Monday, May 16, 2016

The Future is Here: Virtual Reality for Your Living Room

You may have seen one of my popular posts on near-future technology. Well, this weekend, I had the opportunity to try out a virtual reality system that isn't merely "near-future," but on the market today—the HTC Vive.

I didn't have my phone with me, so there are no embarrassing pictures of me waving in the air. Too bad because I may have looked like this.
image by Rusty Blazenhoff via Flickr

Anyway, I played two VR games:
  1. Audio Shield: where I used hand shields to protect myself from orange and turquoise blobs flying at me (to the tune of the Imperial March, of course).
  2. Job Simulator—Gourmet Chef: where I played a cook in a cartoony, yet futuristic, restaurant.
I preferred Gourmet Chef because I could work at my own pace. My son also played several games and was instantly hooked, regardless of which one. His favorite was also Gourmet Chef, but for other reasons. He could throw tomatoes and bacon across the restaurant, burn steaks and put them out with a fire extinguisher, and use a whisk to smash bottles of grape juice. Heh. Isn't that nice?

Based on my short experience, what are the downsides of VR? Not every game is for everyone. I saw some people become nauseous during one game, but be fine with others.

Also, I wear glasses, and it was suggested that I just leave them off because it's difficult to fit them under the headset. I was told I could read the text if I went up close enough to it. Unfortunately, that was a little optimistic. I'm quite blind without glasses. Next time, I'd try to squeeze them under the headset.

As for the upside of VR, it is absolutely amazing how quickly you adapt to believing the world is real. I only played for about 15-20 minutes, but when I was done, regardless of how child-like, animated, and clearly not real the environment was, I tried to lay the plastic controllers on the kitchen counter. The virtual kitchen counter. It's easy to imagine tech like this taking over the gaming industry.

If you're interested in how Gourmet Chef looks, click here for a demo.
And this is Audio Shield.

Have you tried VR before? What did you think?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Flash Fiction - My Clone

I've been fighting with the manuscript I'm currently writing, so when I saw Operation Awesome's latest flash fiction contest, I decided writing a short piece might be good – like a palate cleanser.  And—yay!—I was picked as the winner.

So without further ado, here was my flash fiction piece (up to 250 words) based on the writing prompt "clone".

image by Neil Hester via Flickr

My Clone

You aren't supposed to move like that. Clones are supposed to sleep until revived. Not flutter their eyelashes when I stand before your pod. It's bad enough seeing my inanimate face through the milky glass. Seeing you move, seeing you twitch, is worse.

A knock. Your right pointer finger banged against the pod. I'm sure of it.

My hands shaking, I call the hotline, pressing 6 for I think my clone is waking up.

"The pod is filled with a sedative, nutrient gas that keeps the clone alive and in a coma-like state," the recording says. "Less than 0.000001% of clones awaken prematurely."

A scraaaaape fills the air behind me—I whirl around but you still—and the telephone voice rambles on. I press 7 for My clone is making noises.

"The gas filter in the pod makes a hissing sound once per hour. Beyond that, you may hear a pop when a new canister of sedative is punctured."

That wasn't a hiss or a pop. Now your hands are sliding against the glass, pressing so hard I can see your fingerprints.

You're crying. I have to help you, get you out of there. I press 4 for Emergency revival.

I fetch the transponder and—click!—the door swings wide.

"Do not attempt to revive your clone on your own. Improper revival can lead to dangerous results.

With a deep breath, you emerge from the pod. Your eyes are focused. Your stomach growls. You open your mouth.

I hope you enjoyed it!