Today I am launching a new category at Everything Nonfiction – Virtual Reality (VR). My initial interest in VR was to be able to use Microsoft Flight Simulator in VR. The first step was to determine what I needed from a hardware setup. After much research, I settled on a Dell Alienware R11 gaming computer. I won’t go through all the specs, but I will point out a few necessities for VR.
If you want to experience VR and not be frustrated because of poor performance, you’re going to need to spend some money on the following:
- A fast processor (mine is an i9)
- Lots of system memory (I have 32 gigabytes of system memory)
- Lots of storage (VR programs use a lot of disk space. I went with 2TB)
- A separate graphics card (I went with the Nvidia 3080)
- Lots of ports (Mode C, USB, extra display ports for running the headset)
As for the VR headset, there are several options. First, you’ll have to decide between tethered or untethered, An untethered headset gives you a little more freedom of movement, but a tethered headset will provide you with better graphics. I went with a tethered HP Reverb.
The total cost of my system, including the headset, was approximately $5,000. However, after six months of use, I consider it money well spent.
My very first experience with VR was Microsoft Mixed Reality. After exploring the Mixed Reality portal, I downloaded two virtual tours: Rome and Machu Picchu. They were both free. I was blown away by both. Not only do you experience a place you may not have ever been to, but you have a personal guide and the ability to have a location transformed back to its heyday. I sat in the Coliseum and watched a gladiator fight, hovered over Machu Picchu in a hot air balloon, and saw what it was like when people still lived there. I also took a virtual tour of the International Space Station.
After some trial and error, I managed to get MS Flight Simulator up and running in VR (Note: there was an additional $600 cost for a throttle and yoke system). With Microsoft Flight Simulator, I’ve flown over the pyramids in Egypt, above monument valley in Utah, and through the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I’ve also taken off in a seaplane in Anchorage, Alaska, and landed on a random mountain lake.
Each of the abovementioned experiences exceeded my expectations, but nothing blew me away more than my experience playing the VR game Half Life Alyx. I purchased the game on a whim because it was on sale. I didn’t know that I was buying the top-rated VR game to date.
Everything about this game is extraordinary: the graphics, the story, the interaction with the VR world, the soundtrack, the puzzles, and the overall experience. I paid $30 for this game. It took me 70 hours of gameplay to finish it. The best way to describe it is to compare it to the film The Day After Tomorrow with Tom Cruise, except here you are the Tom Cruise character.
I’ve only touched the surface of this new technology. Hopefully, the costs of the hardware will come down. But, if you can afford it, don’t wait. Once you get past a steep learning curve, you’ll be well on your way to stepping into the virtual world.