WEVR’s theBlu: Encounter was one of only a handful of titles to grace Valve’s demo suite when the HTC Vive was revealed at GDC 2015 in March. Matthew Terndrup paid a visit to the developers’ headquarters to spend some quality time with both the Vive and theBlu: Encounter, here are his thoughts on the experience.
I hold my breath, eyes closed, waiting for the audio to kick in. Suddenly, sounds of rushing water currents. Then, my eyes open, and I look down. The sight of a sunken, virtual ship appears beneath me as tiny simulated fish swim around.
My mind begins to think it is underwater, yet my actual feet stand firmly planted in the office of a Southern California virtual reality production company known as WEVR (formerly Wemo Lab). I keep telling myself that this is only a virtual reality experience, however, it all seems so real.
Knowing what I might be getting into, my hands are stretched out preparing myself for the deep dive into the oceanic realm that the WEVR developers created for SteamVR and HTC’s virtual reality headset, the Vive. In each hand is a wired controller, their physical existence represented in the virtual world before me with such convincing accuracy that presence is multiplied.
The first thing to do is crouch down and run the controllers against the grains of the virtual wood of the floor. Stepping cautiously towards the edge and peering over the side shows a view of the dark ocean below—a perspective I have never seen before.
Just as I am about to step into the abyss, something catches my eye. A massive entity moves closer, coming into focus. A giant blue whale casually glides by, curious to see what I—an odd human being—am doing.
I reached out to touch the creature, but it happens to be just beyond my grasp. Its humongous eye shifts its gaze in correlation with the directions of my movements, watching to see what I might do. The large iris and ripples of the membrane are clearly visible, and I believe for a split second that a real whale is actually looking right at me.
That moment quietly fades away as the creature leaves the space as quickly as it appeared, leaving me in awe and wanting to know where it might be going. I try to swim after it but the demo is at an end, and the scene fades to black. I pull the headset off with just one thought in mind, I want to go again!