Virtual Reality At Home

Partying With The HTC Vive (9 Aug 2016)

Sometimes you just have to try something to see what the hype is all about and our Director, Phil, is always a willing pioneer. The HTC Vive is the latest in VR technology for the home and we simply couldn't resist it.

We have previously posted an article about the possibilities of using virtual reality (VR) systems in the sale, design and specification of AV systems for the residential market. As the software develops, we think this is going to become a commonly used tool by integrators and also architects and designers. Other industries are quickly adopting the technology too - for example, Audi's next generation showrooms will feature virtual reality, allowing you to fully explore the car of your choice, in the colour you want and with the options you'd like, all in minute detail.

While businesses have quickly seen the potential benefits of VR, what about VR in the home? This is where it gets fun! VR technology has the ability to transport you to another world in a way that sitting in front of a computer monitor or projection screen can't. And we should know! Our director, Phil, recently invested in a HTC Vive system, and we wanted to put it through its paces. What better way than a Philharmonic AV VR party?

The Vive consists of a headset, two handheld controllers and two sensors that help the system track your movement in the space. These are connected to a box which in turn is connected to a high-end PC. The monitor connected to the PC allows you to choose which game you're playing and then shows you what the person wearing the headset is seeing. Everyone crowding around a small monitor to see what's going on would have been a real buzzkill, so we linked the output of the computer into the projector and sound system of our Showhome Golf Simulator - an excellent decision. The whole team could critique the defence of your castle from enemy invaders, admire your 3D artwork skills, or shout recommendations on the best way to blow up your warehouse.

Take that! Phil taking out the invaders

Taking aim - Natalie lining up her attack

In VR, relatively simple games, rendered in incredible detail, become immensely absorbing. One game, for example, sees you using a mechanised catapult to fire balls at targets which then explode. Sounds pretty dull, right? Wrong - the super high quality graphics, tactile feedback from the controllers and ability to really explore your surroundings means it is incredibly engaging. The clever design of the Vive controllers imparts a surprisingly physical experience - when drawing a bow back to fire an arrow, you can almost feel the tension in the string.

Feedback from the Philharmonic AV gang was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the majority said they would love to buy their own system where money and space allowed. The only negative comments were about the requirement for a cable to connect the headset to the computer, which can be distracting at times. Although as these systems evolve, we're sure this will soon be improved.

The systems can be set up in any room with a bit of space - if you could play a Wii or use an Xbox Kinect in a room, then it should be sufficient. That said, we think they're a particularly enticing option for a Media Room or home cinema, where the large screen adds a really exciting social element to the experience. The cables between the sensors and the computer could easily be incorporated into the fabric of the room, resulting in a really neat installation. Our experience of integrating Golf Simulators into wider whole home control solutions means it can be seamless to operate too.

For an idea of what you can do with a VR kit at home, take a look at the links below:

A firm favourite with the Philharmonic staff, Google's Tilt Brush lets you create art in three dimensions:

Steam VR Lab

HTC Vive

If you're interested in incorporating the latest in VR tech into your home, why not give us a call on 0207 887 2424 to talk through the options.

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