It’s rare that a technology can change our perspective to the point where we are just overwhelmed with amazement. While tech has undeniably been advancing at absolutely incredible speeds for years now, new technology is generally an iterative advancement to an existing method. And while some may argue that virtual reality is no different, the look of amazement on most people’s faces when the first try on one of these headsets says something else entirely.
To many, virtual reality can be life-changing, helping to relieve things like PTSD and mental illness. To others, it is simply a new way to experience technology that they never thought was possible. Until you tried it, however, it’s really hard to fully understand exactly what the VR experience is like. With that in mind, here are the biggest 3 things about VR you really can’t fully understand until you try it.
Sense of Scale
The first true VR application I ever tried was an underwater demo called ‘theBlu‘. While the game was not nearly as advanced when I experienced it as it is nowadays in its final form, there was something about it that changed the way I felt about virtual reality forever. In the experience, you spend your time walking along a sunken ship, with marine wildlife swimming all around you. You can look up and see the ocean surface, as well as animals such as turtles and hundreds of fish. The part of the demo that gave me my first big sense of scale “wow factor” however, was near the end, when an enormous whale swims by the ship. You can see it coming from quite far away, but only when it arrives right next to you and looks at you with its enormous eye do you finally realize just how massive these creatures really are.
The whale is actually rendered to scale, but since most of us never have the opportunity to stand next to a live whale in real life, it was absolutely incredible to see the creature drifting aimlessly beside me. While the simulation ended soon after this, I came out of the experience with a heart rate which far surpassed my normal resting pace. There are a number of different experiences that can give you this incredible sense of scale, so if you’ve never tried full immersive VR before, it’s something you really have to do.
Losing Track of Time
When you are swept into a VR experience, especially if you are using any sort of over the ear headphones, it’s easy to get swept up in the pure amazement and just completely lose track of time. There have been multiple instances in which I thought I was playing a game for about 10 minutes, only to come out of the experience and realize I had been under for nearly an hour or even slightly over that. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on if you’re trying to pass the time or do something quickly, but it also makes full games go by a lot faster.
While a 7+ hour video game may last you a week or so by playing a little bit every couple of nights, getting lost in VR means you’re probably going to finish the game a lot faster when you’re immersed in your headset. It’s not uncommon to put on a headset while it’s still light out and come out into total darkness. Because much of the experience is based around sweeping you out of the real world and into something completely made up, much of the realistic physical experience tends to fall away. Get into your first immersive game and let us know how long you last.
The Fragility of Immersion
While it’s easy to get pulled into these worlds and forget that the real world exists, it can be equally easy to get pulled right out of the experience and back into the real world. Developers have to be very careful to make sure there are no obvious glitches that will break the immersive landscape, as often the slightest issue will make you remember you’re only playing a game. Physical barriers in the real world can also cause an issue in this case, whether it be tripping over your cat, or knocking into a desk.
The HTC Vive cable has been infamous for getting tangled around people’s legs and causing them to be pulled out of the immersive experience, which is why they recently released the new thinner cable, and why multiple companies are working to create wireless modules that eliminate the cords all together. Whether the issues are physical or digital, it is incredibly important that they are mitigated to the lowest level possible in order to keep these VR experiences as immersive as possible.
Anything else you can think of that people just can’t understand about virtual reality until they try it? It really is a unique medium, and we think most people will never really understand it unless they try.