Oculus Rift At Software Europe

Oculus Rift At Software Europe

By Lewis Hughes
10 July 2015

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset. It connects to a PC and immerses you fully in a 3D world, where depending on the experience; you can move around, interact, play games, ride rollercoasters, be in a scary movie or even watch movies on 100ft screens as if you were at the cinema.

We have to be grateful to Palmer Luckey for his insight and determination in building an affordable consumer headset. This has been tried so many times in the past but the hardware required has always made this a very expensive prospect. We had VR in the 80s and even further back than that, but the units were slow, the immersion was rubbish and they cost tens of thousands to build.

Palmer Luckeys company, Oculus, was bought by Facebook for 2 billion dollars. He started Oculus at the age of 19, and at the age of 21 he was a billionaire. He is now still just 22 years old. VR is going to be big! Facebook didn’t spend all that money on a whimsical gamble. But hey, not a bad paycheck for a couple of years work!

As a gamer myself, and with VR being primarily pushed towards the gaming market, this means I was a prime target and of course I am hugely interested in this type of technology. I was sceptical, it can’t be that good I thought, but then I tried it and I was wowed from the very first demo. Trying more and more experiences only convinced me that this is going to be an awesome way to play games in the future. A future that really isn’t far away any more. Some of these gadgets are already on the market and more are coming over the next months. Sony’s headset is being developed for the Playstation 4 and the Oculus Rift (for PC) is due Q1 of 2016.

But it is not all about gaming. VR is here to stay because the technology is so good now that it could allow a surgeon to perform an operation from the other side of the world, people could walk around art museums or it could allow someone to walk around holiday destinations and view hotels before actually booking and going. The uses are rather endless and it’s up to developers to create these worlds for us to explore. 

Oculus Day At Software Europe…

I got my hands on an Oculus Rift and as I talked about it around the business, many people expressed an interest in having a go. We set it up, an Oculus Day at Software Europe, open to all who fancied a go.

Four types of experiences were on offer with four or five in each category. There was a time-lapse 360 degree view of the aurora borealis and a flight through our solar system showing all our planets. There were four games to play, a selection of rollercoasters and finally the really scary stuff (my favourites).

Rollercoasters give a great sense of scale, height, speed and motion and everyone that tried them said they were amongst their favourite VR experiences. And the scary ones? When you are immersed fully in a dimly lit haunted room with creaking doors and strange goings on, you cannot help but get a bit scared. It’s like you are in there, walking through the corridors, doors slamming on you, things crawling around the room only spotted in the corner of your eye. As I watched, peoples hairs were standing up on their arms, their breathing got quicker and I could see people frantically looking all around them or physically backing away from things.

Many people tried the “chair in a room” horror experience and this is the demo that got the biggest physical reactions and the noisiest too. Sophie jumped, squealed and tore off the headset all in one split second at the end claiming “no, that’s enough of that!” A big scare for her but after a couple of seconds calming down she said it was awesome. Chris had a similar reaction to the “Affected” horror experience, and got a big scare at the end but after removing the Rift said it was brilliant. Chrissy was by far the loudest. She screamed 3 times through the “chair in a room” experience and was rather freaked out by the end of it, but like a good horror movie, being scared is what you want.

I don’t think anyone was unimpressed by the Oculus Rift and all I was able to demo was the original DK1 version. The DK2 added 3D positional sensors, a higher resolution display and a slightly increased field of view. The next generation from that (codenamed crystal cove) is better still with an integrated headset capable of 3D audio and a smaller, lighter design, increased resolution again and lower screen latency. Every leap up offers greater immersion and a more realistic experience and the more realistic it gets the less motion sickness plays a part. The current development version which is likely to be very close to the consumer version has a whole new design and will come with handheld controllers so your hands can be virtualised inside the virtual world with positional and rotational real world tracking.

It’s all going to get rather exciting in 2016 and I cannot wait!

Simon Quincey | Service Desk Network Administrator

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