- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) - Each time he tilted his head back or shifted his gaze from right to left, Matt Grose would smile, saying, “Oh my God,” ”This is amazing,” ”Whoa, bro,” or some variation of those phrases. Though he couldn’t see it, barbers were trimming their customers’ hair right next to him.

The Monmouth resident was wearing the first version of the Oculus Rift developer kit, a prototype virtual reality headset sold primarily to video game developers hoping to create content for the emerging technology.

One such developer, 27-year-old Ricky Davis, was showing off his own game for the Oculus at Glory Days Corner Barber Shop

The early version of the developer kit was attached to Davis’s laptop, which in turn was attached to an Xbox 360 controller.

“I’m seeing a big turret firing light projectiles at me,” Grose said, tilting his head to dodge the attacks. “I’m gonna take it down.”

Strapped to his head, the black Oculus visor blocked out the rest of the world. Inside, Grose was walking through a dark forest, controlling his movement with the left analogue stick, firing orbs of light with the right trigger and observing his surroundings by tilting his head.

The result was an immersive experience. Even with the sounds of barbers’ clippers in the background, the pixilated screens over his eyes and the split second delay between his head’s movements and when the virtual camera changed positions, the Oculus served as a proof of concept.

This is the early stages of virtual reality that works.

“I’m in a cave and I’m looking up,” Grose said, his mouth open slightly. “There’s a forest of giant mushrooms, fungal algae stuff going around. There’s a lot of ancient architecture I don’t understand.”

The game is called “Children of Uum,” Davis explained. Developed primarily by him and fellow Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design student Ross Moreno, the early build puts the player in first person control of an alien named Rowb on a crystal moon.

“Every 3,000 years, this moon aligns with the planet Uum,” Davis said. “When this happens, there is a sort of crossing that occurs. The plan is, Rowb wants to go to Uum.”

The game, which began development in the summer of 2013, about a year after the Oculus Rift was funded on Kickstarter and subsequently released, is still in early production. Only a partial build of the first level was playable at Glory Days, but the game’s website, https://childrenofuum.tumblr.com, describes a lengthy story driven science fiction shooter/role playing game in the works.

Davis, a Galesburg native now living in Lakewood, Colorado, had served in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011 before starting at RMCAD, courtesy of the military. Having grown up breaking code in games like “Sonic the Hedgehog” and rewriting levels for fun, Davis said he expects video games to be only a portion of what VR will one day allow.

“I think it has potential to be used for so much,” he said, suggesting VR could be used for creating and watching movies or other unexplored avenues.

After all, Oculus has the backing of Facebook since the social media giant purchased the VR manufacturer for $2 billion last year.

“It’s a new technology,” Davis said. “I think most people who have an iPad will have an Oculus, someday. There will be more applications then just games.”

After the local demo, he plans to take his game on the road to the May 23-25 Denver Comic Con. In time, he plans to crowdfund a purchase of the $350 Oculus Dev Kit 2 to continue work on the faster, high definition headset.


Source: The (Galesburg) Register-Mail, https://bit.ly/1H85vPw


Information from: The Register-Mail, https://www.register-mail.com

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