Now Oculus VR has developed a virtual reality headset which is said to have the potential to hugely shift gaming as we know it a step closer to that ideal, which is especially impressive as it began life as a project on Kickstarter. It managed to raise nearly two and a half million US dollars and has been doing some pretty awesome shit with it.
Specifically, this awesome shit:
The Oculus Rift got loads of attention at its CES debut this year and was said by TechRadar.com to "easily surpass every other virtual reality headset". It is designed to make the player feel like they are actually in the virtual world, rather than looking at a flat screen or even a 3D screen. This will mean that gameplay changes will be necessary to implement the "head-tracking" technology, but that sounds nothing less than amazing and definitely not much of a sacrifice.
The technology works by providing a separate image for each eye, in the same way that eyes work in real life. The visuals that this creates have already been described as being "extremely fluid and natural" (TechRadar) and update at a pace of 60 frames per second. However, it does have the potential to cause unpleasant nausea in people who suffer from motion sickness. Oculus VR's representatives say that this is common among first-timers, but that most players get used to it.
|Testing the developer kit|
At the moment, a developer kit is being built so that the prototypes can be tested. For the time being, it has relatively low resolution (720p rather than 1080p) but, according to the Oculus VR website, apparently still "delivers a compelling, immersive 3D VR experience". The resolution will be improved in time for the launch of the finished product. The current prototypes work only on PC, but there are plans to expand it to mkae it compatible with Xbox, Playstation and Wii consoles in the future.
Sadly, we have missed out on being developers and the Oculus VR website advises against ordering a developer kit (unless you're a really hardcore gamer and want one just for its value as a piece of gaming history), which will be shipped out to testers in April 2013, but the consumer version is promised to "improve on almost every aspect of the developer kit".
In November 2012, it was announced that DOOM 3 BFG Edition and Hawken would be the first official Oculus-ready games. The developers hope that the technology will become popular and get integrated into other new titles and maybe have new games designed specifically for it. There is even talk, in the distant future, of improving the gear so that it can be used for other activities like watching films, although for now it is specifically for gaming.
Something that pleased me about the headset is that it is said to be surprisingly beneficial for the eyes; I have to wear glasses and I put it down to reading by moonlight and letting my eyes relax in front of close screen for many hours longer than is healthy. The Oculus Rift is designed to allow the eyes to focus as they would normally, converged in the distance at all times and able to relax without causing eye strain.
For now, Oculus VR is being somewhat vague about when the Rift will be launched to the consumer market and how much it will cost, but the website is adamant that they are "working tirelessly to make it available as soon as possible" and that it will "deliver the highest quality virtual reality experience at a price everyone can afford".
I personally think that, once this is commercially available and if it is even half as good as it is expected to be, I will retreat for a while from society and resurface some exhausting weeks later greatly dissatisfied by reality.