Oculus Rift is Bringing Virtual Reality to the Gaming Masses

Sarah LeBoeuf | 13 Jun 2013 19:00
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As you might expect, the HD Oculus Rift looks remarkably better. The same elemental demo was suddenly sharper and clearer, and it didn't have the distracting "screen door effect" of the lower-res dev kit. In SD and HD, though, one thing really bothered me: when I looked down where my body should be, there was nothing. Sure, it was just a tech demo, but for a true virtual reality experience I want to look down and see my body. That would really go a long way towards putting me right in that world and making me not want to leave.

There are some practical concerns for a consumer version of the Oculus Rift; aside from the potential for motion sickness, I don't know if gamers are going to want to wear a headset like that for extended periods, and if you can't lose yourself in a game for as long as you want, what's the point? Practicality aside, the Oculus Rift is surprisingly cool. The sense of depth is incredible, the ability to create highly detailed 360-degree worlds is interesting, and the potential for entirely new gaming experiences is always a good thing. Whether or not the Rift lives up to this potential remains to be seen.

Additional reporting by AJ Glasser:

Eve Online developer CCP Games applies the Oculus Rift 3D headset to its franchise with a tech demo called "Eve VR." In the experience, players equipped with OR headsets and noise-cancelling headphones are seated on a bench to experience a space fighter pilot simulation. The player's ship is controlled both with a traditional gamepad controller (triggers fire, left stick turns the ship, A for a quick boost) and by the player turning their head to "point" the direction of their targeting reticules for lasers and missiles.

My first feeling inside the headset while waiting for the simulation to start was disorientation. I was encouraged to look up, down, left, and right to experience the act of looking around a fighter ship's cockpit. Realistic details, like scratches on the hood and data readout screens reinforced the illusion that I was actually sitting in a spaceship. But when I looked down, I had no breasts. And when I moved my arms in real life, the arms of the virtual body I was borrowing stayed fixed to the ship's controls.

Out in space, the act of combat prevented me from investigating my fake body. In order to seek out and fire upon other vehicles, I found myself instead looking up, left and right, trying to swing my reticule over something that would turn red. Aside from the neck strain, this part of the simulation felt like flying simulation or space fighting games I've played before - find something to shoot at, move forward, mash trigger buttons. Wash, rinse, repeat. The fact that I was inside of a 3D simulation was almost completely lost on me while repeating the familiar hand actions on the controller. I have a bad feeling, though, that if I had looked down and saw those lifeless hands attached to the joysticks of the spaceship, it would've been almost nauseatingly disorienting.

I remember reading a line in fantasy novel, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, where a character says that you should never look back at your body if your spirit leaves it - because the body will draw the spirit back in. That's what looking at "my" body in Oculus Rift did - it brought me back to reality. Which is the last place Oculus Rift wants its players to be.

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