When we were in California, Erik took us and the kids to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. Cool museum, lots of stuff to play with, good for kids, but I’m mentioning it mostly because I tried a virtual reality painting program and OH MY GOD I WANT IT SO MUCH. Why I want it has NOTHING to do with the painting part – I am as bad a virtual artist as I am in the real world – although that part was pretty fun. You can paint AROUND you, like you’re standing in the middle of the room and painting on the air, and then you can move through it or change your perspective and see if from a completely different angle without moving yourself. Very cool. I’m not sure of the point of it the 3D aspect of it once it’s finished, though. It’s not really 3D unless you have a floor or ceiling projector, and there’s no way it looks as cool in 2D. Anyway, again, the art part is not what I got excited about.
You can choose from a variety of built-in backgrounds or landscapes or environments or whatever. The one I spent the majority of my time in was the default one, sort of a reddish flat area with mountains in the distance, dark and dusky. The girl running the demo suggested I try the space environment and how I wish I’d done that sooner. As soon as I switched over, it was like I was standing on a clear platform in space, stars and blackness above and below and all around me. I think there was a planet – I can’t tell you for sure now. I can tell you that I didn’t want to leave it. It was incredible. Like, emotionally incredible and I’m getting a little choked up remembering it. I have no idea if it was remotely realistic, but now I have something I want. Not necessarily the painting program, although I’ll take it. I want space. I want space in virtual reality. I don’t need the zero gravity part (although I think it would be cool). I want to sit on the floor and be able to look in any direction and see stars and planets and galaxies and comets and asteroid belts. I want to be immersed in it, in the comfort of my own home.
In real terms, I can have it. VR gear is between $600 and $800. Not easy, but attainable if I really want it. (I don’t need a new laptop for a while, right?) That paint program? $20. But the gear is necessary. I googled a bit to see what space VR programs might be out there already, realistic ones, and I found SpaceVR, a company that is about to launch 360-degree cameras into orbit around earth to provide real images of space to anyone who subscribes to their feed. The subscription is reasonable, but again, you need the gear.
Here’s my quandary: is it good enough now? Is it too early in the VR technology cycle to be worth it? I’ve never been an early adopter. I’m happy to let other people iron out the kinks before I spend a lot of money on something. VR has been around for a long time, and it used to really suck. I’m sure it sucks less now, but how much less? I don’t say “I must have this” about things very often, so this feels odd. Comforting that I still feel as strongly about it three weeks later, but three weeks isn’t that long. I’ll probably wait.
But I really want this.