The Best Buy at Union Square had demos set up for the Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR.
I tried both.
The Oculus demo began with a trailer that had clips of different things. Two of the most striking was a futuristic city with a plank you were supposed to try to walk off. Another was a “paper town.” There was also that dinosaur that roars in your face, which many others have cited.
I couldn’t walk off the city’s plank because the demo table was in the way. Hell, I couldn’t even get close enough to the edge of the plank to look straight down because of that table.
I was able to do a little better with the paper town by leaning in for a closer look.
After that trailer, we were given a choice of choosing a clip from something. Two other people were before me and each chose a different demo.
I chose an excerpt from Henry the Hedgehog.
It ended too soon! Just as the lights came up inside Henry’s home and I began to turn around to take it all in, the excerpt ended! Talk about being a tease.
Compared to the demo of the HTC Vive I had, I found the images in the Oculus to be sharper. I could still discern a screendoor effect but it seemed less pronounced than on the Vive. Go figure. Maybe it’s just my damn eyes.
The PSVR demo offered a selection of five or six things. I wanted something cinematic and was given a demo of a dive undersea.
Right off I could tell the PSVR was a lower resolution. Surprisingly, I couldn’t see any screendoor effect. But the lower resolution was evident in that images weren’t as sharp as on the Oculus. And straight diagonal lines had the staircase effect.
I accidentally borked the demo by managing to unplug the headphones. So I wound up with a silent demo, not realizing it should have had audio until it was over and I saw the disconnected plug!
Despite the lower resolution of the PSVR, the shark in the demo was more realistic than the one in the demo of The Blu I’d seen with Samsung Gear VR. It was menacing as hell, that shark. And I probably would have really felt threatened if I’d had some audio.
I got a second demo of the PSVR later in the day at the Sony joint at 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.
This time I chose an outer space shooter. Again, the lower resolution was evident. This time, I managed to not unplug the headphones.
I was given a PlayStation controller with instructions on what to press to do what.
Did that help? Hell no. I’ll say it again: I’m a total spazz with games.
All I wound up doing was loop-de-loops, barrel rolls, and losing my direction to the point where I didn’t know which ships I was protecting and which ships were the enemy! I might have accidentally shot off two missiles — or somehow managed to avoid two missiles shot at me from behind. Shrug.
My overall impression of these demos?
1) Oculus Rift images are sharp. And the demos all used very good color palettes.
2) PSVR never made me feel I was in another reality. I felt like I was inside a videogame.
3) Both Oculus and PSVR seemed to get my virtual height right. In neither one did I feel like I was floating, as with the HTC Vive and Gear VR. How did they do that?
PSVR will probably succeed wildly because, DUH!, games.
But when I think of virtual reality, I think back to my first encounter with the “holographic” 3D characters in the Cirque du Soleil VR done by Felix & Paul on the Gear VR. That remains impressive as hell and what I consider VR should be.
And that’s what missing from the demos for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR: Actual reality.
All of the demos are straight CGI. And I am just sick of CGI. The most impressive CGI was in that Oculus paper town. They got right. It looked like it could be made of paper. Everything else looked like what it was: Made of pixels.
Pixelscapes aren’t going to sell VR to people like me. We grew up on movies and TV, not videogames. We want people, the world, not computer graphics.
And all of the demos? Is there anything there to appeal to women? Not that I could see.
People will argue VR is going after early adopters, blah blah blah.
What no one understands is that after making this kind of first impression, VR might not get an opportunity to widen its market. It will be fixed in people’s mind that VR is all that “CGI and game stuff.”
At the very least, that Cirque du Soleil video should be available on every platform as a demo. It appeals to men, women, children, and has actual people — not pixels — in it. This is no time to hold onto exclusives when the idea of VR is what needs to be sold.
Make it happen.