First impressions of the Oculus Rift

ocuulusWow! The Oculus Rift is far more engaging than I expected.

For the last few days we’ve been playing with the Oculus Rift DK2 device; and it’s been an eye-opener. The experience is amazingly immersive, often disconcertingly so.

The Oculus Rift comes nicely boxed, but it’s quickly apparent while this is still a development environment – the set up was certainly not a simple process. In our case it required getting hold of cables to cater to the HDMI output, installing a raft of drivers, and then going through layers of trouble-shooting by digging through various forums and web-pages. This isn’t a criticism, as the device is not pitched as being consumer-ready, but it is worth noting.

But once you get the Rift up and running, it really is worth the effort. You’re in a room, or a forest, or any other environment and as you move your head around it’s just like being there. It’s such an immersive experience that it’s terribly disconcerting at first to find that you don’t have a body. Playing a game, Half Life 2 for example, with the Rift puts you really in the game – it’s completely 3D and surrounds you. So much so that we found motion-sickness was an issue with some testers. It is also interesting how being inside the environment makes things like pixelation or a lack of detail on some scenes really stand out. As time goes by VR devices are going to require a whole new level of detail in game-creation.

So our first impressions have been entirely positive. Next experiments are going to involve pairing the Rift with Leap Motion.

Oculus Rift with glasses

It’s worth mentioning how the rift performs with bad eyes. I wear glasses with a serious prescription. The Rift comes with some basic corrective lenses, so if you’re mildly short-sighted you can just swap in the appropriate lenses. They did little for me. It is possible to wear the headset with your glasses on, but it’s fiddly and not really comfortable, especially if you have, as I do, really lightweight glasses which end up feeling like they are being squashed by the headset. So it’s do-able but, as with much else in life, it’s preferable without glasses.

Oculus Rift with one eye

OK so now you know I have terrible eye-sight, but it gets worse I have only one eye. Now the good thing about having one-eye is that normal computer monitors or TV screens look like the rest of the world to me – I have no 3D depth perception. So in that sense I’ve been ahead of the rest of you for some time.

Because of this, I’ve always been a bit scared of things moving to 3D: Early 3D movies with the coloured glasses were a nightmare for me. So I gained nothing from the Rift experience in terms of depth of vision (comments above come from the rest of the team) but I still found the experience of using the Rift entrancing. While I got no new depth, I still had the full experience of being inside the environment and it’s astonishing how much of a difference that makes. So don’t let the lack of an eye put you off. (Although you obviously don’t need both screens in the headset, so in the ideal world you could find a headset where someone had broken the eyepiece you don’t need…)

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