Oculus Rift Impressions

I'd initially placed my order for the Rift last year, in the initial wave of Kickstarter backers. Fast-forward a year and change later, the Oculus Rift arrived on my doorstep yesterday.

First: I love the packaging. And I don't mean the unboxing process -- rather, the Rift comes in a super convenient plastic hard carry case. This makes it easy to transport the unit to locations to demo to various people. It's not the most durable hard case I've ever seen, but there's shape-molded foam inside, and the Rift fits snug.


Occulus Rift unpacked

I brought it into the Vox Media Washington DC office today for people to play with, and it's been a blast. (Today is also our last day at this location before we move to a newer, larger, better, more well-lit office!)

Setup

The process of setting up the Rift is straightforward.

A video cable (either HDMI or DVI) is plugged into the back of the Rift control box, with the other end going into your computer. The computer should then be set to mirror both the Rift and the normal display. As such, on desktops, this requires a video card with more than one video out socket (not uncommon these days).

For the office, we used a PC laptop Jake brought in for the purposes of the demo. Attaching a HDMI cable from the laptop's HDMI-out to the Rift control box's HDMI-in, and setting the laptop to mirror displays worked perfectly.

Other than the video cable, the only cables that need plugging in are a USB cable from the Rift control box to the computer for head-tracking data, and also a power cord to power the Rift.

The Rift came with ample cable for all assumed uses. It includes a DVI cable and two HDMI cables of different lengths. It also includes AC socket adapters for various parts of the world, though by default the AC adapter uses U.S. style plugs.

The Occulus Rift and Your Head

As detailed in one of the Kickstarter updates the Rift team sent out, the development kits includes three different types of lenses to use in the Rift: "A", "B", and "C".


Vox engineer Clif Reeder

The default lens, "A", should be used by people with 20/20 or people who were contacts. I've found that with lens A, you need to adjust the telescoping of the Rift unit to its longest option. Otherwise, the lens can get uncomfortably close to your eyeballs during use.

Lenses "B" and "C" are variations of the same thing: two lenses for near-sighted people. "B" is for people with moderate near-sightedness, and "C" is for people with sever near-sightedness. For my own use, I've found that the "C" lens works best for me.

There are two different straps that go around your head. One wraps around and clenches the Rift against your face. The other goes over your head, and is secured with velcro. The top strap helps maintain the Rift's position, so that it doesn't droop or move around during head movement.

RiftCoaster

There are a ton of demos released for the Rift, and a few full games. The easiest one to demo for others, and the one that best shows the amazingness of the Rift, though, is RiftCoaster.

RiftCoaster is a level modifications omeone made to Epic's Epic Citadel environment. A wooden roller coaster track snakes its way through the spires and walls of Epic Citadel. The user has no control of movement, but does have full control of his point of view -- highlight the Rift's ability to put you "inside" an environment with ultra-responsive head tracking.

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Cory Williams, Polygon Support Manager, in the throes of RiftCoaster

In short, it was amazing. Using it was amazing. Watching others use it was amazing. There's a certain kind fo child-like wonder when you first slip on the Rift and are able to look around. It's similar to the first time I turned on Mario 64 way back when the Nintendo 64 was launched. It's that sense of experiencing something new; something that maybe you read about in science fiction novels, but never expected to do hands on.

The Oculus Rift was eye-opening. I've never been more excited for a glimpse into gaming future since the transition of sprites to polygons. It really is something that most gamers -- most people -- have never experience.

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The Verge product team tries the Rift

For some, it's exhilarating. Your heart races and your body tenses as you feel, as your brain tells you that you are in a roller coaster, about to go into free fall. You grip the arms of your chair, bracing for physical forces that never come. You lean this way and that, compensating for shift in momentum that never happen. You lean back, you lean forward, you look up and behind and down and marvel at the unprecedented immersion.

For some, it's the first inklings of an amazing era to come. A harbinger of that kind of immersion and gaming that has the potential to be just as disruptive, and just as important as the shift from 2D to 3D games.

For others, it's also the first time they get motion sickness while sitting in a chair in a room in a building on land. They groan, they complain of dizziness, they admit it's something they've never experienced before, and implicitly acknowledge it's probably something they never want to experience again.

But that's okay. In the coming future, the human race will be divided into winners and losers. And we know who the winners are.

I'll take my blue pill now, please.

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