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What is Oculus Rift?

This is the future. Right now it’s bulky and has to be adjusted for each individual user, but Oculus Rift is the future of gaming, and it just might be the future of how you interact with your PC and home entertainment too.

That’s a tall order for what equates to a set of bulky ski goggles that sit slightly awkwardly on the front of your face, but the “Rift” is an experience like no other. There was a time in the late 90s where virtual reality was so cool it was capitalized: VR!

VR was heavy, low resolution headsets with slow motion-tracking and choppy 3D animated games. The VR experiences were few and far between, relying on fast, state-of-the-art computers to deliver what was a sub-par experience at best. This was one of those few times where the bleeding edge of technology turned users off before the tech could mature.

It’s been over a decade since VR died an ignominious death and in that time we’ve come far. Both NVIDIA and AMD have kept pace with each other, building on the back of Microsoft’s Direct X technology and the promise of smooth 3D from OpenGL. It’s because of this heavy duty graphics processing that the Oculus Rift is even possible… and more, because the experience is actually amazing.

The current Oculus Rift dev kits sell from the Oculus Rift site for about $300. They’re lower resolution than what we’ll see on store shelves when it’s finally ready to go, but it’s enough to give many gotta-have-it nerds (like yours truly) the taste that they crave.

We’ve had the Oculus Rift up and running in the GetConnected Lab for almost a month, and the experience continues to evolve. It started out with just a few Rift-powered games, but intrepid developers and users have managed to get it working in some of the most popular titles available today, including Team Fortress 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Borderlands 2. While the experience isn’t as polished as it will be at product release, it’s already a revolution in game display technology.

Inside the Oculus Rift headset are two identical screens capable of creating 3D that’s far more effective than today’s shutter-glasses or polarized lens approach. Because each eye is isolated the Rift doesn’t need to resort to the resolution- or frame-rate-lowering-techniques found in these other two methods. The headset isn’t elegant right now, strapping onto your head with a GoPro-like elastic setup, but it’s light enough to be comfortable even for extended play sessions.

The image that you see is responsive to head movements as well as manipulation with the keyboard and mouse. Getting the hang on actually being in the first person in first person shooters takes a few minutes… but once you do, it’s so real it’s unreal. It’s exciting to think of what we could do with immersive technology like this; it brings us one step closer to the world of Johnny Mnemonic and William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

There are also some interesting applications for this when tied into motion recognition technology like Microsoft’s Kinect or the Leap Motion that we reviewed last week. It’s exhilarating to think of what may be possible in just a few short years. Can you imagine designing a 3D world from the inside? Working with a database where you can physically see and manipulate records? Interacting in a 3D space with virtual avatars that feel real? This is the promise of 90s VR, finally made real. Oculus Rift is the future of gaming… and so much more.

Have you seen Oculus Rift? Do you think immersive tech is finally going to make it? Let us know in the comments below!

Graham Williams is a Canadian Tech Blogger and correspondent for GetConnected. You can follow him on Twitter at @thetechnogram


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