OPINION: With HTC's Vive now up for pre-order, VR headsets are about to go mainstream. TrustedReviews' Max Parker once thought these unsociable headsets weren't going to make it big. But then he tried the HTC Vive.
I’ve never quite got virtual reality. I’ve tried Oculus, Playstation VR and Gear VR plenty of times, but as a none-hardcore gamer and fan of the real world, it’s always impressed without every truly capturing my imagination.
But, the HTC Vive has changed all that. After a a 15-minute experience, you can take my money and give me a headset - I’m a fully fledged VR convert.
For me, Vive achieved something that no other virtual reality headset has yet managed - it actually tricked my brain. My perception of reality was well and truly warped. My conscious awareness removed. I felt like I was actually moving through its digital recreations as if they were as real as the demo room in which I was actually stood.
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Experiencing four virtual worlds - a submerged ship wreck, virtual office, light painting studio and robot repair shop - I strolled my way around the computer-created universe, stepping along the way from enthused sceptic to please-give-me-more-time convert.
It wasn’t the classic, overblown VR fodder that excited my mind though. The underwater world looked cool but never convinced me I was in that environment. The office-synth and robot workshop, however, relocated my body and mind. Sure they’re hardly the most exciting of settings, but it actually felt real. I felt like I could reach out and touch my surroundings. And, well, I could.
Being able to explore and interact with the environment makes such a difference in making the virtual feel real. This is where Vive stands out. Holding the system's wand-based controllers, I could open draws, pull apart droids and even accidentally spill a mug of coffee.
By the time it got to the end of my experience - with the floor of the workshop falling down around me - I found myself crouching to peer into the non-existent chasm below. There was no unwanted VR nausea, but a very real sense of peril looking into that vast hole at my feet. Had I watched someone do the same thing, I’d have scoffed. But in that moment, my inhibitions were gone and I was living the VR dream.
It's not all sunshine and virtual lollipops though. Although I now feel like I want VR in my life - and right away - it’s still not completely ready.
As much as Vive impressed me and truly tricked my sense of reality, there is still a major drawback to this VR experience. Well, another on top of the space needed to fully enjoy it and the hefty £689 cost of a unit — the cable attached to the rear of the headset.
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This restrictive addition is like being chaperoned on a date by your mum - you’re constantly aware of an unwanted presence that means you can’t enjoy yourself in the ways you’d like. It does just enough to tug you back into reality when you're drifting off into the virtual. If they cut the cable, I’d probably still be lost in the lands of make-believe now.
Have you been won over by VR yet? Let us know in the comment section below