More VR Thoughts

May 20, 2016

Ha, I had this written out and drafted:

“Having seen 2016 described as “the year of VR” by multiple outlets, and seeing the evidence myself, I thought I’d go ahead and tip my toe into the world of VR.

I went with the AuraVisor, a relatively obscure option in the VR market. To see my thoughts on it, skip ahead to the next heading.

After a few days of (April 2016) research, I concluded that these were my options:

The HTC Vive ($800) probably provides the best, most powerful experience available today. It also requires at least 2×1.5 meters to walk around — a space I could easily clear in my living room, but the real kink in the plans here is that moving my computer in there (necessary to power it) would be a major hassle. So the $800 price tag might have scared me away anyway, but logistically it just didn’t seem feasible as an introductory option.

The Oculus Rift has major shipping delays going on, and seems somewhat overshadowed by the Vive, so I didn’t give it too much thought. Somewhat similarly, Playstation VR is too far off to satisfy my immediate curiosity. Besides, these are still large commitments, money-wise… $600 and $500 + a PS4 respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Google Cardboard and its variants available for use with smartphones. Android is definitely the platform of choice for this route, and I just so happened to have gotten a Windows phone (and one without a gyroscope, at that — something smartphone VR apps use), so I didn’t want to go this route either. Samsung’s VR initiatives are android-based as well, and require their high-end phones, so it ends up being around a $600 investment, as well.

So the AuraVisor is a glorified Google Cardboard variant, priced at a premium for the conveniences it provides (a ready to go, wireless VR experience out of the box pretty much) I was okay with this idea, and this was a route to experience Android-based VR without the guilt of buying a second phone.”

— I planned on editing and posting this entry once I got my hands on the AuraVisor, but this was before I did a bit more research and became convinced that it was simply a terrible use of my money. I had indiegogo refund my contribution. If my non-gaming experiences on the Vive had been any indication, I would have looked at a few VR videos/apps, been like “well, this is underwhelming,” and regretting spending $400 on it surely. There are other reasons it’s a bad investment, but I think it’d be a waste of time to trash the product here.

If Google releases a stand-alone headset for Daydream, I might get that for my “mobile” VR solution and to compare against the Vive.

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The HTC Vive Brief Review — on a barely qualifying computer

May 20, 2016

When I purchased the HTC Vive, I did so knowing that my computer barely met the minimum requirements (in particular, my GTX 960 graphics card is a bottleneck of performance). I also ordered a powerful new computer to dedicate completely to Virtual Reality, but until it arrives I’m having to make do with what I’ve got.

So, up front? If you have $800 to spend on a Vive but not enough juice to power it, it’s probably not worth the trouble. It’s a demanding, not always user-friendly setup that is going through the growing pains of early technology. Job Simulator is unplayable (dropped frames), The Lab and Audioshield frequently crash or freeze, and I have been experiencing frequent audio glitches. The technical difficulties just break immersion too often.

More general comments: If video-watching is your preferred activity, you might want to invest in Google Daydream devices instead — there is no native support for YouTube yet (though surely it’s coming), and generally videos don’t look all that hot on the Vive. Rendered environments (such as those in games or simulators) look much better, and the quality of software seems to depend a lot on how well they utilize the controllers.

My biggest complaint about the hardware is that it’s very difficult to properly fit the headset on in a way that fits well comfortably for long-term use. Adjusting the straps, getting your eyes in just the right position, all of that stuff is actually quite a challenge… and even once you get it right, you’ll still be pretty hot “inside” that thing and may want a fan blowing on you.

So how does the room-scale stuff pan out? Well, from my experience you want to do VR in one of two ways: Sitting down, or with the full recommended area. Playing with a half-room to walk around in just feels clunky. It’s totally worth moving that couch to get the extra meter of space.

So, yeah, I’m getting a pretty watered-down experience so far… and I must say in spite of all that, it’s been super fun! I’m getting the impression that the Vive is the best VR option available -if- you can clear out a whole room, but otherwise the Oculus and PS VR might win out. I hope I can find more content besides Audioshield that I’ll actually want to revisit.


HTC Vive

May 19, 2016

And so I’ve had my first VR experience! I plan to write a lot more on the topic, but my first takeaway is this — anyone who says that “you have to try it to see what it’s like” is wrong! Virtual reality is, at least if you’re relatively computer-literate, probably exactly what you expect it to be. That doesn’t mean it’s not amazing, though!


Lumia 640 and Windows 10 Mobile a month later…

May 16, 2016

My praise and thoughts from previous posts still apply, but now that I’ve had a month of normal phone usage I do have to add that I’m mildly dissatisfied with the instability of the phone and OS. It is a preview version of Windows 10, but the People app in particular has a tenancy to crash under pretty typical circumstances.

The camera is still pretty great, though! That alone might prevent me from going back in time and buying a $30 android phone instead.

That said, my current phone annoyance: http://forums.windowscentral.com/nokia-lumia-720/257762-my-phone-wont-turn-off-restarts.html


Physics?

May 12, 2016

Not much news to post, but the game is not forgotten! I have been spending a lot of time recently on a “secret” project, however, whose results I’ll be discussing here hopefully within the month.


Can P-Zombies Even Exist? As Viewed Through Object-Oriented Programming

May 8, 2016

Disclaimer: Abstract thoughts typed in 15-ish minutes!

Just as a thought exercise (which I do multiple times a day, often courtesy of insomnia) let us look at the classic “P Zombie” problem under the lens of Object-Oriented Programming.

There’s a couple versions of it, but the particular case of the “P Zombie” problem we’ll be reviewing today is a “soulless zombie” or version of the “Swampman” — Let’s say teleporters are invented, and the way they work is they scan the atomic composition of your body, disintegration it and recreate it on the other end. Any observer, no matter how sophisticated their observation tools, will be unable to detect a change in the person. The question is “if you walk through the teleporter, is it you on the other end or a duplicate with a separate consciousness?”

I think most of us would feel an “intuition” that the answer may be “no,” (with reasoning such as: if you take disintegration out of the question, can’t we say with certainty it is a duplicate?) but we feel like the burden of proof is upon us to say “why not?” — especially if your consider yourself a physicalist like I generally do.

You can kind of go in circles in your head trying to figure it out in terms of the real world, so let’s skip that 😉 and think about it like game designers. As designers of our world, we have access to read all relevant information. In Object-Oriented Programming, you create “objects” (say a basketball) and then have “instances” of that object in the world. Let’s say I walk into a Virtual Reality simulation I’ve had running and see three identical basketball objects in the room. Down to their most basic properties, they appear to be the same. But of course, they are three different objects, and actually are NOT identical just by virtue of existing in separate places. That is a fundamental part of their identity: Even if all three basketball objects in the room were perfectly overlapping each other (appearing as one object), they could be uniquely identified by their position in the computer’s memory. It is inconceivable to run an Object-Oriented simulation in which you could truly have two “identical” objects. Their position in memory is a unique identifier that we are able to pick out, and many languages automatically generate unique identifying key values for every object in memory based on that and/or time. i.e. space-time!

…and isn’t space-time all that would really separate the original person and the so-called zombie? Yes, but it is a unique identifier regardless. Is each of our positions’ in space-time our unique identifying “key value” that our qualia is tied to? Eh, maybe! What I do know is that it’s scary enough that I wouldn’t volunteer to walk through that teleporter!


VR: The HTC Vive

May 7, 2016

Over the past several days I’ve managed to watch most of this 11 hour long video reviewing the HTC Vive on the day of its official launch:

There’s a lot of potential, but it seems not very many developers willing to commit a lot of resources yet so the content is lacking. The reasoning isn’t hard to come up with: at this point in time, someone developing a VR app or game doesn’t know which of the VR hardware is going to take off. Do you assume the user has space to walk around or will be sitting down? Do we assume they have access to hand sensors or not? Nobody’s gonna want to sink a lot of money into making a game hardly anyone can play. There is definite mutual interest between the various companies developing VR to make their stuff work on each other’s hardware, but I don’t think we have terribly coherent organization in this industry just yet.

I may be interested in the second or third generation of the Vive, assuming more content becomes available down the line. The fact that it must be wired is quite a large downside, all other things considered.