Five Minutes With Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift DK2 headset, Oculus VR

Oculus Rift DK2 headset, Oculus VR

One of the software engineers that I work with recently bought an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 headset, and brought it to work.  He was kind enough to give me a few minutes with it, and run me through how the headset works.  Basically, you set a tracking camera on your monitor, load up the software, and you are ready-to-go.  Although my time with the Rift was short, it was very, very impressive.  The graphics are okay, somewhere between PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 level of quality.  Screen resolution is 1080P, but split over each eye (960×1080 per eye).  Tracking my head movements was not a problem, and the system was pretty responsive when I would quickly look left-to-right.  The demo I got to play with was an old Pirate Ship carnival ride, but Rift VR-style.

The sense-of-motion that comes over your body is simply incredible.  Just sitting in a regular office chair, with all the office-sounds still in my ears, I really felt like I was on the ride.  My stomach would clench-up a bit on the down-swing, and – I swear – your brain even creates a sense of semi-weighlessness at the point when you reach the apex of a swing.  It was one of the most amazing technology demonstrations I’ve ever had.  Now I know why John Carmack got involved, and why Facebook opened-the-vault for the company.  There are still many questions, like, “what they heck are people going to do with this thing?” that still have to be answered.  But, after playing with the Rift, I think those questions will end up answering themselves.

Games are, of course, an natural.  I’d LOVE to see a version of MechWarrior for the Rift.  But that sense-of-speed and motion is going to be a problem.  I never get sea sickness, or air-sickness, or car-sick.  When playing video games, I’ve never had a problem with any kind of motion-sickness.  Just that pirate ship ride demo on the Rift shocked me at how real it my brain made the motion and speed feel.  In fact, one person at the office had to go lay down for a few minutes after only a few seconds on the virtual swinging ship.  It will be interesting to see how developers work around some of these issues.  After my time with the DK2 unit, I’m really interested in seeing where the Rift takes VR.  If you have the chance to play with an Oculus Rift, do so – it is incredible.

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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