Thursday, September 12, 2013

Oculus Rift Review

I have been playing with the Oculus Rift developer kit (thanks to my roommate who ordered it). The developer kit costs $300.

It was very easy to set up - all you have to do is plug in the cables and it works. The first problem I encountered was with the size of the headband. The *maximum* length setting is barely big enough for my head. It will probably be uncomfortable for anyone with a bigger head than me.

I started out by trying some demos from The initial experience is fantastic - more immersive than any gaming experience I have tried before. The headtracking and eye focus feel very natural. It also has a great field of view. The display quality is a bit disappointing however. Due to the low resolution and magnification from the lens, you can see individual pixels and the black borders between pixels. The display also becomes quite blurry towards the edges. Text is basically unreadable unless it is large and near the center of the display. The consumer edition of the Oculus Rift will have a higher resolution display, so hopefully that improves things. The color quality and brightness of the display seem to be nice though.

The headtracking is not perfect. If you concentrate you can see the lag between your head movement and the display being updated. However, it is good enough that you don't notice it unless you are specifically looking for it.

The 3D effect works very well. Since each eye gets its own display, parallax works perfectly and your brain correctly interprets depth information. Much better than the 3D effect at a theater.

Wearing the headset is comfortable, although I started feeling a bit dizzy/nauseated after using it for ~30 minutes.

Games have to specifically add support for the Oculus Rift in order to be compatible. There are currently very few games with support (although that will probably change once the commercial product gets released). I bought Surgeon Simulator 2013. This seems to have pretty good support, although it has some text which is hard to read.

VR goggles and head-mounted displays (HMD) are definitely going to start becoming popular within the next couple years. Sony is rumored to be developing VR goggles for the PS4. Sony has already released a HMD intended for watching movies and 3D content. The cinemizer OLED does the same thing. Google Glass will be released soon (along with several direct competitors). I am more excited about these types of displays than I am about the Oculus Rift. I want a high quality HMD that can completely replace my monitor. The HMZ-T2 and Cinemizer are not good enough for this yet.

I did some research into building my own HMD. Building a clone of the Oculus Rift is apparently feasible. I don't care about having head-tracking or a high field of view. Instead I would prefer having higher display quality and less distortion around the edges (by having a lower magnification lens). This would make the display more usable for reading text and watching movies (which the Oculus Rift is terrible at). I tried removing the lenses from the Oculus Rift and looking directly at the display. Unfortunately the image is too close to focus - apparently the lens reduces your minimum focus distance. I think swapping in some lower magnification lenses could improve things.

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