CES 2013: Oculus Rift

by: John -
More On: Oculus Rift CES 2013
Oculus Rift was a pretty big story at last year's E3, but I didn't get a chance to experience it up close until today. I went in a little skeptical, but man did the tech impress the hell out of me.
What was shown to me was another iteration of the dev kit, which they are trying to finalize in the design. It strapped on and while there's a large box like structure on front, it felt really comfortable to wear. The demos were shown on both the Unity Engine and the Unreal engine, giving me two different experiences.
Now, what I had on is still not going to be near the final product the developers get. The screens were lower quality, experiencing blurring when turning and looking around as well as noticeable pixels. But, let me say this didn't discourage how I felt when I was trying them out.  What was surprising was how comfortable and unnoticeable it is, even for a beta product. And it's only going to get better with the consumer product. Let's face it. If it's not comfortable, no one's going to wear it. It's almost there with what they have now.
The 3D immersion was truly impressive. There is one screen split between and sent to each eye, no active shuttering, no polarization. You're getting full horizontal resolution, full 60FPS per eye. The Unity Engine demo featured a snow fall in a medieval setting complete with walking knights. When looking straight up, you can almost feel the flakes falling on you. Looking straight down, you can see the floor of the environment. Something that really impressed me was turning completely around, you actually saw the environment behind you. You get complete freedom on where to look and you're never out of the environment no matter where you are turning.
While the head tracking was using components that aren't even the better ones that are going to be in the final product, it was still damn impressive. There was a slight, and I do mean slight, perceivable lag that will be improved on the final product. It was so much fun just looking around and viewing things such as the the structures of the buildings just by turning my head. I really can't wait to see what can be accomplished with the final components.
With the Unreal demo, I walked up to a video camera in the environment and the 3D was so effective, it felt like I could reach out and grab it. The 3D wasn't tiring my eyes and there was no crosstalk like you would have in other types of 3D systems. It really did seem natural and something that could enhance some games out there.
During the time I spent with the Oculus Rift on, my mind raced to all the applications it would be great for. Not just games, but other real world applications such as virtual tours and automobile simulators. But as a gamer, I want one for flight sims, third person RPGs, and racing games. I think quick FPS games would be a little disorienting and you need to turn a lot sometimes. It might not be practical to turn your head 180 degrees to try and shoot something behind you while running forward, but who knows. I think there's plenty of applications available that can benefit from a lightweight high quality VR headset.
I was also impressed with Palmer Luckey, who's the brains behind all this. He saw something he thought could be done and improved upon and really delivered on some high expectations. The guy has passion, owning over 40 different wearable screens. He has a passion for this and it shows with what he's done to try and get this product to the market. Right now they are just focusing on the PC side of things, but hopes to work towards the console arena with the product sometime in the future.
I was a skeptic, but now I am believer. It depends on the content, but Oculus Rift's technology really does work extremely well. It's the best one I've experienced so far and one that's got me excited about the technology. I really hope Oculus Rift succeeds as I'd love to get a consumer version in my hands I want it now, that's how much I enjoyed it. Let's hope we see some great stuff after the developer kits are pushed out in March.

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