Life on Mars: My First Virtual Reality Experience
Who can you name that has been to Mars and back in less than 30 minutes? Me! After experiencing RSA’s ‘The Martian’ virtual reality experience, I reckon I can truly call myself an astronaut, right? Who needs years of NASA training? Prior to that my only experience of Virtual Reality was using a phone and a cardboard headset. The job was done, but the phone screen was low-res and pixelated and I was sitting, stationary, in a chair, so I wouldn’t have put it down as a milestone achievement. But ‘The Martian’ experience honestly took me to Mars in a matter of seconds.
This week, while doing work experience at Little Black Book, I headed to a production company called RSA. Their famous founder, Ridley Scott, recently directed the Matt Damon movie ‘The Martian’ and the team at RSA had made a VR experience to go with it.
I expected to wear a headset, and watch different parts of the movie. So I was happily surprised once I started. The experience plonked me straight into the spacesuit of Mark Watney, the main character in the film. Moving my hands, I was astonished at how Watney’s hands were moving, clenching and unclenching the same time as me. Having watched the film, I could only listen to Matt Damon tell me the pain and loneliness because of the predicament he was in, but the VR made me feel it too.
I experienced the crash first hand, and I was taken through a journey of cut scenes which set out the plan for ‘my’ journey back to earth. I threw food, avoided a storm and drove a rover to ride my way back home, to be reunited with my team.
Although in the back of my head I knew that I was sitting in a room in Soho, the quality of the video and the accurate movement of the chair made me feel as if was moving. There were times, I think, that I forgot that I wasn’t in space.
I didn’t expect every movement I made to be accounted for, and I realised this when I accidentally began knocking objects off the table. Driving the rover had to be the best thing of the whole experience (that has been the closest I’ve been to driving). At every sharp turn the chair would lurch me to the side, and as I left mars, I just wished that I would be able to go back again.
After experiencing this first hand, I know that Virtual Reality is going to be a big thing. The link between a movie and a game will give users more background story. Also, the fact that you become the character makes you partially forget that it's a game and takes you into another world.
I encourage everyone to use VR, as it will take your gaming experience to a whole new level!