Just How Does the Oculus Rift Work?

Just How Does the Oculus Rift Work?

Shamus continues to with his Oculus Rift VR headset and takes time to break down how the unit works, and why high frame rate is important.

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Great article as usual.

Frame rate is not normally super important to me, but it makes a HUGE difference when you're trying to emulate something you already know how to do. I'm a musician, so when I play Rock Band, I can notice even 5ms of lag, and so can my musical friends. VR works the same way.

Well, all you need to do is lower the graphics settings to get more FPS, shouldn't be a problem. We will just go back ten years in graphics fidelity, which I'm fine with if the experience is good.

dochmbi:
Well, all you need to do is lower the graphics settings to get more FPS, shouldn't be a problem. We will just go back ten years in graphics fidelity, which I'm fine with if the experience is good.

I agree. We've done this before when we transitioned from 2d to 3d. Aesthetically, the ugly origami figurines of the late 90's to early 00's 3d games generally couldn't hold a candle to the refined 2d sprites of the era, but the public chose the former over the latter anyway, since the 3d technology appeared to have so much more potential. I suppose we can afford to take a step back again with the VR.

A nice, succinct summary of the hurdles. Thanks, Shamus.

I think some enterprising marketer needs to come up with a plush Half-Life headcrab or Alien facehugger that can fit over the back of the Oculus without imparing its function, though.

I just love that we can use the term "VR sickness" in an entirely sensible way, despite sounding like it should be in a Star Trek episode about a horrible virus jumping from computers to humans.

dochmbi:
Well, all you need to do is lower the graphics settings to get more FPS, shouldn't be a problem. We will just go back ten years in graphics fidelity, which I'm fine with if the experience is good.

The problem is that VR is largely about graphical fidelity in the first place. All the things mentioned in the article are very specifically intended to make the world you're looking at behave in a more realistic manner. While he didn't explicitly mention resolution, the "more pixels" part at the end should make it clear that that's another very important point. So there's absolutely no point in getting everything else working and then having shit graphics, because that would break VR just as much as any other problem.

Kahani:
I just love that we can use the term "VR sickness" in an entirely sensible way, despite sounding like it should be in a Star Trek episode about a horrible virus jumping from computers to humans.

dochmbi:
Well, all you need to do is lower the graphics settings to get more FPS, shouldn't be a problem. We will just go back ten years in graphics fidelity, which I'm fine with if the experience is good.

The problem is that VR is largely about graphical fidelity in the first place. All the things mentioned in the article are very specifically intended to make the world you're looking at behave in a more realistic manner. While he didn't explicitly mention resolution, the "more pixels" part at the end should make it clear that that's another very important point. So there's absolutely no point in getting everything else working and then having shit graphics, because that would break VR just as much as any other problem.

Not as much as you might think. There was an article on the Escapist a while back(here it is) where a guy created his body in a virtual environment using an Oculus Rift and 3 Kinects. The graphics were incredibly basic, but felt real enough that his body unconsciously avoided moving through the virtual table legs.

I don't believe that resolution itself is a problem for generating presence, but even with low resolution software, you still want high resolution hardware to avoid the "screen door" effect that people complained about in the first developer kit(and I believe still exists to a lesser degree in DK2). More important though, are low latency and 1:1 motion replication. Your mind can buy into your environment not looking like you'd expect in real life. It's not so forgiving on it not reacting to movement the same way.

Shamus you beautiful tech writer you, thanks for the article. This was a lot of fun to read.

Another issue to consider is the issue of acceleration in-game where your body doesn't feel acceleration. I hear that's an issue that we likely won't be able to overcome.

Wait, all of that runs on USB? Isn't that the first and foremost bottleneck? Wireless doesn't seem fast and reliable either, especially when there are other devices on most homes hogging up the frequency spectrum. Imagine you getting an OR and not being able to use it because some stupid device of your neighbor is flooding the frequencies used incidentally by the OR (bonus if it appears every few minutes for a minute or so, relieving your dinner from your stomach).
So why isn't there a Oculus card that you put into your PC below the video cards. It would have a specialized high speed low latency port, that most of all always has the same properties (as opposed to all the different USB adapters). Maybe it could even do some of the described shader shenanigans and take that load off the video cards and also do it faster because parts of it are specialized for it. The OR already takes such a huge hardware investment that this card could even save you money by decreasing the video card requirements (dual titans etc. are expensive).

Lightknight:
Another issue to consider is the issue of acceleration in-game where your body doesn't feel acceleration. I hear that's an issue that we likely won't be able to overcome.

This one was solved a long, long time ago but the solution is, how can I put this, somewhat bulky and expensive. Commercial flight simulators have been doing it for ages and if you've ever stood outside one whilst a training session is going on, it looks like the occupants are not doing particularly well! In fact, the sim is tilting, pivoting and rocking to simulate things like accelaration.

If your visual frame of reference is fixed to your head then simply tilting your body backwards gives the illusion of accelaration; conversely, being accelarated in a straight line in the real world will fool you into thinking you've been tipped slightly backwards as the fluid system in your ears overcomes inertia.

Whilst an enormous hydraulic platform is out of the question, a lazy-boy sized unit would be very possible. Imagine an accelaration in a racing game - the chair tilts back, using gravity to create the illusion, and then slowly, impercepably tilts back to the horizontal when no accelaration is taking place. It's not perfect - you can hit the limits of this and even the multi-million dollar setups from Boeing and Airbus do - but it's very convincing.

Tilting seats and mechanisms have been around since the arcade days of the 80s (Space Harrier anyone?!) but add a good set of visuals and suddenly they stop being just a gimmick. I wouldn't be surprised if the early adoptees of this kind of thing were actually simmers - the hardcore racing and flight fraternities, who are not averse to spending a lot of money on tech.

IndieForever:

Lightknight:
Another issue to consider is the issue of acceleration in-game where your body doesn't feel acceleration. I hear that's an issue that we likely won't be able to overcome.

This one was solved a long, long time ago but the solution is, how can I put this, somewhat bulky and expensive. Commercial flight simulators have been doing it for ages and if you've ever stood outside one whilst a training session is going on, it looks like the occupants are not doing particularly well! In fact, the sim is tilting, pivoting and rocking to simulate things like accelaration.

If your visual frame of reference is fixed to your head then simply tilting your body backwards gives the illusion of accelaration; conversely, being accelarated in a straight line in the real world will fool you into thinking you've been tipped slightly backwards as the fluid system in your ears overcomes inertia.

Whilst an enormous hydraulic platform is out of the question, a lazy-boy sized unit would be very possible. Imagine an accelaration in a racing game - the chair tilts back, using gravity to create the illusion, and then slowly, impercepably tilts back to the horizontal when no accelaration is taking place. It's not perfect - you can hit the limits of this and even the multi-million dollar setups from Boeing and Airbus do - but it's very convincing.

Tilting seats and mechanisms have been around since the arcade days of the 80s (Space Harrier anyone?!) but add a good set of visuals and suddenly they stop being just a gimmick. I wouldn't be surprised if the early adoptees of this kind of thing were actually simmers - the hardcore racing and flight fraternities, who are not averse to spending a lot of money on tech.

Well sure, we're not likely to solve this problem in a way meaningful to the average consumer.

 

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