I saw this great GIF that perfectly explains the possibilities that virtual reality opens up:
(Click the GIF for a better version)
We are not limited by real-world physics and geometry in a virtual world. Literally anything is possible. VR (specifically the Vive’s room-scale technology) lets you explore a limitless world from within a 3′ by 5′ space.
One of the tricky parts to the experience so far has been movement, or “locomotion.” How to you move through an infinitely large world from a finite space? The most comment solution is teleportation. No, really. In most of the VR games I’ve played, you can magically teleport around without needing to walk.
Its really cool at first; I felt like a wizard the first time I did it. But after a while, it can be obnoxious (and a little nauseating) to constantly disappear and reappear. Some games do it better than others, and some games require some finger dexterity exercises to get it right.
Other games rely on a static position (you just stand still, or move around in your available space, but never leave that space) or put you “on rails” — that is the game handles your motion for you. You just stay in your space. Usually this technique involves some sort of vehicle or platform to help you avoid the nausea.
There’s a few games that use the controller to control your movement through the play world. Onward, a first-person shooter, uses the Vive’s touchpad to control your movement. It takes some getting used to, and I myself felt a little nausea after a few minutes. Minecraft in VR tends to use this technique, and also causes nausea in many who have tried it.
What makes the GIF above so interesting to me is that it opens up an infinitely explorable world from within a finite space. Its hard to tell from a GIF, but I wonder how disorienting the experience is from within VR. Does your brain freak out when you see something you know is impossible?
An interesting sidenote: Some friends of mine shared stories about how their parents got nauseous when some early NES games came out in the late 80’s. Maybe nausea is something that the next generation won’t have to worry about. Is this evolution in response to technology?