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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Unboxing Oculus DK2

It felt like Christmas yesterday when FedEx dropped our first Oculus development kit.

I had tried Oculus before at GDC this year. I was not particularly impressed, which was expected for an early prototype. I did get a very positive feeling about the potential of the VR medium.

It was the Couch Knights demo back then. While I was "inside" the demo I wondered why I would spend time in such a place. But it did take me to another place. This was a big deal for me, I do not remember any other device or medium getting close to that.

A few months later I had it in a box right in front of me. (I made sure it would be delivered to my home address instead of the company's so it could be just mine, at least for a few days.)


I was immediately impressed with the quality of the hardware. It was light and solid. You would get a distinct feeling this thing was properly built. The SDK was alright too.

It did not work at all in the first machine I tried. I blame Windows 8.1 and its new ability to use either integrated graphics or the standalone GPU. I see a lot of applications getting confused by that. As soon as I switched to a machine with just a GPU it began to work properly.

Then the sickness began. It was not a subtle discomfort, it made me so sick I could not function properly for the rest of the day. I am not astronaut material, but I have never been troubled by motion sickness in my life. I was aware the Oculus was making a lot of people sick, and was convinced I was not part of that population.

That experience was so bad it got me thinking. I felt poisoned. Poisons and our ability to survive them are masterpieces of evolution. So, in some sense, it is like I had evolved against VR.

What if no matter how much we improve displays, cut latency, etc. we will still be hitting biological triggers that tell your body something is wrong and it must puke its guts out?

I want to go back to working with the device. If the content is appealing  people won't mind the discomfort and will spend time to build tolerance. A lot of people do sickening drugs like alcohol.

28 comments:

  1. But there are laws where you can go to prison if you drive intoxicated. Would they have to pass laws that you are not allowed to drive after using a VR headset? The safety aspect of VR headsets actually something that worries me a lot.

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    1. I think it is different. With VR is more like riding a roller coaster. Some people can get sick, but they are OK to drive a few minutes later.

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  2. What demo did you try? Because it sounds like it was a bad one. Start out with something like Titans of Space, Sightline the Chair or Beneath (can all be found on Oculus Share). You don't need to move around yourself in those demos, so they're a lot easier for the uninitiated. Once you do get acclimated, try something like Windlands to experience how much fun a good VR game can be :)

    About the Nvidia Optimus tech: it's a known issue (mainly because the Intel GPU doesn't output at higher than 60hz from what I've read). The Oculus software is still very WIP, and getting demos to work is a bit of a puzzle sometime. Usually switching between Direct or Extended mode, or making the Rift your primary display, should work out. Make sure the demo is hitting 75 fps constantly or it won't look right in the Rift (usually shown as judder or blurry imagery).

    So as it stands now the tech is still quite fickle, but Oculus is working on making things easier (there was a new SDK release just yesterday). I'm convinced VR will have a great future ahead of it, but it will demand a sacrifice in many developer hours before it gets there.

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    1. That was from the two demos in the SDK. Got most of the sickness from the Tuscany set demo. I tried to run another demo I downloaded, it was the Unity Tuscany scene. That would not run on the device. I also tried the test scene in the configuration tool.

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    2. Yeah, Tuscany isn't too great. I don't use it my usual repertoire when demoing the Rift to people. It just shows that conventional game movement doesn't work that well in VR. People have been working on alternatives: there's this thing they call "VR Comfort Mode" where, instead of continuous turning, you turn your character in increments of 30 degrees (making finer adjustments to your walk direction by using your head). The Oculus Best Practices Guide should give some info on what works well in VR and what doesn't, but there's still plenty to explore.

      Anyway, I highly recommend you try the demos I mentioned earlier once you feel up to it. Should give a better experience :)

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    3. So you do not get sick anymore? Can you share more about your experience?

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    4. Well, to start from the beginning, I got the Rift DK1 over a year ago and I played in the then-compatible Tuscany demo too. Felt motion sickness pretty quickly so I made sure not to push myself. In the days after I tried several demos in short sessions. Noticed that when you're placed in a cockpit, you're capable of much more insane movement as long as the cockpit is within your view (to give a point of reference).

      About a few weeks later, Valve released their first VR update for Half-Life 2 and I replayed that game in several hour-long sessions without ever really feeling sick. I played that game many times in the past, but playing it in the Rift was a whole new experience (even in the comparatively sucky DK1).

      The new DK2 is even better to get started with, but it also highlights that a good VR experience requires perfect synergy between hardware and software. It doesn't matter how good the Rift hardware is, if the demo intends to make you sick, it will. A lot of rollercoaster demos still make me feel dizzy, but at least it's no longer a lingering feeling like in the first few weeks.

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  3. Oh and don't push it if you start feeling queasy. Growing your 'VR legs' isn't something that can be forced and usually it requires multiple sessions before you can play for extended periods of time. This varies from person to person though, some people don't ever feel sick, while others will always remain sensitive.

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  4. If you get the chance, try out Elite: Dangerous in the DK2. I've had up to 4 hour sessions with the game with absolutely no feelings of sickness at all. The sense of immersion in the Elite universe is immense as well.

    Personally I think cockpit style games (flight sims, driving games, space games, etc.) should work the best as there's less disconnect between you sitting in a chair playing and sitting in a seat in-game. Standard FPS controls can be very unpleasant after a while (I can only last about 10 mins in Half-Life 2 without feeling sick).

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    1. Thanks for the tip. Will try it later tonight.

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  5. I got a DK2 earlier this year and got some of my code running with it. I also get motion sickness with it. Looking around is OK. The Sightline Chair demo was fine for me (although I had to run it in extended mode on my Radeon) Tuscany makes me dizzy as soon as I move.

    If you want to read my experience with it, go to http://www.sea-of-memes.com/LetsCode93/LetsCode93.html

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  6. I found that Tuscany made me feel a bit queasy, while Titans of Space didn't make me feel bad at all. Sightline : The Chair is also good with the way it changes the environment when you are looking somewhere else.

    Half Life 2 made me feel really bad - by far the worst of anything I've done with DK2 and the only one that persisted long after I took it off. For me the things that have a big effect are: Moving your head and what you see doesn't move (HL2 loading). Your avatar moving when you don't, and worst of all is when your avatar turns his head independently of your own head movement, as with mouselook. In HL2 I had to start closing my eyes any time I had to turn around. Interestingly Minecrift was not nearly as bad.

    As others have said, when your avatar is seated is much the best experience right now, such as in driving or flight sims. Elite : Dangerous, Live for Speed, Assetto Corsa are the games that work well right now.

    I think Oculus still has some way to go with the technology. The problems with nausea though I think will mainly need to be solved in the way we build the experiences themselves, or in the input methods.

    I hope to see a lot of progress, as I think VR gives a whole new dimension (literally!) to the virtual world. The sense of depth and scale is perhaps the best thing about it (albeit only close up, due to the low resolution right now). Even in Minecrift and Space Engineers (with VorpX, which doesn't really do it justice), it is really impressive to look at the scale of things that you can build. To see that in a high quality voxel world will be something else.

    Landmark would one where the positives and negatives are both pretty strong. To see what people have build in VR would be amazing. But "heroic movement" and grappling hooks in VR are a disaster waiting to happen!

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  7. "The problems with nausea though I think will mainly need to be solved in the way we build the experiences themselves, or in the input methods."

    I think that is the elephant in the room. The hype around VR was always about first person experiences. It seems head mounted displays will never be able to provide that, unless you take a pill or something. What is the point of getting inside a virtual world to then be necessarily detached from it by means of a third person camera or a similar mechanic?

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  8. I dunno, I remember getting motion sick the first time I played golden eye, which was the first 3d fps I had encountered. I haven't felt motion sick in a game since, though expect I might when I finally get an oculus. That said, my improvement with motion sickness are probably biproducts of both the improvement in control input as well as raw experience with the medium. I see no reason why I wouldn't experience similar results with vr as it gets more developed.

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    1. Yes you are probably right, I remember a lot of people got sick from Doom.

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  9. I've always wondered if this nausea is caused by flat projections. Where objects that are supposed to be at a fixed distance start moving in and out the screen when the camera rotates. It's not natural at all.

    Also, which may be not connected, how many people that get dizzy have fairly strong cylindrical lenses in their prescription glasses?

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    1. I think we get dizzy when our eyes tell us we are moving and our inner ear tells us the opposite. You could have perfect VR visuals and still get dizzy because your body knows it is not moving.

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    2. You can stimulate the inner ear with an electric current to affect your balance...look up Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation..could probably be used to counter dizziness and increase immersion. Palmer has mentioned it before so Oculus is very much aware of such tricks..

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    3. So even when the graphics follow your head movement exactly, your inner ear is still confused?
      That basically means it's not good enough at tracking yet, so it's back into R&D for them I guess.

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    4. It is not about tracking. With perfect VR visuals your eyes see you are walking, but your body does not feel you are moving. That is why you may get dizzy.

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    5. I think what Mr. Hoskins is talking about is when there is 1:1 between movement of user's head and movement of view in the game - Then the inner ear should not be confused, because the actual movement and movement within the game are exactly the same. It's just that most games require walking around and therefore involve movement that is independent from the actual user's movement which is the source of sensory dissonance.

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    6. Interesting, but that implies you'll never be able to do first person movement without people feeling a little queasy. :( So the best thing to simulate is someone sat in a chair or standing still?

      But it appears that the most important thing is frame-rate, and the associated lag. If you can't maintain a fixed 60fps then don't bother, seems to be a strong argument on forums.

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    7. Yes, that was my point before. In my case I had the right FPS, no latency, and would not get dizzy from just looking around. The problem was when my avatar began moving in the world.

      For that reason they also suggest using a cockpit or some other static frame of reference that may suggest you are not moving relative to your seat, that is the seat moving in space. That is why a space sim simulator like Elite works.

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    8. I wonder if HUD displays giving typical health/etc will help or hinder this? They give a reference frame that stays fixed to the user.

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  11. need some VR gloves so i can sculpt in voxel farm with my rift x)

    how did the elite dangerous test work out?

    my dad gets motion sickness watching me play games where i move alot along the terrain but he does fine with flying games

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  12. If you're not able to hit 75fps consistently your going to feel sick in the DK2. The CK1 is rumoured to be 90fps minimum. If you do hit 75fps the experience is a joy, very smooth, no nausea.

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    1. Fps was consistent at 75. You need consistent fps AND and a gentle camera. It does not matter how high the FPS, how low the latency, the experience has to be designed for VR. From their guide:

      "Avoid visuals that upset the user’s sense of stability in their environment. Rotating or moving the horizon line or other large components of the user’s environment in conflict with the user’s real-world self-motion (or lack thereof) can be discomforting"

      I do not get dizzy as before, but still at a point where I would need a killer application to make me want to use the device.

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