INSiGHT | A Virtual Trip into LightVR

By Chris Leebody 17.11.2016

Cubed3 has recently had some time with an interesting new piece of Virtual Reality software called LightVR. From the product name it isn't initially very clear what it actually is, but jumping in it soon becomes apparent. For as developer MyDream Interactive states, this is indeed no less than a "virtual room simulator" with an entire community-developed suite of room props and assets, such as carpets, wallpapers and chairs. Enough to feel right at home. What else can be expected from the experience? Cubed3 investigaes…

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It should be stressed that, first of all, LightVR is still very early in the development, and to say it is a little rough around the edges is an understatement. The status of being Early Access on Steam attests to this. Frequent crashes are to be expected. However, it was more than useable in the time Cubed3 had to spend with it.

It should also be stated that, at the time of writing, the software is primarily built for the HTC Vive with its touch controllers used for gestures to control movement and object placement. The build Cubed3 used was functioning on the Oculus Rift, which does not release its specific touch control system until 6th December.

Where LightVR is differentiating itself from other virtual desktop applications is in the feature of supporting multiple desktop screens that can be wrapped around the player and then can obviously be viewed in a complete 360-degree swivel. Have a movie playing on one screen while browsing the web, or maybe YouTube open while catching up on some work on a Word document. All it takes is a gesture using the touch controls to pull up a new browser and place it anywhere, in any direction.

One really noticeable thing implemented is seemingly a much clearer screen. In a lot of other Virtual Reality desktop offerings, there are a lot of problems with text being a real pain to read. The level of focus and sharpness prevents a comfortable reading experience of the various fonts on display. It is possibly a keener attention to anti-aliasing, but here in LightVR things are a lot clearer and the issue of white screens dominating the field of vision is, at the very least, less noticeable.

Another one of the emphasised features is built-in support for games, including using head view in first-person shooters. There are some issues with other apps, in that games are subject to severe performance hits due to the amount of processing power, and GPU stress, required to cover both the game in the headset and the game running on the PC, as well as the actual VR software itself. The most demanding titles are still going to have certain issues but generally the experience here is really smooth and a lot better than expected.

As mentioned above, LightVR is still so early in development, with a lot of bugs and issues to be worked out. Pleasingly, the developer seems fairly approachable with any queries on the Steam discussion boards. It has been given a loose timetable of final completion before the end of 2016, or just slipping into 2017. With the Oculus Touch controllers unlocking its full potential for both PC VR headsets, it is one to keep an eye on.

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