience goes on.
I felt more of the same as the T-Rex charges at you. It again, wasn’t really scary, just minorly uncomfortable. When the dino roars over your head, it’s no longer scary at all for me. I found it a bit fascinating and I looked it up and down to soak it all in. I think in part, it’s because the T-Rex has officially done all it can do, and you realize it. There’s no anticipation anymore.
My second favorite experience was one where you are placed high above a city on an unguarded steel ledge. Lest you think I was putting on a brave face writing about the T-Rex, THIS experience was very uncomfortable and fear inducing for me.
YES, after several tries, it really no longer affects me. But those first few times DO NOT feel good. I had a similar experience playing a mini golf game on the Vive (where you can be super high on a course with no visible safeties around that would virtually prevent you from virtually falling). It’s quite interesting to me that this scares me, but a dinosaur does not. While both are virtual, the dinosaur seems easier to reason away. The experienced scared most everyone equally – with the exception of my wife who I still think lacks a reasonable fear of heights. She was excited to see what would happen if you jump off, and was disappointed that there was no mechanism to do so.
Either way, it’s fascinating to explore this concept of comfort in VR and the ways it can be invaded or not invaded. Even the Oculus store rates their content with comfort levels, with the highest being “intense”.
As much as I enjoyed exploring this concept, my favorite experience was unlike all the others and was not uncomfortable in the least.
My favorite experience was what I can only call…a “Paper Village”. It’s a very stylized, non realistic, cartoony/paperish town floating in the sky. Various animations play from traffic, to airplanes, to a cute little UFO that beams Paper Village citizens up.
There are a few reasons I like it so much. First, it’s very self contained. You’re looking inward on a tiny world instead of outward at your new virtual environment. To me this turns some of the assumptions you’d make about VR on its head a bit. You’re not in it, you are surrounding it. Its a bit god like in that, and a bit silly.
Adding to the silliness, is the whole non-photorealistic nature of it. As with the history of computer graphics to date, nothing is perfectly convincing. Realtime VR, as cool as it is, will be the worst at this (behind 3D games, behind rendered movies). Not even attempting this and creating a cartoonish world really encourages your suspension of disbelief and creates something even more fantastic.
I think this suspension of disbelief makes you want to peer in every window and explore….
This suspension of disbelief, and this somewhat fantastical environment engages in a way I can’t really explain. On top of that it makes me do something that’s somewhat embarrassing because I do it every time I’m here even though I fully know the outcome. That something is to reach out and try to touch it. Even though I know it’s fake, and even though I can’t even see my hands.
This is a good place to end things in this post, because my next post takes this cartoonish experience and explores it in the first piece of VR content I bought.