When you think of virtual reality you probably think of failed 1990â??s goggles. I know I do. Recently there was even talk of the Google Glasses which turn out to have been a lot of hype and no actual delivery. The features of the glasses Glasses donâ??t even look that promising. But thereâ??s something else on the horizon and its fast approaching.
Meet the Oculus Rift
The Oculus is an â??upcoming high field of view (FOV) consumer-priced virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD)â? created by Palmer Luckey. What does that mean for us? Well for starters the Oculus is virtual reality like never before. What was once a dream is actually now becoming reality. Itâ??s really, really, really cool.
Field of view refers to the viewing angle that you have. When you play on the Xbox 360 you focus on a T.V. monitor. Any turns in the game will still be relative to the square T.V. monitor. Your focus never changes. But with the Oculus Rift you are fully immersed. When you turn your head in any game your entire field of view turns.
Any game works with the Oculus Rift. Would you like some clarification? Any PC game can easily be modified to work with the Oculus Rift. By the time it is commercially released most games will be able to be played via these new virtual reality goggles.
The Device Itself
The field of view is more than 90 degrees horizontally and the total resolution is 1280×800. The headset uses two separate screens for each eye. This creates a 3D stereoscopic effect that has an effective resolution of 640×800 for each eye. Basically each eye gets a different image just like in 3D movies and your brain combines the images to create a 3D effect.
To achieve the best virtual reality a low latency head tracker is used called Adjacent Reality Tracker. It utilizes 3-axis gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers.Â The head tracking will control the field of view in game. How many devices do you own that you can be proud to say feature 3 gyros and magnetometers? If the answer is dismal you may want to buy this thing as soon as it comes out.
Currently you can preorder the Oculus Developer Kit and get access to the Oculus SDK for a mere price of $300.00 USD. The expected delivery date is January 2013, and thatâ??s when developers are going to get their hands on this awesome product.
The virtual reality goggles themselves are homebrew. Pieces and bits of available technology can be put together into the Oculus Rift to create something amazing. Itâ??s easy to get the parts together and itâ??s cheap too.
The hard part is marketing. Oculus has to make sure that when they release these virtual reality goggles everyone will want them. Since nothing like this has never existed the game market is small. In fact there is no market. To create a market you need developers who will adopt virtual reality and who will incorporate stereoscopic view in their games. Really all they need to do is (1) incorporate the head tracking into the game, and (2) â??implement stereoscopic 3D rendering and optical distortion adjustment that produces the correct left/right eye on the deviceâ?. Any game that works on 3D T.V.â??s will work on these goggles. In fact Oculus will probably make a driver that automatically adds head tracking to games. A huge range of games may already be 100% compatible with the Oculus Rift.
So to get the market flowing Oculus will have to entice developers first. And they sure have enticed every developer and game enthusiast around. Their Kickstarter project asked for $250,000, and instead they got over $2.5 million funds invested in their goggles.Â 9,522 people are backing this developer kit to be precise. But thatâ??s all we can see publically. The Kickstarter has ended. Oculus has taken funding into their own hands and setup a pre-order page on their site. We can speculate that even more people have been investing in this amazing developer kit.
All the raised money is going into making the product better such as: bringing the refresh rate down so that the screens can achieve 60 frames per second. Although itâ??s believed our eyes canâ??t tell the difference between 30 FPS and 60 FPS itâ??s not the eyes the developers are raising the frame rates for. Itâ??s for our brains.Â Eye tracking is so precise that your brain can detect low frames in the virtual reality goggles. Many early users of the Oculus rift noticed a lag in the visuals. This is because your eyes track motion way faster than the 15 â?? 30 milliseconds refresh rates on the screens. One of the main goal of Oculus is to bring the refresh rate down to single digits to improve the lag when eye tracking.
What others have to say
The lucky people that have gotten to try the early prototypes (held together by duct tape) have been amazed by the level of immersement.
Even the current CEO Brenden Iribe was skeptical when the startup approached him with Oculus Rift. He has this to say about the actual experience, â??Then you click it on and youâ??re like, â??Oh shit, this is amazingâ??â?.
Iâ??ll tell you this right now. The goggles themselves are perfect and out of this world. This is simply the most innovative product we have seen since the invention of gaming consoles. It is hot. It may possibly fail but the way everything is looking right now is great.
John Carmack is a head leader and believer of the Oculus Rift. He is the co-founder of Id Software and head developer of Commander Keen, Wallenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Rage and their sequels. During a presentation on virtual reality at QuakeCon 2012 Michael Abrash of Valve said â??I personally would like to get our games running on the Rift and make it a great experience and then ship it for that, I would like to do that. Whether that will be the case, whether weâ??ll be able to make it work that well and whether weâ??ll think the experience is that great, thatâ??s not my decisionâ?.
So far the expectancy of seeing this product explode is really high.
One small issue:
When you use a controller to turn in game your entire field of view will turn as well. Your brain wonâ??t detect head movement similar to the visuals. Imagine turning around 360 degrees in game while you only moved your head 140 degrees. That might cause some issues that people are discussing.
Not to worry. Oculus is already on it. They will be dynamically changing the point of view and making sure the latency is as low as possible to eliminate motion sickness. When you are playing say Modern Warfare 3 on your T.V. you center of the T.V. is always your crosshair. What Oculus is saying is that they are going to dynamically change this center point to fix the issue.
Most likely the issue will be eradicated by the time it is released for consumers. No one has really reported too much dizziness after using the virtual reality goggles more than once. The only problem is if you use your head to turn it will make it hard to turn around all the way. But if you use your controller to turn 360 and your head remains stationary it will really mess with your head.
As for eye strain there will be none. Eye-crossing, headaches, out-of-sync effect, and so forth will not be a symptom of using these goggles as is common with 3D glasses or head mounts that are close to your eyes.Â When using the Rift â??your eyes are actually focused and converged in the distance at all times. Itâ??s a pretty neat optical feature, for sureâ?. Â Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, says that all the optics make it â??appear as if you are looking at a huge screen focused at infinityâ?.
The screens warp the image around your field of vision that creates the illusion of reality. Straight lines slightly curve into the center. Iâ??m not an optics specialist but I figure this is because our eyes are round and light enters in at an angle, thus lines arenâ??t going to look 100% straight.
With such a great product in the making itâ??s interesting to see what sharks will come in for the kill. We can expect Google, Microsoft, Sony, andâ?¦ Possibly Apple may have their eyes on this technology. Not necessarily for the purpose of gaming but for the purpose of full immersion. If a big investor picks up Oculus Rift it will certainly make a lot of game enthusiasts very happy and prices are going to drop. Then competition would be very interesting afterwardsâ?¦
Doom 3 BFG comes with the developer kit and is the first game to officially support the Oculus Rift. Epic Games, have also announced that their engine Unreal, will integrate support for the Oculus Rift. The Unity engine has also announced support for the Oculus Rift. Star Citizen, a space simulator that is yet to be released is also supporting Oculus Rift. Hawken is an online shooter that will also support this new virtual reality.
John Carmack also stated that he is going to heavily integrate Doom 4 with the Oculus rift.
The future is looking good after all 🙂
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Article written by Octavian Ristea