ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Gaming Goes Virtual: The best of GDC 2014

By Ban Hoe Poh, Md Firdaus Bin Sani , Torng Hann Lim, Wei Kiat Leong

Gaming Goes Virtual: The best of GDC 2014

All photos in this article were taken by the authors.

The gaming industry is visibly increasing in popularity, and as technology is rapidly expanding and evolving; many are eager to delve into the development of games in this growing market. The 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco revealed several exciting new technologies will be released to game developers, as well as to the public, in the near future. 

With the growing demand for virtual reality environments in gaming communities, several companies have developed devices to cater to their needs. The already well-known visual reality headset, Oculus Rift, has garnered so much buzz that bigger companies like Sony have developed their version—Project Morpheus, which was recently unveiled at GDC 2014.

The Project Morpheus display allowed users to test out the sleek headset, which features 960 x 1080 LCD lenses, 90 degree field-of-vision, and will connect with the PlayStation Camera for tracking, all while using PlayStation Move for movements. It currently uses a five-meter cable, but a wireless version is planned for the commercial version.

On the other hand, Oculus has been busy upgrading from the Oculus Rift to Oculus DK2, favoring OLED displays over its previous LCD lenses and using its low-persistence to smoothen movement viewing for users. Oculus DK2also features a slightly wider field-of-vision of 100 degrees, and an extra six degrees of head movement, possibly using it to implement in-game features like peeking and peering.

While the big names like Oculus and Sony are taking giant leaps, several companies have taken the jump into virtual reality as well. Virtuix, and Yei Technologies have stepped in the ring to bring immersive experiences up another notch; creating devices to incorporate not only visual experiences, but full body ones.

Virtuix’s OmniVR is a large platform using an omnidirectional treadmill surface as a base. The player is then enclosed within a ring with a safety harness at the waist to stabilize the player when they walk on the bowl-shaped rig. Forty capacitive sensors at the base tracks the player’s steps as the player walks around in virtual reality, making this a potential dream coming true for players whose wishes were to be immersed in open-world environments and first-person shooters. Players could also opt to use the Oculus Rift for visual instead of a screen to complete the immersion.

Still in early developments, aiming is still wonky and the sensors are not fully capable of sensing every step the user makes. More importantly, the device requires custom-made shoes for movement. However these issues will be eventually fixed as development progresses on.

Yei Technologies’ PrioVR has a different idea—making a sensor suit, similar to the ones used for motion capture (mocap) to read the player’s movements. PrioVR features three planned suits:  PrioVR Lite, PrioVR Core, and PrioVR Pro.

PrioVR Lite will have eight sensors throughout the upper body, while Core and Pro will have 12 and 18 respectively covering the player’s full body. In comparison to the OmniVR, PrioVR has more mobility while taking up less space, but it is in need of updates to its ergonomics— another person is needed to help the player put on the PrioVR devices.  PrioVR integrates the Oculus Rift as part of its full feature for immersion.

As if that is not enough, another competitor under name of Sulon Technologies is also in the midst of creating a virtual reality headset called The Cortex. Not only will The Cortex feature virtual reality immersion, but also augmented reality.

As a newly developed device, The Cortex is unique in that it incorporates augmented and virtual realities, making use of the physical space in the environment. Users can choose to play with a fully virtual environment, or use reality as their “playground.”

The Cortex features a spatial scanner that maps the physical environment, using laser and ultrasonic technologies, turning the area around the player into a game zone. It also has positional awareness of your whole body, allowing you to move around and even crouch, possibly blurring the line between reality and virtual space.

With all these features in store for future virtual reality devices, it is of little wonder that everyone is excited for the future of gaming. While most of these devices are still in the early stages, developers will no doubt make use of the time to turn fantasy into reality.




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