9th Jan 2013 | 17:57
The display promises virtual reality gaming that actually works
Oculus Rift made headlines last year for its wildly successful Kickstarter project. The enterprise to create a commercially viable virtual reality headset raised $2,437,429, and at the pre-CES 2013 Digital Experience event, TechRadar got to experience Oculus Rift eyeball-to-eyeball.
The VR headset has been through several iterations, but the one we saw at CES was the most refined. It isn't perfect (and as we found out, it might not ever be perfect for some players) but it's undoubtedly superior to any previous attempts at a virtual reality display.
Instead of a clunky skull-encompassing helmet, Occulus Rift is more like a set of ski goggles, with ample room inside for eye glasses if you wear them.
Inside are two lenses, which each feed a separate 640 x 800 image to your eyeballs. Combined, they form a unified 1280 x 800 image.
Motion tracking means it responds to your head movements, as though you're looking around an actual 3D environment.
Oculus VR (the company behind Rift) showed off its remarkable new kit with the Epic Citadel demo - a standard video game input (in this case, from Xbox 360) in first-person view.
This plunged us into a medieval marketplace populated by humble townsfolk and knights in armour, with snow softly settling around us.
Wear it well
The first time we moved was rather perplexing and disorienting. It's almost like walking for the very first time.
However, the visuals seem extremely fluid and natural. And in less than a minute, we felt that Oculus Rift really could be the new face of playing games.
Unfortunately, not long after that TechRadar's motion-sickness susceptible reviewer began to feel something else. He was only able to tolerate ten minutes before nausea spoiled the party.
The time it takes for sickness to kick in appears to depend on the game's frame rate, camera system and other factors that yet to be isolated.
But surprisingly, while Oculus VR's representatives say this initial reaction is common among first-timers, they also report that most (though not all) players subsequently become accustomed to the experience.
There is still no target release date for the final product, let alone price. At CES, two versions were shown: the somewhat rough prototype, which is covered by black tape; and the developer kit, which looks far more polished.
But whenever it appears, Oculus Rift seems set to mark a big shift in gaming. Clearly, though, there's work to do if the headset is to fulfil its potential - we can't see it becoming truly popular if it gets a reputation for making players sick.