Like all the really great things in geekdom, it began with Star Wars. Former Valve employees Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson have come up with a way to bring that holoprojected chess match between R2D2 and Chewbacca, Dejarik, a reality, and the solution is castAR: augmented reality projecting glasses. After 18 months of prototyping, Ellsworth and Johnson have launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish production.
The Oculus Rift is a lightweight, boxy head-mounted display that covers your eyes and blows your mind. Once properly adjusted so that its interior screens are aligned with each of your eyes (stabilized by a single elastic strap that runs behind your head) , the image snaps into focus and you're plunged into a virtual environment, free to look around in any direction independent of your mouse movements. You can keep firing at anything ahead of you in your path while, say, you look behind yourself over your shoulder for enemies creeping up behind you, or quickly glance upwards to admire the nice ornamental work on the ceiling.
Did you know that the displays inside the Oculus Rift are simply mobile phone screens? For its E3 showing, the virtual reality headhugger's received an upgrade to its cellphones, thereby bringing the peripheral into the defined world of 1080p.
If the results of the just-barely-launched Kickstarter for the Virtuix Omni are any indication, we're all eager to begin running about in time with our in-game characters. The Omni positions itself as the latest addition to the virtual reality craze, having you moonwalk to stimulate movement of your on-screen avatar, adding to a level of immersion that "cannot be experienced sitting down."
The Oculus Rift may give us heart-stopping renders of truly believable environments, but aren't our other senses being underserved by the expensive peripherals industry? As Real As It Gets thinks so: their gently undulating bodysuit aims to let gamers feel the rumble of a passing vehicle, or the pummel of an assault rifle's bullet-spray into one's chest.
We already know what Team Fortress 2 looks like when teamed up with the Oculus Rift, but it turns out that was only half the story. Thanks to an enterprising individual with access to both a Rift and a prototype Virtuix Omni VR Treadmill, TF2 is now immersive for the lower half of your body, rather than just the top. Is this the future of games? All I know is that I want to try this expensive-looking kit for myself - does anyone want to buy one of my livers? (I can get by with just one, right?)
DICE has put out a call for a master thesis student capable of implementing support for the Oculus Rift SDK in the Frostbite Engine, meaning the much-hyped VR headset is at least in the developer's periphery. It also answers the question: "Can university life become even further removed from reality?"
Those who’ve tried playing Team Fortress 2 with the Oculus Rift largely agree that it's a game changer - albeit with resolution and focus problems. Yet Valve's tech-brain in chief, Michael Abrash, talked at GDC extensively about the challenges of developing working VR and especially AR systems, and what exactly technical advances we'll need to get a more satisfactory VR system. And though the Oculus Rift has impressed nearly everyone who’s worn it, Abrash suggests that it’ll take some time before we escape the technology’s compromises.
If you backed Oculus Rift - the fancy virtual reality headset thingy - on Kickstarter, you were probably hoping it would ship with a game for you to use it with, when they send ze goggles out to you in the next few days. That game was supposed to be Doom 3 BFG Edition, as an "extra thank you" to backers, but unfortunately the offer's no longer on the table. As relayed to backers, and posted on NeoGAF, the game won't support the Rift development kit by the time the headset starts shipping out - but it's not all non-Doom and gloom. There are number of compensation options, detailed below, including Steam credit or even a full refund for your pledge, if you've lost faith.
Modder/programmer/futurist Nathan Andrews has been working on a virtual reality set-up for Half-Life 2 and Black Mesa: Source. Fresh videos on Reddit offer exclusive glimpses of a not-too-distant future in which we our gaming time spinning round and round shooting invisible enemies with a plastic gun and occasionally walking into walls. I for one welcome this future, and you might too once you've seen Nathan's excellent work in motion in the videos below.
With all this talk of Steam boxes and Razer Edges at CES, we nearly lost track of Oculus' Rift VR headset, for which dev kits are set to ship in March. Tested's Norm Chan (one of PCG's esteemed alumni) caught up with Oculus VP of Product Development Nate Mitchell for an interview which delves into things like, "Will I need to buy a crazy expensive computer to get this thing to work?" and "When are we going to see a 1080p version?" We've got the highlights lined up for you below.
Ladies and gentlemen of PC gaming, we've officially come full circle: A gaming studio used a Star Trek reference while discussing the future of virtual reality on the internet. In a lengthy dissertation posted last week on the Valve Time blog, programmer Michael Abrash stated display latency represents the primary bottleneck VR hardware—including Valve's secretive wearable computing project—needs to address when compared to the eye's behavior in the real world. The post also apparently proves Valve's slow transformation into a real-life Aperture Laboratories.
Over at the Valve Time blog, Michael Abrash has posted an in-depth examination of the effect that screen resolution will have on virtual reality headsets. Valve's wearable computing wizard recalls the ancient times (or, as they known back then, the mid-90s), when games like Quake could run at a dizzying 640x480 display. The point of this reminiscing is to highlight that the public's perception of graphical size and fidelity is all relative.
A 640x480 display looked great at the time, but to our modern sensibilities, when Steam's own hardware survey tells us that the majority of its users are sporting 1920x1080 monitors, it would look downright offensive. We've tasted the future, and there's no going back. Abrash argues that the same theory applies to VR.
If you're interested in developing programs to work with the Oculus Rift, or just want to thrust your eyeballs into its dark embrace at the earliest possible opportunity, The Verge report that dev kit pre-orders are now available from the Oculus site. The prototype unit will come with an SDK so you can start tinkering straight away. "January 2013" is the expected delivery date.
The ramshackle prototype version that's been shown at E3 and Gamescom wowed pretty much everyone who put it on. Here's a video of Owen having a go. It's one of the few scenarios in which you'd forgive a chap for having to ward off demonic imps mid-sentence without the involvement of powerful hallucinogenics.
In a lengthy update on the Valve Time blog, Michael Abrash has offered his view on the future of AR and VR technology. It's a comprehensive and clear-headed look at the field that does a lot to clear up terminology and set the stage for future discussion.
An elite special ops team composed of Logan, Evan, Tyler, and T.J. infiltrate the hottest topics in PC gaming. With TOR adding free-to-play and WoW reporting a loss of 1.1 million subscribers, is the subscription MMO soon to be a thing of the past? We've also got Day Z storyime... from Logan! Tyler fawns over virtual reality, and we analyze your terrifying, twisted minds based entirely on what games you've been playing this week.
PC Gamer US Podcast 324: Psychological Profiling
The Oculus Rift -- a virtual reality headset which began as a garage project by VR-enthusiast Palmer Luckey -- is one step closer to being in your home and on your head. Oculus created a $250,000 Kickstarter campaign to acquire capital for the production of developer kits, and it's already achieved a balance of $445,844 with 30 days to go. That's momentum.
Remember that virtual reality headset that John Carmack demoed at E3 this year? It's called the Oculus, and according to a forum post spotted by Ausgamers from its designer, Palmer Luckey, a Kickstarter campaign will start very soon, giving early adopters a chance to snap up some of the first units.
The campaign was due to run in June, but the new date will mean the 30 day donation period will cover QuakeCon and Gamescom. The headset will be demoed at both. Luckey also mentions that he's speaking to Valve, id/Bethesda, Crytek, Epic and Unity about potential partnerships.