The year was 1988. Mulroney and Regan were signing the Canada-US free trade agreement, Jim Duggan was dominating at the first WWF Royal Rumble and the 15th Winter Olympic games were taking place in Calgary. But I was oblivious to all of it. I was too busy delivering newspapers, trying to beat my score on my newest NES game, Paperboy. And admit it – you were too.
But kids of the future aren’t simply going to control a little man on the screen throwing papers for points. Instead they will enter the virtual world and be the delivery person. I know this because I experienced it first hand last week at FITC Screens.
Created by Toronto-based interactive exhibit shop Globacore, Paperdude VR is their homage to the original arcade game Paperboy. The 3D Unity game uses a mash-up of new technology to create the full experience including virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, motion detector Kinect and stationary bike sensor Wahoo Kickr.
Putting on the virtual reality headset for the first time was exhilarating and disorienting. The conference hall I was in had immediately disappeared and I was now on a pixelated street which could be anywhere in America. I took a moment to look around before I realized that I had a paper in my hand and was on a bike and needed to start peddling.
I found that actually riding a bike and throwing newspapers at mailboxes in a Nintendo-like world which you now exist in is much more difficult than pressing A, B, up and down on a controller watching Paperboy on a screen. But even more frightening than my score were the obstacles I was crashing into which felt real enough to cause me to wince and panic.
I also found that I looked way cooler in the world of Paperdude than I did in the centre of the FITC showroom floor flailing my arms around and yelling at obstacles I kept running into. But I’d trade my self-respect in an instant to play the game again.
Founder Ben Unsworth told BetaKit that the idea for Paperdude VR started half as a joke around the water cooler. “The idea just popped up that we should do a Paperboy Oculus Rift remake using an actual bike trainer and a Kinect to throw the papers – at which point we broke out laughing saying we should do it.”
And he did. Unsworth went straight to his office, did a search for stationary bike APIs and ordered Kickr. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But the journey for Paperdude has just begun. Globacore has seen a massive reaction from the video demo they put up two months ago. So much so that they are embarking on a Paperdude VR tour to bring the experience around the world.
Their first few events were at FITC Screens, Toronto Unity Developers Group, and Touch Vancouver. Tomorrow they are in Amsterdam at Cinekid Festival. They also have planned stops in Halifax, Vegas and in New York for Engadget’s Expand.
If you are in any of the Paperdude VR cities you are definitely going to want to check this out.