I'm dreaming of an Oculus Christmas!

Oculus Rift – The future of gaming?

You may have already heard of it, or perhaps you haven’t, but either way, it’s coming and you should be very excited..

Oculus Rift isn’t anything new.  Virtual Reality, in its current incarnation, has effectively been around since the 1980’s .  I remember being a young boy, going to the Trocadero in London, putting on a heavy and uncomfortable head mounted display and stepping into a blocky (low-res by today’s standards) world that figuratively blew my mind!

If you had the chance to experience it back then, check this out, it may bring back some memories!

So VR has been around a long time.. But why haven’t we already adopted the technology and succumbed to the inevitable Matrix-style life sapper that is running about in virtual worlds and living an alternate reality?

To answer that question, there are several things to consider.

Firstly, VR has been, for a long time, expensive.  It’s simply not been feasible to sell the hardware at a reasonable price.  Not to mention the size of the hardware and the resulting discomfort from wearing it.  In the modern age, small screens are produced on a massive scale, making them cheaper.  In addition to that, the quality of these screens has also improved, making them lighter, brighter and packing more pixels than ever before.  It’s now possible to have the same number of pixels on a mobile phone as there are on your HDTV.

With those factors addressed, what else has held us back?

Simply put.. Consumers weren’t ready.  In the last few years you may have noticed a heavy focus on 3D from the industry.  3D has been another technology that’s been waiting for it’s time to shine and has finally started to enter our homes and wow us (if only a little bit).  VR, along with 3D has always sat on the fringes of entertainment and now that people and technology are moving forward, the true potential of them can start to be realised..

So, what is Oculus Rift, and why should you care?

Oculus is a project dreamed up by Palmer Luckey, self-described virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek.  Palmer used the crowd-funding power of Kickstarter.com to make his inspirational concept become a reality.  Oculus is the first Virtual Reality HMD (Head Mounted Display) to truly excite the gaming and enthusiast community alike in a long time.  It combines a large, high quality 7″ screen with a light, comfortable headset.  Ultra low-latency head tracking, for accurate and responsive movement. 3D to give depth to your field of view.  The prototype hardware has been demoed at several trade shows now, leaving excited and sometimes motion-sick media and industry representatives in it’s wake.  What makes it different to head mounted displays like the Vusix products, is the detail.. Rather than having two independent screens placed in front of each eye, you have one large screen covering your whole field of vision.  This means you’re no longer looking at the image as though it were your TV, you’re IN the image that’s being projected to your eyes.  The result is an experience that can only be truly appreciated by trying it yourself.

Below is the current promo video from Oculus Rift, which hopefully will help whet your appetite for the device..

Gaming prospects

Now you know a bit about Oculus, you’re probably drowning in ideas around its potential.  Imagine playing a First Person Shooter (Half-Life 3 perhaps?), being able to look around you in a natural way.  You look down at your hands, they feel attached to you.  How about a racing game?  With a steering wheel and foot pedal setup, you would feel like you’re in the race!

With the backing of several very big names in the Gaming industry, such as John Carmack (Doom 3) and Gabe Newell (Half-Life, Portal etc.), Oculus looks set to bridge the gap between consumers and virtual reality.  With the way that technology keeps on moving forward, this feels like it’s the start of something big.  I can’t help but hope that the bridge reaches out as far as the Next Gen Consoles too, as it will speed up adoption in the home, which will in turn increase support from the big game developers and the like.  We’ve already seen the PS4 announcement and there was no mention of Oculus there, but we still have the new Xbox and E3 to look forward to before we can come to any solid conclusions.  What I do know however is that I’ve not been as excited to try new tech as I have with this in a long time.  I truly believe it could be a game changer, literally.

I’m fortunate enough to know someone who will be getting an Oculus Dev Kit in the near future, so I’ll be sure to post an update once I’ve had a go myself.

In the meantime, feel free to leave comments on what you think of the Oculus’ potential in gaming.  I’d especially like to know if anyone else feels there’s a strong market for it in the console arena!