A session with virtual reality

Chris Coutts tests out the new Oculus Rift equipment.

Chris Coutts tests out the new Oculus Rift equipment. (Photo by Cole Watson/The Sheridan Sun)


Being a consumer of entertainment, I have read, watched and interacted with all kinds of stories in multiple ways but I experienced a new level of immersion when I put on the virtual reality headset known as the Oculus Rift.

With the help of Randall Kapuscinski, A professor involved in Sheridan’s Journalism New-Media and Advanced Television and Film programs at Trafalgar Campus, I now had in my hands the world’s heaviest glasses.

Seconds after strapping the device on top of my head I was sent to a world made entirely of pre-rendered graphics that I could explore as freely as my head could move.

I started off isolated in an app titled A Chair In A Room. In front of me I saw a desk and on it was a burning cigarette. Newspaper articles about a missing girl in the woods were scattered throughout the room but I could only make out the headlines.

When I looked to my right I saw door ajar but quickly it shut, the lights went out and all I had now was a flashlight to illuminate my surroundings.

Even though Kapuscinski was right beside me as I looked around I was now feeling claustrophobic in the enclosed space.

The feeling quickly changed to fear when engraved on the wall beside the desk was the word “liar”.

I looked to the wooden floor and saw footprints to confirm I was no longer alone.

I followed the prints and stared in awe at the far left corner of the room. There was a chair that cast a shadow of a young girl no older than seven and just above was a torn and bloodied dress that continued to go up to the ceiling until it eventually disappeared before my very eyes.

Suddenly a white figure greeted me in front of the desk with a scream and sudden movements to end the nightmare.

I was amazed. Horror genre video games establish fear in the player by creating an atmosphere and investing them into the setting, but when the feeling of fear steps in you can simply look to your side and leave the game behind.

By putting on the headset I had lost that feeling of safety, my eyes were the camera and my head dictated where it looked. My only escape was to take off the headset and abandon the experience.

I took off the headset for a quick break and was glad to not suffer any motion sickness or strain on my light sensitive eyes.

The last app I tried was A Night At The Roculus. Instead of a dingy room I was now placed in the backseat of a car with two friends up front wearing some familiar headwear.

Soon enough my new buds and I were jamming out to “What is Love” by Haddaway.

I was given instructions to bob, nod and sway my head back and forth to the beat but I focused more on the freedom I had to look around the car.

The graphics weren’t as impressive as the previous app but I was still immersed in the atmosphere.

I could look to my sides to see buildings, up to see the starry sky and even look at the back of the vehicle to hear traffic honking at us.

It felt like a familiar outing with your friends when you would take a trip in their car and that perfect track came on the radio that everyone enjoys.

The Oculus is a device designed primarily for video game development but anyone can freely design software and apps for the headset, people can even self publish their work on the company’s website, www.oculus.com.

If you’re interested in buying the Rift be aware however that it is in its development kit stage and retails for $350 U.S.

An upgraded model funded with the help of Facebook is on its way but the company has recently pushed back its release window from 2015 to a later date to be announced.