Some dismiss VR’s potential because it cuts off a person from reality, disconnecting them from the family and friends who are just a few feet away in the real world. While a game like Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes showed me software proving VR can be extremely social and a first-hand experience with the new Vive Pre and its outward-facing camera erased any sense the hardware itself will cut people off from the real world, there are still the millions of people to convince who are learning about VR and won’t have access to headsets for a long time. For them, there is Twitch.
Colin and Sarah Northway are the husband-and-wife team behind upcoming Vive title Fantastic Contraption and they’ve worked out an impressive streaming system combining a virtual environment with the real world, showing viewers on Twitch a live view of what a person wearing a headset is seeing inside VR with what family or friends see in the real world. The people without headsets in the same room can see what the person in VR sees on a TV.
The result is that the lines between the virtual world and the physical world are erased as people in the same room, as well as those thousands of miles away and staring at a Twitch stream on a computer monitor, are all able to view and participate in what’s happening in VR along with the person who is experiencing it first-hand.
In comparison, here’s how Sarah Northway described traditional streaming in a blog post:
The standard picture-in-picture game footage + webcam technique doesn’t do VR justice. The first-person in-game feed from VR games gives at best a cropped, distorted view of what the player is actually seeing, and talking heads wearing VR headsets are even duller than regular talking heads.
To pull off the mixed reality streaming the Northways equipped their living room with a green screen, a light kit, webcam and microphone totaling around $700 in U.S. dollars.
“I’m sure some people will set up a big green screen like that but we are also hoping to find ways people can do it without all that setup. We’re also looking to make the in-game tech as easy to use as possible,” Colin Northway told UploadVR in an email. “We’re looking to make it easier for other devs to do this as well. We’ll share what we figure out and hopefully we can all work together to make it really solid.”
They plan to stream every Thursday at noon PST, so keep an eye out for their latest stream on their Twitch Channel, http://www.twitch.tv/colinnorthway.
UPDATE: This post was updated with additional comments from Colin Northway.