Hands on with BotsNew VR - a Japanese mobile VR HMD with hand gestures!?
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
This is a story I need to share. I was in Sapporo last year walking through the insane Tokyu Hands store which has every single gadget known to man — at least that’s what it feels like. I came across this VR headset and watched their suitably awesome promo video. Just a disclaimer, I cannot read, write or speak Japanese so I interpreted everything based on the imagery.
I had never seen a mobile VR headset that used hand gestures before and AFAIK this is the only one of its kind so I figured the roughly USD 70 was worth the investment. Unboxing it, I found that it comes with:
BotsNew VR HMD
2 Hand sensors (no wires or batteries needed)
Some documentation (all in Japanese)
The 2 hand sensors are surprisingly light and simple pieces of plastic. Looking at them, you wouldn’t think something so simplistic would work. I’m assuming they are based on optical tracking — of course I can’t verify this as all the online documentation is in Japanese.
iOS v Android
The box clearly states the app is on Google Play and the Apple Store. This is not entirely accurate I’m afraid. The BotsNew VR app is on Apple Store and it contains all a variety of mini games you can play. In the Google Play store however, these mini games are split into their own apps such as BotsNew Wars, BotsNew Diver and BotsNew Of the Dead. Also, not all these apps are available across all android phones. I could only find the generic BotsNew Player on a Sony Z3+ for example but the Samsung S7 had access to all. The android apps also tended to crash regularly. In general, the iOS version had the overall better performance. I don’t recommend this for Android users at the moment.
Do the hand gestures work!?
Yes, they work but…the experience is haphazard. Let’s walk through a few of my mini-game experiences:
BotsNew Wars: It’s a simple space flight sim where each hand controls the gun turrets. When you hold out your hand the gun starts to fire and the position of your hand will determine the aim. That worked fine with no issues. Of course you can’t move the ship, you just control the gun turrets — it’s a shooter on rails.
BotsNew Diver: You’re underwater and you mimic breaststroke movements to move in the environment. At times, I was able to move around but more often I was just stuck in one spot watching the fish and turtles swim by.
BotsNew of the Dead: This is meant to be a horror game though I honestly don’t know what the point of the game was. You start in, what appears to be, a morgue with a body in front of you. Ghostly moaning and groaning can be heard. When you touch the body there is a thump and increased groaning. That’s it. I couldn’t figure this one out at all.
The headset looks decent with built in headphones and a focus scroll. It was too tight to wear with my glasses and the focus scroll was quite abysmal in the end. I took me quite a while to get it somewhat comfortable and focused but I had an uneasy feeling throughout.
The hand gesture related content is the biggest letdown of this HMD. I got bored of the mini-games I played in about a minute. The BotsNew Wars game is literally a sequence that lasts for 30 seconds and then restarts and plays in an endless loop.
It’s the non-hand gesture related content that I found more intriguing/disturbing. There are a number of 360 video options with Japanese titles and I selected one at random. Here’s what I think this experience is about:
You are a pet (a dog I think) and everything is from your perspective. You are in a karaoke joint with a number of high school girls. They take turns singing and then cuddling and rubbing your head.
I watched this for about 5 minutes before I took off the headset feeling a little unclean. The other videos were variations on this theme and I couldn’t go for more than a couple of minutes on them.
There’s no doubt this is a flawed device. The headset is generally uncomfortable and the content is just… confusing mostly. The hand gesture functionality does work but it just wasn’t implemented well.
The biggest let down here is the content for the hand gestures. The provided mini-games are just plain boring after a few seconds, relying too heavily on gimmicks. Not really worth the buy if you ask me. I guess I’ll just have to give the karaoke content another go…