Saturday, 13 June 2015

Oculus Rift Live Event - 4 things you need to know

It's been a long road for fans of the Oculus Rift, especially to those who don't own a development kit but are incredible eager to to buy the consumer version. However, though that road has indeed been long for us, the Oculus Rift has been the brainchild for Palmer Luckey for most of his life. Palmer is the young talented chap that invented the Oculus Rift. Starting off as a basic home-grown device, his obsession and love for all things VR spun into him starting his own company, having it bought by Facebook for 2 billion, and seeing his dream not only come true, but flourish. The road to VR for everyone is close to the end though, as at the recent pre-E3 Oculus live event, the company not only showcased off the upcoming consumer version of the Rift, but also its games, tech, input device and release date. Missed the event? Don't worry, because CeX has you covered. Here are the 4 main points covered in the event.


So far the Oculus Rift has been released in two different iterations. The first development kit, known as DK1, was the worlds first taste of the Rifts potential. After that Oculus released the DK2. Featuring lower latency, better head tracking and a higher resolution, DK2 was a good indication of what the eventual consumer version might look like in terms of internal tech. Well, finally the consumer version is almost upon us, as during the recent live event Oculus dished out the details on it.

The Oculus Rift looks beautiful, and compared to previous efforts this upcoming version was clearly made with looks in mind. It's black, sleek and completely covered in fabric. Certain details about the headset are still unknown, but here's what we do know. First off, the screens used in the Rift are OLED screens, and the resolution will be higher than the DK2 and it's suspected to reach up 1080x1200 per eye. Then there's the new addition of built in headphones. Though these headphones can easily be detached to substitute for your own of choice, Oculus were adamant that a true VR experience hinged on also nailing atmospheric audio too. Another new addition to the design is the fact that you can now adjust the space between the lenses in the Rift. Using a simple slider at the base of the headset, the lenses can now be adjusted to suit anyones face. Oculus also focused on the overall design of the Rift, how it is much lighter than previous attempts, how comfortable it feels on the face and ultimately how it leads to longer and more comfortable playing times. The Rift will also be bundled alongside a snazzy looking plug-and-play sensor, a piece of kit that will essentially sync your Rift up to your PC.

A wild Microsoft appears!

For a long time now Oculus has always talked about the importance of input. Using a controller as your main input device in VR is all well and good, but for those of us who have used the Rift in the past, your first instinct, much like in real life, is to lift your hands in front of your face, grab the object in front of you and simply use your natural tools to interact with the virtual world. I jumped the gun at this reveal, as I thought this Oculus' solution to the input problem, and I almost rage quit the event.

I guess wires were crossed, because at this point in the event Oculus announced that an Xbox One controller will be bundled alongside the consumer version. While watching the stream I was convinced that Oculus abandoned their attempts at making an original input device, and clumsily went down the route of going for an Xbox One controller. I was wrong, but more on input a little later. At this point in the event Oculus also announced that Windows 10 users will be able to stream their Xbox One games directly to the Rift, and play their games on a large screen within a virtual living room. The idea looked half hearted and lazy, and after Microsoft's Phil Spencer started banging on about how DirectX 12 would be vital for VR experiences, my brain shut off.

Games, games, games

The Oculus Rift has many uses beyond gaming. From medicine, travel, movies even to therapy, the future is bright and intriguing for this VR headset. However, Oculus have always stated that the headset is first and foremost a VR gaming headset, and they briefly hit this home during the live event, and promised to show more come E3. A few games were shown off, all of which were created from scratch with VR in mind.

The first they showed off was Eve: Valkyrie, a sequel/spin-off to the hugely popular 2003 game Eve Online. The game looks bloody superb, and places the player inside the cockpit of a spaceship taking part in breathtaking dogfights, all of which look incredible on a 2D screen, but must look jaw dropping in 3D using the Rift. Next up was Chronos, and interesting looking RPG that places the player in the shoes of a young man who must make his way through an ancient labyrinth. However, the real kicker here is that every time you fail to make it through the labyrinth, your character ages a year. The developer on stage really wanted to hit home this ageing game mechanic, as you might end up with an older protagonist, one that has learned from his past mistakes at trying to make it through the labyrinth. It's an interesting concept, but considering the game is a third person adventure, it wasn't made clear how exactly it works from a VR point of view. The same goes for Edge of Nowhere, another VR title being developed by Insomniac Games. Set in the unforgiving and harsh Antarctica, it's another title that was showcased that leaves much to the imagination. Still though, I'm sure many big budget VR games will impress in the years to come, but I imagine that most of the real innovation will happen in indie dev circles.

It's all about input, man

After almost blowing all my Oculus Rift savings on something else after thinking the revolutionary input device for VR was an Xbox One controller, this next announcement really blew my socks off. A sandal clad Palmer Luckey came out onto the stage and after harping on about the importance of input once again, triumphantly help up two little black devices devices, one in each hand. These devices are the Oculus Touch, controllers that recognise hand movements in 3D space, feature haptics that give the player the feeling of physically touching the VR world, track gestures and also contain thumb-sticks, triggers and various buttons. Essentially, the Oculus Touch is a device that will bring your hands into the VR world, and this, coupled alongside the visuals, head tracking and atmospheric audio, aims to create an authentic, realistic and mind blowing VR experience. They're showing them off at E3 soon too, so while the jury is out in terms of how they work in real life, the theory and concept behind them are stunning.

Overall the reveal of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift was great, despite all the nonsense and drivel about the Xbox One, DirectX 12 and Windows. At its heart it was the end of a long road to the announcement of the consumer version, but it was also the start of a new and exciting journey , a journey into the world of VR. As of right now there are various other non-Oculus VR headsets in the making, some of which will launch before the Oculus Rift itself. However if, like me, you liked what everyone and Oculus is cooking up, the consumer version will be on the market in early 2016, with pre-orders expected to open in late 2015. Get ready. VR is coming and it's going to change everything.

Denis Murphy

The Oculus Rift at CeX

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