Game Developers Conference

For virtual reality creators, a question of control

San Francisco — At the Game Developers Conference, it’s easy to imagine what virtual reality will look like when it eventually hits the marketplace. What it will feel like, however, is an entirely different matter.

From wand-shaped controllers to motion-detecting sensors, VR creators are trying out all sorts of input methods on the road to bringing the immersive technology into consumers’ homes.

For decades, to interact with virtual worlds depicted on television and computer screens, gamers had to rely on either hand-held controllers with an assortment of buttons, directional pads and analog sticks, or a keyboard coupled with a mouse.

The head-mounted VR displays that intentionally obstruct users’ vision are providing new challenges for designers seeking to create a sense of presence on the screen.

While creators agree that boosting frame rates and lowering latency as much as possible are key to achieving realistic imagery that won’t leave users feeling queasy, there’s no such consensus on just how they should interact with what’s displayed inside the goggles.

During a demo of the latest Project Morpheus VR prototype at this week’s annual gathering of game designers, Sony employed a pair of its wand-like PlayStation Move controllers, whose illuminated bulbs are tracked by the PlayStation Camera, to serve as hands in a VR shootout simulation. In another showcase involving toying with tiny robots, a VR rendition of the traditional DualShock 4 controller for the PlayStation 4 could be glimpsed in concert on screen, with floating text indicating each button’s duty.

The most precise and immersive solution could actually be a combination of several different systems. In a demo of the HTC Vive, a newly unveiled headset from the smartphone manufacturer and game distributor Valve, a pair of wand-shaped gizmos similar to Move controllers was matched with a set of motion-detecting sensors positioned on top of shelves at opposite ends of a room.

Other solutions on display at GDC included the latest rendition of the Virtuix Omni, a treadmill-like contraption that tracks users’ feet. At nearly 150 pounds, it’s both the bulkiest and safest solution because users’ movement is restricted.

HTC and Valve plan to release Vive later this year, while Sony announced this week that Project Morpheus is due in stores the first half of 2016. Oculus VR hasn’t said when the Rift will be available to consumers.

First published on

There are no comments

Add yours