If you haven’t already, spend 1 minute 37 seconds watching the trailer above and then continue reading.
What you see depicted in the video is exactly what it is like to play Fantastic Contraption. You can play this game in your home if you buy the $800 HTC Vive system and have a PC that can hook up to it. Eventually, Fantastic Contraption will be sold for around $40 — which is somewhat cheaper than the most expensive games on the competing Oculus Rift. The Vive releases on April 5 from Taiwan-based HTC, and Fantastic Contraption is initially bundled free with pre-orders.
The trailer resembles other efforts to market augmented and virtual reality technologies, like Microsoft has done with HoloLens.
The difference between the two approaches to mixed reality is the HoloLens actually only shows people a small window with virtual objects in it. When they show merged footage they are showing some things the person wearing HoloLens doesn’t see, even if it’s seemingly right in front of them. Someone wearing a Vive has a much wider and taller view of an environment with virtual objects inserted into it. So when you see a cartoon-like environment shown in the Fantastic Contraption trailer — the person wearing the headset believes they are in that world and seeing all the things in front of them.
The Vive is $200 more expensive than the competing Oculus Rift because it includes tracked hand controllers. While the Rift ships with sit-down VR experiences and an Xbox controller, Fantastic Contraption for the Vive works with the included Vive controllers. The controllers are tracked throughout a room just like the headset. You might be able to move around a room with a Rift, but you wont’t be able to use your hands to interact with a virtual world until Oculus ships the Touch hand controllers. Delayed once, the accessory is expected to ship later this year. Similarly, PlayStation VR is expected to ship this fall but it too won’t always be bundled with hand controllers.
So the software bundled with Vive pre-orders alongside Fantastic Contraption — Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs and Tilt Brush from Google — do an excellent job of making the case for why having your hand, finger and arm movements come with you into VR isn’t some gimmick. On the contrary, this trailer shows, those controls are a fundamental part of incredibly playful and creative VR experiences that either are not possible, or not as fun, any other way.
The trailer for Fantastic Contraption is the work of Kert Gartner, who has been experimenting using a stabilized camera and a Vive controller to track its movements throughout a room. Combined with a green screen and post-production editing work, he’s able to seamlessly combine the virtual world with real-world movements. People can stream mixed reality live on Twitch using a less technically intensive method pioneered by Colin and Sarah Northway, who created Fantastic Contraption by teaming up with Radial Games.
The launch of Fantastic Contraption includes 50 levels and online solution sharing. Many additions are in the works, including more levels. The first version of the game is built for people with play areas at least 2 meters by 1.5 meters, but modes are on the way to play the game seated in a chair, on the floor or standing in place.
The game is also coming to Oculus Touch when those controllers are released.
Stay tuned to UploadVR this week for more on mixed reality capture and everything VR. It’s going to be a big week.