Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

oculus featured   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming ForeverThe StarTrek Holodeck – the epitome of a virtual immersive environment – has been a sci-fi dream for far too long now. A week ago, Oculus launched a Kickstarter project for a $300 consumer VR headset, complete with head tracking and 3D visuals. It’s very rare that I get this excited for a bit of new hardware, but this is a game changer. This may shape the future of gaming forever.

Virtual reality is certainly nothing new though.

Walk into any arcade and you’ll find immersive experiences of fighter planes, racing and Gundam fighting – and though the exaggerated movements certainly add something to the experience, it all still feels like a toy, and comes to an abrupt end once your coins have run out.

gundam arcade   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Crucially, the screens themselves are still 2D, and no matter how many 2D screens they wrap around you, it’s still missing something. Hydraulics are cool, but they only work for a fairground experience and are neither practical nor desirable for the home. Let’s not even talk about the cost.

There’s 3D gaming ofcourse, which I’m a huge fan of because it’s probably the most immersive experience you can get thus far – and although prices are at a consumer level, it’s still a relatively unadopted technology thanks to the bad reputation given to 3D in general by badly directed 3D movies and terrible consumer devices like the Nintendo 3DS. You’re also limited by the size of the screen, of course, and the technical difficulties of competing and incompatible technologies (Can I play 3d games on my PC or laptop? Probably not)

nvidia 3d   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

So we’re left with VR “goggles”, which do actually exist. At the consumer level, Sony offers the HMZ-T1, but looking at an equivalent 50″ screen at a distance of 7-feet is not really that immersive. Quite apart from the fact that even this $800 device doesn’t do head tracking.

sony hmz t1 3d1   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Great devices exist for military and engineering applications, but certainly not at a price most of us could even dream of affording. The latency of most of these devices (by which we mean, the speed at which the environment moves in relation to your head movements) is also prohibitive for gaming applications.

Essentially, there is no consumer level, true VR device. But Oculus Rift plans to change all that.

Oculus Rift

Created by a passionate enginneer and gamer who went in search and found nothing, the Oculus Rift is a VR headset, with a high resolution screen that’s aiming to produce the most immersive 3D experience you can buy at a consumer level. Combined with low latency head tracking, the key is in the size of the screen – a 110 degree viewing angle (compared to 45 of similar devices) means you mostly can’t “see” the screen at all – you’re just in the game. This is really only possible in recent years because of the dramatic reduction in manufacturing costs for small screens. The resolution will be 640×800 per eye on the dev kits (but possibly higher in the final consumer version) – in 3D – with a full 6 degrees of freedom (meaning you can move your head in any direction). Support will initially be PC or Mac only – no consoles. In fairness, leaked Xbox documents suggested Microsoft will launch a similar device in 2014 – but that’s a while away yet and completely unconfirmed.

Here’s a render of the Rift.

oculus rift kickstarter   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Though in reality, it’s held together with duct-tape right now.

rift prototype   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Rest assured, the industry is very much behind this. iD Software, Valve, Epic Games (who own the Unreal engine), and Unity couldn’t be more excited, and have all pledged support to get this integrated into their respective gaming experiences as soon as possible.

The company behind the project – Oculus – is formed from veterans of RedOctane (Guitar Hero), Scaleform, and Gaikai (a cloud gaming company).

Back the project, now!

At the time of writing – a day after the Kickstarter project launched – the initial goal of $250,000 has already been fully funded – and is set to break $1 million by the end of the day.

$300 will net you a developer kit, access to the SDK and copy of the new “Doom 3 BFG”, the flagship supporting game from John Carmack, and shipping dates are estimated for December this year (perhaps a little optimistically). Bear in mind, this won’t be the final consumer version – it really is just intended for developers, but that’s certainly not going to stop droves of gamers like myself from backing it anyway.

doom3bfg   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Is this the beginning of end?

As excited as I am for this unbelievable project, I must admit I’m a little scared. We already have people dying in front of a 2D screen as they play World of Warcraft, but what will happen when we whack up the intensity of the visual depth and emotional attachment; when we are – quite literally – immersed in this fake world? Gaming addiction is about to level up.

We’ve got mounting evidence that shows our physical relationships suffer immensely when our minds and bodies are exposed to online porn; and if there’s one thing you can guarantee about any new technology, it’s that someone, somewhere will figure out how to get naked girls on it. Legions of Japanese otaku have already begun to shun real women in favor of virtual 2D girlfriends – how long will it be before some enterprising publisher brings the highly sucessful “Real Girlfriend” simulation game (pictured below) to the Rift? In fact, they won’t even need to – it’s a DirectX game, and likely it’ll work out of the box. Say goodbye, humanity.

real kanajo   Oculus Rift Will Change Gaming Forever

Ok, maybe I’m over-reacting – and I’m still backing this project no matter what – but we’re going to face increasingly tougher choices in our future between the harsh reality of tough economic times, and the virtual world of infinite possibilities. Is this the beginning of the world portrayed by the Matrix sci-fi thriller?

What do you think – will you be backing the project? Are you worried about the implications a truly immersive game might have on society? If you can’t tell, I’m excited as hell, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.

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22 Comments -

0 votes

achyut reddy

This thing is amazing

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achyut reddy

This thing is amazing

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Joel Dorr

Interactive porn has always been the objective. The games are the sideshow.

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AriesWarlock

Explain why the 3DS is a “terrible consumer device”.

The Oculus looks great for first-person view game, I am not so sure of other genres.

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James Bruce

I should have been clearer, sorry. I meant in terms of quality of 3D, not in general. I have the exact same kind of “glasses-less” 3D on my camera, and it’s terrible too. It’s just not a good way to introduce someone to 3D gaming; so we have a generation who have grown up thinking this is as good as 3D gets, and they’ll be jaded. The same goes for badly made 3D movies – someone will go and see one, maybe their first 3D movie, and then you’ll find they say “no, 3d sucks, I just don’t see the point in it”. It’s like saying you’ll never watch movies again because that one B-movie was crap.

I came to 3D gaming from the first generation of shutter glasses from NVidia – that was 11, 12 years ago. The quality was amazing – you needed a good CRT monitor to make it work, but playing Unreal Tournament on that was breathtaking. I know 3D is an immersive experience, but devices like the 3DS make me sad because the quality is just so poor. Sure, the games are fun, but if people make their judgement of 3d in general based upon the 3D they see on the 3DS alone – and they certainly do – then it’s just a shame that public opinion will be so down on this too.

0 votes

Hello

I love the idea behind the Occulus Rift, and with Carmack behind it… it has serious potential.

But I disagree with the 3DS being a terrible consumer product. It does 3D without glasses, and even if it seems gimmicky they have accomplished something with that. I would love to buy one if I could afford it or if I had situations where I would rather play a handheld instead of my PC (Steam I love you). I not only disagree with that statement, I think it was blatantly unnecessary and flame/troll bait at its core.

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James Bruce

See above comment. Or don’t , because you didn’t even leave a real email address, so really no point in me responding.

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Francisco Fernández

Everything in the 1st and 3rd person would be awesome with this…

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Jason Williams

I can not wait to see the final results. this would be the greatest break though in since mario first stomped bowser.

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James Bruce

Gya, I wouldnt call that a breakthrough. Perhaps, “the first breakthrough in gaming since Quake” would be more appropriate.

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Brandon Boyer

This concept has been tried over and over. As much as I hope this technology reaches the place where it can be fun and practical, I don’t see it progressing to the point where we all hope it does.

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James Bruce

A healthy skepticism is good, but hopefully we’ll see around Christmas.

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Dan Worwood

Can’t wait!

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Jimbo

I’m getting excited, getting closer and closer to not having to take that horrible ride with a real girlfriend. Oh to have the experience of interacting with a non bad attitude women, and then push power button……………….ah heavenly bliss :)

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Erlis Dhima

Amazing! :)

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Scutterman

I think this looks awesome. Every geek bone in my body says this is great tech. But the gamer in me isn’t convinced. The head tracking is cool, but other movement and interaction with the game would still require a controller or a other input device. It’s a big step toward interactive and truly immersive gaming, but it stops short of the mark. Hopefully they are already looking at what to do if this takes off.

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Bruce

The thing is that this Oculus Rift only needs to be sufficiently immersive to sway the masses. The movement control technology will evolve once this thing is compelling enough. Sure it would be nice to have some locomotion device now but let us be patient and let them perfect this piece of tech first.

I can totally see an uptake in flight simulators, space simulators and racing games. In fact the upcoming Star Citizen (Wing Commander veteran creator remake/reincarnation) is said to support this. So I am quite optimistic in all this VR resurgence myself.

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Scutterman

I contributed to the kickstarter on the last day. I’m going to see what it’s like when it arrives.

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Kevin Hong

Wonder how long before it becomes commercially viable to obtain one.

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Steve Taylor

Amazing-
first the Star Trek communicators, we are working on the replicators now (3d printers), now the holodek! Ahead warp factor 5 Checkhoff!

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Rich Mc.

amazing that someone may finally get this right after all these years…. I hope it really works and gets sold to the masses.

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Edmar Diego

i wish they could make 3d games without glasses but still got crisp texture.