The Oculus Rift was one of the most successful Kickstarter projects of 2012. Oculus only needed $250,000 to start producing the Oculus Rift in bulk, but backers ended up pledging $2,437,429 because the tech seemed very promising, and it had the backing of industry legend John Carmack. The creator of the Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, went from building the prototype of the Oculus Rift out of spare parts (like a cell phone screen), to becoming the face of the next generation of virtual reality. The Oculus Rift team is in the process of sending out units to developers, but I was lucky enough to try a couple different models at CES 2013 on Monday.
If you haven’t heard of the Oculus Rift yet, here’s a quick overview of it. The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that you put over your eyes. The early versions of the device (like the one pictured above) wrap around your head and snaps in place. On the inside are optics that look like really thick glasses lens, but don’t bulge out. The headset is then connected to a small unit which connects to a PC. The USB and HDMI setup is easy enough for anyone to grasp.
I was very excited to put the Oculus Rift on my face and see for myself if it could live up to the hype it helped produce. When I saw those optics go over my eyes, I didn’t know what to expect. I was inserted into the world of Unreal Tournament. My entire vision was completely taken over by this game. If I turned my head to the left, it was as if I was looking to the left in the game. It’s not the same as moving the right analog stick to change your perception. If you look to the left right now, you can only go so far before your neck won’t move anymore. If you want to see more, you have to move your body. That’s what the Oculus Rift is like.
This device is unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. It produces visual trickery that your brain can’t quite understand similar to what happens when you watch 3D content. The difference is that you’re not a passive observer with the Oculus Rift. Without even realizing it, my neck was cranking in every direction because my vision was in the game. I’m sure I looked pretty silly to the Oculus team that was watching me because my head was facing in every direction except the one that was facing the computer screen. The Oculus Rift headset I tried intentionally had a slight delay in response time. The Oculus team did that on purpose so I could try out another model that didn’t have latency.
The second Oculus Rift I tried (not pictured) played a tech demo. There was no combat involved. I just controlled a flyby of the level. During the demo, I got really close to one of the cameras that was placed on the screen. The camera was so clear, I couldn’t help but to try to reach out and touch it. I also moved to the top of a ladder and looked straight down. The sense of height was really cool. I’d even say it sort of induced my fear of heights.
Even though I thought the Oculus Rift was amazing, it did make me feel a little queasy. Some visuals were also a little blurry. For some reason, the human brain just can’t handle things like this easily. I’d imagine we can build up a tolerance at some point, but it’ll take some time to acquire.
Keep your eyes (no pun intended) on the Oculus Rift. Within a year, this thing is going to be everywhere. Oculus is supporting both PCs and the Android platform. VR gaming on your tablet? Get ready folks.