The problem with hats.

A look at making HMDs fashionable.

70 minutes in heaven with the HTC Vive

Where the HTC Vive taking us?

The Myth of Virtual Reality

Let me give you a few examples of making common technology instantly dissatisfying by renaming it to something that contains lofty promise...

AKIRA in VR. (aka, working with large illustrated novels in VR.)

Spent a little time on working with a large collection of comics / illustrations in VR and this was the results. My primary interest is working with large bodies of materials and quickly being able to find a particular point of interest by visually looking for it in a 3D space.

Marketing VR in the year 2016 - Beyond Imagination

I've been thinking about VR's commercial launch. Not cardboard. Not a developer kit, no. I mean the honest to God, real deal, commercial release.

Ballroom Dancing

You build a beautiful VR ballroom and invite everyone to come. Everyone does, they wander around the ballroom, dance a few waltzes and exclaim that "Why, this is simply splendid! Isn't it dear?"

The Oculus Rift and Swimming Pools.

"I believe that VR won't play nice with our existing entertainment, it is a ravenous platform that will consume and utterly replace huge chunks of our current media and technology."

The hollow face illusion in VR.

VR strongly supports the exact same visual illusions that trick us in the real world. So, it is well worth studying these types of phenomena and seeing where they might be leveraged in VR.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

One of the greatest gifts of VR will be in the value of the space it creates around things.

Does anyone remember the concept of web rings?  Before Google was a thing and search was still a disorganized child, web sites that shared common interests would form rings with other like sites.  If you found yourself on a website about medieval armor engraved with fractal patterns and wanted to go to OTHER websites on the same topic, you might use a webring at the bottom of the page to travel to the next site in a "ring" of sites catering to this specific interest.  Website creators would reach out to each other and build these little doors between their sites.

"I believe flip-flops will rule the day in VR."

Google, of course, killed this completely. Google is like having an Learjet at your front door instead of a pair of flip-flops.  You fly to specific destinations using Google search, you don't wander between things anymore.

I believe flip-flops will rule the day in VR.

We will wander.  ( Google will no longer be a Learjet, Google is rapidly evolving into a companion. )

          "The modern web has no horizon." 

One of the greatest gifts of VR will be in the value of the space it creates around things.

The discovery of valued things you were NOT searching for is something VR will provide us.

The modern web has no horizon.  We are in the forest with our face pressed up against a tree so hard it hurts.  We go from site to site with a complete lack of situational awareness.  Here's a few things you rarely know, ever know while travelling the modern web:

- Who's looking at the same content as me, at this very moment?
- What are most people looking at right now on this site?
- Where do people go once they've finished with this site?  Where did they come from?
- What kind of people are they?
- Do I know any of them?
- Why isn't anyone here today?  Where are they?

Some of the most successful sites on the internet are the ones that even begin to provide answers to these questions.  We are social animals that spend most of our time looking fixedly in the direction of other members of our troop.

You might argue that the modern internet has done far more to isolate us than to bring us together and you might even win that argument.

We spend vast amounts of time on the internet, we live there for part of our day and that portion is only getting bigger and more intertwined with time.  Right now, we scrawl notes to each other in 2D space, sometimes in real time, often not.  We share video and express ourselves in monologues.  It is pitiful substitute for real contact (and yet worlds better than no contact - don't get me wrong.)

"Persistence, Paths, Proximity, and People."

We will explain how things are now on the net to the generations to come, how it used to be in our 2D world, and they won't understand.  It will be as big a shift as trying to explain to a 10 year old today, what it was like before the internet.  They simply won't get it and we will soon forget ourselves.

I believe there will be four P's that will be be cornerstones of VR over the next decade and define the value of this technology.

Persistence, Paths, Proximity, and People.

Humans place value on persistence, we've rather come to expect it of the universe we live in.  While we claim to be explorers, we are mostly creatures that of habit that live and die in our own small corners of the world.  We have our home, our work and then about a dozen places that we regularly visit.  Most of our time is spent in these places or making our way between them.  We could choose to visit a different restaurant each weekend, or drive a different route to work each day, but we generally don't.  The genetic alarms that warn us of the danger of predation, accident and lousy food service makes us want to revisit places we have been before.  Places we know to be safe.  On a more fundamental level, humans gravitate towards persistence because it gives our worlds order, consistency.  If I place my keys in a bowl by the door, I expect they will be there when I come back for them.  I'm disappointed if they aren't where I expect them to be when I return; and I'll be extremely disappointed if my entire house disappears overnight or changes color while I'm sleeping.  Humans will place value on a consistent, virtual world, when we find places that we like, we will want to be able to return to them.  VR environments and services that provide persistence to us will be valued and provide comfort to our brains.  A little at first and then, later, I firmly believe some virtual properties will far outstrip the value of many real world locations.  We will grow very attached to these places that are not yet built, they will mean a lot to us and we will form strong associations between virtual spaces and real emotion / memories.

"Our brains seem to actually experience a form of agony when the perceived VR world breaks."

Let's take a moment to talk about a funny quirk of the Oculus Rift and presence.  The goal of VR is to trick our senses into believing what we are seeing and hearing has as much importance as what we perceive in the real world.  During a VR session, if you suddenly turn off head tracking while immersed in presence, the illusion is shattered and the resulting feeling has been described by some as "jarring mental pain".  Our brains seem to actually experience a form of agony when the perceived VR world breaks.  Our brain feels revulsion to this kind of disturbance, we really don't like it.  This means that the favored VR experience will be one that provides a seamless, continuous world.  Yes, you could push a button and be transported to a new area instantly but I believe we will prefer to  travel between places as we do in the real world.  Doorways instead of hyperlinks.  Very clever doors I expect.  This means we are likely going to be driven towards building seamless, coherence world experiences.

"The concept of social media will melt away and simply be replaced by undoctored social interaction and the world will utter a collective sigh of relief."

This then brings me to paths.  If travel is part of VR (and I believe it will be an essential part), then the real action will likely be on the street and along the paths you take to go places.  Advertising will live here and it will be a spectacle beyond all imagining.  You will be able to look into the distance and see where people are going, where the crowds have gathered and what's "hot" today.  The concept of social media will melt away and simply be replaced by undoctored social interaction and the world will utter a collective sigh of relief.

Proximity.  Accepting a model of a persistent world means that then you also agree to place limits on your landscape.  Two places cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  So when we start to build this world, it will be necessary to start building things in relation to each other.  Some areas will have more value than others, some property will be immensely valuable.

You can be sure that any organization that looks to place limits on the world in VR is looking to generate money.  It will be a simple equation.

Proximity means that I can overhear music.
Proximity means that I can overhear a conversation.
Proximity means that there will be areas that I know of where I can immerse myself in people that I find interesting and share a space and time with them.

People are the real resource in VR and the driving force behind why we will return to it and need it.  We will no longer be restricted to our homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries.  Just as the telephone allows you the option of calling anyone, VR will give you a tool to get a chance to meet them.  I think the simplest description is this:

VR will give people the chance to meet, who would never have had the opportunity otherwise.

 I don't think I can think of a greater mechanism for changing the world than this.  The implications are profound.

I look forward to what is to come.

I can be reached at @ID_R_McGregor on twitter, or give a shout out below.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Oculus Rift, a Steam Engine for the modern age.

I walk around these days and feel like I have a secret to share with the people I pass on the street.  At my workstation at home an Oculus Rift dev kit sits, and increasingly, I feel a bit odd about the owning the device.  I imagine myself as a man born at the turn of the 17th century who just happens to have a working steam engine in his home.  Something few people have heard about, far less have seen and none yet fully appreciate for the change it is about to bring to the world.

"One of the most important technologies 
in the history of man kind."

Palmer Luckey is widely quoted for his recent Dice talk and the moment towards the end where he exclaimed that the Oculus Rift / VR was "one of the most important technologies in the history of man kind."  Depending on who you talk to, he's either grossly naive or a visionary.  I've wondered about those words since his talk and I'd entourage you to dig up the video once Dice is kind enough to put it online.  It's important to watch the video, because I feel his body language is important.  Approaching the end of his talk, he pauses a moment then gathers himself up and makes this proclamation.  While I can't claim to know what he was thinking, I imagine he's feeling a bit like a 17th century man himself, standing in a town square, pointing an early steam engine and screaming at the agrarian society around him:  "Do you see!?  This, this here, will change everything!"

We don't see it yet.  We can't yet.  We can't imagine the vast cities that will rise or how far this engine will enable us to travel, but we can start to look around and see some of the early signs of what's to come.

I've recently had the good fortune to be in touch with a seemingly great bunch of Japanese guys in Tokyo.  Rift and hardware enthusiasts all.  They are part of a very avid and growing community of Rift developers in Japan and are working together with the drive and love for technology that all Japanese (God love them) seem to be born with.

Language is a problem, but it is amazing how far you can get with Google Translate churning away on your incoming net traffic.
"If there's a group that will end up grafting motion tracking chips into their hands, my money is on these guys to do it first."
@GOROman is rumoured to own 20 Oculus dev kits and wanders the streets of Tokyo wearing a custom painted white Rift.  I don't know him well yet, but he's high on my radar in terms of "very interesting people to keep a close eye on".  These guys are are rapidly hacking together tech at a fantastic pace and founding new companies to distribute their inventions.  If there's a group that will end up grafting motion tracking chips into their bodies, my money is on these guys to do it first.

will meet them and soon.

I've been thinking that I'd really like to meet up with them the next time I get to Japan.  I want to share in their inventions, meet the personalities and listen to what they have to say.  I have the good fortune of regularly traveling to Japan every 4 years or so, but given how fast things are moving, I was fretting that it might be too long to wait.... and then it hit me.  Hard.

I will meet them and soon.

VR will soon give us a common space to meet face to face, I know they will be in there, I just need to seek them out (and hope they'll be willing to set aside some time to humor me.)

Oculus Rift / VR will make this possible for me and better still, Google Translate or an equivalent service will be quietly running in the background during this meeting and helping me along in the conversation.

More thoughts on this tomorrow!

If anyone wants to say hi, I can been reached on Twitter at @ID_R_McGregor, or you link to me in Google+ if you happen to be one of the 300 million people using the service.  Or you could leave a message below.  You could just leave one word like "first", that way everyone will know that you were first, on this post... forever. - an appearance carried out personally in someone else's physical presence; "he carried out the negotiations in person"; "a personal appearance is an appearance by a person in the flesh"

Note: @ Gamesonytablet has translated this article to Japanese and posted it here.  This is wonderful, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Here's something for the speculators out there to ponder a bit.  If you are interested in reserving the the domain name "" and decide that you'll settle for adding extra o's to the name for your site.  As of today, this means you'll need to reserve:


That's a Google with 58 o's in it.  58.

This means that a Google with 57 o's is worth the the 5-10 dollar domain name registration fee to someone out there and 56, and 55 and so forth.  You can verify this for yourself using any handy domain registration tool, just as

If this is the kind of value that unique words represent to us on the common web, we can start to think of this as a starting place for some of the future value that will be placed on locations in VR space.  I can't imagine the sort of land grab is ahead of us when a major organization opens the doors to a credible virtual space.  I hope everyone has their wagons ready.

If you want to say hi, I can be reached on Twitter:  @ID_R_McGregor.  Interested in VR / Oculus Rift?  Let me know below!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

I "know" how big a pig is - Oculus Rift / Minecrift

I now know how big a pig is in Minecraft.  Minecrift allows you to experience Minecraft via the Oculus Rift, and delivers an experience that is currently riding high on the list of things you can try that present a high level of immersion, or the feeling of "being there".

So far, I'm glad that my trials with the Oculus Rift have been private.  Anyone watching me would get very bored, very quickly.  I find myself spending long, long periods of time just looking hard at things.  The corners of rooms, the side of a table, behavior that they'd lock you up for in the real world.Unless you've tried it and were moved by it, it is hard to convey the feeling it gives you, but I'll try here:

Even though this is a first generation prototype of this new generation of VR, as reported, the Oculus Rift's effect on the mind is startling.  Before actually trying the Rift, like many people likely reading this, I've read several dozen extensive "first hand" accounts of what using the rift is like, that and watched a similar number of online videos, documenting people trying out.

While my anticipation was very high, I had tried to sober myself a bit to the realities that "hype" and early enthusiasm often lead to something that misses the high bar set by imagination. After reading the gushing previews of Valve's VR work and the best of show reception that Oculus's "Crystal Cove" prototype received at CES2013, and hearing how much "better" it was than the first gen developer kid, I had expected something that would be compelling but still fell very short of immersion.

And..... I... was.. wrong.

It is little wonder that this little device has garnered such attention.  It is truly a wonder of our age.  I feel like I stare into it with the same kind of awe that early man must have had when looking at firelight.

Despite what you may have read, the screen quality on the current DK1 rift is not terrible.  This might be a generational thing.  If you've spent thousands of hours playing Mode 13h / 320 X 200, games, you might still have a good frame of reference for how good we've got it now and how far we've come.  I've heard many complaints about the field of view, which I find very odd, as I stare at this 27" monitor from 2 feet away, I can tell you that the rift occupies a space that probably the equivalent of replacing this screen with something about 37 inches, meaning - it well fills out most of the visual space in front of me.

The screen door effect is there (this is the ability to see lines between the individual elements that make up the screen.)  I was surprised how little this bothered me.  I have an affinity for things digital and pixel representations, so this almost has an attractive quality to it for me.  In some ways, I'm glad to have the reminder that this is a simulation, and here's why:

The first demo I tried was Redframe.  I had heard that it was well done and very immersive, I also heard that it demanded nothing more from the user than to slowly walk around a living room. Sounded perfect for what would likely be a clumsy first Rift session.  I clicked the batch file and saw a flicker on the lenses of the nearby waiting Rift.  I lifted the rift to my head an held it there.

My breath caught and simply stopped.  If you've experienced Redframe, you'll know that there's a model ship sitting in a corner of the room on a table.  This happened to be the first thing I saw in VR. (the symbolism of the moment wasn't lost on me...) 

Something that seems to be taken for granted in a lot of articles on the Rift is just how compelling the effect of stereopsis is with this new device.  We've been playing fluid 3D first person games since the mid 90's and while the 3D has gotten better and better, it simply cannot compare to how compelling the visuals are when viewing a scene through the Oculus Rift.

My first few LONG minutes in Redframe, didn't involve any movement.  It was far enough to simply rotate my head and survey the scene.  The nearby model ship was fascinating, the sails an the rigging all so solidly "real" and in sync with my attempts to observe it different angles. 

You are very aware of your position in space, for the first time, I had a very good sense of exactly how tall I was in comparison to the other objects in the room.  The ship came up to about my waist, the bookshelf close by was about 3 feet away.

Anyone who is a graphic artist is about to have a wonderful new way to have their work freshly appreciated.  There is something about the Rift Experience that makes you want to carefully observe things that you would have otherwise blown past (or blown up) without a second thought in traditional first person game experiences.  When you see books on the shelf, because they are so close to being part of the "real", it becomes important to know what the books are about.  You want to get up close and attempt to read the spines, you want to discover if any of the books that your own might also be sitting on this stranger's shelf.

I had three very big "wow" moments during the first session of the demo.

The first was when I traversed the room and made in to the far corner.  There is a rubbing of some kind on the wall, something that could be from the fourteen hundreds, and a night table with a lamp by the bed.  When I made it into the corner, I was struck by the fact that as I approached the wall, I could make out make out the space BEHIND the night table, and see that the lamp was plugged in, tracing the cord with my vision until I could see where it connected to the wall.  This had a huge impact on me.  Prior to the Rift, players would be very hard pressed to be able to view this "secret" space behind objects.  You might be able to position your character close the wall and crouch, but it would be far more trouble than it would be worth.  Here, it was natural - the Oculus Rift allows you to get closer and more intimate with the details of a room, you can observe the subtle relationships between objects in space, and mundane places like the back of a night table are suddenly very inexplicably compelling.  Hidden object games are going to have a strong place in this world.

My second "wow" moment followed shortly after.  On my way out of that corner, I managed to move myself RIGHT face first into the curtains.  If you were to stand up now in real life and walk to wall, close to the point where your nose was almost touching it, if you share the same sensibilities as me, you will get a bit of an odd feeling, something slightly akin to claustrophobia.  We don't like to be face to face with large surfaces, it obscures our vision and you start to feel a bit uncomfortable, you get strong urge to take a step back.  This exact feeling was strongly present while using the Rift.  You feel like the wall (or curtains in this case) is right in front of you, and you can almost feel your lungs constricting a bit as you try to move yourself away to make more room.  I imagine that there will be compelling simulations of cave exploring / ventilation shaft crawling that will feel distinctly uncomfortable.

My third "wow" moment was when I realized that the Redframe demo had another room available through the doorway and around the corner.  I've explored hundreds of FPS games with thousands of rooms, made my way through castles and starships, and yet here, in this living room, I was suddenly floored by the idea that, right around that corner, there was a whole other room that I might explore and that there could be anything in there.  I am VERY grateful that the Redframe demo does not have any personalities or creatures within it, I'm not sure if I was quite prepared to deal with any surprises at that point.

Shortly after Redframe, I was lucky enough to read up about how compelling the "Blocked In".  This demo is incredible.  It places you at a work table, and presents you with a cluttered room to observe and an astonishing visual out the window of the city you find yourself in.  The whole thing is very odd, surreal and compelling.  The window view is especially well done.  I find myself visiting this room on a daily basis now and just staring out the window.  Despite the apocalyptic destruction depicted outside, it is very soothing and has started to feel oddly like a personal space that I "know" and like.  The creator Daniel Ernst is from the Netherlands, which according the crew at Oculus VR, is the leading nation for interest in VR ( a very curious bit of trivia. )  If Daniel is any indication, we will be given some great gifts from this nation.  (hopefully Canada will be able to make our mark as well!)

I've noticed that this early type of VR experience seems to generate a kind of hunger in a person.  Having been given a taste, you are eager to seek out new, similar or better experiences.

Minecrift was next.  I'm familiar with the game and the creatures within it and was blown away by how the Rift allows you to gain a sense of scale that was missing before.  Pigs litter the landscape in the game, and prior to the Rift I'd perceived them as being quite small.  Wearing the rift, I now know that they actually come up to a little lower than mid-torso.  These are some pretty serious pigs and I give them a bit more space than I did previously.  If anyone gets the chance to try Mindcrift, I'd recommend you take a few moments and disable the HUD, just turn it all off for a bit.  It gives you a nice immersive moment and allows you to really connect with your surroundings.  I'd also recommend that you be prepared to take the rift on and off a lot when you are first setting up your game.  Don't force yourself to do all the menu navigation via the Rift unless you enjoy having your senses punished.

Right now I'm most eager to see Daniel Ernst's next creation, but beyond this, I'm most interested in knowing more about the various projects everyone is working on, especially those that are designed to convey a sense of immersive space.  Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @id_r_mcgregor or in the comments here, I will do my best to get back to you.