You couldn't throw a rock in The Hub--the main show floor at Microsoft's Build developer conference--without hitting Acer's new Windows Mixed Reality headset. There were plenty of opportunities to put on the headset, enjoy a brief demo, and see what Acer and Microsoft have planned for the low end of the WMR spectrum.
I tell you this so you'll know that our decision to have me enjoy (endure?) my first real VR experience via The Ledge, which simulated falling off a skyscraper, was based purely on the promise that you would like to laugh at my not-anywhere-near-death experience.
That promise was based on several fun facts:
1) I am deathly afraid of heights.2) I do not like things on my face.3) My experience with VR was previously limited to a friend's jerry-rigged system.4) I was operating on roughly four hours of sleep after spending far longer than that traveling to Build.5) I wear an Apple Watch that can monitor my heart rate, so my terror was easy to quantify.6) I wasn't smart enough to keep any of that information to myself when I entered The Hub with our News Director, Seth Colaner.
[Editor's Note: Like a shark drawn to bloody chum, I (Seth) felt that the above factors aligned so perfectly that I absolutely had to make him do the demo. I regret nothing. I'd do it again tomorrow. Also, Nathaniel was a great sport about it.]
So, with all of that information in hand, we lined up to experience The Ledge for ourselves. The experience had a simple premise: You stand on a platform, don Acer's HMD, and then the developers manipulate the platform to add a physical element to the virtual terror of falling off of a skyscraper. Ostensibly, the idea was to demonstrate how VR could immerse you even if you're perfectly aware of your actual surroundings. But we suspect that, in actuality, The Ledge's seemingly nice developers secretly created a machine that can only be powered by the primal fright someone experiences when they "fall."
There are a couple of additional items of note: This was one of the first demos we've done inside the Acer MR HMD, and even though it involved a certain amount of motion, I never felt nauseous in the slightest. Further, this demo had a moving platform that delivered a frightening amount of immersion. It's wholly impractical for the average user, but for an event like this one or an arcade, it would be quite an addition.
You can watch the results of our experiment here: