Imagine watching Gundam while sitting in the cockpit of your very own mobile suit ready to launch alongside some of your favorite characters or perhaps a leisurely stroll down the streets of Ikebukuro with Shizuo as you casually wave to Celty riding by on her motorcycle. Even better still, having a date with your waifu or husbando on the beach! These can all be real someday thanks to advances made in the realm of virtual reality!
At this year’s Tokyo Game Show one of the hottest trends involved virtual reality electronics aimed at consumers who want more out of their media. Devices showcased ranged from sight and sound to touch and movement. The biggest names so far in the field are the Oculus Rift and Sony VR who both had extensive demonstrations in their large booths. Lines were quite long and the wait to experience what sci-fi fanatics have been dreaming up for years lasted for a grueling two hours. Two hours to experience five minutes of the virtual world and live out dreams.
As a representative for Honey’s Anime feed, I decided to check out Sony’s VR headset first and nearly sprinted across the showroom floor to get in line. While I had hopes of experiencing the Hatsune Miku and Danganronpa demo, I entered the wrong line too late, but none the less was able to check out the machine and its capabilities.
My first impressions of the headwear was that it was HEAVY and that it wasn’t made for small heads like mine so it ended up being a bit loose and blurry as a result. This is a prototype, so I’m sure they will tighten it up in the future. The demo I ACTUALLY got was a horror game named Kitchen. I looked around and found myself tied to a chair before a man came from behind and attempted to cut my ropes. Alas, he was too slow.
A young woman who was a cross between the girl from The Ring and the girl from The Exorcist came from behind and stabbed him. She then proceeded to stab my leg and drag the screaming man down the hall and out of my sight. A few seconds his head started to roll into the kitchen. I looked down at my leg and could see a gaping hole in it which was really cool. I’m not normal, so I couldn’t stop laughing at how awesome it was!
The demo lasted for a few minutes, but I was convinced that VR could really work and change the anime industry. Since Sony’s focus lies in games, I decided to head over to the guys at Oculus Rift to see what they had to offer. Oculus is an open source device which allows anyone to create software for their hardware. I was informed by some of their representatives that the Oculus can be used for all sorts of ideas including games, dating, virtual classrooms, and of course experience movies and television like never before. The idea is to get the user completely immersed.
I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to try the Oculus Rift so I can’t compare it directly to Sony’s VR, but the openness of the creators are certainly valiant. I could see indie developers all over the showroom using the VR for games and media they had created for it.
For those who don’t have the budget to go out and buy an Oculus Rift and wish to experience a VR dating sim in the immediate future, look no further than the game Mafiamore. Armed with just an iPhone, the developers found a way to strap the iPhone to a headset so that it can be worn. I had the pleasure of demoing the game and was really happy with the results. The leading male of the game sat at his desk and began to ask me some questions and two options would appear floating in mid-air.
PV for the game Mafiamore
To choose, I had to stare at the one I wanted for a minimum of ten seconds. The game continued to progress this way until he eventually got out of his chair and headed closer to me which suddenly made the game seem much more real. I actually had to look UP at him as he leaned over me and leaned in for a kiss. Then the game cut out and left me wanting more. The endless possibilities of this technology danced around in my head. The viewer can become an active participant in the game!
More Than Just Visuals
I thought back to what the man at the Oculus Rift booth said about how VR was about experiences. Virtual Reality has the potential to blur the line between games and video content. Anime and visual novels can become one with each other as the viewer becomes the main character of their favorite shoujo, shonen, or harem anime.
The only element that seemed to be missing was that of touch, but I was wrong. A few companies on the show floor indeed have that covered as well. Unlimited Hand’s goal is to simulate the feel of touch through a band strapped around the forearm. They didn’t have a demo to try out, but concept was interesting none the less. To be able and reach out to touch someone or to pick up a gun and feel it in your hands adds to the realism of VR technology.
Another company Logbar has created the Ring Zero, a device that fits on the user’s finger and can control actions in the VR world with the flick of the wrist. The motions of your hand control the motions of the game or simulated hand. Combined with Unlimited Hand’s technology and the Oculus Rift, the Ring Zero can complete the trifecta and change the world of digital media as the world knows it.
To demonstrate anime’s place in the VR future, Production IG made an appearance with their Ghost in the Shell VR demo. Inside the theater dome, attendees were give 3D glasses to view the show inside. The lights dimmed and those inside dove inside the mind of the main character. The animation was gorgeous and everyone was free to look around the dome to explore every last detail of the scenes flashing on the inflatable dome above.
This was a small piece of what to expect in the future. When asked why they were not using the Oculus Rift, the representatives explained that they wanted as many people to experience the demo as possible, but that the actual program will run on the Oculus Rift.
While companies have been making headway into the realm of virtual reality, the endgame is still far off. The cost of such experimental equipment is still out of range for the average consumer, but I have no doubt that in the span of the next ten years virtual reality will take off and consumers may be experiencing life in a whole new way. Going to lunch with your waifu while holding her hand and actually feeling her touch could become very real. The Otome game VR demo was just the tip of the iceberg.