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Portland Retro Gaming Expo This Weekend

Friday, October 16, 2015

 

Portlanders with fond memories of video game characters like Mario, Luigi, Sonic and Link will have their chance to indulge in some nostalgia this weekend during the ninth annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo.

The expo will be held at the Oregon Convention Center this Saturday and Sunday and feature more than 150 booths and exhibits. There will also be speakers and panels, video game tournaments a charity auction and live music performances featuring Mega Ran, brentalfloss and more.

The expo has three goals, according to organizers. First, it seeks to educate visitors on the impact video games have had on American society. To accomplish this, organizers are planning hands-on interactive experiences with classic games and hosting speakers with crucial figures in the industry.

In order to preserve the history of video games, the expo’s second goal, organizers plan to demonstrate original hardware and software from throughout the 40-year history of gaming.

Finally, the Retro Gaming Expo hopes to inspire the next generation of game creators and fans by including and explaining the mathematics, physics, art and storytelling.

Admission for the event is available at a discount if purchased before midnight on October 16. To purchase tickets and learn more about the expo, visit the Portland Retro Gaming Expo website.

 

Related Slideshow: The Best Virtual Reality Gadgets and Games

Big names are now making VR a viable and desirable “new” technology. Google, Facebook, HTC, and Samsung are all in the game and the results make the 75-year-old View Master look like a child’s…well you get the idea. 

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ViewMaster

In fact the View Master has gotten a serious upgrade thanks to Google and it’s Google Cardboard project. The new View Master is now a fully immersive experience with 360-degree worlds, photosphere, and interactive “field-trips.” The $30 plastic viewer requires a smartphone to function, and can be replaced with a standard cardboard setup since most of the work is done inside the app, but the View Master is a much more durable version and will come with the classic reels. These reels, however are no longer inserted into the top of the device, but laid on a table and viewed through the smartphone app triggering the experience. 

Of course since the View Master is just a sturdier version of the standard Google Cardboard so it can be used for the variety of apps now available for the platform. Some of the best apps include Orbulus, VR Cosmic Rollercoaster, and Village. The View Master will be available in October, and will eventually support both Android and iOS.

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Samsung Gear VR

Similar to the Google Cardboard, Samsung has developed it’s own VR headset designed to use the Galaxy Note 4 as the display. The Gear VR is actually a very good-looking full-on headset that only cost $200. The drawback, and it is a very big very expensive drawback, is that it requires the $700 Galaxy Note 4 in order to function. Another drawback is the limited software. It can of course use all the VR apps and features available for Google Cardboard, but those are still very limited both in visual quality and variety. If you already have a Note 4 and $200 to blow this could certainly be a fun toy, but at this point I would probably just go for the View Master or straight cardboard box.

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HTC Vive

Like Samsung HTC is best known for it’s outstanding smartphones, particularly the outstanding One series. They were also the first to develop an Android phone so you would think they would be content with the Cardboard project or something similar to the Gear VR. This is not the case; HTC, with the help of Valve, has developed the HTC Vive a high end VR headset aimed at PC gamers. Basically HTC is handling the manufacturing of the device while Valve/Steam handle the software. With a Fall 2015 release date the Vive is the first of the big VR headsets to launch, and could set the stage for the others.

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Project Morpheus

Project Morpheus is Sony’s go at VR technology. This headset will connect directly to the Playstation 4 and provide a similar experience to the HTC Vive but in a console/living room setting as opposed to Vive’s PC/desk setting. Demos of the Morpheus have people on a luge, swimming with sharks, and robbing banks. If successful this could breathe new life into Sony’s lackluster attempt to copy the Nintendo Wii; the Playstation Move. Some of the issues gamers may have here are with the headset being wired to the PS4 and the potential amount of movement required of some games. Now movement and wires aren’t by themselves a bad thing, but pair them with a living room full of furniture, maybe a child/dog or two, and what amounts to a blindfold strapped to your head and you can see the potential for issues.

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Oculus Rift

The device that re-started it all; Oculus Rift was a project that began back in 2012 with Oculus VR founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe. Palmer envisioned a lightweight head mounted display (HMD) that was both functional and inexpensive. The first prototype was little more than a couple of LCD panels duct taped to the head and running Doom 3. In August of 2012 the company began its Kickstarter campaign that introduced the first “dev-kit” for $300 allowing many the chance to develop for this new and exciting platform. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2.2 billion. The Oculus Rift is set to launch sometime next year and will likely have a price tag of around two or three hundred dollars. 

The development of this next generation of VR looks like a promising one. Not only are these devices being developed for gaming and looking at pictures, but virtual tourism, medical uses, and virtual art shows are just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are developing VR arcades that merge real world environments and virtual ones to create even more realistic experiences.

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As exciting as all this sounds it is all still in it’s…we’ll say…toddler stage. Things are looking good, but we won’t know how good for another two to three years at the least. If you want to try VR out for yourself Google Cardboard is your best bet currently as most of the more advanced options don’t launch until later this year or next. You can find a list of Cardboard sellers here, and perhaps I’ll see you in a virtual space down the road.

 
 

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