Getting Started with VR

Today marks the date where I have officially embraced developing VR as a hobbyist.

This is a culmination of a long struggle of mine of finding a pseudo-blue ocean platform where only a few have started. I might be wrong at this aspect but having been exposed to an environment where there’s a lot of developers are doing technology X, framework Y, language Z, scripting A, there’s always an inkling inside of me to do something else, to differentiate myself from the rest of the crowd.

Risks

I had a chat with my best friend a few weeks back, catching up with each other after leaving Philippines behind and looking for opportunities outside. I mentioned to him my plans of developing Kinect applications again, which took a pause after I have moved here in the United States. Aside from wearing my typical ASP.NET web developer hat, I keep myself busy with other technologies and developing proof of concepts which I have done a bit in my career when I worked for a startup.

 

He asked me if I haven’t heard of Microsoft’s plan decision to kill the Kinect (here, and here). I told him that yes, I am well aware of it – it’s just that maybe Kinect isn’t really for gaming or perhaps there are better or other applications from which you can develop from it from. He agreed, true enough, that while it might be a novelty for now to develop Kinect applications today, there’s no assurance that it would still be supported in the future – or I may be investing time in a technology that doesn’t have a clear roadmap in the future. This however led me to what is a little “new” to Microsoft – Windows Mixed Reality (WMR). Interesting enough, there’s a lot of buzz happening around on this domain after Microsoft released the Hololens. I didn’t jump into it right away because the cost of the device is way too expensive for a hobbyist which again, risky, and might end up similar to Google glass. With the release of Windows 10 October Creators Update as well as the mixed reality headsets of Microsoft’s partners – it would be indeed a good time to jump into the bandwagon and see how things will go. Our discussion ended with me trying to get details of how to get started aside from having the headsets, hardware, and additional skills/technology/approaches that I need to learn, of course leveraging my existing .NET skillset.

 

 

Research

I thought of learning the hardware requirements requirements and this is what I have got. At first, I found it confusing what’s the difference between the two but having owning a Surface Pro 4, I have initially thought of maybe I just need to buy a headset and perhaps an AC-powered USB 3.0 dock to connect the headset to my computer. Likewise, I still have my 5 year old laptop which I brought with me that came with a discrete graphics card so I guess, probably, at least one of them will run WMR.

compat

Turns out, neither of my existing laptops can run WMR! And to get started, I probably need to get a new laptop, and not just your ordinary laptop but a gaming one, to satisfy the discrete graphics card requirement! I consulted some of my gamer friends and 90% of them recommended that if I wanted a more “future” proof computer, the desktop is the way to go. Indeed, the flexibility of upgrading parts for the laptop is a no-brainer but perhaps I need to limit the financial damage of this endeavor to a minimum but not sacrificing experience on WMR. I went to different computer stores such as BestBuy and the Microsoft Store but most of the VR-ready devices are really gaming laptops. I have been always considering getting a thin laptop for portability reasons but this purchase would be an exception and would warrant a heavy one – a > 15″ screen to be exact (which I have been avoiding really). From these visits, I get to discern exactly the difference of the table above – “Ultra”.  This link explains well the difference of the two and for someone who would prefer an easy “downgrade” – I will be opting for a machine that can run Ultra.

 

Considerations

While the desktop is really the best way to go, I opted to go for a laptop. Being on a working visa, and as a consultant to be exact, my location isn’t permanent and at times, I might have to move out of state if I have to for my next project. I can’t imagine myself lugging a desktop onto a carry on to a plane because I have more than the usual number of laptops and carrying a desktop is not even an option for checked baggage.

Most gaming laptops are indeed heavy, ranging from 15.6″ up to 17.3″ for the most part. What I just don’t like is that the screen for majority of these are running on Full HD only. At the back of my head, I would try to get the best specs, in the lowest price possible. After diligent searching, I ended up getting a Dell Inspiron 7577 from Best Buy.  As there is no perfect laptop, this quite suit my needs – having WMR Ultra specs, and a “professional looking” gaming laptop. For the headset, I opted for the Samsung HMD Odyssey. While expensive, the specifications are quite up for the price. Good thing that the period I was considering to purchase was the thanksgiving/black friday season and I got good deals on both, including price matching!

 

Moving Forward

One trivia – I have always been fascinated developing software solutions for the medical field. I have always wanted to become a doctor when I was young and still a student but certain circumstances led me not pursuing it. Having studied in the health sciences campus of the State University, practical application of technology for health care delivery is my interest. I am not sure if developing a mobile application long before the app stores came into picture (as pushed applications using J2ME on Java-MIDP enabled phones) was an indication but on the realm of healthcare, I would consider there’s my greatest interest, but of course not only limiting myself on that field.

 

Perhaps the future is exciting. Announcing this even with virtual blueprints is both scary and ambitious but perhaps doing something tangible is better than just simple planning. Money lost for investing on learning can be gained but opportunity lost is much more expensive to lose.

 

Wish me luck!

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