Recently I got to attend the the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), held annually in Seattle and my main, number one, and only dream was to go hands on with the Oculus Rift HD virtual reality headset. And guess what? I did, and it is AWESOME.
For those of you who don’t know about the Rift, it began as a Kickstarter campaign with a humble goal of raising $250,000. Nearly $2.5 MILLION later, plus some $16 million in venture capital, this thing is real and it is going to be a game changer (for reals, no pun intended).
3D VR has long been a distant fantasy for gamers. If you mention VR to a gamer, they may think back to the 1990s and Minecraft-style block worlds with gigantic 50lb headsets and lousy resolutions. Not good.
Well that version of VR is officially in the past, because Oculus is about to change everything. After waiting in line to wait in line (to wait in line again), I had a chance to strap the miracle goggles (an HD 1080p prototype, no less) on my own melon. It was a holy experience, almost but not quite like being knighted by Queen Elizabeth herself.
The goggles were so light, I barely noticed them. I wear glasses and am nearsighted, and they fit right over my glasses with no issue. Apparently people who are farsighted can take their glasses off altogether. And once the goggles were strapped on, things really got interesting.
They had me hooked up to iRacing, a game that came out in 2008 but had been modded to work with the Rift. It wasn’t playable unfortunately, but I sat in the driver’s seat as the race took off.
I’m not a big fan of racing games in general (my cars always seem to careen off the track and explode into a ball of flames), but it was amazing. I FELT the movement of the car, I noticed my body leaning into turns. The optical illusion created by the Rift is so realistic, everything around you ceases to exist and you become totally immersed in the game. I was smiling ear to ear and hooting the whole time.
My one burning question to the Oculus staff at PAX wasn’t whether to buy a Rift (which I will, of course), but whether to wait for the final version or buy the $300 dev kit (available now from oculusvr.com). They almost unanimously told me, wait. First off, the current dev kit is not HD (as was the 1080p prototype that I got to use). Secondly, current game and video driver support is pretty limited. The final version will assuredly be more polished, have better game/video card support, and may be a 1080p HD version.
I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the final version of the product and bring it home for myself. I’ve been gamer my whole life, and I am willing to bet that the Oculus Rift will change gaming forever.
Here’s some enthusiastic reactions from the HD demo of the Oculus Rift in action at Gamescon 2013 here: