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I AM NOW A VR TROOPER – PART 1

1/5/2017

As some off you might know, I was able to get my hands on an Oculus Rift over the holidays and also got my first taste of VR. With it being such a big trend as of late, I figured I would talk about my first experiences in this new reality, because I really was not prepared for this new reality.

Part 1 – You Never Forget Your First Time

Before I even set up my Oculus, I was spending some time this Christmas at my Aunt’s house, primarily putting my cousin’s new gaming chair together. He also got a glorified Google Cardboard-type product where you can pop in your phone and get a real basic VR experience. Knowing I was going to get my first Oculus experience that night, I decided to give myself a little preview. I slapped in my iPhone and booted up Jaunt VR which is a free app with 360 degree videos from different genres. Nothing too extravagant but some neat stuff.

Being the sports fan I am, I booted up a couple videos about the NHL and one of Opening Night with the San Francisco Giants. While the video quality wasn’t great (more the fault of using a phone and average internet speed) it was pretty cool to be virtually on the field at AT&T Park.

I messed with Jaunt for a little while before Christmas dinner and I’m glad I got a basic intro to VR, but I knew something better was coming when I finally got to my computer.

– The Setup

First of all, the box that the Rift comes in is quite remarkable. The main black box has a matte Oculus logo on in and it unfolds in an elegant fashion considering all you get in there. Besides the Rift itself, you have the sensor, the Oculus Remote, an Xbox One controller with batteries, wireless adaptor for the controller, USB extender and Oculus branded microfiber cloth.

The Rift requires the use of 3 USB ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0 port) and uses HDMI plugged into the graphics card. Setting everything up couldn’t be any easier, honestly the hardest part was feeding all the cords to the back of my tower, purely due to my spacing issue. The install wizard does a good job of setting up your Oculus account which you use to buy stuff in the Oculus store as well as checking all the hardware and make sure everything is set up correctly.

At one point, it asks you to get the Rift to fit comfortably on your head while checking the sensor to make sure it can track your head properly. So this is the first time you place the unit on your head and this is where my REAL VR experience began. It was simple enough to fit the unit on my head with the velcro strap and whatnot, but it’s what I was seeing for the first time that got me excited for what was to come.

Inside the headset, I was surrounded by a blue grid with smoke and ambiance as I am looking at a virtual representation of the Oculus sensor. I felt like I was in a sort of Tron world and that’s always been the dream. The system was just making sure the sensor saw everything properly and showing at your feet where the “play area” was, and that was all lit up like I was in a character select screen. It was brief since it went right back to the monitor to finish the setup, but that brief time in the headset only got me more excited for the full experience.

– The First True Oculus Experience

The Installation finished and the Store interface booted up on my monitor, so it was time to put the Rift on and experience the real deal for the very first time.

The Oculus Store doesn’t project onto the monitor, so you have to just believe me when I describe it to you. I was sitting on a rug in a super upscale apartment, surrounded by a tiny stream of water and a cozy fireplace. It was just so nice to be in that space. I ended up buying about six games that were on a special sale to start building up my library as well as redeemed a couple codes and downloaded some video apps, including Jaunt VR just to compare from my earlier experience.

I also customized my avatar, which is a statuesque bust that you can put glasses and a hat on. That was enjoyable for the sheer experience of it. Cool. Then I needed to do some updates and closed out of the store. Once the Store rebooted and I put the headset back on, I experienced something that I will never forget.

During my first time in the Store, I was thinking it’d be cool if the room updated depending on the time of year to account for the seasons and the holidays. Apparently someone heard me because now inside my apartment there were giant candy canes, candied apples, gingerbread men, presents, and the best part was that it was snowing outside the virtual windows. The music had changed as well, you could hear sleigh bells and handbells and everything felt like Christmas. I was suddenly overcome with emotion and actually started to tear up a little. I love Christmas and so did my Grandfather who passed away in December, 2006. I’m sitting there, looking all around me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much he would enjoy this, because I know how much I enjoyed that. Something as simple as updating a Store interface in VR made me think about the big picture of life. Sounds weird and dumb probably, but that’s the potential power of VR.

Once I composed myself, I dug into the games I had downloaded and I will get to them in the next installments. But I will say, as someone who did not have any interaction with VR, this is something far more than I could have imagined and am eager to see where VR goes and see how long this “new trend shine” can last. Just know, the first impression is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.

 

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