The student who hooked me up with some sweet gear last month today allowed me to have a play with his new HTV Vive. Every time I try something new in VR it feels like going to another level – the technology is advancing so quickly and there are so many different ideas and concepts in circulation at the moment. It’s genuinely exciting.
The Vive was simply amazing, and I think it’s because this time I was stood up and able to walk around the room with the headset on. This is thanks to the two base stations (see photo) which are mounted diagonally across from each other at head height and track the exact position of the headset and hand controllers. If you approach the limits of the field a grid is projected to make you aware of the walls which looks a lot like Star Trek’s holodeck, purely a coincidence I’m sure.
I had the opportunity to do some painting with light using Tilt Brush, had a look around – and inside – a number of 3D models which were projected using Sketchfab and a modified version of Chrome, and performed a heart transplant in Surgeon Simulator VR.
Had a meeting this morning with an academic in our Faculty of Arts, Design and Media to discuss the viability of taking a 3D model gallery he has developed of various artworks, and converting it to display on the Oculus Rift. Not sure what will come of that, but I have his Unreal files now and am doing some R&D to assess how difficult it will be. After the meeting, however, I was able to meet up with one of his brightest students who is creating various artworks using 3D scanners, modelling, printers, Kinect and in various virtual reality systems, and they were kind enough to let me have some hands-on time with their Samsung Galaxy Gear VR.
I was impressed, very impressed. Impressed to the point of seriously considering the jump to Android just so I could get one for myself. It’s light, comfortable, standalone and works perfectly. The Oculus Rift by comparison, and it is only a DK2 I have, is heavier and the amount of cables it requires to hook up to a computer and its external head tracking sensor is something which always annoys me whenever I have to take it away from my desk. I’ve also found the software to be problematic, with many apps just not running, not running as they should or running for a little while before crashing for no apparent reason. With the Gear VR in contrast, everything runs off your phone which slots into the front. I had a go of quite a few apps and games and everything worked exactly as it should. There is a touch sensitive D-Pad and action buttons on one side of the headset for control which I liked, and I found the experience and resolution of the two systems to be broadly comparable. Even though a comparison of technical specs will tell you that the Gear VR is higher resolution than the DK2, it’s still a little disappointing as you can see every pixel due to how close the screen is to your eyes; in a 4K world it’s like going back to VGA. Adjusting the focus on the Gear VR is a lot simpler thanks to a control wheel on the front of the device, rather than screws on each side.
Photo cheekily stolen from Samsung’s website, where you can get more information.
We had a team visit to Sunderland’s new, very soon to open FabLab today, which has been built in partnership with the University. A FabLab is a low-cost workshop which is set up with a range of equipment designed to let almost anyone build almost anything. All FabLab’s have roughly the same equipment and facilities so that people and projects can easily move between locations, with one key piece being one or more 3D printers. Other kit available includes a bench of soldering guns and electronics for making circuits, a laser cutting and engraving machine, and a huge ShopBot CNC machine, which they had to knock a wall down to fit in.
Once the Lab properly opens to the public you will be able to get a 3D scan and print of your head for only £30. What a great and unique Christmas present for the loved one in your life!