During my misspent youth, we used to hang out at an Internet cafe that had a virtual reality headset. The headset was hooked up to a system running Quake, and to be honest, the experience was pretty lousy. The latency was high and the graphics sucked. Lawnmower Man it wasn't. I always figured that VR gear would become mainstream over time, though.
Some fifteen years later, my main PC is still without a virtuality reality headset, but John Carmack has one in his "mad scientist lair." The id Software programming guru has been working with an open-source VR system dubbed Occulus Rift. Support for head-mounted displays like the Rift has been incorporated into the new Doom 3 BFG Edition, and The Verge got to check out the experience in person.
The verdict? Immersive, but a little low-res. The Rift uses a single 1280x800 display that contains two 640x800 images—one for each eye. That's not a lot of pixels, especially for a head-mounted system that puts the screen so close to one's eyeballs. That said, the Rift's 90° viewing angle is wider than is typical for head-mounted displays. The Verge didn't encounter any frame rate or latency problems, either. Carmack has reportedly developed algorithms to help with the latency issue in particular.
The Oculus Rift is headed to Kickstarter and could become a DIY kit that costs around $500. I've gotta say, I'm intrigued. If resolution is the biggest barrier left to be conquered, virtual reality headsets could soon become compelling options for PC gamers.