The creatures are coming to take your soul. And they're hovering very close, in a Virtual Reality demo – formally called "Into the Further 4D Virtual Reality Experience" - open for scary business this weekend on 2nd street near South.
While piggy backing on the South Street Spring Festival, this traveling virtual fun house presentation is sponsored by a major movie studio (Focus Features) and a sophisticated/sneaky way to get you interested in their June 5 release freaky film "Insidious Chapter 3."
The movie theme is pretty typical – teenage girl is threatened with ghostly creatures craving to feed on her pure, innocent essence.
But the special thrill, visiting this traveling (double-tractor-trailer stocked) "fun house" is trying out the Oculus Rift DK2 Virtual Reality glasses (and surround sound headphones) used to heighten the drama.
Maybe the first public demo in Philadelphia of Oculus Rift technology, for which Facebook paid a wacky two billion dollars a year ago, the strap on- glasses do live up to their rep – as the first VR simulator that doesn't get you reaching for a barf bag.
The "secret," as in comedy, is all about the timing. When you, the VR-wearing subject, move your head up and down, left and right to check out the simulated room environment and creatures therein, the image shifts in perfect synchronization. There's none of the image lag time and picture smearing that disoriented and nauseated users with prior generation VR glasses. (The mad scientists have been working on this stuff for decades, first for flight simulator purposes.)
The walk and sit through production also engages your senses with vibration, wind and even smellovision effects. VR Philly virtual realty meetup group co-founder Tyler Roach found the experience "immersive" and unlike anything he'd "ever experienced before." (You can exchange notes at meetup.com/vrphilly.)
The bad news for Gizmo Guy was that the screen resolution on the DK2 glasses, while "high definition," isn't high enough. Small 1080p stereoscopic panels, magnified with optic lenses, still suffer from that "looking through a screen door" effect. That is, you see the distinct grid of picture pixels. So even with extra "4D" effects being piled on in this demo – making your seat vibrate and ghostly winds howl – you may never forgot "this is a show."
(The maker has previewed but not yet "shipped" a still higher resolution version of the glasses, Oculus Rift Crescent Bay, which also pack on-board stereo headphones. But, like the DK2s, the Crescent Bay model must be hard wired to a computer. Going wireless is another ingredient needed to create the sense of an untethered, roam anywhere, lose-yourself-in-the-moment adventure.)
Ironically, the scariest part of the presentation (lasting ten minutes in all) happened even before this visitor entered the new-age fun house, when obligated to read and sign a waiver that eliminated rights to sue the movie company should I suffer traumas or DIE from the VR experience. Yipes! Under 18? A parent has to sign the waiver or ghouls at the gate won't let you pass.