These are my eyes. Normally they are surrounded by thick frames with thicker glass. But now that virtual reality is a thing, I needed room on my face for other things. After nearly three decades I’m switching from eyeglasses to contacts.
Note the lingering remnants of telltale red marks on the bridge of my nose. The red, irritated eyes that comes from a novice fishing about with his fingers for elusive flimsy plastic domes.
My eyebrows are unkempt because up until now they’ve not really been a concern. The bits that arched up past the thick black plastic I’ve grown accustomed to looked good enough for me. The skin there is dry. I never really noticed. I drove straight to Walmart from my contact lens fitting to pick up moisturizer.
It wasn’t supposed to be a contact lens fitting. My appointment at the local eye clinic was to replace the five-year-old glasses I’d been wearing since my three-year-old pair broke. But as I sat there, face pressed against the cold metal Metropolis prop telling the doctor which number looked better, I thought about virtual reality.
I don’t have an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive. In fact I’ve never tried any version of the Rift or Vive, having been on home base duty during the big trade shows over the past several years. I want to try them. Following Kirk Hamilton’s Rift coverage this week and listening to Nathan Grayson talk about the Vive, I’m eager to give them a go.
The one VR device I have played with is the Samsung Gear VR. I’ve had one for my Galaxy 6S for ages, but I’ve not done much with it, as it’s been a massive headache.
The Gear VR is not for glasses. There is a dial on the top of the unit to adjust focus, which makes it workable for one of my eyes or the other, but never both. Virtual Reality through one focused and one blurry eye hurts.
I’ve been reading up on both the Vive and the Oculus, and while some people have said they fit over glasses, most accounts I’ve read say they are either uncomfortable with glasses on or they only fit smaller frames. I am a large man with a large head, so I was not hopeful.
And so now I have a pair of contacts, a bottle of something called Bio True and a plastic case I’ve already lost twice in the past three days. I got back to the vision clinic on Monday to pick up a year’s supply.
I couldn’t get contact lenses as a child. Back then my astigmatism (my eyes are oddly-shaped) prevented me from wearing them. Over the years advances in technology have made many eye doctors watch excitedly as I poked myself in the eye repeatedly, battling long eyelashes and skittish nerves in order to place plastic on my cornea. I went a week once with a set of lenses with weights on the bottom that I could feel move every time I tilted my head. Another doctor suggested a hard plastic cup I would wear overnight that temporarily reshaped my eyeball. That sounded like a lot of fun, but I passed.
Feels like things have changed. My eye doctor told me I was an “excellent candidate” for toric lenses, specially shaped for my particular eye mutation. I tried on a sample pair and what do you know? I can see. They don’t shift. Straight vertical lines don’t slant inward at the top like they do without contacts. This is going to work.
I’ve played around with the Gear VR quite a bit more since getting my contacts, spending several hours watching Netflix in a virtual chalet, breaking glass with metal balls, taking virtual tours and watching Unity’s virtual idol perform a stage show.
I’m mildly impressed, but I know I can do better than the mildly grainy mobile VR experience. I’m not sure if I’ll go Rift, Vive or hold out for PlayStation VR. Whichever I wind up with, my eyes will be ready.