At SXSW last year, Sony showed off a bunch of unusual and intriguing prototypes from its Future Lab division. In 2017, the company is going even bigger: A huge space called the Wow Factory has stuff from the Future Lab as well as a whole host of immersive VR experiences. I tried a couple out, and the best way I can describe my reaction is confused but intrigued.
The first was space / music shooter Rez Infinite in PlayStation VR. But In addition to wearing a headset, I was strapped in to a "synesthesia suit" that had a host of haptic feedback sensors built in. Once I was fully set up, I jumped into the game, and the whole thing was rather overwhelming. There's just way more to concentrate on than there is in most games. I was in a 360-degree space trying to find all the enemies while music blasted into my headphones and the suit vibrated in time with the game. It was hard to identify exactly what the vibrations were supposed to sync up to, though. Sometimes it was music; other times it was shots hitting the enemy ships.
Once I stopped overthinking and just let myself enjoy the game, it was all good -- but I also don't know how much the suit really added to the experience. Everyone loves Rez Infinite, and it works great in VR, and that's enough for me.
Across from the Rez Infinite experience was a Resident Evil booth where I was suited up in another haptic feedback outfit. This one was less complicated; it was more of a vest than a full-body suit. From there, a fake but semi-realistic gun was placed in my hands, and a giant, wall-sized 3D display lit up in front of me. With my 3D glasses and automatic weapon in place, the screen lit up with a few of a ravaged city street filled with zombies that wanted to tear me to pieces.
I started blasting down the slow-moving creepers that were a good distance away, but then some dead bodies closer to me came to life -- that's when the 3D effects were put to good use. A few zombies near me "came out" of the screen as I blasted away at them, downing the menaces in the nick of time. I wasn't so lucky when a few zombie-dogs sprinted out of the pack and attacked me. Each hit made the vest reverberate with the impact something that was amped up when a giant "boss" zombie came running down the street at me. The gun conveniently locked up and I was shredded to death, with the sound effects and vibrations of the suit making it all feel a bit freaky.
Ultimately, both of these experiences were a little gimmicky, but that's par for the course at SXSW. While I enjoyed my time gunning down zombies, though, it's hard to top Rez Infinite.
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