from geometry to pixels

First impressions of the Oculus Rift

A few days ago at gamescom I had the chance to test the Oculus Rift. If you haven’t heard of it yet, check out the kickstarter project page. The Rift is basically a head mounted display build with a head tracking sensor an a high field of view screen.

When you get the device for testing, you’re told to keep your expectations low, and if your only experiences with VR are movies where a HMD will give you a perfect impression of a different world, this advice might be useful. If, however, you have tried other HMDs before, you will easily be impressed by this device.

As the current prototype can’t be used with glasses, I had to use it without mine even tho I’m short sighted. ‘Inside’ of the Rift, I was standing in a room of Doom 3 looking at a door 2-3 meters away. It was a bit blurry due to my bad eye vision but not nearly as bad as in the real world, more like being half a meter away from it – quite a strange feeling. The display has a resolution of 640×800 per eye and I could make out individual pixels quite easily. The low resolution however was not as annoying as I had expected. The whole screen is 1280×800 and gets split up via optics to the individual eyes which has the advantage that the views can’t get out of sync. A shader provided in the SDK will mix the two rendering into one which is not only stitching together two images but also distorting them to cancel out the lens distortion.

A huge plus of the Rift compared to other HMDs is its wide field of view: 90 degree horizontally. As this is still less than the normal vision it felt a bit like wearing blinders but it was wide enough to feel immersed in the virtual world. The horizontal FoV as well as the resolution are the minimum for a useable HMD IMHO, but the Rift might become the first affordable HMD with these specs.

Important for a good immersive feeling is the way it reacts to head movements. The lag was very low and mostly not noticeable. The drift was minimal and the position re-calibrated itself after holding the head still for a second. The very good head tracking combined with the good FoV created an astonishing immersive feeling which was very little disturbed by the low resolution screen.

Right now there are ten prototypes but in december the backers of the kickstarter will get there device and access to the SDK, currently that are about 5400 devices. I also pledged for one and can’t wait to get my hands on it. A commercial version will hopefully follow later in 2013.

All in all the rift made a very good first impression and I have high hopes that this might be the breakthru for consumer VR for gaming.

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2 thoughts on “First impressions of the Oculus Rift
  • Reticuli says:

    Too low resolution to be useful.

    • Robert says:

      That depends on your definition of useful. The fast head tracking and wide FoV are more important to test support of games and other VR apps for this kind of HMD. The current device is not intended to be a consumer HMD, so maybe the resolution of the consumer version will get increased.
      The Rift felt more immersive than a normal – higher resolution – monitor. Longer tests when the first dev kits arrive will show, how useful it is.

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