Virtual Reality Sword Art Online actually works, it turns out


Well...sort of.

When IBM announced its intention to Make Anime Real™ by producing a Sword Art Online-based virtual reality experience, I was a tad skeptical. After all, even the most advanced VR tech in the world can just barely convince us to get dizzy while looking off a virtual cliff, a pale shadow of what Kirito and his pals can do in their world (thanks to the magic of fiction). 

But IBM has actually done it for their demo of Sword Art Online: The Beginning. What 208 lucky folks (out of more than 100,000 applicants) experienced in Tokyo earlier this week amounts to a bullet-points approximation of the Sword Art Online schtick: They got their bodies scanned into the game as avatars, moved around a virtual world, interacted with objects and things much as they would in real life, and then battled a monster with those telltale layered health bars. And no one was murdered (that we know of)!

Of course, as you can see from the "battle" and "town" clips above and below, it all looks a little too...Dactyl Nightmare or Trespasser to be fully convincing, either as the future of VR or a viable videogame. What interests me most about the whole deal is the assemblage of off-the-shelf technologies IBM hooked up to their fancy Watson computer and SoftLayer  to get everything working. 

IBM's version of SAO's NerveGear system involved a cobbling-together of various existing commercial products. The main headsets were modified versions of the soon-to-release Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR devices, but the demo notably did not require peripherals like the Vive's Lighthouse room sensors or the Rift's Oculus Touch controllers to facilitate interactions.

Those were instead provided by mounting Leap Motion and Ovrvision sensors to the front of the headset. Leap Motion is a device designed to detect hand and finger movements for input while Ovrvision is a high-quality stereo camera for Augmented Reality hand-tracking and interfaces. A Kinect sensor and special footwear translated body and leg movements into the game. 

While the end results were undoubtedly rather janky-looking (at least to outsiders looking in), it's still pretty amazing what they managed to do with mostly off-the-shelf parts and tech. One can only imagine how actual, commercial-ready products might be refined from the experiment.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



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    Filed under... #japan #Sword Art Online #technology #video #Video games #VR #weird news



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