TOP 10 – Reviews
1.) Oculus Video
3.) TheBluVR Arctic – Demo
4.) Paul McCartney – Live and Let Die
5.) Castle VRuin (Mobile VR Jam entry)
6.) Oculus 360° Pictures
8.) Ocean Rift
9.) Patrick Watson – Strangers
10.) Samsung Trailer Video
Oculus Video now seems to contain Oculus Cinema and Oculus 360° Videos. The software is a lot less appealing. The clean interface was a lot better. It now suffers from the same problem that Oculus 360° Pictures suffers from. Content is not as easy to find as it used to be. In Pictures this is a lot worse. My favorites get lost all the time and finding them again is impossible now.
Fortunately there is now the Netflix app. It is pretty great. Unfortunately it is not possible to watch the content in the Cinemas. I need to believe that technical reasons are to blame for that. As a design decision that would be an extremely bad call. I have watched all seasons of Breaking Bad so far. On good days I can watch three episodes on one battery charge. Since recently it does not go quite as smoothly. The device needs to cool down after a while. Still, watching one and a half episodes has never been a problem so far. I also did not notice any noteworthy sickness or other complaints after longer sessions.
I hope they separate some of the apps again and make it possible to jump from app to app. The interfaces really worry me. I hope they clean things up considerably.
The Oculus Cinema is a benchmark for me now. With the Gear VR there is no positional tracking which would allow me to lean towards virtual objects. I would love to know how big a difference that would make. The places are incredible and the stereoscopic effect is perfect. I can imagine actually watching streamed clips and movies that way regularly in the future. Especially the added effects of 3D movie trailers or the multi screen examples show that there might be innovations which can add to the experience.
TheBluVR really shows how much a real sense of scale can be worth. It shows that you can get away with getting close to huge objects, which is a huge relief for me after reading the best practice guidelines and warnings by Oculus. For me Ocean Rift is nicely realized as well, but it is a little redundant after watching TheBluVR.
Castle VRuin is a Mobile VR Jam entry which has its kinks, but considering the challenges and the timeframe it is a masterpiece. The miniature view in the menu is photorealistic (thanks to photogrammetry) and simply awesome. You can walk around the castle and look down from walls … it is hard to believe that a mere mortal made this. I have also tried DRIFT, Atop The Wizards Tower, VR Coaster and Captain Clark Adventures. Most entries only have potential and are not very enjoyable as games or experiences. Maybe the rollercoaster should be in the Top 10, but (probably due to the Lollipop update) there is a noticable lag which makes the experience a lot less attractive.
Like the Strangers experience, the Live and Let Die video indicates the potential of VR coverage of life event. It is less personal but there is more going on. It is interesting to experience how the chance to discover things feels. Unlike most of the other panorama videos, those two are stereoscopic.
The non-stereoscopic 360° videos are great as well, but I keep wondering how much more awesome they could be. The Samsung Trailer Video is a great compilation and it starts with the best scene. Simply being inside an image or a video feels great.
I spent a lot of time in the 360° Photo viewer as well. Again, the stereoscopic images are a lot cooler than the regular panorama shots, but the latter are still impressive enough that I would still be a satisfied customer if there were no stereoscopic pictures and only the promise of a regular stream of cool panorama images in the Facebook-future.
InMind and Ikarus show that VR games have potential even without positional tracking. InMind features scripted gameplay with a camera that moves along a path. The acceleration cannot be controlled by the viewer. This is another thing that is discouraged in the Oculus guidelines and it works pretty well, so that is another huge relief right there.
Then there is BombSquad VR which did not make the list. It is pretty fun and has some cool game mechanics, but my hands are still recovering from the Gamepad use. This really has me worried. I hope the Gamepad can still be a valid controller, because I have no plan b for my own projects so far.
I still have to write individual reviews, but here are the first impression articles that cover most of those points and more.