Oculus Rift: The Virtual Reality Glasses that Will Change the Video Game World

Do you remember the Virtual Boy? Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s failed attempt to bring virtual reality (VR) into the living room? The Virtual Boy was not exactly a success. However, it’s been almost twenty years since it was published, so it is time for a new attempt.

The technology wasn’t ready at that time. Even if they did everything perfectly, they couldn’t possibly make a VR device that made consumers happy. It’s only in the past couple years that it has become possible to make a VR device that is low-cost and high-performance. Virtual reality is one of the characteristics that most gamers are requesting in the new generation of gaming machines.

Oculus Rift – A New Beginning

It is very easy to be captivated by the new Oculus Rift, and it has become clear to us why the media is so quick to hype the new product from Palmer Luckey. It works when you devote ten minutes to test the glasses on a pre-calibrated piece of hardware that just works, plays and does not cause any problems. It is indeed an experience where you almost feel that you step into a new generation of gaming.

Oculus Rift is a Kickstarter project that wants to change the world of video games, and maybe even has the potential to do it. At least the game founder Palmer Luckey believes that. He has support of Gabe Newell of Valve, John Carmack of id Software, Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games, David Helgason of Unity and Gaikai.

The headset developed by the company Oculus was presented by Carmack as a real way to change the gaming experience, and not only that, the project has been tested by Gamespy, G4TV, CVG, and all are more than surprised with the performance of the Oculus Rift.

Oculus Rift is not perfect, especially in terms of resolution and image quality, but it entrains you in a gaming experience that you probably have never experienced before. There is so much potential in the system, it is hard not to be impressed.

How it started?

In 2010, Palmer Luckey had a desire to buy a pair of virtual reality glasses to use with favorite games. He soon realized that the products that were available, certainly did not match the expectations he had. As Palmer had plenty of experience with hacking and rebuilding gaming consoles, the solution was to try to make a Head mounted display (HDR) itself.

Palmer began to buy up all existing head mounted display he could get his hands on, to find out what worked and what did not work. Soon he had a collection of over 40 models that stretched from the home theater models from Sony, for military technology that once cost $100,000. At the same time he obtained all literature he could find about virtual reality, the display technology, optics, etc.

He got the idea to use a display from a mobile phone, and then split it into two halves, one for each eye. Most HDR mostly used a display for each eye, but using the same display for both eyes, he solved a lot of problems and created a super cheap solution. Using a single display also meant that the software could only draw two images on the same screen simultaneously, without having to work with advanced dual-display setups.

A Quick Background

So what exactly is Oculus Rift? It is an ultra-high-tech VR headset that weighs approximately 0.22 KG, has a resolution of 640×800 per eye, a field of view of 110 degrees, diagonal/horizontal view of 90 degree, stereoscopic 3D rendering, 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) and a very small head Time tracking.

Apart from that the device, it incorporates stereoscopic 3D viewing angle, which is much wider than what the common virtual reality devices allow you to see an overview of about 40 degree. The Oculus Rift shows a panorama of 110 degree.

There are also USB, DVI and HDMI cables, and two extra sets of lenses. Oculus Rift is produced by very tough plastic and has a fabric covered band to join around the head (with a little foam rubber so that the skin does not interfere). Inside the glasses there are two lenses that create an extra peripheral image on the edge of your field of vision. They can easily be replaced by others if you are nearsighted or farsighted.

How it Works

The Rift uses a 7-inch display. Lenses deflect the light of the two halves of the screen to the left and right eye. Different distances between the eyes can be adjusted by software.

One of the most important aspects of virtual reality glasses is to achieve a large field of view or FOV (field of view) as possible. The bigger it is, the easier the brain will accept the new reality and the more insight will be gained.

Palmer’s solution was to use some powerful lenses in front of each eye, similar to a large field of view. In this way, the screen wrapped around the field, a bit like in an Omnimax cinema. Simultaneously, it’s going to look as if the screen is several feet away, and thereby relaxes eyes. The problem with this method is the occurrence of extreme distortion. But when you do not have access to the optics in just the expensive end, you just have to live with the distortion. Palmer added some standard accelerometers and gyroscopes so that the viewing direction could be translated into the virtual world.

It feels natural to turn your head to get the full picture and to spot the details better than you can with a mouse and keyboard. The most impressive is the stereoscopic 3D that simply works and it’s better than a little flat look in 3D television.

On the way to becoming a commercial product

Palmer realized now that this could turn into a commercial product, and with the help of Brendan Iribe and Andrew Reisse, the co-founder of Oculus VR. Unfortunately, Andrew Reisse lost his life in a car accident.

They got together stacked one Kickstarter campaign on the legs, starting in August 2012. He got some of the games industry’s most respected people to express their positive and support the product. Among them was John Carmack, Cliff Bleszinski and Gabe Nevell, owner of Valve and Steam. Oculus VR is going to spend $250,000 for realizing the product, but the campaign earned almost $2.5 million and was ordered for over 7500 development kits.

So what started as rough prototypes now became big business instead, with great commercial potential. It is intended that development kit will give developers access to create games and software for Oculus Rift, so there will be plenty of content when the product will be launched to the public sometime in 2014.

Oculus Rift has grown to become one of the hottest topics in the gaming industry in the past year, and is in many ways already become synonymous with virtual reality.

About Saroj Kar

Saroj is a Staff Writer at SiliconANGLE covering DevOps, social, mobile and gaming news. If you have a story idea or tip, send it to @SiliconAngle on Twitter.