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Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Beat Saber, Namco, London

Visited February 2020

During a recent visit to Namco at County Hall in London to see the new Mariokart VR installation (previously at the 02), I noticed a bona fide Beat Saber standalone arcade machine.

Beat Saber standalone arcade machine

I’d read about these online but never expected to find one in London; of course I had to give it a try!

Exciting video quickly demonstrates the concept of the game and makes it inticing

After pushing several pound coins into a slot on the front right side, it all came to life with an electric whirring noise as the HTC Vive headset and wand controllers lowered on a special motorized array.

It looked like something from a transformers movie or cyberpunk game, perhaps a real world example of the matrix now available at your local arcade!

Ingenious array supporting headset and controllers

Getting into the headset was a little tricky because it was attached with 3 armoured cables which resisted my efforts to pull the headset down.

Once fitted I tried to set the IPD but found it fixed, one less thing to go wrong; I guess they set it on an average IPD of 64mm.

Grabbing the Vive wands I navigated through the menus see selecting a familiar track by KDA “popstars” and setting expert mode.

KDA Popstars on expert mode

It was fun to be back in Beat Saber, but also strange being restricted by the 3 cables connecting the headset to the gantry above, and to a lesser degree by thinner cables to the controllers.

I’m used to be tethered on PCVR but this was different and felt perhaps more like a piece of gym equipment?

Whereas in comparison on my Valve Index I can happily dance about very freely / badly with its wireless controllers and 5 metre long thin headset tether which sits on the floor behind me.

Moving took extra effort but it was possible to adapt

Movement here took extra force to overcome the drag I was feeling from the cables making me work harder to hit the right moves; timing was challenging but I quickly learned to compensate especially trying to move sideways

I reached the end of the song with B grade, removed the headset and watched with fascination as the entire apparatus lifted back up into the overhead gantry ready for the next player.

At this point I noticed a plastic bracket or hinge piece was broken and not doing whatever it was supposed to be doing making one side of the headset mechanism to slump; this may have contributed to extra drag in the tethering system?

I alerted the supervisor who immediately shut the machine down, I then noticed I hadn’t used any wipes or santising products before starting! Set several feet further back in the dark on the walls either side of the machine, was a hand santising dispenser and an empty box of wipes. The message at the start now made sense…

Impressive stuff despite the movement restriction, which was the result of an ingenious solution to create a standalone unsupervised VR arcade machine. It certainly would be huge fun to play in a shopping centre or airport and could tip someone into purchasing a home VR system.

Satisfied with the self-service Beat Saber standalone arcade experience but keen to try again once repaired, I went off to find the bathroom and give my face a good wash.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

Categories
Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Vertigo VR, Milton Keynes

Visited May 2019

I needed to travel to Milton Keynes for a family gathering but managed to sneak in a visit to Vertigo VR which is located next to the Central shopping centre.

Arriving early, I had a good look at the building which was quite substantial, the VR centre seemed to occupying the entire upper floor.

Soon enough the doors opened, as the first visitor I had the place to myself so had a good look at the artwork across the walls.

Heading upstairs I found the staff behind a bar, and bought some tickets to try out the solo experiences.

Ferocious motion platform

I started with a funfair ride simulator hosted on a standing motion platform and using Rift CV1. The ride was a platform on a long arm lifting me about 100 feet into the air before swinging back down, above a carpark.

This was brutual with the simulator almost flooring my legs everytime the ride swung around, I managed to hang on (for life!) until thankfully it ended. Probably not one to try again…

Cool space pods

The second experience was slightly more tame, taking place inside what looked like a space pod from the 1970’s. The experience itself involved rapid flight with lots of banking and turning around big buildings in a city.

I enjoyed this much more than the funfair simulator, and had a long session until a family member arrived, thankfully they agreed to try VR for the first time so we booked a multiplayer session in the HTC Vive booths at the rear of the venue.

We had a great session across several games ending with cooperative mode Arizona Sunshine – the first time I’d tried it, it was awesome protecting each others backs as the zombie horse advanced.

Soon enough, our time finished; thanking the staff we walked away talking about their first experience of VR (basically a wow!)

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing

Categories
Experiences

Immersivecomputing @ Raindance Immersive Festival 2018, London

Visited October 2018

I heard that Raindance were holding an immersive festival in London at The Oxo Tower, right at the end of their month long film festival.

I managed to book an entire day’s worth of experiences before they sold out.

The festival had taken the entire first floor, providing a large long space ideal for multiple VR demos.

I arrived on the Sunday morning for opening and it quickly filled up with people eager to try their booked experiences.

Walking around I noticed many different experiences on offer across a wide variety of headsets.

A big draw of these festivals is the opportunity to try experiences and applications which are not generally available as home releases, or are exclusive to the festival.

A big draw for me was the World premiere of HTC’s “7 Miracles” on the Vive Focus; the second time I would get to use the Focus and the first opportunity to use it for any length of time.

The Archivist :VR

I found my first experience which was “Transference” by Spectrevision which was super creepy in the Oculus Rift CV1; Spectrevision is partly owned by actor Elijah Wood who is apparently heavily into VR!

Transference on Rift CV1…thanks Elijah Wood!
Vive Pro – Awake part 1
Oculus Go being used by many people
7 miracles on HTC Vive Focus
HTC Vive Focus standalone headset

The HTC Vive Focus – 7 Miracles

I’d enjoyed using the Vive Focus briefly at the HTC launch event but only had 5 minutes of playtime so couldn’t get a sense of comfort.

One reason for booking the 7 Miracles demo was the offer of 1 hour and 20 minutes runtime, available in one sitting. The experience was extremely well put together and not overly religious (I do not practise any faith). I found the story effective, acting was excellent and you could tell some serious money had been spent on the production. The resolution of the headset was impressive compared to the Vive and Rift which I was more familiar with.

I featured in “The Verge’s” coverage of Raindance

After about 30 minutes, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable in the headset, with pressure building on my forehead in the sinus area. I tried shifting the headset around which provided a temporary solution. The headset felt front heavy due to onboard compute, and the halo style band didn’t really work for my head shape. This left my forehead supporting the weight, after 45 minutes I started getting a mild headache, but struggled on to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed the actual VR experience, but found the focus incompatible with my headshape; I would need to modify the face cushion or headstrap for it to work. Despite the seemingly plush looking face cushion, it didn’t have enough density to support the headset weight causing a hard plastic part to press through the cushion against my head.

I ended my morning session with a headache and sore forehead which was cured with some painkillers and a quick freshen up with warm water in the bathroom before taking an hour break for lunch.

Still, i was very glad to try it out and my afternoon session started with the comfortable Oculus Go, so no further headaches!

A gaggle of Go’s?
7 Miracles on the Vive Focus
Oculus Go – Grenfell experience
“The Apple” – Backpack PCVR with 4 x steamVR 2.0 lighthouses
“The Apple” – Backpack PCVR with Leap Motion

I had a great day at Raindance Immersive Festival, and thoroughly enjoyed the different experiences as well as getting to use a number of different Headsets.

Something going on in there!

It’s always great meeting new people in the immersive computing space, and getting to talk with them about their applications and experiences, and how people are receiving them.

Doing something intricate in VR

Many thanks to the organisers and all the developers for bringing their applications and experiences to Raindance Immersive Festival.

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole, immersivecomputing.org