The Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality has always intrigued me since I was young enough to imagine the possibilities. Popular movies such as the Matrix, Gamer, Total Recall, Virtuosity, and Tron play on these Hollywood themes.
Imagine being able to immerse yourself in radically different destinations at the touch of a button from the comfort of your own living room. Tailor made experiences for each end user as they sync to a global server. Whether it be vacationing with friends in a simulated, detail-rich tourist trap, battling alongside them in a fantasy world such as the popular MMO World of Warcraft from the perspective of your own eyes, or exploring the vastness of outer-space in a spaceship you outfitted in an interface, the possibilities are endless.
Virtual Reality has been a dream for many, and it already does exist in high-end headsets with a scant selection of software costing thousands of dollars for extreme enthusiasts or military personnel. The trick has been to get a great VR experience at a low price point for the mass market. Once you can get a new product into people's hands, you create a new industry to develop for - a VR entertainment experience.
Apple and Google have capitalized on bringing hardware to the mass market as well as developing for it; making exorbitant cash on apps for the IOS and Android market places. The Gaming Industry currently stands around $80 billion according to report from technology advisory firm Gartner Inc. If we can achieve a mass consumer product for Virtual Reality, there will be billions to be made in this truly next-gen future. Which means thousands of developers making content to support our dream of VR entertainment.
That future is nearly here.
The 1080p HD Oculus Rift.
Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, has that passion to bring Virtual Reality to the mass market. For funding he started a campaign with kickstarter raising $2.4 million.
At E3 2012 it was shown to the world, winning best hardware of the show. It was endorsed by developers such as Gabe Newell, John Carmack, Dean Hall, as well as the president of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida. After speaking at E3, $1 million was raised in less than 36 hours.
The Oculus Rift is a low latency, high field of view head mounted display. Developer kits were sold at $300 each, the goal is to keep the price low to keep it mass market.
The product was extremely well received. You can view some hands-on reactions of dev kit users in the following video.
Oculus Rift - Reaction Compilation
The downsides of the product seem to be motion-related nausea from turning your head too quickly, some fuzziness of objects at a distance, and the low res screens. Since you were so close to the screen you could actually see the pixels leading to a bit of a screen door effect (imagine pressing your nose up to a screen and looking through)
E3 2013 pushing the Rift forward.
At E3 2013, the Oculus Rift was back with something new to show. The dev team sported a new HD consumer version with less latency issues when turning your head quickly. The upgraded Rift reduced the screen door effect dramatically with better pixel fill. The new lcd screens now wield 24 bit color depth and a larger range of bright levels.
Furthermore, the Rift team showed tech demos using the unreal 4 engine. With 110 degree (diagonally) depth of field, monsters look very imposing as they tower over your player-camera view. The Rift uses a combination of 3-axis gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers allowing for its accurate head tracking.
Team Fortress 2 was the first game to be supported. Hawken soon after. Valve's Half-Life 2 has been Oculus Riftized as well. With Epic's support using the unreal 4 engine we will start seeing a lot more software coming. The real excitement is what will be developed with VR in mind from the ground up?
After E3, the Oculus team managed to obtain $16 million from investors specifically aimed to bring the Rift into peoples hands.
I expect by about 2015 we might see a consumer version finally bringing the VR vision to life.
The Oculus Rift is currently only in development for the PC. To catch your PC up on other quality peripherals you can always visit Amazon's PC Peripheral page for highly reviewed and recommended products.
VR blows games out of the water in a whole new way. What would be your favorite game in a Virtual Reality universe? Let me know in the comments below.