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商业 - 科技

奇异之旅:用Oculus头盔体验虚拟现实

Verne Kopytoff 2015年04月21日

本文作者日前实测了Facebook的科幻玩具——Oculus虚拟现实头盔。那是一种有时候特别惊悚,却又令人着迷的感觉。和好莱坞明星坐在一排,深入蒙古人家庭,面对咆哮的恐龙,的确非常震憾。但另一方面,作者也感到了一丝恐惧,因为这项技术非常容易让人混淆真实与虚拟世界。

    我站在一幢摩天大楼的窗台,俯视着街道上一辆辆犹如小蚂蚁的汽车。我和地面之间只隔着几百英尺厚的空气。

    突然,一个女性的声音让我从将近催眠的状态中惊醒过来:“迈出去,走一走。”

    好吧,当然,为什么不呢?(我对危险的态度就是如此漫不经心。)随后,我的大脑突然变得清醒,我的脚也拒绝向前迈出一步。我告诉那个女声:“不,我不会那样做的。”

    这是我第一次亲身体验Oculus Rift头戴式显示器。这款虚拟现实设备可以让人体验一些不可思议的视频游戏。尽管我一开始有点怀疑,但这种技术给人的感觉实在太真实了,甚至让我差点失去了自我保护的本能。理智上,我深知我的本体还安安全全地待在旧金山一座废弃的军事仓库里,头上戴着这个看起来很怪异的电子设备。但我的大脑却失去了逻辑,让我动弹不得。

    去年Facebook做出了一个当时看来令人难以理解的决定,以20亿美元的天价收购了该设备的制造商——创业公司Oculus VR。这项科幻技术貌似与Facebook的主业大相径庭——Facebook给人的印象就是个用来分享旅游照片、萌宠视频和萌娃的社交网络。但对于Oculus,Facebook却有着雄心勃勃的计划,包括视频游戏、电影和虚拟就诊预约等领域。上周,Facebook首席科技官麦克•斯科罗普夫在该公司的开发者会议上表示,Oculus VR的目标是要以前所未有的方式将人们聚合在一起。

    他举了自己女儿的例子。在女儿的生日宴会上,有些朋友和亲人因为有事没能来参加。在未来,即便他们身在千里之外,他们也可以戴着Oculus置身于宴会上。斯科罗普夫对参会者表示:“当时我真希望每个人都能被‘传输’到宴会现场。”

    Facebook显然为Oculus设定了雄心勃勃的未来。不过就连斯科罗普夫自己也承认,Oculus还有大量技术工作要做。(Oculus头盔目前还不对大众开放。目前只有软件开发者可以购买这种设备,然后开发使用它的方式。)另外,戴着这种笨重的设备,是否真的能让你离亲人和朋友更近?还是会导致人与人之间变得更加疏远和隔膜?

    我希望通过这次测试找到答案。测试对象的是一款名叫Crescent Bay的最新版本。我在一间黑暗的房间里测试了大约10分钟,有一位女士站在一旁指导我(同时防止我走出地上的一块垫子,并撞到墙上)。

    除了站在摩天大楼的边缘以外,我还面对了一只张着血盆大口、满嘴白森森利齿的霸王龙。此外我还置身于一场街头巷战之中,身边子弹横飞,爆炸不断,被炸起的废墟以慢镜头飞过空中。

    我可以抬头、低头或转身,以获取不同的角度,就像在现实中一样。画面的转换非常流畅,也没有出现导致失真感的画面迟滞。在播放欢迎标志时,我并未感觉到恶心——测试过之前版本的Oculus的人,都曾抱怨过这个问题。我只是在摩天大楼边缘那一幕时感到了眩晕感,这或许是因为我的大脑并不是很害怕卡通恐龙和机器人的缘故。

    测试完这款设备之后,我又下楼测试了三星的Gear VR,这款设备的分辨率稍低一些,但在某种程度上,它更有希望在短期内投入市场。我能很轻易地想象,影视制作公司以及游戏制作商很可能利用这项技术让他们的作品更有真实感。

    虽然我的身体坐在椅子上,但我的精神却进入了一座蒙古人的圆顶帐篷。我不禁想,如果能把这项技术用在拍摄纪录片上该多好。我转头仔细查看帐篷的各个角落,不过住在帐篷里的这家蒙古人似乎并未注意到我。

    我还出现在电影《荒野生存》的一幕场景——瑞茜•威瑟斯彭扮演的那个精疲力竭的背包客正在山坡上与她母亲的亡魂对话。她们并没有看见我站在她们中间,让我觉得自己像是一个偷听者。

    我又出现在了杰瑞•斯坦因菲尔德在《周六夜间秀》40周年庆的演出现场。我可以从主摄像机的视角看见他的表演。过了几秒后,我意识到我身边的椅子上坐满了好莱坞的名人。当斯坦因菲尔德讲笑话的时候,我转过头,认出了身后的几个大牌明星,如亚当•桑德勒、约翰•古德曼和迈克尔•道格拉斯等等。

    和好莱坞明星坐在一排,深入蒙古人家庭,面对咆哮的恐龙的感觉,的确非常震憾。但另一方面,我也感到了一丝恐惧,因为这项技术实在非常容易让人对真实与虚拟世界产生混淆。从某种程度上,这项技术的到来是一种福音,因为它让人可以更好地体验其他文化——比如蒙古人的帐篷,这种效果是看电视无法比拟的。但我也担心或许有些人会把大部分时间沉浸在虚拟世界里,以逃避他们单调的人生,更加不愿意从事真实的人际交往。(财富中文网)

    译者:朴成奎

    审校:任文科

    I stood on the ledge of a skyscraper and looked down at the cars—tiny specks, really—driving by on the street below. All that stood between me and the pavement was hundreds of feet of air.

    Suddenly, a woman’s voice jolted me from my near-hypnosis: Step out, she said. Walk around.

    Well, sure. Why not? (I told myself this with my usual cavalier attitude about danger.) Then my brain took over and my feet refused to budge for fear of falling off the edge. Nope—not going to happen, I told her.

    This was my first try of Oculus Rift, the virtual-reality goggles that can place a person wearing them into a sort of uncanny video game. Despite my initial skepticism, the technology seemed all-too realistic—to the point that I couldn’t overcome my natural instinct for self-preservation. Intellectually, I knew full-well I was standing safely inside a former military warehouse in San Francisco with a ridiculous looking electronic device strapped to me head. But my brain overrode logic and left me immobilized.

    Last year, in a bit of a head-scratching move, Facebook FB -0.67% acquired the startup behind this headset, Oculus VR, for $2 billion. The sci-fi technology seemed like a big departure for a company best known for a social network filled vacation photos, videos of cute kittens, and parents sharing silly stories about their children. But Facebook has big plans for Oculus that include video games, movies, and virtual doctor appointments. The goal is to bring people together in ways they never could before, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, said last week at the company’s developer conference.

    He used the example of his daughter’s birthday party and how some friends and family had missed it. In the future, they could instead wear Oculus to put themselves in the middle of the celebration, even if they are really thousands of miles away. “I wish that everyone would have been teleported to that moment,” Schroepfer told the audience.

    Well, Facebook vision for Oculus is certainly ambitious. But there’s still a lot of technical work to be done to live up to the hype, as Schroepfer readily acknowledged. (The Oculus headset isn’t yet available to the general public. For now, only software developers can buy the headset to toy around with and invent ways to use it.) Moreover, does wearing bulky goggles that preclude face-to-face contact really bring you closer to friends and family? Or does it create distance and isolation?

    I hoped to find out in my test of Oculus, which involved the latest, prototype version of its headset, called Crescent Bay. For around 10 minutes, I tried it out in a dark empty room with a woman standing nearby to guide me (and keep me from wandering off a small floor mat and face-plant into a wall).

    In addition to standing on the skyscraper, I faced off with a snarling Tyrannosaurus Rex with a mouth full of sharp teeth. I was also caught in a street battle with bullets and explosions going off all around me while debris hurtled through the air in slow motion.

    I could tilt my head up, down and behind me to get a different view, just like in real life. Images shifted smoothly with no lag time that would have made the experience seem phony. In a welcome sign, I never felt nauseous—a common problem reported by people who have used previous versions of Oculus. But my reaction never matched the vertigo I felt standing on the skyscraper ledge. Maybe my brain isn’t hardwired to fear slightly cartoonish dinosaurs and robots.

    Next, I moved downstairs to try out Samsung Gear VR, a headset with a lower resolution display that seemed, in some ways, to be more immediately ready for prime time. I could easily imagine television and movie studios along with video game makers using the technology to make their productions more immersive.

    While sitting in a chair, I dropped in on a Mongolian family filmed inside their yurt and thought how fantastic the technology would be as part of a documentary. I spun around to inspect every part of their home, although the family didn’t seem to notice me.

    I also spied a scene from the Hollywood movie Wild as actress Reese Witherspoon’s character, an exhausted backpacker, spoke with an apparition of her dead mother on a mountainside. They never saw me standing there between them, which made me feel almost like an eavesdropper.

    It was the same feeling watching Jerry Seinfeld warm up the crowd during Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary show. I could watch the monologue from the perspective of atop the main camera near the audience. After a few seconds, I realized that celebrities filled most of the chairs around me. While Seinfeld joked, I turned my back to him and tried to pick out the actors I recognized like Adam Sandler, John Goodman, and Michael Douglas.

    On one hand, it was an incredible experience to feel like I was there with Hollywood’s elite, and, course, the Mongolian family and the snarling dinosaur before. But I also felt a twinge of apprehension because it seemed so easy to confuse this virtual world for reality. In some ways, it could be a blessing by letting people better experience other cultures, like the Mongolian yurt, than they can by watching broadcast television. But I also feared the potential risk of some people choosing to spend most of their time in this fantasy world to escape their hum-drum existence and real human contact.

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