Normally we try not to pre-announce new features before they are complete, but it's been kind of an open secret around the company that we are working on native VR capabilities for X-Plane. Austin mentioned it on a Facebook Live stream, and Chris posted pictures of un-boxing his OcRift and Vive.
So today I'm going to show you a sneak preview of something that I'm just too excited not to post: X-Plane 11's new Pirate-VR™ mode*.
There are two major challenges to integrating VR with a general purpose flight simulator:
- Performance. X-Plane typically runs at 30-40 fps on a high-end system on a single monitor. How do we render a stereo image to two eyes without cutting frame-rate in half?
- Usability. How do users interact with the complex cockpit buttons and switches using 3-d "wand"-type controllers that ship with today's VR head-mounted displays?
Pirate-VR™ mode solves both of these problems.
When rendering to the head-mounted display, we simulate an eye-patch over the left eye.
By blacking out the left eye, we are able to recover quite a bit of framerate and run a stereo render at over 40 fps; minor optimization should get us to something fluid for the HMD.
In Pirate-VR™ mode, both of your hands are replaced by large metal hooks. Since it is pretty much impossibly to safely operate the over-head panel of an MD-82 with hooks for hands, we can skip 3-d interaction testing on most of the cockpit, simplifying VR interaction quite a bit.
I can't announce when Pirate-VR™ will ship, but for scallywags who will be joining us at FlightsimCon in Hartford** this year, I think we'll have something you'll really want to get your hooks into.
* Yes, it is, of coarse, pronounced "Vee-ARRRRRRRRRR!"
** Update: my wife points out that the correct pronunciation is HARRRRRRRRtford.