Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Occulus Rift first impressions

Occulus Rift and Totoro
     Earlier this week I received my Occulus Rift DK2 in the mail and I was giddy with excitement.  I am not sure why I was so giddy, I am not really a hard core techno gadget person.  I think it's mostly because I love receiving unexpected packages in the mail.  I would probably enjoy an empty box but I digress. 
     Anyway, so the term "plug and play" really has no meaning to me.  It is supposed to suggest you can just attach something and voila! you are done its working.  That never actually happens to me with anything.   It's horrible really.   For the occulus this was manifested in the rift itself and my monitor screen showing two different orientations.  Actually it really started with my rift just showing the desktop screen regardless of what program was playing.  I eventually figured out that you could right click your screen and pick "screen resolution" which would let you tell your rift to show what was on the monitor.  The next problem was that the occulus would show the image on the screen as either horizontal or vertical, but the opposite of what the screen showed.  I didn't actually fix this but rather used a feature of my monitor which allows me to turn it vertical.  That's right, the image above is not squished but rather just on its side, and that is the occulus in the bottom right.  Kind of hard to see, what a terrible picture.  Anyway, after I had it all set up and working I downloaded the bus stop scene from the movie My Neighbor Totoro.  You can see on the screen that the image is doubled with two Totoros as the occulus is actually considered another monitor for your computer, and needs to double it so that each eye has an image. 
     The experience was pretty cool.  The resolution was decent but will likely get much better and I was able to hang out with Totoro for a good long time before starting to feel a wee bit nauseated.  It was nothing terrible, no projectile vomiting, but it is something they are working to fix.  Another issue is that when wearing the Rift you can't see the keyboard, so typing is out of the question.  I expect either a template for the keyboard and maybe gloves will be created by some entrepreneur so that when you look down you can see a ghostly image of both hands and keyboard, or more likely, content will be created bypassing the need for typing of any sort.  When I imagine my next artwork for SL I could make it Occulus compatible by making most things work by avatar proximity.  So if you walk within a range of something then it activates a voice to narrate or a door to open etc.  It wouldn't really be too hard but it could take a lot of planning to ensure that the unique traits of a virtual world, specifically the users ability to interact with object on their own terms, is maintained rather than forcing the viewer to follow a scripted path.  The artwork must be open ended allowing for choice, so hopefully the Occulus (in the short term anyway) wont, out of necessity due to its limitations, force creations to take a step back by making them more linear.
Nerds throughout time
After wearing the Occulus for an evening I was pleased to find this image on the left of a man wearing an, at the time, modern diving suit for a picture with his wife.  It was reassuring for me to know that nerds have existed for all time, and then, in my mind, I imagined their conversation.

"Baby, so I decided to wear my new diving suit for our picture!"  "You are fucking with me right? take that shit off!" "But baby it's high tech!, so modern and cool, I can walk on the bottom of the ocean in this thing!"  "Go back.. in the changing room.. right now.. and take that shit off...  you are not wearing that for our daguerreotype family photo."  "Oh but baby please all the guys think its the best!, Reginald wanted to wear it but I said no, so he had to wear his top hat. But I let Sturgeon Bill wear it and then he shared his snuff and tea with me" etc etc and she grudgingly let him wear it.  I must admit that I do feel like a big nerd wearing this headset and it really doesn't help that my friends laugh at me in it, but on the plus side I have no intention of sending out Christmas cards while wearing it.  So on occasion I will do a post here or there about things I am discovering, and I have yet to try it with Second Life so will let you know how that goes.  It is still a very early beta, but if you like the idea of getting the developer kit to mess around with (and help me figure stuff out) then you can get one here.  And it should also be mentioned that there is a viewer made for use in SL called CtrAltStudio where you can download the viewer if you already have an Occulus.  I think the default Linden viewer might be compatible too but not sure.
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