As we approach the realization of consumer VR, we'll be collecting all our Oculus Rift knowledge here. You can also follow SteamVR developments.
Though the HTC Vive is due out before the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, it's the Rift that pushed VR back into the limelight. The promise of the early dev kits revived the notion that domestic virtual reality entertainment might now be viable. No longer is virtual reality purely associated with the naff shiny '80s attempts at VR, or the Star Trek holodeck. The Rift, and the spread of competitors that have spawned around it, might give us a revolutionary new way to enjoy games. That's the plan, at least.
What’s the release date?
Oculus recently narrowed the launch window to "Q1 2016". That's marketing speak for sometime between January and March of next year.
What is it?
A headset with detachable earphones and visor that contains two screens streaming data at high refresh rates to create the sense of 3D virtual reality. Sensors on the surface of the visor are tracked by a scanning unit so that head motions can be translated into in-game movement. While the Rift’s competitor, the HTC Vive, comes with VR peripherals, the Oculus Rift is just a headset, for now.
Various iterations of the hardware have been in the hands of early adopters for a year or so now. Early versions of the rift only ran on low resolutions, and lacked full head head tracking capabilities. The final unit promises greater screen resolution and and a wide field of view to achieve stereoscopic 3D vision.
Most recently Oculus VR acquired a company that specialises in real-time 3D scene digitisation for the creation of more realistic virtual environments.
Have you used it?
Plenty of times. In fact, Andy dedicated a whole column to cataloguing the weird VR experiments that he found. That was on the early Dev Kit version. Of the more recent prototypes, Wes went face-on with the Crescent Bay headset last September. As for testing specific games, Tyler was chased by a dinosaur in Crytek's Oculus demo, and Phil experienced CCP's experimental attempts to combine an Oculus Rift with Microsoft's Kinect.
We've also had a go at the Rift's main competitor, Valve and HTC's Vive.
What can VR do?
Our VR enthusiast Andy Kelly has been testing the limits of virtual reality for a while. Here are ten of his favourite experiences in virtual reality with the Oculus Rift, though we’ve since been impressed by Eve: Valkyrie, which will be an Oculus Rift launch title.
Virtual reality could be revolutionary for games, but is also great for slower, more contemplative experiences, like exploring the solar system, visiting the sets of your favourite TV shows, exploring musical landscapes, and trucking across Europe.
What’s happened recently?
- Oculus VR acquired Surreal Vision, who specialise in “real-time 3D scene reconstruction”. Check out the slightly disturbing video of someone being digitised in real-time.
- John Carmack is giving a speech at this year’s Oculus Connect conference. Ex Valve VR and augmented reality guru Michael Abrash will also have wisdom to share.
- Oculus VR won’t block VR porn on the Rift. Andy investigated the wonky and mostly hilarious world of VR titillation last year.
- The Oculus system requirements were revealed.
- The first Oculus Rift consumer headset will be out early in 2016.
What are the best videos?
It’s impossible to capture the experience of virtual reality in a 2D YouTube video, but some videos do manage to sell some of the exciting promise of the platform. Eve Valkyrie, below, is one, but with some targeted .ini tweaks players have also managed to get GTA 5 running with the Oculus Rift, and demos like the Battle of Endor show VR could do a better job of putting you inside movies than 3D film ever will.
What else do we know?
- The consumer Rift is being pitched at a $400 price point. Subject to change, of course.
- Ubisoft will be bringing their big games to VR in some form.
- Oculus Rift’s competitor, the HTC Vive, is aiming for a “higher price point”.
- Oculus RIft games are already hanging out on Steam Early Access.
- Scientists want to explore the moon using the Rift.
What are the system requirements?
Of course no Oculus Rift games have been released yet, but Oculus have released the target system specs for VR apps. This is the gear you’ll need to run VR optimally. Oculus VR believes that a standardised spec is “fundamental to VR’s success, as developers can optimise and tune their game for a known specification, consistently achieving presence and simplifying development.” The specs are high, which is understandable when you consider the refresh rate the PC needs to hit on two eye-screens, but many of these components will hopefully be affordable by the time VR arrives—and they aren't necessarily required for every VR application. Some will be ore
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Where can I find out more?
The official Oculus Rift site has an austere picture of the consumer unit, and plenty of links to the VR community and the output of some of the various VR jams happening worldwide as developers rush to figure out what virtual reality can really do.