Ooooog. I’ve been noodling around with this thing for about an hour. I think I’m at a good stopping point because I’m a little motion sick. It’s weird because I think I’m only getting motion sick when I take OFF the goggles. Maybe I just can’t adapt to real-life anymore.
So, for those that know what the Rift is…awesome. But those that don’t – it seems like it may be the first legit, consumer-grade (read: affordable) VR headset.
The Oculus Rift is the very first thing I’ve ever backed on Kickstarter (my wife has since backed the Veronica Mars movie). But the experience was harrowing. I mean – you’re waiting for this thing for almost a year after dropping $300. At the time, I thought $300 was a pittance to pay for something so potentially cool.
Then the delays started happening. Oculus was supposed to have this thing out in my hands for December. I just got it now in April. It was supposed have Doom 3 support when I got it – it doesn’t, ID Software backed out I guess. Bad news? No, actually….just no. Oculus, the company behind this, with these setbacks COULD have been so shady about all of this, but instead they’ve been an extreme class act every step of the way.
Something this cool was bound to have setbacks, and yah…Kickstarter…I’m probably lucky I got anything for my $300. Oculus has been very communicative every step of the way since August. They’ve done interviews, showed their tech off at game conventions, everything. They kept me drooling and happy to wait with them through the problems.
No Doom 3 support? Man that sucks. But, the second this was announced, Oculus stepped up and offered a complete refund, a Steam Store credit, or an Oculus store credit for $25. Way to go, guys – even after Team Fortress 2 support was announced in lieu of Doom. Yah, there were setbacks, but they handled it like champs.
Imagine my….OK…non-surprise (since I had the shipping notification this week) when I got home and my Oculus was there waiting for me. Given the trivial amount (yes I think $300 is trivial for a VR headset) you’d expect them to do a shoddy job packaging it. Nope. I have a hard case with foam cutout inside that molds itself to all my pieces. What the hell guys….this is more pro than real store-bought finished products. I was even more impressed that it came with DVI and HDMI cords to connect my machine to the breakout box. They could have made me go to the store to buy these, but nope – comes with.
Whatever though….what’s the experience like?
It’s incredibly fascinating. The best demo so far that I’ve seen after playing around for an hour, is the “Tuscany” demo. This seems to be their showcase piece for now. Basically, they’ve created a Unity demo with a quiet little cottage in Tuscany. You start out in the cottage in front of a roaring fire. Putting on your goggles for the first time is a very wowing experience. It’s so unusual, but your brain adapts pretty quickly – so quickly in fact that when I looked down and put out my hands, it was very disorienting to not see my body when I KNEW it was there.
You look around and you feel like you’re there. The roaring fire is a nice touch. It was a little awkward fumbling around to feel where my laptop keyboard and trackpad were, but I eventually found the keyboard controls and walked outside (no bounce to my step….that woulda been way cool).
After wandering outside, I immediately stepped towards the ocean and had a sensation that I didn’t want to get too close or I’d fall down the cliff. After getting over this, I looked around – dandelion particles were drifting through the air…a VERY nice touch.
The extreme novelty wore off after a bit of wandering around, which was then around the point where I started to scrutinize things. Walking up to things and looking close of course revealed the flat/3D polygonal look of the trees and other objects that from far away look awesome. You can’t NOT expect this really – I mean, realtime 3D environments are what they are, but it was interesting to experience this!
Then if you shift your focus, you can make out the individual pixels on the screen – as if you were inches away from a TV. You can easily choose to forget this and enjoy the experience, but it detracts…just a little bit. Now that I think of it, one of the little demos that I downloaded from their forums by a fellow developer was mostly over a black sky, and generally dark, which removed the razor thin black border that goes along with these pixels.
The biggest detractor was the head movement. The best I can describe it when you move your head fast is choppy. It felt a little like the headset was polling your head’s movement at a lesser interval than needed to stay smooth – and the view in front of you chopped along. My wife actually made the stellar point that using the mouse to move didn’t produce this – so my theory of refresh rate was shot down. Also if you take off the headset and move it with your hands while you watch your 2D computer display, it’s not noticeable on there. There must be some weird headset/display refresh rate combo effect going on. Also, slower head movements didn’t do this for me. Another demo seemed worse and another better – so I think this, my biggest issue so far, may just be a software improvement – and this is A-OK with me!
Anyway – I dreamt that this thing would be perfect. It’s not, but it’s more amazing than the cynic in me expected. There will be improvements as we go along – Oculus NEVER said these dev kits would be consumer grade yet. I’m looking forward to playing more and definitely checking out Team Fortress 2 this weekend!