Oculus Rift dev kit: first impressions

About 3 weeks ago I ordered an Oculus Rift dev kit, thinking it would take a long time to arrive, but today it arrived! I could hardly contain my excitement at work, but then finally it was time to go home and unwrap the goodies.

The first thing I noticed is how incredibly high-quality the entire package is. A solid box with lots of foam inside to protect the hardware. The kit comes with all the accessories you need: power supply, usb cable, corrective lenses, and of course the Rift itself. Everything looks and feels solid and professional. It even came with a little lens wiping cloth with the text 'Oculus Rift' on it. And that's just the developer kit; imagine what the final product will be like.

Connecting it up was easy enough. The usb cable registers the head tracker and the HDMI or DVI connector lets you treat the rift as a second screen. With that set up I fired up some of the demos made for the Rift, starting with the Tuscany demo, which lets you walk and look around a nice country house. As soon as I put the Rift on my head, I was amazed beyond belief. The head tracking is beyond excellent, the 3D effect is so close to real life that it's hard to tell the difference. I've never had such an immersive experience as I had with that first demo wearing the Rift.

The second thing I fired up was a roller-coaster demo, which blew my mind a second time. Comparing the Rift experience to watching a video of a roller-coaster in 3D does not do it justice at all. The motion tracking and full field of view coverage makes it an experience that nothing else can rival. When the roller-coaster carriage returned to the starting point I instinctively looked down to my keyboard to locate the escape button so I could quit the demo, but instead I just saw my legs, and for a second I was genuinely confused. My brain really thought I was there.

The Rift works incredibly well with stationary experiences, where you don't have to walk around. In the Tuscany demo I ended up getting a weird sensation between my ears and a sense of vertigo when making sudden walking movements. This was quite strong at first but I got used to it quite quickly, and after a while it was hardly noticeable.

Having played with the demos I decided to have a go at some proper gaming, starting with Skyrim. A lot of games are unofficially supported by a 3rd party app called Vireio Perception, which converts any regular 3D game into the required dual-eyed bulginess that the Rift lenses require. Unfortunately this is where I really started to notice the main flaw of the Rift dev kit: the resolution. Even when using the demos that were made specifically for the Rift you can clearly see the giant pixels and the black space between them. This effect only got worse in Skyrim, and it was very difficult to see anything with the low resolution.

After Skyrim I gave Euro Truck Simulator 2 a try, but was also left unsatisfied. The resolution is still a problem in ETS2, albeit less than in Skyrim, but the main issue with ETS2 is the head tracking, which doesn't quite feel right. Apparently the ETS2 developers are working on official Rift support though, so that's something to look forward to.

My first experience with the Rift is not something I'll soon (or ever?) forget. The sense of immersion is just unbelievable. I really can't wait for games to support this technology properly. It is a must-have. I've heard rumors that the final version of the Rift will have a Full-HD screen. After having played with the dev kit, I don't think that one Full-HD screen will be enough. Each eye should at least have a Full-HD screen if this technology is to be truly, ultimately immersive. I don't care how much that drives up the cost; I'll gladly pay whatever it takes for a higher resolution version of the dev kit. VR is the future. There's no doubt about it.

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