If the Oculus Rift lives up to its promise – and this writer has seen more than enough new products fail to live up to their promise to know it may not – it could become the most exciting development we’ve seen since Phillip Rosedale skipped going to Burning Man one year to make Second Life into an actual product. Some of the ways that set the Rift apart from other VR headsets include the cost (a few hundred dollars rather than many thousands), a much wider field of view (110 degrees), and maybe most importantly, it’s designed to have very low latency. Low latency means that when you move your head when wearing the Rift, what you see moves instantaneously, just like in the physical world.
If motion sensing products such as Kinect can be linked to it, entirely new vistas for experience virtual worlds on a physical and sensual level could open up.
If you are a developer, you can sign up to buy a developer version of the Oculus Rift for $300 at www.oculusvr.com. It’s not for consumers. The things that consumers want – content and a way to use the Rift in Second Life, OpenSim, and games – are not yet there. That’s what developers are working on. I have to admit that as a former software developer, it’s giving me my first interest in a long time in returning to the industry.
The Rift is only the start, of course. A decade ago, the emergence of fast internet coupled with improving PC graphics and speed allowed MMORPG’s such as Second Life to emerge. Now new technologies such as VR headsets, new controllers, and motion sensors are poised to give birth to a new generation of virtual worlds and games that go far beyond what we’ve seen so far. It’s too early to know whether the Rift will live up to its promise, but even if it doesn’t, it portends a day coming soon when we can enjoy virtual worlds without being encumbered by computer monitors, keyboards, and mice
You can learn more about the Rift on Wikipedia at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculus_Rift, at OculusVR.com, and by watching some of the many videos about it on YouTube. Here are links to a few:
A 90 year old grandmother tries the Rift (“Holy mackerel!”): www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAC5SeNH8jw
Palmer Luckey, Oculus Rift’s designer, talking about it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzCwczY1jTM
Adam Sessler interviewing Palmer Lucky at the 2013 Game Developers Conference: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fkrsoqmKzg
Chris Pirillo trying the Rift at CES 2013: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBylGcvRuek
GameZoneOnline interviewing indie Rift developer Evan Shiftan: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a6rHkI8T_w
What you get in the developer kit, how to calibrate it for your eyes, and a first person shooter demo (by tested.com): www.youtube.com/watch?v=P50fvL_EWYY
Matt Rix demonstrating the Oculus Rift with the Sixense Hydra controller: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHs5Un8deKg
Cymatic Bruce plays around throwing barrels and furniture using the Sixense Hydra controller and Oculus Rift (you’ll have to turn up your volume): www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHs5Un8deKg
It’s too early to know whether the Rift will join the very long parade of past products that failed to live up to their hype, but if it does live up to it, watch out! Our virtual world experience will change dramatically.