Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Black Friday in July??

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is supposedly a shopping festival with Bacchanalian levels of chaos. Stampedes, people in tents camping outside stores, fights - all of which probably get retransmitted around the world to help shape others' image of Americana. But efficient markets have largely neutered whatever actual savings people might find on Black Friday with stores only stocking enough doorbuster items to stay out of legal trouble and online retailers finding their headline sales out of stock and on eBay in seconds.

Black Friday was never great and will only fade into greater obscurity as preference for online shopping grows. So why, in the name of the Senate and American Republic, am I getting ads for Black Friday in July? Its excess is comedic, like the Thursday Afternoon Monday Morning podcast or the Spishak Mach 20. Naturally I wonder if we'll be seeing a Black Friday in July Weekend Extravaganza! As an inveterate capitalist, I've made my bed. Ear-splitting advertising noise is the will of the Market, the Market from which all First World problems flow.

Speaking of First World problems, my quick HTC Vive review:


  • very visible screendoor / low resolution
  • grainy display with poor black levels for an OLED panel
  • visible Fresnel lines and chromatic aberration
  • low FOV
  • heavy and stuffy headset
  • sometimes tricky setup
  • huge hardware requirements if you want to use supersampling
  • glitches with lighthouse tracking
  • quality at periphery is not good
  • cables
  • desktop mode is difficult to use and has a lot of latency
  • finicky adjustment for each persons eyes
  • the shipping box was an order of magnitude larger than it needed to be
  • Room-scale requires clearing a large chunk of space and applications that use it always leave you wanting more
  • Lighthouse boxes emit a motor whine. Not a fan of moving mechanical parts.
  • tracking precision is very good when it works, which is most of the time
  • responsiveness should stave off motion sickness for most
  • colors and dynamic range are good
  • controllers are excellent
  • SteamVR integration is well done
  • overall impression of quality materials
  • Lighthouse "room-scale" makes this clearly superior to the Rift in applications that can use it although the Rift is lighter and has better optics
All in all, contemporary VR is an amazing achievement. Lighter headsets and better lenses are probably on the way along with more wireless parts but improving the big visual cons, i.e., low resolution, supersampling, and low FOV, will require an enormous increase in graphics power. Right now I'm using an overclocked 980 Ti, but supersampling will likely require next year's 1080 Ti. Possibly two if NVIDIA decide on the typical 20% improvement instead of the 50% improvement they did as a kind of one-off with the 980 Ti to deflate AMD's Fury launch. But it seems that by locking down many overclocking voltage settings with the current 1070/1080, NVIDIA is keeping plenty of performance bottled up should they need to counter a big AMD launch again.

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