It started as so many things do these days, with a Kickstarter. Raising over $2.5 million dollars and proving that the VR dream of gaming was perhaps a near future reality. Others began taking notice, Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion dollars, Sony announced its VR headset and before any of us really noticed, we began to realise that VR is a thing that we’ll be seeing a lot more in the near future.

And I’ve still yet to give a damn.

Please don’t mistake this piece you’re about to read as some click-baity rebuke to that thing you’re looking forward to and how it’s going to be awful in every conceivable way. Far from it. Having witnessed firsthand what can be done in very rudimentary programs and games on the Rift I do think the possibilities of VR are phenomenal, but like the possibilities in say knitwear or carpentry, I don’t care to invest the time, the money (not an insignificant chunk of change) and my mental capacity in finding all the doors now unlocked through the magic of VR. Mostly because of my eyes.

My vision is nearly perfect, but my eyes aren’t. The difference is that I have great vision when it comes to seeing everyday things from a reasonable distance, but when things get too close to my eyes I start to notice the problem. My eyes don’t line up. In most human beings with working eyesight, the brain seamlessly takes the two live feeds from your eyes and meshes them together to form one picture. While doing this the brain takes the time to make you less conscious of your nose so it won’t obstruct your vision. Close one eye and you should notice that fleshy mound of cartilage on your face in a way you wouldn’t with both eyes open. So in short, I’m always aware of my nose.

It was early 2015 when I tried one of the prototypes of the Rift while at a house party. The owner of said house just happens to be a Microsoft employee (he’s like your mate’s uncle who worked at Nintendo, but real) who, through some infernal machinations, had acquired a development kit to play around with. Soon he was showing us his new toy in his spare bedroom, allowing us to see what the future held. When I was at last crowned with the hallowed Rift I immediately noticed something was off.

“Hang on,” I said, “Why can I see everything twice.”

Now I must stress that this was at a house party where I had been drinking for several hours and had right before this moment being playing beer pong (playing it poorly I must add) and so I wasn’t in what you’d call peak physical/mental fitness to give the Rift an expert analysis. At this point, however, I had not been seeing double or found my vision impaired by alcohol, but with the rift all I could see was the same image being superimposed on itself but slightly to the left.

I endured as best I could, trying my hand at a few of the games we had to play, but found the Rift’s effect on my depth perception to be unbearable. In terms of my slightly off eyes, I have it very easy. I can read, write and live with things just as they are, but the Oculus showed me, whether it wanted to or not, what it felt like to be unbearably impaired if only for a few moments. The experience became uncomfortable and I had to take the headset off and go outside for a few moments to get my bearings, to have my sight readjust.

I was a sceptic before trying the Oculus. VR always seemed something that belonged in sci-fi films, you know the ones where everything looks like it was designed by Apple and the future is actually a dystopia in some way. Yet here we are in 2016 and only a few months before these products go on the market and a few years off before knowing just how they’ll be used by developers (groundbreaking visual experiences) and by users (porn). I want VR to do great things for gaming and entertainment in ways that I don’t want to directly experience. I don’t need to be on the front line of this battle, having my mind blown by all manner of new experiences made possible by what VR allows us to do.  

As with many things in this world it’s all too easy to be cynical about VR. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t at first, but as time has gone I’ve decided to embrace it, just from a distance. I look forward to future iterations of this tech being able to compensate for my dodgy eyesight and being affordable enough where I don’t need to skip two month’s rent on it. The “future” is almost here and that’s a great thing, but as a man constantly aware of my nose I’m going to be sitting on the bench for this great leap forward

About The Author

Contributor

All round song and dance man. Best known for his use of expletives, casual quoting of Jeeves & Wooster and his love for all things Timesplitters. Host of the Played Out Podcast and proud victim of five different gypsy curses

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  • I think VR is still one or two years off, even for seasoned developers to begin to take it seriously. There was just so much hype, but the smoke has cleared now, and everyone has their pants down. People who are looking at it at this stage just don’t know any better. Let them be guinea pigs. I want it to succeed, but I half expect it to have as many problems as the projected screen (lately I’ve been wondering if the best first-person experience isn’t to take a typical display and mask about 50 to 30% away so the eye is not prone to wander. I find eyes fixed forward is most enveloping.)

    • Dan Lokemoen

      This makes no sense. VR is clearly a couple of days off. Oculus Rifts are arriving in peoples’ houses all over the country this week. If you’re saying that the good games are a couple of years away, well, obviously there will be more good games two years from not than there are now, but you seem to be assuming that all the launch titles are bad and that everyone who bought a Rift will be disappointed. With more than forty VR titles available now or soon, I imagine at least a couple of them could be great and I’m seriously thinking if getting a Rift. Does that mean my “pants are down?”

      • If you can afford to be an Oculus Rift guinea pig, enjoy. But the technology is still at least two years away by conservative estimate 🙂

        It’s not VR spring any day soon.