Stand up or sit down? Many don’t take advantage of VR’s room-scale experience

Oculus’ Vice President of Content Jason Rubin claims that a “significant percentage” of Oculus Rift headset owners would rather sit down to enjoy virtual reality rather than take advantage of room-scale motion detection. He made this revelation to Insomniac founder and CEO Ted Price during an on-stage talk at E3 2018 last week. 

When we first experienced the Oculus Rift behind closed doors at CES 2013, the pre-Facebook studio provided a demo using a version of Epic Citadel with populated non-player characters. You were seated during the demo, moving through 3D space using an Xbox gamepad while the headset itself allowed you to look in all directions. At the time, the experience was an eye-opener and seemed to be the future of VR. 

Since the launch of the Rift and HTC’s competing Vive headset, we have room-scale motion tracking allowing us to move about in physical space and flap around like wild chickens, whacking furniture, walls, and people as we’re immersed in a physically charged virtual space. But there are experiences that don’t require out-of-your-seat action, like Star Trek: Bridge Crew. 

Yet despite the pre-launch sit-down demos, only one bundled sensor to track head movement at launch, and no support for room-scale motion tracking until a year after the Oculus Rift hit the market, Rubin said during the conversation that the Oculus team assumed everyone would be standing in their VR experiences. The comment seems contradictory given the state of the product prior to the Touch controllers. 

But what rings true is that humans don’t necessarily want to flap like wild chickens when exploring VR. “It turns out a lot of people — fully perfectly healthy people — would like at the end of a hard day of work, or whatever they’re doing, to just sit down,” he told Price. “But they appreciate the immersion of VR and everything else. So we didn’t expect that.” 

The comments arrived just over 14 minutes into the conversation with Price, which was mostly conducted to promote the upcoming Oculus Rift game Stormland. He said the Facebook-owned company is fully aware that gamers love VR, but they also love playing seated. That should be obvious: We’ve done nothing but sit on our bottoms to play games since the first Pong knock-offs entered households in the 1970s. VR is a new, evolving platform that’s still trying to find its footing while pulling gamers off their couches. 

“[Sitting in VR] seems contradictory,” Rubin added. “Not the case at all. They love it. That’s a good example of something where nobody at Oculus, when we launched Rift, thought that would be the case. It is the case and it’s a significant percentage of players who play seated a lot of the time.” 

Rubin said he began seeing more and more Reddit requests for seated gameplay modes. Given the evolution of the Oculus Rift, owners may see less of these modes due to the platform’s newfound room-scale motion detection capability. He said due to the feedback, developers are implementing seated modes, such as From Other Suns. 

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