When I think of controller attachments, I instantly imagine the crappy Wii remote add-ons I had as a kid.
At first, I loved them – I wouldn’t touch Wii Sports unless my controller looked like a tennis racket or golf club – but over time, I came to despise them. The cheap plastic constructions would always break after a few uses, and they objectively made playing games harder because they’d block the sensor on the end of the remote.
I’ve recently had the chance to try out the HelloReal Grip-to-putter with my Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro VR headsets, and it’s reopened my eyes to the immersion that accessories can bring to virtual reality – whether it’s gaming, working out, or just plain working.
My Grip-to-putter thoughts
The HelloReal Grip-to-putter is a golf club controller attachment and the perfect companion for Walkabout Mini Golf – one of my favorite VR experiences.
You slot your Quest 2 or Quest Pro controller into the open end where it sits snuggly – for additional assurance that your handset won’t fly off when you swing the club HelloReal has included instructions on securing it using the controller’s wrist straps. Once it’s in place you can boot up your favorite VR golfing app and enjoy swinging a club that feels much more like the real thing than your controller ever did.
The Grip-to-putter gets its name from the grip-to-putt feature in Walkabout Mini Golf. When this setting is switched on in the app’s menu your club’s end will vanish until you hold down the side grip button on the controller. This lets you get a few practice swings without the risk of accidentally hitting your virtual ball before you’re ready.
HelloReal’s attachment includes a contraption that will hold down the controller’s grip button when you press the trigger that sits just above the padded end. While playing Walkabout with the putter took a little getting used to – because the mechanics are a bit different with the add-on – I found that it made the whole experience significantly more immersive.
Have to feel to believe
As you can see from the images included above, the HelloReal putter looks nothing like a golf club beyond the fact it’s vaguely pole shaped. But it doesn’t matter what the add-on looks like, just what it feels like – and HelloReal has got the golf club feeling down to a tee. The padded grip and weight distribution of the putter are perfect.
Once I slipped my headset on, I fully believed I was holding a real golf club. And this got me thinking – I need more realistic feeling VR accessories to use at home.
Inspired by the Wii’s heyday, I can already imagine some of the VR gaming accessories I could get, such as attachments that mimic the feel of swords and axes or sporting-inspired add-ons for VR fishing and tennis.
For the VR fitness fans out there, wouldn’t it be great to get a weighted club attachment that makes your Supernatural workout a little tougher? Maybe someday, we could get a boxing glove-inspired accessory that brings Litesport VR and other boxing workouts to life.
While working in the metaverse, perhaps we could use blank slates and styluses that make us believe we’re writing on paper when taking virtual notes. OK, this add-on is a little bleak, but if metaverse working is inevitable, it might make it more enjoyable than I found it before – I much prefer traditional pen and paper to using a keyboard. It would also feel more real than the controller styluses Meta includes in the Quest Pro’s box, which enable you to write in VR, albeit clunkily. If you didn’t realize the styluses were in the box, it might be because they’re tiny and exceptionally easy to lose.
Cost and effect
These sorts of realism-boosting accessories are already deployed by commercial VR experiences you can find in some malls and theme parks to great effect – but they do admittedly have a downside if you want to bring them home. Cost.
Different add-ons have different prices, with gadgets like the Omni One VR treadmill at the ‘ridiculous’ (over $ 2,500, around £2,000 / AU$ 3,900) end, and accessories like the Grip-to-putter at a more reasonable $ 58.99 (around £46 / AU$ 91). Admittedly, $ 58.99 still isn’t ‘cheap’, but if you plan to use your VR accessory a lot, you'll likely feel it offers solid bang for your buck.
So if you are a VR power user – or even just pick it up once a week – and have been weighing up buying a few accessories for it, then I’d say go for it (provided they’re good quality). Burnt by the Wii, I’d been instantly dismissing every add-on as a gimmick, but after trying the HelloReal putter, I’ve been scouring the internet for other weird goodies I could pick up to improve my VR setup.
Windows 11 has a new preview build carrying a very useful change for those who run multiple monitors, in a move that’ll help save system resources to some extent.
The change is in testing right now – and the very earliest test channel, namely Canary – having been brought in with build 25915 late last week.
What Microsoft has done is improved the way Windows 11 handles refresh rates so that when a PC has two (or more) monitors, different refresh rates can be used on multiple screens.
Previously, Windows 11 would apply the refresh rate which is a system-wide setting to both monitors, so now in this preview version, they can each have different refresh rates. We’ll come back to discuss refresh rates in more depth, and why this is important, in a moment.
Elsewhere in build 25915, Microsoft has tweaked Dynamic Refresh Rate (DRR), a feature that intelligently adjusts your monitor’s refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. (If you’re reading emails or doing other basic tasks, DRR will employ a lower refresh rate – but when you need a smoother experience, such as when scrolling through a large document with embedded images, a higher refresh rate will be utilized).
The change to DRR now means that if you’re in battery saver mode on your laptop, Windows 11 will stick with the lower refresh rate no matter what, in order to conserve power. In short, battery saver overrules DRR completely, which is for the best when your notebook is on the verge of conking out.
Analysis: A very refreshing change
Refresh rate means the rate that the screen refreshes itself every second (measured in Hertz), or in other words, how many frames are displayed per second. Every monitor is essentially displaying a slideshow, and you’re seeing a number of images (slides, or frames) every second. (But always, in theory, so quickly that you’ll never see the ‘joins’ as it were – it should all happen fluidly, especially with a top-end PC and one of the best monitors out there).
The faster the refresh rate, the more fluid and smooth the image seems to your eyes (with caveats, such as with games for example, your GPU and other components need to have the horsepower to be able to produce the requisite frames, and with demanding titles and resolutions, that can be a steep hill to climb).
So, what this change does is allow a task like gaming on a primary high refresh rate monitor to hit, say, 240Hz, whereas if you have a second monitor where you’re just surfing the web, watching a video maybe, you can have that running at 60Hz. Because you won’t need any more than 60Hz on that second display, you can save your PC the trouble of having to push both monitors to a higher refresh rate.
That means fewer system resources are used, and they can be employed elsewhere, plus you might save a teeny-tiny bit of power to boot (it all adds up).
This means nothing to those who don’t have more than one monitor, of course, but the DRR change will still be useful for those with a laptop who want to conserve power when the battery gets to a low level.
While it will come as no surprise to learn that gamers are one of the few demographics that have actually been enjoying lockdown, what may be more surprising is that professional gamers – those that compete in esports tournaments for big prizes across Australia and around the globe – have developed a work ethic and model that can teach all of us a thing or two about working from home.
Professional gamers need to balance their many hours of intense focus in front of a computer screen with healthy schedules that keep them capable of maintaining optimal performance, both physically and mentally, at all times. So, which techniques do they use, and which technology do they recommend?
To find out, we reached out to Legacy Esports – one of the most successful esports organisations in the burgeoning Oceanic Region with teams and streamers currently competing in games including Fortnite, Hearthstone, Starcraft 2 and the hugely popular League of Legends. Its techniques have been proven in the field too: in April, its League of Legends team was crowned Oceanic Pro League (OPL) Champions.
We asked Tim Wendel, Head of Esports for Legacy Esports, what we could learn from their success. After all, as he puts it, “Working from home under quarantine hasn’t really changed much for what we do… we’re very used to operating in this space.”
Communication is key
Many office workers will have been getting to grips with Zoom for meetings and communication, but pro-gamers are already well versed at coordinating with their co-workers remotely. Winning means sharing information quickly – calling out enemy positions with military-grade efficiency, for example – and operating as though your teammates (who could be many kilometres away) are sitting right next to them.
Legacy Esports uses the gamer-oriented multi-channelled Discord app for voice and text communications, but Tim’s experience with it translates to all web conference-related communication software. His first point is to ensure that everyone has very good microphones for clarity – it’s neither professional nor helpful to others to sound like you’re talking from the bottom of a well. He adds, “For people now working from home, the key is to become familiar with the software that your team or company uses. It’s going to save you a lot of time being able to fix your own problems as opposed to going to IT every time something goes wrong. It could be that your microphone was on local mute as opposed to muted in the software – any number of issues.”
Microphone and speaker problems are certainly regular bugbears for the new world of conference calls: being able to diagnose whether an issue stems from computer settings, headset buttons/dials, another attendee, the local network or third-party cloud service, is important. Meetings can quickly become derailed by key participants not having functional audio or video, and providing remote tech support can be difficult, especially when it comes to explaining how to navigate hidden settings in apps (and operating systems) to those who are not tech-savvy.
The key lesson here is to plan ahead and test your setup prior to any important events. This will give you enough advance time to Google a specific problem, or ask a colleague for help.
Healthy body, healthy mindset
“Esports professionals put in some of the longest hours, of any profession, into their craft. Consequently, taking regular breaks is important and so is posture and stretching,” says Tim. Indeed, when training primarily involves sitting in front of a screen, clutching a mouse and keyboard, for many hours, every day, it becomes particularly important to understand and compensate for the negative effect that this has on one’s body. Tim says that getting up at least once an hour and stretching – even if it’s only for five minutes – is very important.
He continues, “There is a gamer stretch routine which focuses on warming-up. It involves pulling your fingers back one way and then back the other way. It’s really about loosening up any tension: your forearms can become very tense when holding a mouse and using a keyboard for prolonged periods.” This will help stave off the primary affliction that blights the world of Esports: RSI.
Beyond that, following a rigid schedule was essential. While training alongside teammates kept pro gamers from missing most sessions, there was still a great deal of solo work required. Having them stick to tight schedules for practice, rest, exercise and performance reviews helps the team and each individual member to structure their days.
He also adds the following advice, “When your routine changes, try to build a schedule that includes alarms or reminders for checking your messages. If you are used to only checking your emails in one big block each day, it might make sense to be a bit more dynamic during this time.” He concludes, “Also, there shouldn’t be any excuse not to stick to a healthy diet. Even maintaining exercise isn’t difficult, as online classes and live sessions with personal trainers are widely available.”
Get the right gear for the job
Every job is simpler when you have the right tools to do it and, just as a blunt knife acts as a frustrating barrier to a chef, having a slow computer or poor-quality peripherals can act as a major barrier to office productivity. To that end, Samsung provides Legacy Esports with a variety of high-quality equipment to help them perform their best, including fast computer memory, SSDs and curved gaming monitors. Tim says, “All players who have received them have enjoyed the benefits. Not having to wait long for your computer to boot, being able to load games quickly and having plenty of room to store games [has proved particularly popular].”
He also stresses the importance of having an ergonomic chair. “Gaming chairs are hot items in esports, right now, with multiple manufacturers including elements like adjustable armrests and lumbar support. But, as long as you have a good chair that supports good posture; that’s the most important thing.” He adds that while it’s important to ensure that forearms are level with the table, there is no special gaming posture, or way to hold a mouse, that will stop you from getting tired.
Nonetheless, Tim still recommends using a curved monitor (or two) for work purposes: “Having a curved screen means I move my eyes less to reach corner to corner whereas, with a flat monitor the space feels wider. It feels like I’m using my eyes less to see the whole screen. Also, using two monitors makes it easy to multitask by providing multiple sources of information. Working on one monitor, while source information or messages appear on the other, makes things much easier.” He adds that, connecting to ultra widescreen monitors can particularly boost productivity versus being hunched over a laptop screen – and will help encourage better posture, too.
Top tech for WFH
Samsung CT55 1000R curved monitor: Whether at home or in the office, curved monitors make it easier to tackle demanding tasks, offering a more natural and comfortable viewing experience. The Samsung CT55 features a 1000R curvature that matches the human field of view allowing you to see the whole screen in just one glance, which can help to limit visual fatigue, especially during sustained use scenarios. Another benefit of using a curved monitor is the ability to use it as a second monitor, making it easier to multi-task.
Samsung EVO Plus NVMe SSDs: These solid-state drives are fast and yet small enough to power both laptops and desktops alike. Boot times will plummet, as will the loading times of applications. Despite the diminutive dimensions they still pack in up-to 2TB of storage, so you won’t be running out of space any time soon.
Samsung Portable SSD T7: With increasing file sizes (especially when it comes to multimedia), running out of storage space on your laptop or desktop is a fairly common problem. Samsung’s portable SSDs, such as the T7, offer an easy way to add super-fast external storage, allow you to both save and work from large files on a separate drive – even demanding jobs like video editing can be done directly from a Samsung Portable SSD, so there’s no need to transfer files between the external SSD and your computer’s internal storage.
Samsung 27-inch CRG5 curved monitor: The CRG5 combines a lightning-fast refresh rate through 240Hz RapidCurve™ technology and 1500R curvature, minimising lag time while displaying ultra-smooth scenes for a truly immersive experience. The 240Hz refresh rate allows a swift, effortless response to screen transitions and quickly changing situations, while the 1500R curved screen offers a wide view with just one glance. To eliminate tears, stuttering and any delay in the action, G-sync compatibility from NVIDIA synchronises the graphics processing unit (GPU) and panel, offering players exceptionally dynamic and seamless gameplay during any scene in full HD resolution.