Virtual reality gaming makes the spotlight at E3

Oculus, Samsung, Virtuix, Cyberith, Sony and Microsoft all want you moving in real time

Cyberith’s Virtualizer: the device can read sitting and crouching movements, as well as walking and running

Cyberith’s Virtualizer: the device can read sitting and crouching movements, as well as walking and running

 

It was inevitable that virtual reality (VR) would get more of a show at this year’s E3.

From Oculus Rift to Sony’s Project Morpheus , interest has been building in the technology.

This year, the presence of VR was definitely more obvious.

There was a corner of the South hall dedicated to showcasing the new developments in the technology, from virtual reality gloves to platforms that allowed you to run, walk and move in real time in the games.

Oculus was the catalyst for the shift towards VR. At almost every booth touting the technology, the Rift development kit was playing a part.

A trip to Oculus’s stand revealed the recently announced consumer version of the headset, due for release early next year, while the Samsung Gear VR was being demonstrated to attendees.

Nearby, Virtuix was demonstrating an omni directional treadmill that can be used with VR games that allows players to walk, run, jump and step sideways. Dubbed the Omni, the product has already been the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign, and Virtuix was demonstrating its capabilities with a first-person shooter developed with its software development kit, Travr.

But it had competition. Cyberith’s Virtualizer was going for 360-degree movement too, but it added in the ability of the device to read sitting and crouching movements in addition to walking and running. The device offers a low-friction surface that will register your waking and running; a ring with an adjustable harness reads vertical movements. Also a crowdfunded project, the Virtualizer is plug and play over USB – once the game you are playing is compatible.

Elsewhere, Sony was offering a chance to get hands on (or off) with Morpheus. The company is pitching the headset as both a solo and a multiplayer thing. Even when you are in a virtual reality game, your friends can pitch in – depending on the title.

Playroom VR demonstrated how that could work. While inside the game, you can see a virtual TV set that you interact with; those outside the Morpheus world can also see the TV screen on the real-world TV.

In one mini game, Playroom VR turns you into a cartoon monster destroying the city around you by moving your head and effectively headbutting buildings; the small robot creatures fleeing in your path before trying to take you down with whatever missiles they can fling at you, are controlled by players outside Morpheus.

It was a compelling demonstration for Morpheus, proving that VR doesn’t have to be antisocial.

But Microsoft wasn’t to be outdone. While Sony had Morpheus, it was showing how HoloLens could be used to enhance gaming.

Those who signed up for special demonstration of Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer were given the HoloLens treatment, with a holographic introduction to the game on board a mock up of a Spartan ship. Unfortunately, the game itself was played on a regular Xbox One console, minus the HoloLens headset, but it gave a brief insight how HoloLens could impact on gaming in the future.

If this year’s E3 is anything to go by, virtual and augmented reality isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

– CIARA O’BRIEN

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