For decades now, the idea of virtual reality has been teased and approached by gaming companies only to have their hopes for widespread customer adoption shattered by high price points and unreasonably high latency between the actions of the user and the virtual world. It’s because of these obstacles that virtual reality gaming has been all but killed off time and time again.
Enter Oculus Rift, a breakthrough new device currently being introduced to the world through a Kickstarter project. Gaming icons such as Gave Newell (Valve) and CliffyB (Epic Games) have thrown their support behind the virtual reality device, claiming that it would be a great fit with current 3D game engines like Unreal.
John Carmack (id Software) described the Oculus Rift as “the best VR demo probably the world has ever seen.”
Could the Oculus Rift deliver where so many virtual reality devices have fallen short in the past?
What is Oculus Rift?
Oculus Rift is a virtual reality (VR) headset that has been created to deliver 3D gaming in a way that doesn’t feel as though the player is staring at a screen. With a 110-degree field of view, it is intended to make the user feel as though they are within a seamless virtual world from one end of their visual perceptive range to the other.
Right now, if you wanted that type of experience, you’d be looking at a device that is both heavy and extraordinarily expensive. Not only that, but gaming companies aren’t developing software for hardware that the average user can’t afford. So, unless you enjoy navigating through folded proteins, the device would have to be something that has the backing of a number of major game development houses.
The Rift is a lightweight (about .22 kilograms) device that delivers 1280 x 800 resolution video at 110 degrees of diagonal view and 90 degrees of horizontal view to your virtual environment. 3D imagery is native with 620 x 800 pixels of resolution available for each eye. You also have six degrees of freedom with what Oculus calls “ultra low latency” that promises to follow you in perceivable real-time as you move your head and body around the virtual environment.
Oh, and it’s supported on PC (Windows, Linux, OS X) and some mobile platforms (iOS and Android).
The first game available for the Rift is Doom 3 BFG, which is included with every Rift offered through the Kickstarter reward system. Both Unity and Unreal are supported, and with industry backers such as id Software and Valve, there are certainly more systems set to come.
It’s also important to mention here that the Rift is being promoted as a developer’s platform. That means that the SDK is both robust and readily available to developers wishing to jump on board and develop software that puts the hardware to good use.
Some potential alternative uses I can think of off the top of my head are virtual worlds like Second Life, training programs for employees in technical and medical professions, and 3D modeling. Having an almost-tangible visual example of your project in front of you makes crafting 3D models much easier. I could even imagine an architect taking their clients through a virtual walk through of their new home before a foundation has even been placed.