Is it really Virtual Reality ?

In the course of twenty minutes, I played 2 titles on the HTC Vive – Whale simulation and Tilt Brush.They were mostly fantastic experiences, full of personality and just as varied as you might expect. One minute I was on top of a mountain throwing a stick in the distance for a robotic dog like creature to capture it and bring it back to me and I could pat it, the next I was inside a three dimensional canvas where I could paint whatever I wanted to. The Tilt Brush experience was amazing as for the first time I drew in the 3 dimensional space. Apart from being just a drawing in the 3D space, there were different brushes that added animation to the strokes, so essentially, I was creating a 3D video in realtime. I can easily see how VR paintings could be a thing of the near future where people all around the world would showcase their creations. The best part is that there is no training required to create unlike a lot of 3d video software. There are a lot of things I liked about the HTC Vive – the 110 degrees view angle, the dynamic view based on head orientation, the amazingly intuitive controllers. All these along with the Valve software help create these new experiences but I would now like to talk if these experiences can really be called Virtual Reality.

One aspect of VR that confuses me is the extent to which we are trying to simulate the reality. Right now the only sense that VR stimulates is vision and to a little extent touch, through haptic feedback. As far as i can see, the difference since flatscreens to VR headsets is the dynamic view based on head orientation. I feel that unless there are experiences that are able to stimulate all the 5 senses in a virtual world, we are far from reality. For example, when standing on top of the mountain, I would love to feel the chill and the wind, probably feel the coarse ground beneath my feet and maybe actually feel the stick that i throw or the dog when i pat it.

About the HTC Vive design, although I get to see my boundaries in the virtual world, not having any idea about the area around you can be dangerous and the wire that keeps hanging around could make someone trip and fall.

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