Oculus Rift, the revolutionary virtual reality headgear currently in development, is making waves with the latest version at CES 2013. This single piece of gamer hardware is going to revolutionze the gaming industry like nothing else. We’re going to have virtual worlds to explore not unlike the Matrix, the Grid (Tron), and even OASIS (Ready Player One).
Don’t take my word for it… here’s the industry buzz:
The first time we moved was rather perplexing and disorienting. It’s almost like walking for the very first time.
However, the visuals seem extremely fluid and natural. And in less than a minute, we felt that Oculus Rift really could be the new face of playing games.
Unfortunately, not long after that TechRadar’s motion-sickness susceptible reviewer began to feel something else. He was only able to tolerate ten minutes before nausea spoiled the party.
The Oculus goggles are packed with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and even a digital compass to track the position of your head and sync the game’s visuals to the direction you are looking. That’s been the goal of VR since its first boom in the 1990s, but until recently sensors have made the experience a jerky, glitchy affair. The Oculus goggles sample positioning data at 1000 Hz, [Joseph] Chen says–most current cellphone sensors run at a fraction of that speed. Most of the movements of the head map to familiar gaming controls–look left, right, up, and down. But some don’t: The goggles allow you to tilt your head to one side or the other, a feature for which the team had to develop a new code, Chen said.
At first while wearing the Oculus I assumed there are two screens, one for each eye. But that’s not the case: Inside the device is a single 5.6-inch monitor viewed through large lenses, one for each eye. Chen shows me on a larger monitor what is being displayed on the screen inside the device. It’s then that I understand what makes the system work so well. The image from the game is predistorted into two side-by-side stereoscopic frames, and the large lenses grant you a wide field of vision. There’s no sense of warped perspective at the edges because the image on the screen corrects for the lenses’ distortion.
Perception is basically a new stereo 3D driver with 3DOF head-tracking. Although only a handful of titles are supported at the moment, the experience you get with the driver is something that is not possible with current 3rd party options. In particular, it will pre-warp the image to match the Oculus Rift optics, handle custom aspect-ratios (needed for the Rift’s strange 8:10 screen), and utilize full 3DOF head-tracking.
Nine titles are currently supported to some degree: Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2, Portal 2, Skyrim, Mirror’s Edge, AaaaAAaaAAA!!!, Unreal Tournament 3, Dear Esther, and DiRT 2. The project is open source and free, so all Rift owners will have immediate access to the Perception.
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…
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…
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.
The new predictive motion software in the Rift eliminated this entirely, making it easy for users to move around and allows the game to offer a more accurate representation of physics. It’s a relatively small change, but the difference that it made can’t be overstated…
Oculus has implemented their own Unity support. The demonstrations of the Unity engine are stunning as long as the computer you are using is able to maintain 60 fps. In one of the demonstrations the computer stuttered in a crowded area, and the frame drop is an incredibly jarring experience because it feels like your whole world is dropping those frames.