A confession: Until today, I had never put on a VR headset.
I’ve seen people use them, of course. I’ve watched YouTube videos suggesting a small piece of the experience. But nothing prepared for me for my maiden voyage at the GPU Technology Conference.
The “VR Village” was a hive of activity on the GTC show floor all week. Lines snaked around the makeshift building in the center of the exhibition hall, as attendees waited 30 minutes or more to get an appointment for one of several VR experiences.
In the end, I was lucky enough to get a standby slot. When my time came, I was guided to one of the little glass-walled rooms, where my nascent VR skills would be on display for the amusement of any passerby.
My experience was a run on “Bullet Train,” an eye-popping, GPU-powered concoction of Epic Games that places you in a subway station to battle armored soldiers and missile-firing flying robots. With some help, I slipped on an Oculus Rift headset, positioned it for optimal focus and then took in my hands Oculus Touch controllers.
Immediately, the demo transported me into a different world. When you strap on one of these devices, the real world suddenly ceases to exist and another kicks in. While it may not be real, it’s as immersive as anything I’ve experienced.
Just exploring a VR space with these technologies would be entertaining enough. Throw in futuristic soldiers shooting at you, mini wormholes opening up and beckoning you to transport, guns appearing for you to grab, bullets slowly flying at you in crystal clear 3D, and it’s enough to make a middle-aged newbie duck.
Amazingly, the interface becomes second nature quickly. Guns can be grabbed by reaching out to them and depressing a thumb trigger. Let go of the trigger, and the gun drops to the ground. Wave your hand in front of oncoming bullets and missiles and they slow. Hit that same thumb trigger, and you can grab an incoming missile, and then let go to shoot it back at the attacking robot.
When those transport holes open, you aim at them, press another control and, wham, you’re beamed to another location, perhaps to avoid harm or to pick up another out-of-reach weapon.
My time was up way too soon.