The Awesomeness Of Head-Mounted Displays

By Jim Rossignol on April 5th, 2013 at 11:00 am.


Stood by the Oculus stand at GDC, I heard someone say “the thing about all this VR stuff is that it hasn’t moved on a great deal from the ’90s.” Can that be true? For a moment I assumed this gentleman in the crowd might know something I didn’t, but it turns out that there’s a good deal that VR and head/body-tracking can do in 2013 that it couldn’t do in the 1990s. For a taste of that, you’ll want to read this and watch the video below, which places the user in a Doom 3 level with a Portal gun, and shows off all manner of body tracking and movement cleverness.

Go look!

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85 Comments »

  1. Rian Snuff says:

    Yay, progression. Can’t wait till’ I can truly aim down the sights. I approve. Keep it up d00ds.

    • Sam says:

      But what if we could talk to the guns?

      • Ianuarius says:

        you mean like… walkie-talkies? didn’t spielberg already do that?

        • shehzadjaa says:

          before I saw the paycheck that said $7571, I be certain …that…my neighbour could trully making money part time from there labtop.. there neighbour haz done this for less than 20 months and just took care of the morgage on their villa and bought a top of the range Lotus Elise. go to,,, http://wow81.com/

      • Rian Snuff says:

        LIKE IN JUDGE DREDD?! YES!!!! My dongle just flinched.

        Random thought: We need a new, beautifully designed Judge Dredd FPS title..

        • frightlever says:

          Or Rogue Trooper. When the Gun(nar) talks back.

        • Grargh says:

          Was that a dongle joke, in a public space? I’m going to need your picture now for twitter shaming, please.

      • Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

        The Lazy Gun is the only weapon known to display a sense of humour.

        Bad news about Mr Banks, not just for him and his loved ones but also the rest of the world to lose such literate magnificence, even though his later works could have used the touch of an editor that wasn’t in fear of him.

    • Cloudhead says:

      RPS should really look at the Oculus & Razer Hydra videos here https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=svY8Wz2GjQ0 . The Gallery: Six Elements Kickstarter is also doing some Oculus demos right away. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/494598080/the-gallery-six-elements

    • mpcarolin says:

      Oh my god, can you imagine how much fun virtual laser tag could be? So long as the virtual maps reflected the actual room (virtual walls matching the same location as the real walls, for instance), you could experience something incredible.

  2. Echo Black says:

    With this, you could FINALLY simulate swordfighting (with its nuances, instead of canned animations) properly

    • BTAxis says:

      Not to mention knock everything over in your living space and/or injure yourself.

    • Crispy75 says:

      Only if you’re holding onto a force feedback controller connected to a robot arm powerful enough to push your whole bodyweight around.

      • Apocalypse says:

        If you are getting such heavy feedback while sword fighting, than dear Sire, you are doing it wrong.
        A sword is not a mace, you want to cut and/or thrust.

        More of a problem is that sword balance does affect the form of your strikes, so a good controller would need to have the same balance as a sword has, which again is not that easy to achieve.

        • Amun says:

          You’ve obviously never had your sword ripped out of your hand by an opponent with arms like tree trunks. I’ll forgive you for overlooking that.

          And a perfectly balanced sword would feel like it’s just the handle, so I think a motion controller with the right grip would be fine.

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            My fencing instructor always frowned on that. ;]

    • Inanc Arslaner says:

      You could simulate swinging a sword and missing your target.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Nope, this was in this case is using kinect for body representation, and as we should all know by now, kinect is not working fast enough for this stuff. Would be frustrating.

      But yeah the basic system with better hardware would work.

      Oh and btw, this hopefully works too ;-)
      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/260688528/clang

    • P.Funk says:

      And how exactly do you propose balancing such a game so that two handed bastard swords can’t just rape anybody using a dinky little rapier because your stupid dongle weighs the same as a remote control?

      A big part of the “nuance” of sword play is the heft and weight of a sword and how types compare to one another. Its not just gross weight but the balance of the weight in how it affects the swing and the motion and how you control that motion to follow through.

      Another issue is that a huge amount of swordplay is footwork and how your weight is balanced. Its a full body thing. The more you allow the physical properties of each gamer to direct the individual movements in the game the more you make it so that only guys with gym passes become winners. Imagine playing Arma3 with an omni-directional treadmill for movement. Pretty soon realism clans would start having to actually have PT classes online….

      I’m not saying this isn’t incredible, I’m just saying that there are huge limitations that nobody has thought up how to overcome yet. How intuitive could sword play be if you had to create control lag to simulate the limitations of a super heavy sword versus a light nimble one? That would immediately ruin any benefit.

      Now, lightsabers being apparently weightless trapped plasma or some bullshit opens this up a bit more… until you realize you’re now writing off every bit of the extravagant gymnastics of a Jedi duel, but thats better than William Wallace beats Samurai everytime because his sword while bigger and tougher is as light as the Katana his opponent is wielding.

      I think however this has better straight up appeal to guns since guns involve characteristics that are less difficult to deal with, as long as we leave bayonet fights out of it. The issue still exists of how to handle recoil. Real guns recoil, hand dongles don’t unless we can somehow create a force feedback system that forces the thing in our hands backwards the requisite amount.

      So many new problems. I am excited beyond belief to see what the solutions will be, because they will exist, but there are way more limitations I think than people are immediately recognizing, at least until we come up with full body gamer exo-suits that let you play in a low G environment to simulate all the acrobatics and physical strain your average gaming Avatar experiences typically with a mouse twitch and the prolonged depression of the W key without having to burn the same number of calories.

      Imagine a whole generation of gamers suffering the same physical strain as Solid Snake. I’m pretty sure we’d see more heart attacks in front of the monitor and from something other than marathon Korean FPS gamers.

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        Big Murray says:

        See, I don’t see any of what you’re saying as actual limitations to it working … only as limitations to realism. As games have proven numerous times over the decades, we don’t need to simulate things realistically to have something that’s fun to play. It may be that we won’t be simulating the nuances of the footwork of swordplay … but if the game is fun, will you really care?

  3. SamirChong says:

    So, Second Life anyone?

  4. Sander Bos says:

    I already saw this video and it’s fantastic, everybody should watch this. It is so nice to get so much information about head mounted display caveats in such a short time.
    On the downside, I was getting really enthusiastic about oculus rift, but sort of the conclusion of the video is that you need a lot more hardware than just the goggles to get a good experience.
    Also, I am one of those persons who attempts to look around corners just by moving my head when playing an FPS on a flat monitor; It’s a disease that requires much more study.

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      PoulWrist says:

      You know that the Oculus isn’t just “goggles” but a whole slew of hardware, right?

      • Sander Bos says:

        Did you read the article/ viewed the video?
        Because that is what the majority is about, that the rift currently (the article has updates about contacts with the rift creators) does not support positional headtracking and that apparently you need a seperate detector for that (I must say I do not fully understand that part, the way I always understood it is that for instance the Wii has this motion sensor bar but that is only used for corrections to what the accelerometers detect, the accelerometers should be able to detect positions on their own if accurate enough).
        And beyond that, even if the Rift would support that in later versions, he mentions the problems of not seeing your own limbs (that I do not think is so important) and the need to a usable pointing device in 3D to be able to do something useful beyond looking.

        • solidsquid says:

          The only part of that technology which isn’t already available is the treadmill, and there’s people working on that already (although you might have issues with space if you want one). Razer already has the Hydra, which would work as the input device, TrackIR could be used for the head tracking and the Rift sorts the headset issue.

          As it is, the main barrier for this now is getting games which actually support it, since I doubt there’s many games which support head tracking and the Rift yet. I’d probably be looking at more games taking an interest in this though, now that this stuff is becoming easier to access. It probably won’t be *all* games, but even if only a couple do it and it works out for them it could encourage others to do so too

          Oh, and for the treadmill there’s the Virtuix Omni, which apparently is going the be launching a Kickstarter soon. That doesn’t seem to have the issues with integration like the headset and motion tracking would though, it’s more like the Hydra which is designed to plug into existing hardware. Only real restrictions with it from the look of things are space and jumping, not sure how the sensors would handle impacts from that so you’d probably have to stick with a jump button

          edit: Scratch that, tech demos on the Virtuix youtube channel show jumping works fine on the Omni. It does seem pretty loud though in terms of impact of your feet on the treadmill from walking, that’s probably something they’ll have to work on

          • Maritz says:

            Is is technically available, but probably prohibitively expensive and too big for most homes. Remember this BF3 setup from 18 months ago?

        • Reapy says:

          Think of a fps camera and how you move the mouse, but don’t touch the keys to move. That is the rift with no position tracking. When you push strafe left, that is a position change.

          Now think about your neck, it can push your viewpoint a few inches to the left. You most likly adjust your heads position in space all the time. If the position of your head is moving around in space irl but your view is not, then it can cause the motion sickness they talk of.

          With position tracking they can push your viewpoint around (the world coordinates of the camera) as you move your head around, keeping you from puking.

          This is something that has frequently been mentiond with the rift, and they intend to have a solution for the consumer model. Carmack mentioned trackir was sort of nice for this but it had a falling off a cliff feeling when you want too far and lost input. In this vid it liked like they were using kinect to do it.

          Either way they well know what they are after and I think it is safe to feel excited about this developing tech, I know I really am.

          • Apocalypse says:

            In the comments the mention that they did not use the kinect for head tracking and that they are not sure if kinnect would be fast enough for head-tracking.

          • Shuck says:

            The puking with traditional VR systems also came about because of the slight delay in moving one’s head and having the image update to reflect that. I’m getting queasy just remembering it.

    • DonJefe says:

      You are not alone, my friend.

    • Svant says:

      Except the Rift will provide most of what was shown here, the things it will not provide is ducking, leaning etc. But thats just icing. Most people would want to use the Rift sitting down in a chair anyway. So you still use normal input you just use the rift to display things in 3d and let the player look around in the world.

      Think simulators, or ARMA type games that is what the rift would do very very well without the position tracker.

      • Apocalypse says:

        While head tracking is not part of the current developer kits, it should be part of the final product.

    • baristan says:

      The Rift DEV Kit + Hydra would allow you to look around corners.
      It’s amazing what has been done using these two devices together, in such a short amount of time.

      Positional head tracking for leaning around corners
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hj6ERrbovBw

      Virtual hands that can manipulate objects. Can even juggle, or throw/catch a ball.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=07IwxUD8N8E

      Game with virtual hands to interact with the world. Can pickup objects and move them out of your way, or use them as tools to solve a puzzle, spray paint the environment, draw in a notebook to keep track of locations or clues.
      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/494598080/the-gallery-six-elements

      The consumer version of the Rift promises to have positional tracking. Along with one piece of additional hardware you can experience most of what is in the video.
      I just bought a Hydra on sale for $50, and think $350 for a HMD+hand-tracking is very cheap.
      Would like to have an omnidirectional treadmill, but most of them are still in the prototype stages.

  5. aemskelley says:

    I think the thing I’m most excited about are that it might create a new genre of adventure/discovery games.

    Something akin to Heavy Rain mixed with Myst mixed with Xenoclash :)

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      Hanban says:

      I’m more excited for a resurgence of space sims and mech sims! Bring them on!

      • Hahaha says:

        HELL YEAH mech sims would be sick

      • aemskelley says:

        How did I not even think of Space Sims?!!

        Any kind of Sim to be fair… racing, flying, space, mech, boxing, fencing, mutual masturbation? The possibilities are endless!

      • solidsquid says:

        This is the kind of thing the Rift will work best for, at least before the additional features like motion tracking. Most likely there will either be a Rift 2 which incorporates that or people will quickly adapt existing tech to do that job. At that point it’s really a case of integration with the games that’s the sticking point (well, that and the treadmill)

  6. Hahaha says:

    EPIC

    “PUT YOUR HEAD IN THE PORTAL”

    • solidsquid says:

      I’m just imagining what it would be like walking through an infinite fall portal with the Rift on now. Would get get vertigo from looking through it since it’s in 3D?

      • TheMightyEthan says:

        That gives me vertigo just to think about…

      • Mr. Mister says:

        I’m thinking more about the Superman and 1st Person mods from Just Cause 2 (they work well together).

  7. FloorBelow says:

    Wow.

  8. Echo Black says:

    A new generation of hentai games is upon us.

  9. Inigo says:

    I can’t wait to see the headlines when the next high school shooter has one of these in his room.

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    MajorManiac says:

    This is all rather exciting. The moment games are controlled with our whole body (or rather flapping limbs), is the moment we gaming geeks go from unfit chair-sitters to super-fit Olympians.

  11. sinister agent says:

    Fiver says everyone will make terrible shooters on it, when it would clearly be best used as a horror thing, a bit like Amnesia.

    • Hahaha says:

      All sims, adventure games, fighters, CHESS (sports)

    • solidsquid says:

      For an Amnesia style game you’d also need two microphones, one to record your heart beat and one to record your breathing so they could be played back at you with the volume increased. Especially if you can have the heart rate and breathing rate control the volume, so that if you start getting scared your heart rate and breathing gets louder as well as faster

  12. mightlife says:

    Wow!
    An Oculus Rift is on my shopping list for later this year!

    • Hahaha says:

      The thing that can’t yet do most of the stuff in the vid?

      • Apocalypse says:

        Sure you could, the body reprensation was done via microsoft kinect, as controller you could use a razer hydra and the oculus rift itself is “only” lacking the head-tracking. Which can be added later on.

        In other words the Oculus Rift is a good start.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Currently available hardware used in combination with the rift can do all those things.

  13. b0rsuk says:

    I can’t see it taking off without a treadmill.

    • DonJefe says:

      Which means a revival of the arcade. At least in Europe. Europeans don’t have the apartment space to have a “gaming treadmill” in our living room. Americans on the other hand…

    • Svant says:

      Depends on what you want to do with it, for simulator games? Think flying, mechs, driving etc there is no need for a treadmill. It would even work in games like ARMA which already tries to do this with the head-tracker devices already available, i.e. you turn your head and the view turns on your screen but your body does not. That would be very possible just sitting in a chair and a normal controller, mouse/keyboard.

  14. rustybroomhandle says:

    All this gaming stuff is going to our heads.

  15. Ragabhava says:

    For those of us with motion sickness it needs to come with a kind of vomit bag attached to it….

  16. Eddy9000 says:

    Although I’d probably be much fitter, the idea of running around for four hours during an FPS session exhausts me.

    • solidsquid says:

      I don’t know, that sounds pretty damn fun to me actually. It would certainly deal with the overweight geek stereotype of gamers (well, the overweight half of it anyway)

    • Apocalypse says:

      That actually is fun. And good training.

    • sophof says:

      Have you ever played paintball? I imagine it would be very similar and therefore awesome :) The exercise is not only a plus, it is part of the ‘skill’ involved.

  17. EvilHungarian says:

    I love how the audio track is longer than the video and you can hear him struggling for 2 or 3 minutes at the end.

  18. Lev Astov says:

    Who is this guy? That was amazing.

  19. Hoaxfish says:

    So, Occulus Rift + Kinect + Wiimote/PS Move and we’re almost there.

    Just need some force-feedback for walking into things and carrying heavy objects.

    • EvilHungarian says:

      How about Oculus Rift + Leap Motion?
      I believe the guys at Oculus VR are working on implementing positional tracking and there are other options like TrackIR. There’s also a promising head tracking prototype called PosiTTron. As for the Leap, it can recognise and track pretty much any object. Think about playing an FPS with a Rift and a prop pistol. There’s so much potential there…

  20. lith says:

    You’ve got the visuals…now, was this game running on a X-Fi sound card when you tried the fancy visual VR? Because Doom 3 had VR audio out of the box.

  21. vrekman64 says:

    next generation of gamers must be really fit to win in their games.

  22. Muffintop says:

    I recall reading a book about something like this. Had the omni-directional treadmill and all. It all ended badly when a kid who was using it somehow brought the virtual creatures (dinosaurs in this case) into the real world.

  23. Megakoresh says:

    The best way to use this would be a replacement to the normal LDC display:

    Keep head interaction to a minimum: I would LOVE to be able to peek around corners and do small scale head movements to get a better view. One extremely immersive example is when you see some crate in the game that JUST about blocks your view of something and you instinctively want to stretch your neck to look above it. Well with this you CAN actually do that and it would be super awesome if that is the functionality it provided.

    But controls, UI, virtual object interaction and things like that, as well as aiming: that is best left to the control methods we currently have.