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Oculus Rift - is VR gaming finally coming of age?


August 3, 2012

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that promises to bring VR gaming into the modern age with full stereoscopic 3D and accurate head tracking

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that promises to bring VR gaming into the modern age with full stereoscopic 3D and accurate head tracking

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If you've ever been to a theme park or arcade that offered any virtual reality games, you probably noticed that they were mostly terrible. A lot of the VR headsets give the effect of having a small TV inches from your face along with glitchy, headache-inducing graphics that would have looked out of date a decade ago. It doesn't make for an immersive experience, especially when compared to the near-photorealistic graphics you can get from today's consoles and PCs. The only quality VR setups out there are usually reserved for military or scientific simulations and carry price tags starting at about $100,000 - not exactly the sort of thing you'd get for your living room. A company called Oculus is hoping to change all that with the Rift, a VR headset built with the latest technology and designed for consumers.

The Rift straps onto a person's face like a pair of goggles and immerses them with a stereoscopic 3D display. The display allows for a field of view of 110 degrees diagonally, compared to most VR displays that only reach up to about 40 degrees. This makes all the difference between seeing a game played on a screen in front of you and having it surrounding your vision almost entirely. The current developer kit has a resolution of 720p (1280x800), but will be improved for the consumer version.

Most VR headsets are plagued by latency issues as well, causing a noticeable delay between when a person moves their head and when the screen adjusts follow along. Oculus has tackled that problem by adding real-time head tracking, so the on-screen action properly matches the player's head movement. Users report using the Rift actually feels more accurate than a mouse, since you simply look at a target to aim as naturally as you would look at anything in the real world. For now, the Rift is only compatible with PCs, but the company has plans to adapt the device to work with consoles and even mobile platforms.

What also makes the Oculus Rift stand out from other projects is the collection of high-profile developers who have voiced their support for the device. The video for a new Kickstarter campaign boasts names like Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games talking about integrating the Unreal Engine, Gabe Newell of Valve personally asking people to support the Kickstarter, and John Carmack (creator of Doom) describing it as "the best VR demo probably the world has ever seen." Those who follow the gaming industry will recognize these as a handful of the biggest icons making video games today. Carmack has even gone so far as to ensure that a version of Doom 3 will be the first playable game on the Oculus Rift.

For the most part, the Oculus Rift has been completed already, though a more consumer-ready design is in the works. Oculus recently launched a Kickstarter mainly to help distribute development kits to game developers as soon as possible. At the time of this writing, the Oculus Rift has already raised over $1 million in funding, after surpassing its initial goal of $250,000 in just one day. Backers can receive rewards like posters and t-shirts for smaller pledges and early developer kits with copies of Doom 3 BFG for larger pledges.

Check out the video below for more on the Oculus Rift, plus endorsements from quite a few big names in the industry.

Source: Oculus via Kickstarter

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

As an owner of numerous of these things, including one of those $100k mil versions, I can say with almost certainty that this will follow in their footsteps, and the rhetoric will forever remain unfulfilled promises, like all the rest. Devices need compatibility and software. To-Date, nobody has figured that out!

but the company has plans to adapt the device...

developers who have voiced their support...

Epic Games talking about integrating ...

but will be improved for the consumer version...

a more consumer-ready design is in the works...

only compatible with PCs...


They look like Eric Howlett's LEEP optics system. I visited LEEP in Massachusetts years ago and I recognize the optical hardware. The only limitations of the LEEP system was weight, bulk, LCD display resolution, processor speed, and tracking. That's actually a long list. However, most of those items have been overcome by Moore's Law, and lighter materials may have solved some of the weight issues.

If these guys can put Eric's vision (sorry) in a lightweight, affordable package, my hat's off to them.

Ian Bruce

@christopher: This model is a developer kit. meaning that they fully understand that hardware needs software to support it. They've said time and again that they wont release a consumer model until well after the developers have had a chance to experiment with it to produce some really awesome content for it. so by the time any regular joe can get their hands on it, there will be plenty of software to support it.

Chris Legasse
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