Oculus Rift: Australian Hands On

Oculus Rift: Australian Hands On

Years from now the Oculus Rift I hold in my hand will gather dust in your attic. You’ll stumble across it like your very first mobile phone. I can’t believe how big this thing was, you’ll say. How the hell did I walk around with this thing strapped to my head?

You’ll say these things because the technology housed within this clunky device — with its low resolution, its cables that tie you in knots — will be as common and essential as a modern smart phone. It’ll be something everyone recognises. It will be a device that transforms so quickly, evolves so rapidly, that you’ll barely be able to keep pace. It will be streamlined and accessible, it will be overdesigned or under-designed depending on what happens to be fashionable at that specific time. In five years time the Oculus Rift I hold in my hand right now will look and feel like a lumbering brachiosaurus.

And this is not a criticism; quite the opposite. It’s the highest compliment I can pay to a piece of technology that I expect will change lives and almost certainly transform the way we play video games in the very near future.

The Oculus Rift feels like the beginning of something actually incredible.

Strangely, it’s the moments when you’re dragged out of the experience that reminds you how potent the Oculus Rift can be.

I’m staring down at the ocean; I quickly shift round. In the real world I lift my hands, but I can’t see them. It’s instantly disorientating. Consciously I am aware that my own hands will not appear in this virtual simulation, but sub-consciously I expect them to exist in this space. That’s the dissonance right there.

Whoah. This is not real. It’s unreal.

But the dissonance only serves to highlight how ‘immersive’ the Oculus Rift experience is. In video game writing ‘immersive’ is a dead, lifeless word, but we must use it to describe this experience because no other word will suffice. ‘Immersive’: the adjective has a new weight and meaning through the existence of the Oculus Rift.

Here’s another example. As a test my friends placed a chair in real life relative to the point where a virtual chair existed in the virtual world. They placed an object on it and asked me to pick it up. As I leaned forward to pick it up I didn’t move forward in the virtual world like I did in the real world — obviously. The disorientation of these conflating worlds was significant, to the point where my brain tried to compensate. My brain tried to tell me that the chair was actually moving away from me.

Mind bending.

Here’s a simpler example: I’ve shown the Oculus Rift to a number of people now and every single person has attempted to walk forward in real life in order to move forward in the virtual world. And every single one felt disorientated, confused and weird when they continued to stand still.

The Oculus Rift makes small things significant again. Take yourself back to your very first gaming experience, walking in a 2D environment, from left to right. Back then it felt like the most liberating experience entertainment could offer.

Now remember the first time you played Mario 64. For the first five minutes you forgot about the Princess, you couldn’t care less about Bowser, you just wanted to run in frantic, careless circles because you could, because that was possible.

The beauty of the Oculus Rift is the resurrection of that feeling; that precise same feeling. Something bewilderingly new; new enough that doing something silly and inconsequential feels like the most important thing you could be doing at that particular point in space and time.

Ironically it’s when playing traditional games — with traditional goals and traditional verbs — that the experience starts to lose its lustre. Playing Team Fortress 2, the instant I placed my hands on the mouse and keyboard the novelty of this strange new experience was sucked right up and out through my fingers. It was all too easy to remember I was playing a video game; all too easy to slip into the same old routines.

It’s hard to say precisely what the Oculus Rift will do for games, how it will change them, if at all. It’s a difficult discussion to have but I will say this: the Rift brings out the game designer in all of us. Everyone I showed it to removed the device with a crazed look and an idea for how it might be used. Every. Single. One.

I can’t wait until I can do this, shoot a gun, move with my feet, explore this type of world, do this thing. They should make a game that lets you this.

They should, they could. Hopefully they will.

That’s the power of the Oculus Rift — it removes the strait jacket and sends your imagination spiralling in multiple different directions at once, towards multiple different stratospheres. Every single person who has received this device in the mail over the last week has opened the box with wide eyes and a giddy feeling in their gut. Every single one of them has an idea for a game and I can’t wait to see if they can transform these wonderful possibilities into a (virtual) reality.


  • I want this so much, but I’m concerned with how much it’s going to fuck up my already meh eyesight. But I want Skyrim to be so much more Skyrimmier!

    • That old (and incorrect) addage “sit too close to the TV and you’ll go crosseyed!” comes to mind right now.

      I’m worried about serious eye-strain from this thing…

  • Surely some sort of motion capture glove could be invented to make seeing/using your virtual hands a reality… a virtual…reality…

    • If you stood in the center of 3 kinect-like devices that mapped your body in real time, and passed that information into the virtual environment, you could have it so that you’d see your actual body from inside the virtual word.

    • Well this stuff has already been invented and is in application, primarily in CAD (some parts of the auto and aerospace industry use it, also biotech, medical/surgery applications are in research). How long til its mass market, is another question, of course. The issue is primarily cost, not so much technological barriers (although the two are related, of course, as far as cost-effective design is concerned).

      • Also, how do you stop yourself from banging into walls and coffee tables in the real world?

  • While I’m not a fan of the design (even the final design that will go to market) it does seem cool.It will be even better in a few generations time when it’s slimmed down and they’ve improved the screens.

    • The final design hasn’t been shown yet. This is an early dev kit, using a 7in screen. The final version is going to be much smaller, and higher resolution (Think a 5in OLED Galaxy S4 screen)

  • Feels like you’re sharing an LSD trip with friends! XD

    Edit: A game like The Witness would probably be very cool with this. Dear Esther too. I dunno, just some sort of exploring type of game.

  • It’s a shame they’ve used a terrible method of doing 3D, ie the depth buffer method, rather than doing it right with a camera for each eye at the video driver level like nvidia 3d vision.

    • That’s entirely up to the engine, not the Rift itself; CryEngine does depth-buffer reprojection, but Unreal uses dual renders. Same with Rift-supporting wedge drivers for non-stereo games – Vireo dual-renders, while VorpX lets you switch between the two (though it recommends depth-buffer reprojection).

      There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Reprojection does introduce small artifacts on some edges, but is considerably faster – which can be crucial for minimising latency in VR. Dual rendering gives you a clean image, but needs beefier hardware, and can sometimes result in major artifacts with the game’s shadow rendering or post-processed effects. There’s a good discussion here.

      • I can assure you that games that people have been playing (such as Skyrim) on the rift, have exactly zero 3D support in any part of their engine, so at some point some part of the rift device or driver is doing the work of making the video feed 3D. Cryengine does use depth buffer correct, and as a consequence you get about 20% of the separation of what you get with a dual camera approach. The same is true for Deus Ex : Human Revolution, another depth buffer game. There is no advantage to using depth buffer for properly done 3D as it will always be lacking. Latency is negated by using a DVI, 120hz LCDs, and hardware that works.

        I can direct you to a much more involved conversation here


        Or here


        Start at the top.

        And unless depth buffer is also properly supported in games it too leads to artifacts, as is seen when using systems such as Tridef or the entire 5 games that AMD’s depth buffer 3D solution will actually turn of for.

        Now, take a game like the latest Tomb Raider that does a dual camera 3D in engine with a 3D reticule, it is *amazing*. The Witcher 2. The Batman : AA games. Dual camera, incredible 3D.

        I just hope they put out a version that hooks into a dual camera 3D driver in the future, because the people who are drooling over it now would probably have their heads explode at how much better it is.

        • Having played Skyrim on my own Rift last night, I can tell you that the stereo 3D support is provided by Vireo, a third-party wedge driver. An alternative is VorpX, though it’s not yet publicly available. It’s not Skyrim’s own engine doing stereo, as you say, and it’s also not the Rift’s own driver, which is limited to reading and fusing the head-tracking sensors, and providing management and metrics about the device itself.

          I have the Oculus SDK in front of me, and the documentation explicitly advises dual-camera rendering instead of reprojection, citing the edge artifacts. However, this is still up to the developer. The Rift driver provides only an example pixel shader to do the optical distortion – the side-by-side stereo rendering is entirely left to the developer’s own code.

          There wasn’t much real discussion on reprojection vs dual rendering in those links you provided, and it all seemed to be from the perspective of stereo monitor gaming, not VR. The original link I gave has an excellent discussion of the pros and cons of each, from the VorpX developer who provides the choice of either method.

          I do agree that one of the cons of reprojection is limited separation, but this is less of an issue for VR as separation must be matched to the user’s eyes, whereas stereo 3D gaming using a 120Hz LCD (which I also have) often uses exaggerated separation for increased 3D effect.

          On the other hand, one of the main advantages of reprojection is speed. Not everyone has a GTX 690, so very often quality tradeoffs must be made in order to keep framerate at 60Hz, and thus latency to a minimum. Again, this is much more of an issue for VR vs stereo gaming on a monitor, as *any* latency manifests as a slight but disconcerting “wobble” when head-tracking. For modern games on mainstream hardware, the choice is often between accepting reprojection’s edge artifacts, or turning the game settings right down to low detail in order to maintain speed.

          Now if you *do* have a GTX 690 (as I actually do), then you can generally run full dual-rendering at full speed with minimal quality tradeoffs. I agree this is usually the better way to go, if you can, but even here there are tradeoffs. Rendering a scene twice is often incompatible with the way many engines do their shadow passes and post-processed water & lighting effects. With Skyrim, for example, there are serious problems with shadows and water effects when using dual rendering, and a lot of discussion on how to avoid this – Skyrim now allows disabling of its deferred shadow pass, but some of the other effects must simply be disabled. Because reprojection uses only a single full render, it avoids most of these issues and is more likely to ‘just work’.

          Ideally we will be able to choose either method, based on our hardware and the game engine involved. The VorpX driver offers this choice, for most of its supported games, but I don’t have a pre-release build yet so I can’t tell you how well it works.

    • It’s interesting how many people say that, however it all depends on what video formats you are watching and how they are portrayed on the screen itself. Some examples with different videos might change your mind : http://www.your3dcenter.com/watching-videos-on-the-oculus-rift/

      That is if you have the dev kit of the Rift, try out at least the 360 videos mentioned in the post. At least that’s what some of my friends tried first and most of them were in awe. Then again, I also had some people who were not impressed at all with the tech.

  • i can see the potential for it to do more than just games, it’ll be a cost effective way for flight simulation, help architects showcase the designs for their clients, it could even improve the scale of how television is watched, literally making us ghosts in our favourite shows

    • Some of these applications already use VR/enhanced reality. Flight simulators and helmed-mounted displays (HMDs) in defence, some architects and engineers also use data gloves for CAD. I guess, OR and future developments will be significant though in translating this tech into something affordable, primarily for consumers. So far all previous efforts in that regard have pretty much failed.

  • That last image could be a promo shot for the next survival horror game…

    “Oh my God, Occulusrifthead is going to eat us alive!!!!!!!”

    • Could be anything from 1500 to 3500 (got mine on Monday, 18xx). They haven’t been shipping in strict order.

      There’s a nifty user-created spreadsheet to keep track.

      • Yeah, it’s hard to tell what’s what with the spreadsheet any more though. There’s more above the 3500 mark that have made their way over – I’ve seen a few in the 4xxx range, and even somewhere saw a report of a guy in Perth getting his 6xxx one.

  • I maintain that this just a stepping stone toward the endgame of Augmented Reality glasses tech for games that are actually integrated into the environment around you.

    • Agreed. Technically most of the recent tech changes in living rooms, such as surround systems, projectors, motion-capturing essentially show this trend. What MS is working on for the next XBox is another case. Basically its about turning any kind of room into the basis for VR.

    • No, virtual reality will always have a place. You can’t integrate the environment around you into futuristic racers, or a base floating around in the middle of space. Augmented reality and Virtual reality will offer two vastly different gaming experiences.

  • I think this will be really cool with a driving sim, flight sim or space sim… or any sim really.
    Cautiously optimistic.

  • Fantastic work on the video – great way to show off a rough idea of what it’s like. Really want to give it a shot.

    Oh, and magic cat!

  • I think a lot of the motion sickness part of it comes from the lack of physical interaction with what your seeing. That disconnect from what your physically experiencing, and what your brain is saying you should be experiencing due to what your seeing, would definitely start to trip your senses out after a while.

    Maybe if they include things more like gloves that track your hand motion, and perhaps other props to assist your immersion, a lot of that motion sickness component would probably dissipate. (Something like playing CoD, and you get a rifle prop of sorts that is tracked by the game and that sought of thing).

    • Yeah…that’s pretty much what motion sickness is. I can get it bad enough from just watching a screen, I imagine the OR would be even better at tricking my brain than a 15″ CRT. The winning theory seems to be that your brain reckons you’ve ingested some crazy hallucinogens that need to be expelled immediately.

      The gloves and other accoutrement might help, but it won’t get rid of the visual/vestibular system disconnect completely.

    • Case in point: car-sickness. Very much a passenger issue, not one for the driver (unless you drive a rocket-powered car perhaps)

  • There is a lot going on in the world at the moment that makes me wide eyed about what the future might hold in 20 odd years, this is merely one more step.

  • @markserrels
    Head tracking and 6 DOF sensors will help with the whole gun/chair problem.
    I believe the dev kits only currently 3DOF

    FPS games are going to struggle with the concept for a while I think. But a chair + a joystick + a flying game or a racing game with a steering wheel should take away that “floating head” sickness

    • I disagree, FPSs will benifit greatly from one of these, the amount of times I’ve wanted to be shooting in one direction and seeing if something is coming from another by turning my head is beyond count.

      • Well, generally speaking you don’t tend to fire while turning your head away from what your shooting at… but anyway.

        Extremely good for games like Battlefield, with Jets, Helos etc, and even just the footwork, where you could use a hand-held prop weapon as your ‘aiming’ direction (or the more conventional mouse/kb), and then use something like the Oculus for free-look around/outside the cockpit, or even just for peaking around corners etc.

      • Don’t get me wrong. This stuff is going to be awesome for all sorts of games.
        I was only commenting on the fact that to get rid of the motion sickness and have proper immersion you would need to be able to walk and turn and see your hands in FPS games.

        That restriction is far more relaxed when you are seated in a car or helicopter because it’s far more natural to hold a joystick or steering wheel and be able to look around rather than using a mouse and keyboard.

        Check out my post above with the MYO and Virtuix Omni. Those things combined with the Rift will make FPS awesome. Sitting on a chair with a mouse maybe not so much. I think Mark’s video proves that to some extent. They all felt very uncomfortable just sitting down.

  • Hahaha, just actually watched the vid. Great stuff! Especially the suddenly cat at the end.

    Also particularly liked the unexpected road trip, and travelchat.

  • Other’s have already meantioned racing sims, but I’d also love to see this used for cycling sims. Imagine taking a virtual cycling tour of famous cities, or doing the tour de France at your own pace. Gyms would need a whole lot more exercise bikes pretty fast if this ever happens. You could do the same with rowing machines and treadmills too.

    Or kick it up a notch and have a Street View style experience of any place in the world. It’s bound to happen one day.

    • I was actually thinking of streetview. Seems like such a natural application.
      The only problem is streetview is flat photos. Google needs to start working on 3D rendering all major cities =P

  • If only I was rich enough to have a hd occulus rift type setup with a 360 treadmill to track movement infused with one of those motion capture suits they use in animation plus props like guns etc for whatever you’re doing. That’s the future ladies and gentleman

    • It’s not as far away as you think.
      So far the only missing link is the treadmill (check out the Virtuix Omni, it has some potential).
      Everything else is already possible and not too expensive.

  • Loved this video. It just had a really relaxed feel to it. Just a bunch of friends talking and experiencing things.

  • kolreth, Those games were not made for VR, or 3D. You cannot judge the Rift based on the games which fans have hacked Rift support into. Support for those games is merely a bonus, like backwards compatibility.
    Since many old games will never go back into development just to add Rift support, the fans are left making wrappers and rendering drivers which force those games to work with the Rift, using tricks and clever work-arounds. But even with sorta working VR support in those games, they should not be considered a representation of the Rift.

    Games which are MADE for/with VR and 3D in mind, WILL render the 3D more correctly. Plenty of the VR demos people are putting out have been made for the Rift, and do 3D fine.

    Also, check out some of the games which are currently in development, like The Gallery, which are being made from the ground up, for the Oculus Rift. Not only will they render 3D better than a hacked game, but some of them even support special controllers like the Razer Hydra, which give motion and hand controls to boost immersion.

    Regardless, there are good and bad sides to each rendering method. And when you consider the Oculus Rift is pushing the technologies and software to get better, maybe something like depth buffer 3D will get better too. I’m sure graphics card manufacturers will start improving their cards to support better 3D..
    And as the Rift matures, and as a consumer version comes out in a year or so, we’ll probably see the Rift’s own hardware drivers get better too. But I still wouldn’t expect Oculus to go through all the trouble of making games which don’t support the Rift, have some form of driver level support. It would be too much work for them, and so making old games work will probably always be a fan thing.

    Remember, right now this thing is like a Prototype. It’s a Dev Kit, not made for consumers or the general gamers out there. And also of course for VR enthusiasts and hackers to tinker with.
    Right now the Rift is for developers to make content for. A device which they got out as soon as possible, so that devs could create more software content for the eventual launch of a consumer model. So of course it has issues, we’re still in the “working out the kinks” stage, and will be for a while.

  • can we get a link to the Vimeo video on Vimeo.com? I can’t stream this at work and the mobile version of the site wont run the video properly on my phone =[

  • Wait for the “Omni ” (omni directional treadmill .. no moving parts… a KickStarter end of May )

  • These guys need to check out the MTBS forum to learn more about the Rift… eg. gaming controllers such as the Razer Hydra & the amount of other experiences already in development.

  • Yeah this will be great. But I’m going to wait for the 2nd or 3rd generation devices. They’ll be a lot better than the first.

    But it will be great.

  • Thank you:

    REF:” The Oculus Rift feels like the beginning of something actually incredible”

    This is exactly what I have been feeling – and I havent even seen one in the flesh yet.

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