(I have to stress that this is a developer’s kit version of the Oculus Rift and therefore, an early criticism should be taken with some form of incredulity. Most of these problems will most likely be fixed in time for the commercial release, although there is no guarantee. Thank you and enjoy the article.)
In a previous opinion piece (which you can read here), I expressed my skepticism regarding the Oculus Rift and its impact on the video game industry. Virtual reality in gaming has been, generally, a passing fad riddled with impractical design and lackluster gaming potential. However, after playing around with the developer kit version of the Oculus Rift along with multiple tech demos for the past few weeks, I must retract my earlier skepticism. What the Oculus VR team has done with the Oculus Rift and the impact it’s had is, in a word, astounding.
First, the technical aspects and feel of the Oculus Rift. The stereoscopic ability that the Oculus Rift provides is mind-blowing, allowing you to move and see within a 360 sphere around yourself. While the speed and accuracy at which the Oculus Rift detects your head movement is still noticeably off from one-to-one, it is a spectacular experience nonetheless. Being able to look up and stare into blue, cloudless sky, then look down at the cobblestone path at your feet is an experience unrivaled by any other virtual reality device. It’s immersive, through and through.
Another technical aspect of the Oculus Rift is the quality of the visuals. Now, the definition on the dual screens inside the Oculus Rift itself is low, appearing very blurry and rough. I’m sure by the commercial release, this will be improved upon, but it’s still a noticeable hindrance that makes getting completely immersed in the Oculus Rift a bit difficult. Regardless, the experience provided by the Oculus Rift is still breathtaking, visual clarity aside.
As of right now, the software for the Oculus Rift is mostly limited to short tech demos that showcase the Oculus Rift’s capabilities. Additionally, there are some programs that will translate popular games such as Mirror’s Edge and Skyrim into a stereoscopic model to work with the Oculus Rift’s dual-screen system. Personally, my favorites included a movie theater simulation that allowed you display your own content on the screen, an on-rails space exploration, and a curious interactive game that features yourself on trial in front of an elder council. These precursors show promise on the software front and really let the Oculus Rift roam with its abilities.
The Oculus Rift hardware, in itself, has proven that it is technically capable and innovative enough to have a drastic change on the video game industry. It’s a device that fulfills the fantasy of being fully immersed in a video game and it does it with such clarity and comfort. My only apprehension as of right now with how the Oculus Rift will impact the gaming scene is the software. As is the trend with most new hardware technology, I predict developers will take about a year to fully understand and utilize the Oculus Rift its maximum potential. Yet I do believe that the Oculus Rift will change gaming in a significant way and for the better.
Written by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review