I want

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.


  1. Erik

    It was the moon that was in the space environment. The original harsh mistress.
    It was hard to tell Will and Corinne they could not do it too when they saw how excited she was because they were not old enough. The really hard part was not jumping in myself.
    The kids would not have been pleased by that!

  2. I’m guessing you played with Tiltbrush, yeah? I have a Vive and it’s pretty rad, though you need a fair amount of free space to really use it. I think it needs a minimum of 2m x 2m and supports up to 5m x 5m. There’s also the cost of the computer you need to run it on top of the VR gear itself. You need a decently fast processor (I think most current generation i5 or i7 processors work), 8 GB of RAM, and a GForce 1070 card (Oculus says for the Rift you can get away with something like a 1050 or 1060, but I would still say just go for the 1070).

    When I got my Vive it was $700 (on sale during black friday, down from $800), and then about another grand in computer upgrades (I was due anyway). You can get a Vive for $600 now, and an Oculus Rift for about $500 (though I think you’ll want a second tracking station for the Rift which is another $50). Even with an extra sensor though I hear the tracking is better on the Vive, but still good on the Rift.

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