Project Morpheus

PSVR Review: The Everyman VR Solution?

When we first saw the requirements that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came with, it was clear that premium VR would be something that only PC users would enjoy for a long time to come. Heck, even the vast majority of PC gamers and general PC owners simply did not own hardware that could reach the lofty levels of horsepower demanded by next-generation VR.

No one really expected that this current generation of consoles would power any sort of VR device worth owning or using. Not even Microsoft, which makes the Xbox One and is pioneering mixed reality, showed any interest in trying to squeeze VR out of their console.

Then Sony basically said “Screw it, we’ll do it anyway” and today we have the PSVR. It’s a console peripheral that might yet fail, but already 1 in 60 PS4 owners has a PSVR, and the PS4 is the best-selling console of the generation. For a supposedly “niche” add-on, that’s quite an achievement. But should you buy a PSVR? Let’s look at what this device has to offer.

Playstation PSVR review

A New Design

Before paying any mind to the technical details about the PSVR we have to take a moment to appreciate the design that Sony has put into their product. I’ll admit to owning a mountain of Sony products over the years. I’ve owned every Sony console both at home and in handheld form. I’ve had Sony music players, TVs, and cameras. I don’t feel like a Sony fanboy, but often the combination of design and looks wins me over.

One place where Sony regularly commits a sin is when it comes to proprietary formats. MiniDisc, Memory Stick, and Vita memory cards are just a few egregious examples. In this case, Sony has once again made something that will only work with Sony stuff. However, here it makes perfect sense since there’s no way a console maker is going to produce peripherals that work on other machines.

Sony has also come up with a corking design here. I’ve always hated how fiddly the head straps are on PC VR units. It feels more like trying to strap on sports equipment than a slick piece of electronics. Sony has gotten around this by opting for a plastic headband that secures itself around your forehead and the base of the skull. This makes it quick and easy to put on or take off. Reducing the song and dance associated with getting prepped for VR is a stroke of genius on the part of Sony. Once you’re in the VR experience, it's great. But often when I think about how much work using my Oculus is, I just boot up my console instead.

The headband is only one part of what makes the PSVR design good. The other aspect is the fact that you can flip the visor up without taking off the headband. This means you can quickly check what’s going on around you and then go back to the game. This is a design that’s so sensible, it’s no surprise that Microsoft basically copied it wholesale with their mixed reality headsets. I’m just surprised that there hasn’t been a case of patent infringement yet.

PSVR Under The Hood

The PSVR unit is actually pretty well specified, despite costing a bit less than an Oculus, Vive, or similar system. A lot of the cost saving comes from the fact that it piggybacks onto the PS4’s existing hardware for motion tracking. If you already have the PS4 camera and PS Move controls (from the PS3 era) then you only need to fork over the money for the headset itself.

The unit has a 5.7” OLED screen with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. That's 30Hz more than any of the big names on the PC side. Both the Oculus and Vive have 90Hz panels. It’s a bit of a moot point, since none of the PS4 models have the sort of horsepower to drive anything but the simplest graphics at that frame rate, so perhaps Sony intends to make the PSVR forwards-compatible with newer, faster models of Playstation in the future.

psvr bundle

Games for the Win

Just as with game consoles in general, it doesn’t matter if you have great hardware if there are no games to play on your machine. So it’s a good thing the PSVR has significant support from both Sony and third-party developers. I’ve listed the best PSVR games in a separate article, but it’s worth mentioning Triple A games such as Resident Evil 7 VR and EVE Valkyrie.

There is also a healthy number of new games on the horizon, and with more than one million PSVRs sold I think there’s already a solid install base for some great VR exclusives. On top of this, plenty of mainstream games are likely to have VR modes as well. Obviously the PSVR will have a hard time matching the PC platform when it comes to the diversity and number of VR titles, but then again you’ll have to spend a fortune to access them, so it all evens out.

Accessories Included

The set in question here is the PSVR starter pack, so it includes the motion controllers, camera, and headset. If you got a camera with one of the early PS4 bundles then this isn’t really the set to go for. If you only have a PS4 console without any of the accessories then this is the best deal.

Playstation Pro or no Pro?

VR is resource intensive, so many people will be asking if they need the more powerful PS4 Pro to make the most of VR. It is a fact that PSVR games that have received a PS4 Pro update will look better and perform better, but is it worth the upgrade?

In general, the difference is very subtle; all PSVR games are designed to be playable on the base model. So I’d say that if you already own a regular PS4 then it’s not worth upgrading just for a little better performance. If, however, you are buying an entire setup with an eye on VR, it’s better to go for the Pro model.

Review Thoughts

A VR-certified PC and an Oculus, Vive, or similar system in undeniably superior to the PSVR. However, there is no denying that the PSVR is a true AAA VR system and that it is the most affordable, accessible, and slick solution on the market. This is AAA VR for the masses and the only viable option at this price point. Sony has done something amazing here and it’s a perfect entry into the real deal VR experience.

Buy On Amazon


ar games mobile

6 AR Games That You Have to Try

They say that the proof is in the pudding, and when it comes to AR games that has never been more true. There’s no real way to convey what’s special about these next-generation video games without trying them for yourself.

Lots of developers are now jumping on the AR bandwagon and you’ll certainly find a lot of shovelware titles out there but, still, some games stand out as ones that everyone who is a little curious should try. Of course, there are hundreds more that would have been just as at home on any recommendation list, but here I’m trying to whittle it down to a few good places to start – a way to alleviate some of that choice paralysis we all face these days.

So here are six AR games that you can try without buying a specialized AR headset. Most of these are for mainstream tablets, smartphones, and game consoles. I’ve also tried to do a decent mix of genres, so that there’s at least one app for every reader.


Pokemon Go (iOS and Android)

Pokemon Go

No list like this would be complete without Pokemon Go. A rare departure from Nintendo hardware, this Pokemon game put the concept of augmented reality on the national agenda. For a while Pokemon Go was the only thing anyone would talk about.

This is not a full, traditional Pokemon game. Instead you need to physically walk around and hunt for the titular Pokemon. Once you find one you can see it in AR, sitting there, just waiting to be caught. The object of the game is to capture the entire collection of available Pokemon. You can also level them up and use them to take part in “gym” battles, which are essentially base defense fights.

Pokemon Go is a pretty fun game to play with other people, and it combines more than just AR technology to create something really fascinating. The hype around the game might have died down by now, but it’s still worth trying out. The Apple iOS version in particular is great because it makes use of the latest ARkit technology, which makes the Pokemon look much more solid and real than it does on other platforms.

Download From Google Playstore

Download From App Store


Night Terrors: The Beginning (iOS)

Night Terrors

If I haven’t said it yet elsewhere on this site, I’m generally not a fan of horror games set in VR. I like horror games on traditional platforms, but being immersed in that situation is not something I enjoy. AR horror games, on the other hand, combine that immersion with the safety valve of simply looking away. At least, that’s how I tried to convince myself. But it turns out even spooky things viewed through a tiny smartphone screen can give you the heeby-jeebies.

Night Terrors is an aptly named app (oops, accidental pun!) that takes your own warm and fuzzy home and turns it into some sort of weird Ghost Hunters, found-footage monstrosity. It’s a pretty clever design while it lasts. This version of the game is a free teaser with the full (paid) experience still to be released at some point in the future as I write this. However, that makes it perfect for this list, since all we really want is a taste of what’s possible. Night Terrors isn’t perfect, but it’s a great sign of things to come – for other people. I can’t play this anymore.

Download From App Store


Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (3DS)

Spirit Camera

This game is pretty old now and is only available on the Nintendo 3DS console, but I felt I had to mention it because it’s still such a clever use of the technology. If you are one of the millions of people who have bought a 3DS (and you should) it’s entirely possible that you might have overlooked this game. The good news is that these days you can buy it for just a buck or two, especially if it is a used copy. That’s also good because, to be honest, the game itself doesn’t have enough substance to warrant full retail price. I picked up a copy on clearance for almost nothing and from that point of view it was great.

It might seem weird to include an AR game from a relatively old handheld console here, but one of the interesting things about the 3DS is that it comes with a stereoscopic screen AND a stereoscopic camera. That makes for a rather unique AR experience.

The game sees you attacked by angry spirits that you then have to defeat with your “camera”, which is of course the 3DS.
Another interesting wrinkle is that you use a little AR booklet to progress the story, which I found charming. Of course that’s why you have to buy a physical copy of the game. There’s no way to digitally recreate the book!

Buy On Amazon


Genesis AR (Android)

Genesis AR

Genesis AR is the result of a successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign. It incorporates an AR battle game with a sophisticated trading card system. In other words, the game uses a printable anchor to summon fantastical creatures that then fight – brutally. Oh, dear. It’s almost like some sort of dog-fight thing. Isn’t it?

Either way, this game has some killer graphics, great animation, and a fun gameplay concept. As I write this, it’s still pretty rough around the edges, being such a recent release and all. Still, well worth a look!

Download From Google Playstore


Stack AR (iOS)

Stack AR

Stack AR is the first ever ARkit game I played. ARkit is Apple’s amazing software solution to persistent, trackerless AR. I’m still flabbergasted by how they manage to do things that used to require special hardware, such as the Hololens or Google Tango system.

Stack AR is a simple game which looks a little like Jenga. The goal of the game is to build the tallest tower possible. The topmost block swings back and forth and any part of it that overhangs the next block down gets chopped off when you set it. So your top block gets smaller and smaller the further you go. You need to see how many layers you can stack before running out of block.

The game itself is about as simple as it gets, but it is an amazing example of cutting-edge AR technology. Your little stack of blocks stays on the surface where it started, even if you look away with the camera and then look back again. The lighting of the virtual objects also looks spot-on compared to the surrounding scenery. The feeling of solidity Stack AR manages with just a simple game slash tech-demo is jaw-dropping. Not much of a game, but a must-buy nonetheless.

Download From App Store


Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade (iOS)

Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade

The Warhammer franchise is a worldwide phenomenon. From the hardcore tabletop miniature game to the many excellent video games based on the property, there’s a lot to like about Warhammer.

This particular game didn’t start out as an AR showcase, but when ARkit launched, the developers added an AR mode that allows you to summon a giant imperial mech to stand next to your car. The game itself is so-so, but that AR mode is pretty sweet.


Get Your Game On

It’s funny how many people are walking around with AR-capable devices in their pockets without ever giving it a try. If you have an modern handheld console, tablet, or smartphone you are just a few clicks or taps away from getting in on the action with AR games. So why wait? Whip out that hardware and get your game on!


samsung gear vr

The Best Gear VR Games to Play

Samsung’s Gear VR is a bit of an oddball in the mobile VR space. It isn’t another Google Cardboard clone, but a distinct platform co-developed with the folks from Oculus. The Gear VR only works with Samsung phones and then again only with select Galaxy S flagship units.

That also means the Gear doesn’t get its VR games, apps, and experiences from the regular old Android store only. No, it has it’s own Oculus store much in the same vein as its big brother the Rift. Here you will find games that are either exclusive to the Gear VR or have special versions for the Gear that can only be found there.

Personally, at the time I wrote this I was using a Galaxy S6 with its Gear VR version, and many of the games I list here are in fact my personal favorites. However, I have tried to highlight a variety of games, not just ones that I like to play myself. These are the titles that I think stand out for various reasons. At the very least they should ensure that your Gear VR doesn’t gather dust.


EVE: Gunjack

EVE Gunjack

On the big-brother Oculus Rift system EVE: Valkyrie leads the charge in gorgeous space combat sims. Valkyrie has been a flagship premium VR title, but it’s bloated corpus would never fit into the mobile VR platforms of today. So instead, they decided to create a spinoff so that mobile VR users could also get a taste of that EVE VR magic.

Let’s first get it out of the way that Gunjack is one of the best-looking VR games on any mobile VR platform. Obviously, Valkyrie looks better in screenshots, but with the action going on it’s not always so obvious that you aren’t strapped to a full-fat VR PC.

In order to deal with the more limited control options provided by the Gear VR, the developers didn’t bother to make a pilot simulator. Instead, this is a turret-shooter set in the EVE universe. You’re a gunjack, or something. The point is that you sit in your chair and you shoot at stuff from your turret – the perfect type of game for a situation where you basically look at things and then tap a single button to shoot at them.

Based on the incredible Unreal Engine 4, Gunjack is a killer-application for those who want to show off their Gear VR and experience the best the platform currently has to offer.

Download From Oculus Store


Minecraft: Gear VR Edition

Minecraft

What can I say? It’s freaking Minecraft. The game that just won’t become any less popular has found its way onto just about every platform – PC, console, phones, tablets, and now even mobile VR. Ever since Microsoft bought the developer and all the rights to the game I’ve been worried that they would want to keep it to themselves, but that seems to have been an unfounded concern. We did get to drool over an amazing Minecraft AR edition using the Microsoft Hololens. That headsets costs $3000, though, so it’s a good thing we can experience the game in the third dimension on the much more affordable Gear.

If you’ve somehow never heard of this game, you do two things: mine and craft. Why? Well, the idea is to survive as long as possible, making better and better stuff from your mining activities.

The Gear VR version of Minecraft requires a gamepad, so if you don’t have one you should hold off on buying the game.
The game looks pretty much as you’d expect, and multiplayer in VR is pretty freaking great. The creepy parts of Minecraft are, however, much creepier than playing on anything else. So if you find regular old MC a little too tense then this is not for you. The rest of us can enjoy enough for everyone.

Download From Oculus Store


Hitman Go: VR Edition

Hitman Go

I sometimes really wonder how it is that creators come up with some of their ideas. The Hitman series is a set of hardcore games beloved by fans. In these games you play the titular Hitman and you have to complete a series of missions, usually involving the creative disposal of an assassination target.

Taking this premise into account, I have to wonder how they came up with something like Hitman GO? To be blunt – it’s a board game. Our, er, “hero” is reduced from a walking, talking figure to a stiff little plastic man. We move him along a path on the board, avoiding the guards and various other hazards so that we can get the drop on his unsuspecting mark. The game is oddly compelling. I have spent quite a few hours on my phone playing the standard, non-VR version of Hitman Go. Even games like Deus Ex and Tomb Raider have received the “GO” treatment.

In VR the game is essentially the same, but the addition of VR really makes the beautiful game board look like a real, solid object. This is one of the most immersive VR games I’ve seen on the Gear VR. It just goes to show that you don’t need to blow us away graphically for a VR games to impress us.

Download From Oculus Store


Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

What is this game, even? The modern age of video games sure has let developers go down all sorts of creative detours. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes puts you in a room with a ticking bomb. So that’s not great? That’s not the whole story however, you need at least one other player who is outside of the room, giving you instructions on how to defuse the bomb. The instructions come from the bomb’s manual, but the expert can’t see the bomb and the other player can’t see the manual. So between the two of you there needs to be a lot of rapid communication or everyone is going bye-bye.

While this game did not start out as a VR title, thank goodness they did it. Putting the victim in the room with the bomb using VR is an inspired move. It’s also a great way to involve your friends with VR and have a fun party game after all. The manual is downloaded from the internet, so you only need one gear and one copy of the game to play. There’s almost unlimited play potential as well, since the bomb is regenerated every time.

It’s a smart idea that is a lot of fun once you get into it. It’s one of the more expensive Gear VR titles, but one which should be on the virtual shelf of every Gear owner.

Download From Oculus Store


End Space

End Space

While the creators of Gunjack decided that it wasn’t really feasible to do a proper space flight sim for the Gear VR, the creators of End Space never got the memo. You’d expect that a game which aims to ape the sophistication of a AAA space fighter sim would require a gamepad. Turns out End Space will let you use a gamepad, a gear controller, or just the integrated touchpad on the side of the HMD.

It even has an in-universe explanation. In End Space the weapons of your system are “neurally linked” to your eyes. In other words, you shoot where you look. There is a bit of story to the game as well, placing you under the command of an organization known as the United Liberation Front. Of course, there have to be bad guys too and these come in the form of the Tartarus Liberation Front.

Yeah, it’s all B-movie Sci-Fi plot, but that’s not why we are here. End Space is an insane attempt at bringing truly AAA VR to a mobile platform. For the most part it doesn’t quite make it, but even when these guys fall short they still blow every other mobile VR experience out of the water.

Download From Oculus Store


Oculus Arcade

Oculus Arcade

Like most people my age, I spent a large portion of my youth pumping my allowance into arcade machines in street cafes. These days arcades have been dying for quite some time. Although, ironically, VR arcades are making a comeback. So it’s sort of fitting that you can use your Gear VR to relive some of those arcade days.

Oculus Arcade puts you in front of an array of arcade cabinets. The virtual space is replete with 80s neon and there are more than a few games to choose from. There are titles from SEGA, Bandai Namco, and Midway. The arcade machines are beautifully recreated, given the limitations of phone hardware. As you might expect, a gamepad is an absolute requirement to play. It would have been cool to use a physical arcade stick, but at least the virtual cabinet controls respond to your gamepad button presses.

While Oculus Arcade is free to try, if you want to unlock unlimited play on any one game you need to pay for the privilege. Still, most people are only going to be interested in one or two of these titles for extended play, so it’s not so bad.

Download From Oculus Store


Drop Dead

Drop Dead

Zombies man, they used to be cool. Now they are so overused that even kid’s games use them. I mean, the zombies in Plants vs Zombies are cool and all, but they are hardly scary. George Romero probably turns in his grave every time someone further dilutes what used to be quite a terrifying fictional creature.

So obviously I wasn’t too enthused about a zombie game for the Gear VR. Especially since Resident Evil 7 VR basically has made all future VR games with zombies or other undead creatures essentially obsolete. To my surprise, however, Drop Dead turned out to be quite a cool game.

Graphically it’s not aiming for a realistic look, which is probably to make the best of the mobile hardware that the game must run on. However, that’s not a bad thing at all. It has consistent art direction and an appealing comic-book style that holds the whole thing together visually. The lack of photorealism does nothing to change the fact that this game looks exactly as good as it needs to look.

Drop Dead has a story involving mad scientists and such, but at its heart it is a rail-shooter, much in the vein of one of my favorite arcade games – House of the Dead. The production value on Drop Dead is also pretty high for the asking price. Decent voice acting and some entertaining set pieces make it a real blast to play.

Download From Oculus Store


Ocean Rift

Ocean Rift

Fine, I’m cheating by putting Ocean Rift on this list because, as you can tell, it’s not actually a game. Rather, it’s a “VR Experience” where you get immersed with no stakes and no actual skill required. In a world where people (incorrectly) think of Telltale games and titles like Everyone’s Gone to Rapture as “games”, I think I can be forgiven just this once.

Ocean Rift is a VR underwater safari. It’s about exploring the depths, new habitats, and interesting animals. On the Gear VR there is the Ocean Rift DEMO and a paid full version. Ocean Rift makes for an astounding demonstration of what mobile VR can do when in the hands of the right people. The full version provides twelve environments and plenty to do.

Control-wise you can use the touchpad or a controller, but try the demo first if you only have the touchpad. Some people find moving around with the touchpad to be too frustrating, so if you don’t want to splurge on a controller then this might not be for you.

In the end, Ocean Rift is a jaw-dropping app for the Gear VR and everyone should at least try the free demo.

Download From Oculus Store


Dreadhalls

Dreadhalls

I have to be honest with you, I’m not a huge fan of horror in VR. I can barely stick around long enough to play scary games on a flat screen, so it should be no surprise that I don’t flock to horror games that make you feel like you’re actually there. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a well-crafted game, even one that tries to scare the pants off you after convincing you to soil yourself.

Dreadhalls is a combination of a few different game genres. It’s a roguelike, which means you aren’t expected to get to the end on your single life. You’ll have to die over and over to figure things out. It also means that the levels are never the same twice; procedurally-generated so you never know what’s around the next corner. The very definition of terror. This goes well with its other main inspiration, which is survival horror, named for irony considering that you spend most of your time dying.

In any case, in Dreadhalls you must survive the horrors found in the eponymous halls and make it out alive. You’ll need a gamepad to do it too, so don’t blow your five bucks if you don’t have one yet. If you like being terrified, for some reason, this is the best way to do it on your Gear VR. Just don’t ask me to join you.

Download From Oculus Store


VR Karts Sprint

VRKarts Sprint

Do you like Mario Kart? Who doesn’t like Mario Kart? The classic Nintendo game has a hallowed place on my 3DS, so that my significant other and I can duke it out whenever the mood takes us. Mario Kart has inspired lots and lots of clones that ape the same basic formula. You and a bunch of other racers nail around a track using powerups to get in each other’s way. First one over the line wins.

It’s a simple recipe, but it’s been proven time and again. VR Karts Sprint doesn’t have the charm or imagination of a Mario Kart game, but it is a great Gear VR take on the genre. After all, who knows when Nintendo will actually port Mario Kart to VR. Outside of arcades, that is, where a version already exists.

The game requires a controller and is best played with friends. Having enough friends with Gears AND controller can be tough, but at least the game doesn’t cost very much.

Download From Oculus Store


Punching Above Its Weight

Looking at all the quality titles that have been developed for the Gear VR since it first came out, I have to admit I underestimated Samsung’s little wonder. It’s turned into a truly viable VR platform and so far represents the best that mobile VR can offer. These are just a small sample of the games and experiences that are out there to try. If you’ve got a Gear VR, hopefully this list will help you jumpstart your library, but I’m as excited as anyone to see who comes up with the next big thing for Samsung’s headset.


mobile vr controller

A Guide to Mobile VR Controllers

When Google released their Cardboard concept to the world at large, it was a pretty exciting time. Here we all could suddenly get a taste of VR with nothing more than a cardboard box and a phone we already owned anyway. Since then the mobile VR market has exploded and you can buy any one of thousands of VR cases. There are even now a number of standalone VR headsets on the horizon that might be the closest thing to taking an Oculus on the road with you. There are also many, many VR apps that you can pull from your app store and then experience with a Cardboard-like case.

What you’ll find, however, is that these apps might look pretty and feel very immersive, but lack any sort of meaningful or deep interactivity. The only real control you have is moving your gaze around or perhaps a single button on the side of the unit. So what can you do about it? Is there any way to take a greater degree of control of your mobile VR world? That’s where mobile controllers come into play – a simple solution that can bring an entire new dimension to mobile VR.

vr gaming gloves

Common VR Controller Types

Control systems vary quite a but, since there is little standardization in the mobile VR industry. So let’s quickly go over the main types of control systems that you are likely to encounter when working with the spectrum of mobile VR products.

First off, there’s the common on-board control system. For example, the first generation of Google Cardboard has a simple magnetic switch which triggered a fluctuation in the electronic compass. This was then interpreted as an input. The magnet was later replaced with a little arm that touches the screen, which is way more reliable.

Some fancier solutions, such as the Samsung Gear VR, have a touch control on the side of the unit that lets you swipe in a direction and then tap a button to select. These are all pretty good solutions if you want to navigate menus and select options. For example, the Gear VR controls work a treat with the Netflix VR app. These solutions are pretty useless when it comes to apps that require precise control of movement or action.

Very often you’ll see mobile VR cases bundled with a simple Bluetooth controller held in one hand. This control will resemble a car’s key fob in some ways – a single stick or directional switch combined with one or more buttons. This lets the user walk around while controlling the camera with the motion of their head. This is a great compact solution; sometimes it’s hybridized into the onboard model by leaving a port for the controller to be attached to the HMD. Sometimes these controllers contain motion sensors of their own that allow compatible apps to track hand motion, but this is pretty rare.

Finally, we have traditional game pads for mobile. These usually follow the same design as their console-bound cousins – two sticks, a d-pad, shoulder buttons, triggers, and so on. These controls are highly suitable for sophisticated game control. Think of racing games, shooters, and flight sims.

Mobile Android VR Solutions

The Android operating system proves to be a challenge when it comes to picking a controller. The main reason for this is that there is practically no standard for what an Android controller should look like or how it should behave. This means that while your new controller will work just fine with one application, it won’t even be recognized by the next.

Often when a controller is bundled with a VR headset, it will only work with applications that were explicitly designed for that headset – a way for the HMD maker to punt its own VR app storefront. The approach that you have to take here is to start with the applications that interest you the most and then take note of what controller requirements they have. It may happen that you need to buy more than one controller to satisfy your needs.

gear vr controller

iOS Controller Solutions

iOS used to have a similar problem as Android, with different makers crafting their own controller solutions and leaving it up to individual app developers to choose whether they would support a given product or not. Of course, custom Bluetooth devices are still welcome, but Apple has taken the initiative. They’ve created a game controller standard known as “MFi” or Made for iOS. Any app that says it’s compatible with MFi will work with any MFi-certified controller. App developers have really taken to this baked-in controller support, which makes life easy for all of us. Just be aware that there are two tiers to MFi controllers.

The Future

These controllers are mainly just reworked video game peripherals. The future of mobile VR control systems looks pretty bright. One neat solution that I’ve seen uses the AR camera passthrough on most mobile HMDs to track the controllers and give very precise mapping of your hand and arm movements. It’s also not out of the question that we might be seeing some more outlandish solutions such as mobile data gloves or other more ergonomic gadgets.

In the long term we might see much more advanced control systems that actually tap into our muscle and nerve signals, instead of the crude motion tracking we see these days. In fact, the founder of Oculus himself has said that these nerve-control interfaces are something that he’s looking at. Think of movies like the Matrix, where there are ports on people’s bodies that send information to their nervous systems and receive it as well.

It may sound a little creepy, but there are many reasons why we would want to have such direct computer interfaces in the future; reasons that go beyond just VR. For now we have non-invasive systems that do a similar thing, such as the Myo armband, a device you can actually buy yourself right now and use to track your gestures.

So one way or another the future of VR is one where you have more and more control over your virtual body. It sure is an exciting time!


vr fitness machine

Let's Get Physical: VR Exercise

Exercise. We all need it, but few people actually like doing it. These days people are pretty sedentary. We have jobs that involve sitting in front of a computer all day and not swinging a big hammer or walking around. The solution has been to get on a treadmill or stationary bicycle and go at it for an hour every day, but by gosh – is it boring! If it weren’t for my iPad and some quality time with my Hulu playlist, I doubt I could make it to the end of cardio. I’d love nothing more than to actually go riding for exercise, but who has the time?

VR might very well be the answer to relieving the tedium of using the gym. By making exercise more interactive and taking your mind off the tedium, we might see people get in shape again. So let’s have a look at the sorts of exercise experiences you can have in VR today. Who knows, perhaps it’s finally time to get that beach body back. And no, I don’t mean “beached whale”.

vr exercise

The Precursors

Using virtual game technology to help people get in shape is not a new idea at all. If you think about it, game consoles such as the original Nintendo Wii, the Xbox with Kinect, and the Playstation Move all had titles available that were aimed at getting people off their couches and burning some calories.

From games like Dance Dance Revolution to more on-the-nose fitness games such as Sports Champions on the Playstation 3 – while these fitness games didn’t require an HMD strapped to your face, they all involved some sort of motion tracking translated into the virtual world. They urged you to move your arms and legs as you simulate taking part in outdoor activities.

With such an established genre of entertainment it shouldn’t surprise anyone that VR brought with it attempts at combining virtual worlds with real exercise. Let’s look at how you can get that heart pumping while escaping the sweaty confines of your gym.

Dedicated VR Exercise Machines

Specialized VR exercise equipment is starting to get a foothold in fancier, more daring gyms. While most modern gyms will do you the courtesy of sticking some TVs on the wall, it’s now possible to buy equipment for which you can hook an HMD and have the full-body experience. It works best with stationary exercises that can be measured easily. If the VR software knows what your pedal rate is, for example, that can be translated to real speed in the VR world. The most impressive example I’ve seen of this is from a company called VirZoom.

VirZoom

VirZoom has made it a mission to provide a platform for stationary cycling to become much more. There are a host of games and experiences that couple to your cycling activities – from a pedal-powered F1 game to a wild-west bandit hunt from atop a horse. This is very different from trying to get through your cardio with nothing but an iPod to keep your mind off how much your butt hurts.

VirZoom also supports quite a few platforms. It has versions that run on the PSVR and on PV VR platforms. However, I personally don’t think I want to be tethered to a PS4 or PC while on a bike, which means it’s a good thing it also supports mobile platforms.

Getting the headset and software sorted is only half the battle, though. It only works if you have a stationary bike equipped with the right hardware. VirZoom itself sells stationery bikes that are ready to go out of the box, but what if you already own a bike? That’s where the “VZ Sensor” comes in. It’s a tiny little sensor unit that only costs $99 and connects to a wide range of popular stationary bikes. An even better development is that some commercial gym bikes will soon be equipped with VZ sensors, so you just have to bring your own mobile headset to gym and get to it.

VR Exercise Games

Sometimes you’re exercising without thinking of it as a workout. Playing sports such as football doesn’t usually feel like exercise. Your head’s in the game and you’re trying to win. That’s usually enough to push the fact that you’re working hard into the background.

Some VR games are also such a sneaky form of exercise. Armed with an HMD like the Vice and a pair of motion controllers, you’d be surprised how intense things can get. For example, the VR game Holopoint is an intense VR archery game that will have you twirling in place, drawing and firing virtual arrows in rapid succession like some sort of weird cyber Robin Hood. It’s a simple premise, but in practice you’ll quickly find yourself out of breath.

Audioshield is another VR game for the Vive which doesn’t present itself as a very physically demanding game on the face of it, but see it in action and you realize it’s actually a sort of shadow boxing rhythm game. Each one of your VR hands is covered in a colored shield, and you have to block incoming sound visualizations of the same color.


See? That seems like a workout to me.

Let’s Get Physical

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to merging VR and exercise. VR can solve the time and motivation problems that plague people all over the world, preventing them from getting as much exercise as they really need. What’s stopping you? Hop on that VR app store and go find your perfect exercise companion.