I found a refurbished HP Windows Mixed Reality headset for $160. It’s the cheapest way to do virtual reality. It does 95% of what the fancy/expensive HTC Vive does. They keep the cost down by using cameras on the headset to sense the controller position instead of external sensors. We cleared out a bunch of space in the living room and I temporarily moved my computer into there. The more space you can clear, the better. But being tethered to the computer with a cable is a pain. You almost need to play barefoot so that you can feel the cable with your feet avoid getting tangled.
Virtual Reality on the Cheap
Anyway, it’s a lot of fun! It really does a great job of tricking your brain into feeling that it’s real. The Lab is an awesome free game where you walk around a lab and play a variety of mini-games…some of them hilarious. Picking up objects and looking at them closely with even the light glinting off of them is really convincing. Putting your head into physical objects is a weird thing to do because you’re thinking “collision”!
Google Earth VR is fun. You’re like a giant walking around Paris or wherever you are.
Beat Saber is a music game that’s a big workout. You use light sabers to cut through music blocks as they fly at you. You also have to doge moving walls…kind of like a virtual reality Dance Dance Revolution. You really feel the music. Exercise with VR goggles and headphones is very sweaty, though.
Windows has their “virtual house” and Steam has theirs. The Windows portal prefers everything to be Windows apps. You can paste a giant Netflix app on your fake living room wall. (Everything is houses instead of desktops.) So it’s funny starting out in the Windows house and then loading the desktop as a big screen floating in the backyard.
I recommend going cheap on these things because electronics devalue so quickly. I recommend a GTX 1070 videocard or better because some of the games got laggy on an AMD RX 580.
Sometimes, games are made with Vive/Oculus Rift in mind and the WMR controllers work by emulation or something. Google Earth VR, for example, shows a virtual Vive controller with a button in a totally different position than the Windows controller. It can be confusing when you look down at your hand and see a controller you’re not really holding. Of course, your controller can look like anything. In Minecraft, it’s a blocky arm. (The Windows 10 Minecraft app didn’t use the normal teleport movement, so it borders on nausea as you move, but your real body remains still.) In the Windows house, your controller is a realistic looking Windows controller with an added bonus of a virtual battery indicator on the underside. In The Lab, your controller changes to whatever contraption you pick up.
After playing VR for a while, you can get a weird disembodied feeling with your hands…almost as if you’re wondering whether they’re really your hands.