VRcade Sets Its Sights on the Next Leap in Immersive Gaming

Using the Oculus Rift, VRcade's engineers are designing what they believe will become the future of virtual entertainment.

The Oculus Rift has single-handedly revived public interest in virtual reality and it represents a tremendous leap forward from the immature head-mounted display tech that was touted so passionately in the '90s. For developers interested in advancing the field of immersive gaming, it has already proven to be a catalyst of sorts, inspiring unexpected and offbeat experiences after a few weeks of experimentation (guillotine simulator, anyone?). It's opening up previously unexplored avenues of expression for some creators, since it's likely the first reason they've seriously considered designing software for virtual reality.

But there are some people and teams who live and breathe the hunt for immersion. They've waited years for the realization of virtual reality (wrap your head around that) to occur, and the Rift's arrival is finally opening doors for projects that were previously roadblocked due to the lack of a viable headset. The team at VRcade in Seattle, which started tinkering with concepts for a large-scale virtual reality system back in 2010, saw the Rift's wide field-of-view as the solution to their problem. They wasted no time in applying the display to their existing system designs, even going so far as to develop their own Rift-equivalent HMD in the interim between ordering and receiving their dev kit.

For their version of a holodeck brought to life, they've coordinated a system with full body and prop motion tracking working in conjunction with the Rift, designed to deliver a range of experiences like virtual laser tag and haunted house tours, to name a few. Promisingly, there's already a working scale model of their system, with a handful of concept demos that showcase its unique capabilities. GameSpot recently had the chance to take a crack at a trio of early VRcade demos, and despite their unfinished state, each provided an excellent case for the team's proposed version of advanced virtual reality.


Target Practice: Standing at an intersection of virtual corridors with a prop rifle in hand, listen for cues and fire at targets lining each hallway.

Crate-Physics Simulator: Your task is simple and straightforward: use the prop rifle to interact with a pile of boxes, which feature varying degrees of gravity and mass.

Visit the Zombie Apocalypse: The final demo places you in the midst of a postapocalyptic cityscape, where you're forced to confront a small wave of zombies, face to rotting-flesh face.


The design behind VRcade's system is straightforward: take the Oculus Rift, an array of motion capture cameras, stuff a wireless video receiver into a vest pack (think Miracast), attach a few reflective motion-capture balls to your gear and any requisite props, and you're ready to hop into the game. Normally, VRcade sessions will feature full skeleton tracking (as seen in the video below), support large teams of participants, and take place in arenas large enough for teams to run and hide from one another.

Even in our less-than-complete setup--a 10-by-10-foot office without a full skeleton tracking rig--hopping into the VRcade demos left a positive impression on the majority of those who tried it. Despite the glitchy nature of the demos, the wonder you feel when the movements you take in the real world are accounted for in the virtual world is hard to ignore. The gun in your hands is a direct link to the virtual gun, and the 1:1 movement correlation is remarkably immersive. Once you remove what may be the most intrusive layer of abstraction in gaming--the controller--the potential for immersion skyrockets.

Compared to the Target Practice demo, the physics simulation required a little more faith on the part of the users. The mix of physical (the gun) and virtual (the crates) interactive objects played tricks on the mind, as more than one player instinctually tried to kick the boxes, to no avail. However, crouching and leaning to maneuver around the confines of virtual cover was still a novel and convincing sensation. With a large-scale VR environment in mind, it's not hard to imagine how convincing a rendered world could be without technical or physical barriers getting in the way.

If VRcade can secure funding through its upcoming crowdfunding campaign, and ultimately realize the vision of its founders, it's exciting to think where the team might take immersive gaming and entertainment in the months and years to come. It's a young field ripe for pioneers and trailblazers, and though this particular team still has a long road ahead, they've gotten off to an impressive start. In some ways, the success of the Oculus Rift will be a good indicator of VRcade's potential for success. If it finds favor among early adopters, and somehow expands the audience for VR to include the mainstream, it won't be long before people look for the next big thing. By adding the ability to track movement and objects to create a more immersive virtual reality experience, VRcade may very well be that thing.

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Discussion

465 comments
Katiek3030
Katiek3030

First of all, to the very few that don't believe in this project and new technology,THANK YOU!You give my bro and his team the perfect platform to answer all of your questions and concerns.i truly thank you.Second, please know that once you are in the suit and actually play you will have nothing more to say than WOW! Viewing an Internet video and actually being there are two very different things!cant wait for everyone to get the chance to play!i am excited to get this long awaited project out to the public and let everyone see,for themselves,the amazing job my brother,Jamie, and his partners have done!I love you bro!sorry if I embarrassed you,don't be mad at me,love katie

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

Oh man this would go great with the fps vest:

http://tngames.com/products


I think 6 years from now these things will be so well developed that enthusiast will start modifying rooms to be used specifically for a Virtual Reality environment.

dark_kartos
dark_kartos

So far all i see if people standing in one spot. I want to see forward and backward movement.

joku760
joku760

Guess I'll have to use this until Nervegear comes out

halo-freak
halo-freak

I just wonder, but why still a square screen in front of your eyes? Use the opportunity to get a nice panoramic screen so your field of vision is just as large as in real life.

Extending your field of vision would greatly improve the "freedom" aspect that this is meant to create.

And what about pressure sensors? i wanna feel stuff in game!

I also wanna kick zombies in the junk...so special boots would be nice. just do a whole suit :P.


AloeVera4
AloeVera4

This looks like this would benefit from a movement-tracking long-sleeve shirt that becomes integrated into the game , because honestly that floating rifle looks like it can get disorienting without a hand or arm attached to it.

JamDev
JamDev

To me this seems a lot more exiting than using the OR as an alternative to playing existing games on a monitor. Having dedicated hardware in a large controlled space should create an experience much closer to what I imagined VR would be as a kid than the inherently limited experience of sticking a headset on and looking around a conventionally controlled world.

It addresses the issues of motion sickness and imprecise controls that using VR as a monitor replacement for conventional games will inevitably suffer from.

It sounds like they have worked out most of the issues with VR and I really hope the project takes off. There are still some problems that will need to be solved though, quality of software for a bespoke setup like they are planning might be an issue. They need great software for this to take off, hopefully they can secure (or already have) some serious investment for the software side of things.

There is also still an issue with image quality in the OR. Digital Foundry estimate the effective resolution on the current dev kits as being in the region of 360p going up to around 480p for the consumer model. this will need to be improved to create a truly immersive experience. From what I understand the higher end mobile/tablet screens are currently too expensive to be viable in a consumer VR device, but maybe there will be a higher end version available for projects like this at some point?

I really hope this works out and I can try it for myself in a couple of years, sounds really promising.

IllegallyAwesum
IllegallyAwesum

Just for the record, I think it'sfantastic that a rep from the project is on the boards answering questions. Props to you, sir.

ExtremelyAVG
ExtremelyAVG

and also.. don't you think that this in a competitive format will lead to big problems? Such as damages to the hardware from general, but pacey movement? And also the spatial awareness of the physical you compared to the VR you? you could easily run into a real wall.. don't fancy that head mount protecting a head on collision

darkmatt2009
darkmatt2009

Thought of something that could be cool to do with this.  This sees the player(s) with the motion tracking suits and any other sensors in the area.  Hmm...Now what if they setup harnesses that hang from the ceiling giving a form of bungee jump feeling.  That way you could have a full virtual reality version of a different planets gravity.  Try shooting each other in the aspect XD

ExtremelyAVG
ExtremelyAVG

Looks amazing.. but is it going to be better than laser tag?

Nibraybirk
Nibraybirk

Lets make FPS even more realistic. Whats the good if you can't smell the blood and shit too? VR is only good for FPS and that has already become a curse on the industry. 

feathers632
feathers632

The tech is what I'm looking for in computer gaming.  What I'm not looking for is to travel to a location and then wait around and pay to play a VR game with hundreds of others.  The tech is only useful when it reaches the home.

Rizernox
Rizernox

well...i have a feeling that this Oculus Rift is something like 1st wolfenstein... its something new and revolutionary in gaming experience... anyway I have no doubt that our technology is moving rapidly forward and this is just a small beggining of VR... i truly believe that there will be VR like in Matrix movie... really... the biotechnology is desenvolving aswell... the true VR will come when the person will be connected via brain into the VR without actual moving at real world... everything gonna be brain-controled... do you believe aswell?

pipeboy65
pipeboy65

Are there going to be franchise oppourtunities?

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

Now they just need an 8-way treadmill that detects your moments so that you can run around in levels while still renaming in place in real life. >_>

wasaeem_13
wasaeem_13

I'm still wondering how are we going to walk in the game without running into a wall in real life :|

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@Lpedraja2002 Yup. We have one of those. That company is a couple of miles away. You need to wear an air compressor, so we are trying to implement a CO2 solution. We also need to wirelessly get the USB signal to the computer, which is a challenge.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@dark_kartos Go to YouTube and search for Chris and Lisa VRcade. That video should demonstrate walking for you. I can't post it here as it just sits as "pending".

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@halo-freak Have you seen any of the videos on our YouTube channel? They answer all of those questions.

The HMD is one screen split into two. It is a widescreen, but since it is split into two, one for each eye, it appears to make one square picture. You would have to put in a double wide screen and special optics to achieve widescreen, which is possible, but it makes the HMD twice as wide.

We have a haptic vest that kicks you in the front and back around 8 points. You will feel zombie hands on you.

See the beginning of the video where the guy is doing the backflip? You will have the same level of freedom while fighting against zombies. We can calculate how hard you are hitting the zombie, how the zombie should react, and how much damage your punch, kick, knee, shoulder, or elbow did.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@AloeVera4See the beginning of the video where the guy is doing the backflip? You will have the same level of immersion while playing any game. You can look at the bottom of your character's boot if you want. This is a prototype demo, as stated in the video.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@BladeStrike1234 Your eyes relax and focus at infinity, so there is no eye strain. It's about 1000 times more comfortable than movie theater 3D glasses and infinitely more effective.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@JamDev We built our own HMD and the visual clarity is far superior to the Rift development kits that we have. Still, the retail Rift will be gorgeous. With our display and tons of anti-aliasing and filters, it actually looks quite nice.

VRDave
VRDave

@IllegallyAwesum 

Not just a rep, but one of the founders! 

The thing is, those of us involved in the project have been gamers since we were kids, so this is a natural place for us to exist anyway (checking the latest gaming news, living on message boards/forums). 

Thank you for noticing, too. We're just a handful of guys who decided to step up and try to make VRcade happen because we wanted to play in it. The mostly-positive reception is really helping motivate us even more. 

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@ExtremelyAVG The spatial awareness that you have in real life will carry over. Movement, sight, depth, and sound are all re-created. You will hear someone around a corner before you see them. However, smart level design, such as having angled corners instead of 90 degree corners, will mitigate a LOT of that. Gear will get broken and people will bump into each other, but they are wearing motorcycle gear most likely and the tech they have on them isn't terribly expensive.

We aren't careless. We will make it work.

93ChevyNut
93ChevyNut

@ExtremelyAVG I was thinking the same thing.  We don't think twice about running our character into a wall in an FPS, whereas here it would hurt like hell.  I guess it's a mistake you'd only make once.  :)

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@darkmatt2009 We thought of that. The problem is that you have a harness on your back, making it impossible to roll over or crouch. Still, for certain games, that could be fun. When you start building specific things like that into a space, that space needs to be dedicated for those kinds of experiences. New infrastructure, more floor space, and more computers and games designed around that one space or feature means that it has to be CRAZY popular. Enough to pay for itself and more.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@ExtremelyAVG Different weapons, hit detection anywhere on the body, radar, any level you want, music, sound effects in surround sound, power-ups, sniping, capture the flag...you tell me.

Plus, this is ONE use for the platform. There are a million other kinds of games that you can play with this.

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@Nibraybirk It's impossible to know what VR is "only good for" because perfect VR doesn't even exist yet, let alone been tapped out.

Throwing fireballs like baseballs, swords and shields, 360 3D puzzle games, horror games with hallucinations, flying games, driving games...no, VR has its place if done right. And that's what we intend to do.

Dan11223344
Dan11223344

@Nibraybirk depends on the props used tbh. If you have 12 moving cockpits (fixed to the ground ofc) you could potentially have a great flight sim, dog fights, space battles and exploration. Use your imagination and you'll see this could be used for so much more than first person shooters

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@feathers632 How can you say that when it hasn't happened yet? In addition, if there are hundreds of players waiting at a time, you better believe that there will be more than one facility in your area.

In addition, because we are offering SO MUCH EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT and space, this is a level of fidelity and immersion that you can not get in the home. That makes it more than worth it, even just to check out.

Don't knock it until you try it, and until we build it, you haven't tried it. It's fantastic so far.

feathers632
feathers632

@Rizernox Have you considered the possibility it's already happened and that's what we're all experiencing?  When I say we all... We may all be computer generated.

93ChevyNut
93ChevyNut

@Rizernox I believe that as well.  Although, can you imagine the level of addiction the would come from that level of immersion.  People would never want to leave the simulator.  People would work to get just enough money to get back into it.  Why buy a Corvette when you could drive one virtually, but couldn't tell the difference? 

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@wasaeem_13Your brain respects walls in VR. It sees them and insists on not running into them. However, there will be NO WALLS to run into. You are in a large open space that has even more space around that before it gets to a wall.

Remember, we are building an arcade. This is NOT for your home.

AljosaH123
AljosaH123

@wasaeem_13 That's why all "levels" in the game will have to be the same size as the VR arena (from the second video). Or smaller.

halo-freak
halo-freak

@Jamievrcade @halo-freak Great. i really hope the final product just has it all.

I hope you guys can overcome the issues of how fragile the suit would be, the cost of one and how much it weights.

It all seems promising to say the least.and i am very glad you guys are willing to go all the way.

Good luck!

AloeVera4
AloeVera4

@Jamievrcade  Oh believe me, I have nothing bad to say about this one! I've been waiting for something like this for the longest time! I think you guys are doing a terrific job, and I only hope everything works out well so we can get the show on the road. This is going to open up potential for everything from virtual traveling to theme parks and beyond!  

ExtremelyAVG
ExtremelyAVG

@Jamievrcade @ExtremelyAVG 

I see your point. But going on the area in which people will play (from the vid) its spacious enough yes.. but lets say a person is walking backwards, firing at an opposing player (very plausible). Now lets say the VR character hits a wall; you in reality clearly do not. Now you the player have shifted the area in which you are able to move. Multiple deviations such as this could potentially move the centre of the VR world off to the side in the real.. effectively move the person closer to the walls surrounding the play space. So, in theory, running into the wall is a possibility. Or is there a system set in place to accommodate this?

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@93ChevyNut @ExtremelyAVG You don't think twice about NOT running into a wall with your body in real life, either. Since you are carried over 1:1, you will behave the exact same way. Your brain respects walls in VR. It sees them and insists on not running into them. However, there will be NO WALLS to run into. You are in a large open space that has even more space around that before it gets to a wall.

Remember, we are building an arcade. This is NOT for your home.

ExtremelyAVG
ExtremelyAVG

@Jamievrcade @ExtremelyAVG 

fair enough.. that's definitely is a solid list of improvements. Am I to assume mics are standard as well yes? lonely place for team games, or even free-for-all without some communication. love the concept though, truly do. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this

Next potential step.. multi-levelled arenas.. imagine cap the flag over course of  a 3 tier building! (minus the headache of making it possible).. you heard it here first :-P

feathers632
feathers632

@Jamievrcade I don't want the space... just make your equipment really small so it fits in my space.  Bring the VR to my home.  Then I'll be happy.  You haven't even heard of the town I live in and even if I told you... you still wouldn't have heard of it.  So even if your arcades were successful I'd still be looking at travel to the nearest location (bristol or london) and I dunt gonna travel there every evening to play your arcade.  Make it nice and compact so it fits in my home.

feathers632
feathers632

@Jamievrcade I can say that because there won't be one in my town and even if there was one in the next town from me I wouldn't go spend money to use it.  I want this VR tech in my home.  I have no argument with how fantastic the equipment is.  I just don't want to go to an arcade to use it.  So if you don't make a home version... someone else will.

ExtremelyAVG
ExtremelyAVG

@Jamievrcade @ExtremelyAVG 

I'm a big fan of this.. Just interested in the working and the practicalities of the tech.. not trolling I swear lol.

kudos to you and your co-workers for the early video demonstration and for the dedication to the comments section. I don't think I've seen it before but its a welcomed change to get honest feedback from someone in the business. Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@ExtremelyAVG We have thought of this as well. We have a solution, but I can't share it with you for legal and patent reasons. Trust me, it works completely naturally and it will not impede anyone's experience while being engaged in a firefight and walking backwards through a wall :)

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@ExtremelyAVG Yup. We are having headsets that offer not only surround sound, but also voice chat. We can either give you full radio communication to your team or we can emulate your voice in space so that if you are far away from someone, you can't hear them speak, but the closer you get, the louder they get.

We also fantasize about an entire complex and a system that is multi floored, so that you can get in a real elevator and travel toa  completely new floor. If nothing else, we can always stick people in virtual elevators and take them to virtual floors.

feathers632
feathers632

 @Jamievrcade OK.  Well the technology is great regardless.  So how long before it's within reach of me?  I dunt gonna fly to the US to play it every month :)

Jamievrcade
Jamievrcade

@feathers632 @Jamievrcade "OUR TECHNOLOGY" is hundreds of thousands of dollars of professional Hollywood motion capture gear. We can't put it in your home. That's the entire point of the VRcade, to bring this kind of technology within YOUR reach at a price YOU can afford. This isn't a decision we made with some magic tech we built. We didn't just decide to NOT put it in your home. It is physically and financially IMPOSSIBLE.

Azz_Wrecker
Azz_Wrecker

@feathers632 @Jamievrcade This is pioneering... would Karl Benz build you a car back in 1886 just because you wanted it? Even when automobiles where the thing for a handful of years already, it was pioneering. Let them get the foundations straight and then demand whatever you want (or preferably ask nicely).