Regular readers would be aware of the extensive series of reports into VR that we have run over the past year. But no matter how exciting the technology, at over $100,000 per unit (plus the cost of software) a Virtuality machine is not exactly within everyone's economic grasp.
That is, until now.
Announced at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago this year were four new VR systems for the home, all for under $1,000. While Sega still struggles to release their Sega VR glasses, now more than a year overdue, it seems that IBM PC owners will be the first to experience the joys of virtual worlds in their living rooms.
Forte's VFX-1 boasts an outstanding array of features that promises to make this nifty little unit the front-runner in any VR-headset shootout. A unique ergonomic design places the centre of gravity firmly over the crown, rather than the bridge of the nose, ensuring a comfortable fit. The visor-proper hinges at the forehead so the wearer can flip between the virtual world and the real one at will.
Twin Epson LCD screens display the images, and while only capable of around half the resolution of a standard VGA monitor, are adequate for VR uses. The user can snap out the displays at a later date and upgrade their resolution, in much the same way as you might buy a more expensive monitor.
Object placement is handled through a 3-axis tracking system that, perhaps not as precise as a commercial 6-axis system, helps keep the overall cost down. A floating controller, the 'cyberbat' handles onscreen manipulation of objects.
Displays, cyberbat and motion trackers are connected to a 16-bit processor card which handles the complex tasks of switching views and passing the info through the system. This card connects to the feature connector on any VGA card. The cyberbat connects simply to any standard serial port.
One of the most impressive aspects of the VFX-1 however is not its extensive graphics display capabilities, but its sound. Every major sound card is supported including the stunning Gravis Ultrasound with its 3D spatial surround sound abilities.
As you move around the virtual landscape, and as other creatures move around you, the sounds emitted over the hi-fidelity headphones will alter accordingly, giving a 360 degree aspect to the sound stage. What this means for gamers is that now you will be able to hear a monster creeping up on you in Doom, often before you can see it.
A range of games have been slated for release with the VFX-1, including Id's enigmatic Doom and Origin/EA's Bio Forge and System Shock.
Both VFX-1 visor and cyberbat are expected to retail for around $900 when released in World-wide and should be available in time for Christmas.This preview is Copyright (C) 1994 by Nathan Cochran for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.