Oculus Rift

Aug. 03, 2012
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There's a new device being kickstartered by Oculus VR and it's called Oculus Rift. It is virtual reality headset done right. I am really interested in this project, and I decided to back it with $300 and have a shot at getting a dev kit for it. Read on for why I find it so exciting.

Since I've been exposed to computer games and have tried some virtual reality headsets when I was a kid, I always wanted to get a good VR headset. But the technology never appeared until now. Watch the video of their kickstarter campaign.

Contents

What does Oculus Rift right?

The issues with many headsets prevent them from being usable for immersive experiences.

Field of view

The Oculus rift will have a 110 degrees horizontal and 90 degrees vertical field of view. This is much better than any other VR headset on the market.

A small field of vision is not very immersive, and it induces nausea faster than a large field of vision.

Ergonomics

Due to advances in small scale displays (see for instance Apples retina display) it is now possible to make headsets much smaller and achieve much larger field of vision. Because the displays deliver higher resolution at smaller size and lighter weight.

Head tracking latency, precision and reliability

It has not yet been disclosed how they do head tracking. Slow head tracking is one of the major factors in inducing nausea. John Carmack seemed to be pretty convinced of the tracking, so I think it's safe to assume they're doing it right.

Pricing

The Oculus Rift dev kit costs me $300 and it's fair to assume that the consumer version of the product will be quite affordable.

There are of course other high quality headsets, like the NVIS nVisor SX60 that deliver comparable field of vision and resolution.

That'll be $14,950 please.

Application integration

You have a VR headset, now what? You need applications that produce appropriate stereo rendered output and you need those applications to integrate with the head tracking. How does Oculus VR solve this problem?

  • Endorsed by John Carmack (Id Software), Cliff Bleszinski (Epic Games, Unreal Engine), David Helgason (Unity), Gabe Newell and Michael Abrash (Valve)
  • Bundling the Dev Kit with DOOM3 ready to use it.
  • Making the Dev Kit available to early adopter developers via their kickstarter campaign.
  • Supporting it cross platform (OSX, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS)

Exciting possibilities

There are a number of very exciting areas where such a headset can be used. Let's start with the ones that are most exciting to me.

Games

Obviously, but especially vehicular games (flying/driving) and FPS games will be an entirely new and immersive experience.

WebGL + Oculus Rift

Need I say more? Let's do this!

Window Manager/Shell integration

Ever watched movies like Iron Man 2 and its 3D UI?

Imagine combining the Oculus Rift with the Leap Motion controller...

Of all the major OSes Linux is the only one that could do this. Apple and Microsoft just won't be able to rip out their WM/Shells quickly and put in something new. But Linux can. Changing the WM/Shell of Linux has always been in the DNA of Linux desktops. Plus, Valve is now a big supporter of Linux, let's get this done!

Ultimate Game Changer

We have mobile computing, touchscreens and gesture sensing devices. Good consumer level head mounted displays is the only device currently not served by anyone. This is the ultimate game changer. It's one of the last unclaimed markets in computing. Whoever can capture this will change the landscape of computing forever. It'll be like going from command line interfaces to GUIs.

Can they do it?

It looks very promising. A lot of game industry legends are endorsing and working with Oculus VR and anybody who tried the device is raving mad about it. Their kickstarter campaign blew past their funding goal in hours and and has reached more than 4x funded in merely 2 days. They have another 28 days to go.

Should you back it? Yes!

Head over to their Kickstarter page and show them some love. You can give them as little as $10 or starting from $300 get a shot at getting a dev kit headset. There's no guarantees, but I did back them and I consider it a risk worth taking.