Oculus Rift is freaking amazing

Like many of you, I had heard the hype about the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, the big names who are backing the device, and the successful Kickstarter that funded its further development. Having seen how awful other attempts at VR have been over the years, I was both skeptical and excited to give it a try myself. When I found out the Oculus guys would be exhibiting at a pre-CES press event that I attend each year, I made a mental note to go talk with them and see if I could try the headset for myself.

Turns out that was more difficult that you might think, because they were swamped by whole teams of press bearing microphones and giant cameras for most of the evening. I kept coming back, though, and eventually, as the event was ending, I found a quick opening and was able to slip on the Rift VR headset myself.

As a veteran of other 3D and virtual reality display schemes, I was in for several surprises.

The first one was simply the fact that I could wear the headset comfortably over my glasses. The big, foam-and-rubber ring around the Rift encompassed my prescription frame and sealed up fine without pushing it into my face. That was something new.

My surprise over that fact was soon swept away by what my eyes took in as soon as the headset was secured. Immediately, I was plunged into an immersive environment with a true and robust sense of depth, with none of the flickering or momentary disorientation and focus problems associated with most stereoscopic 3D schemes. The depth was there immediately, and I soaked in the tangible sense of reality as the Oculus guys explained that they had built in much more separation than most stereo display systems. The result is that objects in the virtual world—in this case, an Unreal engine-based demo called "Epic Citadel"—look like real, three-dimensional objects, not just a cardboard-cutout knight standing in front of a cardboard-cutout flag, as in most stereo display schemes. Having a truly separate image for each eye allows for more depth, which works wonders.

Depth is only part of the experience, though. Much of the magic came from the fact that the headset was tracking even the subtlest movements of my enormous noggin and adjusting the field of view to compensate. You can look side to side, look up, look down, even bend backwards and sideways to look at the sky over your shoulder, and you’ll see the proper portion of the game world in front of you. If you’ve tried VR headsets that attempt this feat in the past, you’d rightly be skeptical about this aspect of the experience. The thing is, the Rift tracks your movements so quickly and fluidly that it actually works, like gangbusters, tricking your brain into accepting its alternate reality.

The combination of depth and fluid head tracking is a potent cocktail, one that gave me a bit of a buzz and a sense of elation, either over the possibilities of such technology or because my visual subsystem was being fooled into releasing crazy endorphins. Maybe both. The Oculus dudes shoved a gamepad into my hands and encouraged me to "walk" around in the game world, taking in the sights. Immediately, I decided that the texture-mapped stone walls in the environment needed some help via POM or tessellation—they looked too flat as they were. I made my way into the demo’s gothic-style cathedral and found myself transfixed by the stone columns and arches reflected in its marble floor; the mix of depth and not-depth was entirely correct and truly stunning.

Even with the show floor buzzing around me, I was immersed. Heck, I was only vaguely distracted by one of the Oculus guys telling another a charming story about John Carmack’s hilariously earnest humility in requesting a new strap when the one on his headset broke.

I wandered around the game world further, for maybe five minutes or so, becoming increasingly aware that I was probably taking time away from others who were waiting in line behind me. As I finally, reluctantly slipped off the goggles, the sense of elation peaked, capped by a realization that I blurted out to the Oculus guys: "I could keep doing this for… hours." Not only does the Rift provide a sense of reality unlike anything else, but it’s so comfortable and convincing that I wanted to remain in the virtual space and had no sense of fatigue from having been there.

For me, this was the highlight of CES—of perhaps the last several years’ worth of CES attendance, one of those moments when you see something truly new and astonishing and cool. Of course, I’m happy to see that the Oculus guys have the open ecosystem of PC gaming supporting them in various ways, from the endorsements by big-name developers to the giant Nvidia logo in their display booth to the scores of Kickstarter supporters.

The Rift is still a work in progress. Although I’ve heard the claim that the "effective resolution" of the display is extremely high since you can move your head anywhere and see a "portion" of the total "image" being shown, the reality is that the headset would benefit from higher pixel density and perhaps better color reproduction, too. I’ve heard that the Rift makes some folks feel sick, still, and needs even quicker responses to overcome that drawback. And the headsets up for pre-order on the Oculus website are simply part of a developer kit. There’s very little content geared for the Rift at present, and those first headsets will hopefully help developers begin to rectify that situation. The consumer products will have to come later.

Still, if you have a chance to try a Rift headset for yourself, do not pass it up. When you peer into it, you’ll be seeing the future, and you’ll come away convinced that it looks pretty darned astounding.

Comments closed
    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    When many games support CF or SLI poorly, support Eyefinity or equivalent even more poorly, support 3d stereoscopic poorly or not at all, target low-end console resolutions with poor textures, and physics poorly, I think this won’t get as much support as it needs. Not without a revolution in console gaming to go with it in the short term.

    In about five years, though, when ALL consoles are seen for the dinosaurs they are, then perhaps. Right now? Short of the consoles supporting it, it seems unlikely to make much of a dent. It’ll have a few, great implementations, but Carmack just doesn’t have the street cred he once did in terms of pushing hardware. And for all the love from other guys, I see little real, genuine support actually guaranteed.

    This smells like another Six-ense or Orb or hell, Sidewinder Force Feedback to me. A great idea hamstrung by lack of support leading to a spiraling death of no content means no reason to buy means waiting on content means no one buys means no content. That said, I’m relatively certain this is the one of these fringe tech projects I’ll try even with limited support just so long as the final product both ups the refresh rate, improves the resolution, keeps it light, AND most importantly keeps the price much lower than prices for products like this have ever been.

    Price this thing down in the range of a decent monitor and I daresay a lot of us might prefer this to something incredibly fringe like Eyefinity.

      • bandannaman
      • 7 years ago

      I dunno. Things that are truly revolutionary have a way of drawing things to themselves instead of withering away. Consider the first (consumer) 3D graphics cards in the 90’s — there was almost zero support for them out of the box, but one killer app (was it Quake?) and look where we are today.

      Example: I was just sitting here on my laptop thinking how cramped the display feels compared to my three monitors I have on my workstation — and wouldn’t it be sweet if I could have three such displays in a virtual environment provided by my VR headset, just turning my head to look at them like to do in the physical world? And why stop at three? And why even deal with “monitors” at all in such a space — why not just have a floating “screen/window” for each app and turn my head between them, maybe rearranging them as my work changes focus so I’m not hurting my neck?

      Obviously, the display resolution required for such a thing would be Serious Business(tm) indeed, since you’d need enough horsepower to display a rendering of a full-sized display within a subset of a 3D environment, with enough resolution that everything, including smaller text, would be legible/usable.

      Anyway, I’m stoked about the possibilities. I agree with Scott, and John Carmack, that this isn’t quite the same thing that has come before.

    • ET3D
    • 7 years ago

    I only pledged a token pledge to the Kickstarter because I’m not interested in the dev kit, but this sounds like it could be a great product when released, so I’ll be looking forward to it. (Not that it will do much for my favourite genres, but maybe some MMORPG’s will implement it one day.)

      • pessimistic observer
      • 6 years ago

      For some reason a book called ready player one comes to mind
      heres hoping what you hope for doesn’t turn out to be as bleak.

    • christianlez001a
    • 7 years ago
    • lilbuddhaman
    • 7 years ago

    So i was watching a CES video on this, and one of the key points was:

    [quote<]The game HAS to be running at 60fps stereo w/ vsync. Once you lose that, the whole image (and the effect) falls apart.[/quote<] With that in mind, how many of us here are able to run their game of choice at 60fps solid? Will writing a layer to drop onto older games be possible? Could a joe-user mod one in, or is it in-house-dev stuff? Is there any other hidden overhead? They claim they add nothing to frametimes, so it should be almost zero? What will be the first graphical settings you drop? Because of this VR effect, would a lower resolution-VR (720p?) still look amazing due to all the depth information you're "seeing"? Will it make graphical issues more apparent once the novelty wears off?

      • jessterman21
      • 7 years ago

      Totally agree that 60fps Vsync is needed for this to be a perfect implementation. But it only takes a $300 video card to run all games on High + FXAA @1080p to clear that hurdle. The Rift is expected to release at that resolution, at a price point of about $400-500. That’s a luxury for the mainstream gamer, but not for folks with SLI and XfireX setups – who should be able to run any game on Ultra + MSAA @60fps Vsync with the Rift.

        • lilbuddhaman
        • 7 years ago

        There are few games that I currently play that are rock solid 60fps at all times @ 1080p, even just on “High” settings. You have to remember that even an occasional blip down with create an exponentially more jarring experience than the screen tearing + stutter you see on a standard monitor.

        This could / would lead to not only the effect disappearing, but also nausea inducing oddities.

          • Namarrgon
          • 6 years ago

          For now, the Rift only requires 1280×800 @ 60fps, which should be easier to achieve.

    • Old Man
    • 7 years ago

    Look – I’m all for nice 3D gaming, but I am more interested in whether this tech is compatible with my OpenGL or Direct3D CAD software?

    Because I need 3D for CAD. I spend a lot of time twisting and turning 3D layouts of various machinery and factories – with cabling, piping, rods and chains and levers and belts all in a big fat mess – just to be able to see what lies in front of what.

    Or is it restricted to a handful of games written specifically for this?

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t see why you couldn’t. If there is a barrier to manipulating data, rendering the data into something that this can see should be easy enough. Computer artists use similar tools as engineers. It’s just that things like AutoCAD and UG/NX have different tools so that you measure, manufacture, and assemble things.

    • mcnabney
    • 7 years ago

    Scott – I appreciate the review, especially the comments about fitting over eyeglasses. I was hoping you had some insight on how focus distance works on these. I’m over 40 now and in order to focus clearly on objects closer than 5″ to my eyes I have to take my glasses off. Where does the focus plane lie on these VR spectacles? They allow the use of eyeglasses, but are they necessary due to the display being a couple inches from the eye?

    • puppetworx
    • 7 years ago

    I’m equally excited and scared about this device.

    • Joerdgs
    • 7 years ago

    There’s already a driver out that apparently adds Rift support to games like Mirror’s Edge, Skyrim and several Valve titles: [url<]http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/01/11/mirrors-edge-skyrim-more-to-get-oculus-rift-support/[/url<]

      • Nike
      • 7 years ago

      Portal 2 would probably be mad with the rift. I just hope I’ll be able to play it without hurling my lunch.

        • Joerdgs
        • 7 years ago

        At least Portal 2 has a stable view. In Mirror’s Edge it’s constantly swaying while moving around, so I suspect that’ll be the ultimate test of stomach stability while immersed in VR.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    It’s not frickin’ amazing until Krogoth says it is.

    • kathyx039x
    • 7 years ago
      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      Get out of town.

    • yammerpickle2
    • 7 years ago

    I signed up for this KS as soon as possible as well. I really think they have a good shot at making it work. I just hope they come out with two versions. A low cost version that is with in most gamers budgets so the tech can catch on mainstream. But I am willing to pay for a high cost, higher resolution and higher refresh rate version. I already have a nice savings plan for a high end version and the vid cards that would be required to drive it at 120 FPS.

      • Joerdgs
      • 7 years ago

      The tech depends a lot on the mobile market at the moment. I suspect they can’t affordably produce 120hz screens until the mobile tech reaches that level, unless the demand for VR becomes big enough that it advances the tech by itself.

    • tootercomputer
    • 7 years ago

    “I once consulted a specialist holistic optometrist who also works with children with attention deficits and motor control issues, and he mentioned that one of the things that children need in order to develop their brains properly and integrate their involuntary reflexes, is to actually move their eyes around when e.g. tracking the curve of a thrown ball or simply following movement across their field of view.”

    As far as ADHD is concerned, this is unmitigated BS. “Holistic optometrists” know nothings about treating ADHD. It is not part of their training. In fact, I don’t even know what the hell a “holistic optometrist” is. In any case, ADHD (attention derficit-hyperactivity disorder) is a neurological/neurodevelopmental disorder that is treated medically and behaviorally per evidence-based guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    [url<]http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/1007.full.pdf+html[/url<]

      • ET3D
      • 7 years ago

      [i<]"Holistic optometrists" know nothings about treating ADHD. It is not part of their training. In fact, I don't even know what the hell a "holistic optometrist" is.[/i<] Logic is not your strong suit, is it?

        • tootercomputer
        • 7 years ago

        Optometrists, holistic or otherwise, are not trained to treat ADHD. My logic is fine. But you’re right, I could have been more specific.

    • ermo
    • 7 years ago

    I once consulted a specialist holistic optometrist who also works with children with attention deficits and motor control issues, and he mentioned that one of the things that children need in order to develop their brains properly and integrate their involuntary reflexes, is to actually move their eyes around when e.g. tracking the curve of a thrown ball or simply following movement across their field of view.

    In contrast, video games these days have you staring statically at a fixed monitor for long periods of time, which is apparently actually detrimental to the developing brain.

    So, Scott, when you wore the Rift headset, did you happen to notice whether there was any sort of peripheral vision? How much could you move your eyeballs around without getting out of the picture frame?

    P.S. I’m really not interested in getting into a long and pointless geek argument about whether video games are harmful and whether the optometrist was right or whether I am misquoting him. This post is primarily about the Rift headset and what it can do.

      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      “How much could you move your eyeballs around without getting out of the picture frame?”

      You can move your eyeballs around completely and not get out of the picture frame. If you look to the right as far as you can you will see a very small black space but still the majority of the frame is the screen. As hard as I tried you can’t see anything on the top and the bottom and you really have to look hard to notice the left and the right.

      As for peripheral vision you have complete peripheral vision. It is very engaging and scary when things come from the sides.

        • willmore
        • 7 years ago

        With 180 degrees horizontally, you do not have complete peripherial vision unless you are on the edge of having a vision impairment.

        • ermo
        • 7 years ago

        Cool, thanks for sharing.

    • Captain Ned
    • 7 years ago

    Scott:

    This headset and JBI’s homebrew would not be a good combination for gastric comfort. Just sayin’

    • blitzy
    • 7 years ago
      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      You don’t say.

    • thesmileman
    • 7 years ago

    I supported this on KS as soon as it was on there.

    I saw it at Quakecon shortly thereafter and it is very very good. I have seen some better ones in the military space but they are different technology and over 100x more expensive. The only thing missing is positional tracking and I talked with Palmer a few times and he said he wasn’t sure at the time if they would be able to add it but now they have confirmed that they are going to on the consumer version. With that it will move from great to amazing and keep so many people from getting sick. The lack of positional movement recognition is the main reason why people get sick when they play so this is definitely going to help. You might not think that you need this but you will be surprised once you starting using VR what you will do in games changes. Things like you will lean in to get a closer look at something and and currently that does nothing to the Rift.

    It is very very good technology and to people concerned with the low resolution it is certainly noticeable but the thing about VR is that when everything else is working so well your brain will just go with it after only a few seconds. I don’t fully understand why this is but I have seen it on other headsets as well. Maybe it has to do with the fact that your head is always moving some so you will always have new pixels moving around and it is makes it harder to realize the resolution is low. Plus they are doubling the resolution for consumer version so that should help with some who have this concern.

      • blitzy
      • 7 years ago

      yep, you get used to it and as technology improves the immersiveness is just going to get better. the main thing is to get the ball rolling so that the software will take advantage of it, and then it’s only a matter of time till some really awesome hardware will be available.

        • thesmileman
        • 7 years ago

        To be clear you stop noticing the resolution after a few seconds and then you literally forget the resolution limits after a few minutes on this current model. Not kind-of forget you really really do forget to even thing about it and I saw it on two different days for at least 15 minutes each time. I think until you get to the point where you are interested in something very small or far in the distance might you think “oh the resolution isn’t great”.

          • Nike
          • 7 years ago

          “I think until you get to the point where you are interested in something very small or far in the distance might you think “oh the resolution isn’t great”.”

          Could be a problem with some shooters like RO2:Heroes of Stalingrad where the enemy might be far away. Although, I guess the device might eventually start to use IGZO panels* to get to higher resolutions. It would require a monster rig to run in 3D though.

          *Like these: [url<]http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/1/3056490/sharp-caac-igzo-498-ppi-display-prototype[/url<]

            • willmore
            • 7 years ago

            You only really need the resolution in the fovial area of the eye–then again, the eye is still free to move, so we can’t take advantage of that. Darn. Maybe when these come in contact form.

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    As I read your description, all I could think of was the movie [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VardFGDZPu4<]Brainstorm[/url<] - worth watching just to see Natalie Wood (it was her last movie), but also a very young Christopher Walken. I wonder how well the slight input lag will affect more-motion-demanding games, like flight simulators? Still, I can hardly wait to try it out...

      • WormSlayer
      • 7 years ago

      Eliminating lag is one of their main design goals. They just started using a 1000hz tracker and motion prediction.

    • blitzy
    • 7 years ago

    I have been following this closely since the kickstarter, and I really hope that next gen consoles take advantage of this as well as PC.

    • ALiLPinkMonster
    • 7 years ago

    Combine this with some ideas from that [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8Bh5iI2WY<]BF3 simulator[/url<] and you've got one heck of a ride.

    • Jon
    • 7 years ago

    Really sounds amazing. The commercialization of VR will open doors to other tech that we can only imagine right now.

    • tootercomputer
    • 7 years ago

    This will really catch on when someone comes up with a porn version.

      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      Unfortunately this is probably very true.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Why’d he get marked down for this? I most definitely could see VR gear making it big in the porn industry. Although I don’t know why they wouldn’t make porn that is compatible with the Oculus. The porn industry is actually very adaptive when it comes to new technology and jumps on it right away to get ahead of the competition.

      This may turn out to be the biggest early adopter out of everyone.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        That would kind of taint the image of the product though…….making it very easy for outsiders to ridicule early adopters, which in term could hamper development for this device. I hope that will happen much later (as in uh oh porn penetration) after the product is well established for gaming or for other applications, like architecture or whatnot.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          Just like it caused people to ridicule computers? :l

            • Farting Bob
            • 7 years ago

            The internet never caught on with anybody who wasn’t a depraved sick pervert, neither did DVD’s or VHS. The porn industry killed off these inventions almost immediately!

          • brute
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]taint[/quote<] oh u

      • Joerdgs
      • 7 years ago

      Well then I’m glad to inform you… [url<]http://www.sinfulrobot.com/index.html[/url<]

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        Rule #34. Still unbroken.

        • redavni
        • 7 years ago

        I think we owe it to the TR staff to demand a review of this.

          • yogibbear
          • 7 years ago

          Certainly… now we just need to find someone in TR’s staff as publicly unashamed as Louie C.K. and they’ll probably do it.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            Why get someone [i<]like[/i<] Louie C.K.? Having the actual Louie C.K. would be AMAZING.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        They just need a pressure sensitive body suit now… Although I think you probably could make something like that with tiny air bladders… Perhaps even something with small electrical fields to simulate touch.

      • WormSlayer
      • 7 years ago

      Funny you should mention that…

      [url<]http://www.sinfulrobot.com/[/url<]

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Definitely sounds interesting… I’ll have to keep up with this. I was initially concerned about the low resolution display and responsiveness, which still seems to be there. These displays would have to be much, much faster then a traditional display as the amount of action on them has to be ridiculous if say, you were turning on direction, looking back a different one, then moving your head back or up at something else moving around.

    From a competitive standpoint, if the ‘effective resolution’ is really high that means your FoV is really low? Does it have a 90 degree FoV inside the goggles or is it much narrower? 70-90 being what most FPS’s use. If this has like a 30 degree FoV I could see it being next to worthless (although I’m sure that could be changed).

      • Greenman284
      • 7 years ago

      If you look on the wiki page, as of now they have it over 90 degrees FoV (180 degrees diagonally).

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        That’s good… if only for some specs on response/refresh times/input lag then.

        It displays a Hz number for the tracker itself, but not for the display tech.

        • willmore
        • 7 years ago

        Another fifty to nintey degrees and we’ll have effective peripherial vision! Sweet.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          I’m actually curious if they can accomplish that without making things seem fish-eyed. Usually when you start getting over 90, it starts warping things on a flat screen pretty hardcore.

            • willmore
            • 7 years ago

            Well, that’s because they don’t control the difference betweent the pupil and the screen. With these goggles, that’s a controlled variable, so that effect won’t happen–the screen maps 1:1 with what you should be perceiving in a ‘real’ world. That’s probably a good chunk of what makes it so realistic.

            I don’t know if you wear glasses, but if you do, do you get the one to three days of adjustment every time they change your script? I do. I have to wear a new pair for a few days before the walls start looking flat and lines start looking straight.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, I can see the warp around the edges if I look for it, I don’t have really flat lenses though. I don’t think FoV is dependent as much upon focus as it is dependent upon where you’re looking. The world isn’t flat and would be more like having a screen that would curve around your vision and the peripheral to match it. Like eyefinity setups.

      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      They originally stated 110 degree FOV horizontal and I think 90 or so vertical.

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    Sounds good to me, but they better make a white version to keep up with the Joneses.

    • Duck
    • 7 years ago

    The first step on the path to [url=http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Holo-addiction<]holo-addiction?[/url<]

    • kvndoom
    • 7 years ago

    Inching ever closer to “Demolition Man”-style pr0n. 😀

      • thesmileman
      • 7 years ago

      Hello patron. Whats your Bobble?

    • gmskking
    • 7 years ago

    Would love to try this. This is definitely the future. Goodbye, TV’s. Huh, they already seem ancient.

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