Let’s forget about the Facebook acquisition – that one aspect is enough to make me not want to buy one – but for the purposes of this blog, “Oculus Rift” is short-hand for any VR headset.
I have a spinal condition which makes it difficult to walk and to move generally. Basically, imagine that your central spine and hips have been replaced by an inflexible metal pole, and that’s essentially what it’s like. It doesn’t affect my life at all – obviously mobility issues have an effect, but I mean that it’s not something which bothers me which is why I almost never actually talk about it.
VR is tremendously exciting – the idea of actually putting yourself in a game world and experience it in a tangible way (Richard Cobbett has written an excellent post about the Oculus DK2 covering exactly this and more) has long been a dream of gaming.
However, playing Elite:Dangerous right now – I’m using an X52 Pro joystick – I can look around the cockpit with a simple flick of my thumb. Swapping between in-game control screens is quick and easy. Plug me into an Oculus, however… My neck’s ‘pitch’ control limits me to about 2 degrees up and about 5 degrees down. ‘Yaw’ I have about 15 degrees left and 2 degrees right. I have no ability to perform ‘roll’. And for that range of motion, what I definitely can’t do is turn with any kind of speed unless I want it to hurt. While I could continue using the joystick thumb stick for cockpit looking, this is quite likely to trigger nausea with a fully immersive headset so, more likely, I’d just have to put up with a limited range of head-look in-game.
As I said, in the real-world this doesn’t bother me particularly. But in a VR environment I’m pretty sure it would. I think I’d feel considerably more frustrated by my (lack of) mobility plugged into a device which, unlike in the real world, cannot recognise that I am primarily using eye direction to determine what I’m looking at.
It’s possible that these are empty fears, that the 3D effect alone will be sufficient to squash any frustrations. But never more so than with technological advances like these has something made me feel a little sad about a physical disability that up until now, had never bothered me. 🙁