Playing Oculus Rift With Only One Eye

Playing Oculus Rift with Only One Eye

A few weeks back, I received an email from a reader who was blind in one eye and wanted to know how the Oculus Rift would work for him. I thought it was an interesting question but honestly didn't know the answer, so I put it to the back of my mind. Then this last weekend I went in for Lasik surgery. It didn't go well.

Simply put, the surgery was a failure and while the doctor is hopeful that I will make a full recovery in the coming months, I have been effectively blind in my right eye for the past few days. So in an attempt to turn something horrible into something useful to others, I decided to see what Oculus Rift is like for those with only one functioning eye.

Playing Oculus Rift with Only One Eye

I started simple with a little tech demo called GirlMirrorLook. Basically, you are a girl in a small villa surrounded by beautiful scenery. There is also a mirror.

Now, in recent weeks, I had spent more than a little time with the Rift, but I was still surprised when I put the Rift on in my one-eyed state; everything still looked like it was in 3D. I still felt like I could reach out and touch the objects I was seeing — they just seemed a little flatter somehow. The objects didn't quite pop out of the frame like they had before. After all, how could they? Stereoscopic 3D is impossible with just one eye.

However, due to the screen completely enveloping my peripheral vision, I was still visually immersed in the game. And since when I moved my head the camera moved identically in my Rift-vision, my brain seemed happy to interpret it as what I was really seeing — regardless of whether objects had the 3D "pop" or not.

I tried out another few tech demos — a room full of Hatsune Miku knock-offs, a Rift version of Tetris — and they seemed to be a comparably immersive experience to what I had had when playing the Rift with both eyes.

Playing Oculus Rift with Only One Eye
Playing Oculus Rift with Only One Eye

So it wasn't until I tried playing Proton Pulse Rift, the first real game I ever played on the Rift, that the lack of Stereoscopic 3D became an issue. Proton Pulse is an Arkanoid/Breakout-style game where you look down a long vector graphics corridor and block a bouncing ball with a semi-transparent paddle controlled by your head movements. Without the Stereoscopic 3D, it was much harder to judge how far the ball was from me at any given time. Like in the real world, I had lost my depth perception.

Playing Oculus Rift with Only One Eye

Lastly, I decided to try out something a bit more flashy and fast-paced in the form of Half Life 2: Episode 2. I only played through the first 10 minutes or so, but there was one major issue I noticed when compared to my several hour stint last week with Half Life 2: Episode 1: the motion blur is much, much worse. Perhaps it is just that having two eyes lets you filter out the blur better, but every time I made a big, quick head or camera movement, my vision became little more than a mass of colour. Despite this, however, the game was still quite playable.

In the end, I was really surprised at how well the Oculus Rift worked with only one eye. The immersion factor was still strong — I still felt like I was in the game and not in my living room. The motion blur and lack of depth perception were downsides to be sure, but everything was still perfectly playable.

And on one level, at least, playing one-eyed was definitely superior. I never felt even the least bit queasy.


    Hope things get better, Richard.


      For how common and straight-forward it seems to be these days, a lot of people I know have come out worse or with temporary complications — including my grandma who went from having ~70% vision to ~40% (blurriness to only seeing vague shadows and having extreme double-vision/conflict with the better eye), and had the doctor begging her to let him take the botched eye out and replace it with a prosthetic when she said she would go to someone else for a second opinion.

      Not exactly confidence-inspiring, and glad Richard's is (hopefully) temporary.

        I didn't realise it was still so risky these days. I thought most of the kinks were ironed out :/

          The statistics seem to depend on who you're listening to. The people trying to sell you on an alternative therapy will tell you the failure rate is around 50%, the optometrists associations seem to quote figures of 92% success. (92% get 20/40 or better, 55% get 20/20 or better.) The truth is probably somewhere between the two. (And there's that 8% chance of worse-than-20/40 vision to worry about.)

          The fact that his sight is bad now doesn't mean it won't improve eventually, possibly to 20/20, as the need to detach the cornea means sight is ALWAYS worse in the short term.

          Personally I'll just stick with glasses. I've had close to the same script for twenty years and have worn them for over thirty, so it's not as if I'm not used to them.

            I had lasik surgery about 9-10 years ago now, it was the best thing I ever did. I went from wearing coke bottle glasses to not needing glasses at all.

            Would I advise other people to get lasik? Yes, and several of my friends have had it since with no complications.

              How's it holding up after that long? Do you still see as well as right after hte surgery? That's been the biggest detractor for me, and I've heard the longevity is different for different people. I didn't want to get it when I was 19 just to be in the same boat pre-surgery when I was 30. I also have some decent astigmatism, which as far as I know can only be corrected surgically with a lens replacement, so it all seems like too much.

                I had astigmatism as a kid... they gave me some glasses, but I hardly ever wore them and by the time I was in my early twenties my vision had corrected. Naturally? I'm not sure. But one thing the optometrist said that I shouldn't be able to do was view those magic eye puzzles. But I loved the hell out of those, and owned several giant books full of them. Nearest they could figure, either I'd damaged my eyes by viewing them, because my eye didn't know where to rest, or - because I viewed them so regularly - I'd somehow trained my eyes to focus where they needed to. Either that or the issue was completely irrelevant and age fixed everything.

                Either way, couldn't hurt to try some magic eye puzzles. :>

                A test a year or so ago put me at 20/10 (or 40/20 as they put it at the time), but there's a real good chance that's only temporary. What with aging, and all.

                  I can do magic eye puzzles just fine. I don't do them all the time or anything though. There are a few different kinds and causes though. Unlike you though, my astigmatism seems to be getting worse with age.

                  @transientmind An astigmatism in general terms forces your eyeball to form misshapen (in my case, instead of say, a soccar ball, my eye is more AFL football shaped..) this causes the light to not reflect properly, thus causing bluriness. There is no way that you can 'grow out of' an astigmatism as your eyes stop growing in your first few years of life.

                  @sable The description I remember them giving me and Mum, in layman's terms, was that the muscles which control the focusing of the eyes were out of synch or unformed/uneven causing the eyes to have either no 'rest state' or weird rest states. Optometrist's opinion at the time seemed to be that control over focus was out in one eye, and that was the name he gave it.

                  Maybe he didn't know what he was doing? Either that or the definition's broad enough to cover that kind of focus issue as well.

                @kaflooey My eyes are fine, I also had an astigmatism, it's one of the most common eye issues that require correction. (In my case, I had a lenticular astigmatism, more commonly, astigmatisms are corneal)

                I may require reading glasses into my late forties or fifties (as you would expect from normal aging)

                The actual surgery does not "wear off" it's only your natural eyesight that deteriorates over time that you need to worry about.

                Last edited 13/08/13 11:01 am

          It's lasers.. in your eyes.. As though a lifetime of nagging teachers and parents was not enough haha. (jokes, all the best!)

            I actually got hit directly in the eye with a night club laser while having dinner in a nearby restaurant the other night, wasn't fun, felt instantly sunburnt in one eye.

              That's because it probably was burnt. :) Your eye kinda acts like a magnifying lens, and when you let the sun shine into a magnifying glass, it can crispify ants or burn marks into wood, so yeah... it'd do a number on a really tiny part of your retina!

        Jeez that's terrible. Sorry to hear, for both OP and your grandma :(

        I thought the same as DK below..

        My boyfriend had RPK surgery (they burn out your cornea and let it regrow) and he says that he smelled burning hair while they were doing it.

        Last edited 10/08/13 4:49 pm

    Couldn't you have answered this question simply by closing one eye? I mean, going out of your way to have complicated eye surgery that goes painfully wrong seems like a kind of roundabout way to do this specific piece of investigative journalism. Just sayin'.

    On a more serious note, I hope you make a quick and full recovery!

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