Oculus Rift preview
Update: Intrepid T3 dep ed Matt Hill managed to get some more time with Oculus Rift out at E3 in LA. Scroll down to read his E3 update...
From the Nintendo Virtual Boy to the mighty Mech Warrior pods, virtual reality has promised much over the years but never delivered.
Oculus Rift: Games
We got heads-on with the Rift at the Game Developers Convention. At the moment, the device is only intended for use with games. The ones we've tried with it - Doom 3, Unreal 3 and Hawken - are all first-person shooters.
Oculus Rift: Compatible tech
What's notable with the Rift though is the technical support it's getting from other sources. Other developers have adapted their devices - like Razer's Hydra motion controllers, the Leap Motion device (a cheap portable hand sensor) and the Virtuix Omni all-directional treadmill - which synergise with the Rift to make it a truly-immersive (if surely tiring) experience.
Oculus Rift: Developers
The software support is also in place. Apart from the games we mentioned earlier, Oculus has shipped 12,000 developer kits already, with many big-name developers trying it out.
Though few have announced support or titles for it, if just 1% of those make a game, then the catalogue will be huge. Already Half-Life developer Valve has converted its hugely-popular game Team Fortress 2 for use with the Rift.
The developer version is comfortable, but takes adjusting and the lack of key motion-sensing elements can confuse your inner ear, making users nauseous when they initially use it. Yet, whether the Rift succeeds or not, the concept has been proved; VR, one way or another, is coming.
Oculus Rift: Verdict
An exceptionally-promising piece of kit that heralds a new dawn for virtual and augmented reality, the Rift is still at an early stage.
Until the much-upgraded consumer model is released (and no release date has yet been confirmed), some bespoke games and simulations have been released, and we can see that Oculus has overcome some of the hardware's limitations, particularly nausea, we won't be completely convinced.
Oculus Rift: E3 update
At E3 2013, Oculus VR were showcasing the new HD upgrade on its Kickstarted dev kit behind closed doors. At prototype stage, and likened by the firm's representatives to the duct-tape version of the original Rift, it already looks a lot more professionally finished. Rapid iterations towards a final consumer unit, which still has no official date, are clearly making the Oculus guys dab hands at product design now, too.
On the original headset, the resolution meant everything had a pixelated feel that you had to adjust to and accept slowly as your surroundings, whereas the upgrade removes that barrier. Indeed, we spent a good minute just staring upwards in a hole in the roof as snow fell all around us, crisp and almost real.
Yet this shouldn't detract from how utterly awe-inspiring your first go with a Rift is, and how far that much-disparaged term "virtual reality" has come.
E3 update by Matt Hill
Oculus Rift preview
Oculus Rift previewT3
The oddly-named Oculus Rift is the first convincing virtual reality headset - we tried on an early version and were mightily impressed
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