The Oculus Rift has been a long spoken about Virtual Reality head-mounted display. Birthed from Kickstarter around 3 years ago, it has grown at a tremendous pace. This has led to many admirers from all over the tech industry. In July 2014, internet superpower Facebook purchased Oculus VR for a staggering $2 billion.
On June 11, Brendan Iribe led a pre-E3 press conference showcasing the Oculus Rift. The final consumer unit was revealed as well as an array of exclusive titles. Here’s all you need to know:
The Device Itself
The Oculus Rift consumer unit is very similar to what we’ve seen. It is smaller, looks a lot more comfortable and is meant to be far lighter (you can hold it in one hand with ease). It has a custom display and optics as well as two OLED screens that deliver low persistence.
As you look around there’s no motion blur or judder. Visual clarity is very important to those at Oculus and the way Iribe spoke about the device, it was pretty evident.
It features a wireless sensor which sits neatly on your desk. This is designed to measure depth. The Rift itself is covered in fabric and is meant to “slip on like a baseball cap.”
Iribe also mentioned the importance of sound and how the virtual reality experience isn’t just visual but also audible. The Rift comes with (removable) headphones in order to enhance the experience.
Partnership with Microsoft
Then came the news everyone is talking about. Phil Spencer (Head of Xbox) took to the stage to announce that every Rift will ship with an Xbox One controller and adapter. Rift will have native support with Windows 10 and will also have the ability to stream Xbox One games a la Remote Play. You will be sitting in a virtual living room and playing Forza. Great for when the your television is not available.
DirectX 12 has been developed with the device in mind to make sure that using a Rift on a Windows machine will be a seamless experience.
An array of games was shown for the Oculus Rift, including Edge of Nowhere by Insomniac Games. A third person action adventure set in the Antarctic. A grueling test of wits and bravery as you scale across a mountainous terrain using makeshift weapons.
CCP (the brains behind EVE Online) showed a short demo of Eve Valkyrie. A multiplayer dogfighting shooter where you helm a spaceship allowing you to enjoy a fully immersive space war.
Amongst the other games were Chronos (Gunfire Games). A third person adventure RPG with some very interesting gameplay elements. You get to explore an atmospheric fantasy world. The unique leveling mechanic means that as you get older, the way you approach the game changes.
Some other games mentioned included VR Sports Challenge, AirMech VR, Lucky’s Tale and more. The most interesting and arguably most important factor of the game slate was the developers signed up to work with Oculus. Square Enix, Ready At Dawn, and Harmonix are just some of the names on an impressive list.
Anna Sweet (Head of Developer Strategy) reiterated how Oculus have been working closely with Unity and EpicGames. This means the Rift works natively with Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4. Two of the top game engines today.
Also mentioned was the revamping of Oculus Share; the platform that allows developers to self-publish, discover, download and experiment with a plethora of Rift related technologies. More pertinent was the ten million dollars that Oculus have pledged to help the Rift indie developing community. A real push for all the indie developers out there.
Oculus have been working closely with Microsoft, Nvdia, and AMD to make sure the Rift works straight out of the box. As soon as you wear the Rift and activate it you boot straight into Oculus Home.
Oculus Home is the Rift’s dashboard — the portal for everything Oculus related. It puts all your Rift games in one place. You can see what’s new, what’s featured and what games your friends are playing. A neat feature is that before you purchase a game, you get to experience a full virtual reality preview of the game in question.
There is also a 2D interface that allows you to stay in touch with your friends as well as browse, manage, and download games.
The Oculus Touch
Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, made the final announcement of the press conference. As well as having each Rift ship with an Xbox One controller the team at Oculus are constantly working on innovative ways to improve virtual reality input. The latest being the Oculus Touch (prototype name: Half-Moon).
The Oculus Touch is a pair of wireless controllers designed to be held in each hand respectively. This allows for the users to experience “hand presence” – the feeling that your hands are also part of the virtual world you are experiencing.
The Touch lets you interact with the virtual world such as picking up a gun and shooting or throwing it. The precise manipulation of virtual entities is key to creating a fully immersive VR world and this is one of the many pieces of technology that Oculus are offering. The Touch also allows for communicative social gestures such as pointing or waving.
The controllers themselves have traditional buttons, analog sticks and a hand trigger. This trigger allows you to use your index finger to shoot a gun for instance. Oculus are also aiming for a “low mental load.” Low mental load is the idea that we shouldn’t have to think about what we are doing when using the Rift. The user experience should be a natural and fluid understanding. As always with Oculus they are taking massive strives into making virtual worlds a reality.
Pricing and Release Date
Unfortunately there were no pricing or bundles announced for the Oculus Rift. The only remnant of a release date they gave was Q1, 2016. The timeframe we have all really been expecting.
Everything at the press conference will be available at E3 so hopefully we can hear about some hands-on reactions.