I went to Akihabara tonight to demo the Oculus Rift (Developer Kit 2):
In actuality this is really the second time I did a demo; the first time I was just so blown away that I didn’t really get to think about it like the proper dork I am — so I went back for take two:
I’ve been a bit of a sofa VR fanatic since way, way before VR was ever a popular topic. I remember owning and reading through quite a few dry and boring research manuals as early as middle school, when the universities where still making prototypes using mirrors and bicycle helmets.
Growing up in the country and before the internet, it was always hard to get much information on VR, and down near impossible to actually see it in person, so I was really excited when I finally got the chance to try it. And I remember when I did so, I was extremely, extremely disappointed:
The field of view was so small it was like looking through binoculars, the graphic rendering was crap, and it was so fuzzy you could barely see anything unless you squinted. It was so far removed from what I was hoping for that I pretty much starting writing up my expectations to be a bit of a pipe dream.
But, if I had to sum up the Oculus Rift in one sentence it would be this:
It’s real VR, as I imagined it for the first time back as a kid, and it is just really, really cool.
The graphics are good, impressively sharp, and it has an amazing field of view — so much so that I could even see things in my peripheral vision (mainly upwards and downwards, but I imagine it would have been improved if I took the time to adjust the straps). The headset was deceivingly lightweight and reasonably comfortable — probably much more so than it looks in these photos. It was also very, very immersive.
The demo I ran was a model of the inside of a skyscraper in what looked like Tokyo, and you could see some flying cars off in the distance from the terrace, or look up through the open space in the building to hundreds of floors going upwards.
Looking up actually made me feel a bit dizzy, but looking down was where I first starting noticing issues: mainly that the ground was way too close and I felt like I was three feet tall.
I remember John Carmack mentioning this in a speech once actually — that one of the hardest things about porting games over to VR was that the sense of scale gets all out of whack. It was probably made worse by the fact that I was standing when I was trying it, but I definitely noticed the same in the demo I was running.
The other major weakness that I found was image skipping when I swung my head at a semi-fast rate. If you turn your head at some speeds, the image jumps a bit as if it can’t keep up with the rendering. Interestingly enough though, if you go a bit faster, than it seems to smooth out and you don’t notice it. I’m not sure if this is down to perception or if they have added some sort of smear to fool your eyes. It leads me to suspect that you have to have some mighty strong hardware to support a smooth viewing experience though.
All in all, I think the technology is the start of something amazing and I’m really looking forward to how it gets developed over the next few years. And if anyone needs a birthday idea for me…