Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have created a new virtual reality system known as the "Virtualizer" that brings the world of "Grand Theft Auto IV" to life anew.
Since it first stepped into full-blown 3-D in 2001, the "Grand Theft Auto" series has been consistently praised for offering some of the most immersive, fully realized virtual worlds ever seen in gaming. But despite the improvements in visual fidelity with each successive release, gamers are still consigned to experiencing the joyful chaos that is GTA through the arbitrary limitations of a screen and a controller. Technophiles that they are, this has lead many gamers to wonder: Is there a way to make the world of "Grand Theft Auto" even more immersive?
A group of GTA enthusiasts and students at the Vienna University of Technology may have finally found a way with a device they're calling "the Virtualizer." As shown in this incredible demo video, the researchers were able to insert themselves into the world of "Grand Theft Auto IV" in a far more immersive way than players can on their PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. The system is, in part, a collection of established technologies — it uses an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset for the display and a Nintendo Wiimote for the controls, for instance. But what sets this kind of system apart from existing virtual reality prototypes (however impressive those may be) is the treadmill-like circular surface that the user stands on to actually move through the world.
Much like the Omni "virtual reality treadmill" that had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, the Virtualizer still exists more as an idea than a reality. But both of these ambitious projects show that the real challenge that developers need to overcome in bringing virtual reality gaming to life isn't just creating the highest-definition display possible. Gamers need to be able to feel like they're actually moving in a way that's more authentic than just thumbing a joystick back and forth.
Watch the full video below.
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: Yannick.LeJacq@nbcuni.com
First published December 2 2013, 12:35 PM