Here is a review roundup of what people are saying about the Oculus Rift.
When I think of virtual reality, I think of immersive experiences that transport me to places, real or make-believe, I would otherwise never see. VR is the stuff of sci-fi: mesmerizing, otherworldly, and maybe just a little unsettling. It’s going from Point A to who knows where or when, without leaving wherever your mortal shell is in the here and now.
Oculus Rift has achieved this effect, and it’s done so in what feels like the blink of an eye. I can say from my own experience of first trying Rift at GDC 2014 all the way to using the final version just two weeks ago, it’s come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Now, it’s coming to consumers.
Rift’s transformation begins in the hardware itself. Compared to that first early prototype and later dev kits, the consumer Rift feels like it actually belongs on your face. It’s lightweight, comfortable and refined.
Our Early Verdict
Oculus Rift is an outstanding device that delivers the kind of virtual reality we’ve only ever dreamed of. The headset has come so far, so fast, and it’s only going to get better.
You simply must try the Oculus Rift. It’s breathtaking. I just wouldn’t buy one right now — and there’s no reason you should feel the need to, either (especially with its archrival, the HTC Vive, also just days away). The longer you wait to buy, the better it will get. This is just day one for Oculus — and for the future of virtual reality.
The exciting and frustrating thing about the Oculus Rift: It’s easy to see how much better it can get.
Easy, because Rift rival HTC Vive has already shown us what it’s like when you can add your hands and feet to virtual reality — not just your head.
You can reach out and grab things with the HTC Vive’s motion controllers and walk around a room. But the discrepancy won’t last long: Oculus will let you do those things with the Oculus Touch motion controllers, coming this fall.
The moment I place it on my head, I’m all alone in a Zen garden of a living room — little rivers, a stepping stone path, a bonsai tree, the whole nine yards. But there’s nothing to interact with save for a floating menu of 42 different titles, nearly all of them games.
Some of them are mind-blowing. I lost myself in BlazeRush, a hilariously unpredictable game where you fling a tiny Micro Machines-sized car around a racetrack while sending competitors to a fiery death. I was a kid playing with my toys again — toys that came to life. It was 2 a.m. when I finally remembered to take off the visor.
I can say the same for Chronos, an adventure that had me literally looking around every corner before I dared let my hero venture out.
But most Oculus games are fairly shallow, at least compared to the hottest titles on Xbox and PlayStation. I wouldn’t spend more than a few hours trying them out.
For every EVE: Valkyrie — which thrusts me into the cockpit of a starfighter in the midst of a frenetic multiplayer dogfight and keeps me coming back for more — there are two ho-hum titles that I wouldn’t have spent money on.
Still, we’ve seen that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo can sell millions of game consoles on the backs of a few games. It doesn’t take 42 great experiences — just a couple of the right ones.
It’s tough to relate the experiences the Rift can give you with words and two-dimensional video and images, because this is unlike anything most people have ever seen. To give you an idea of how powerful it is to fully immerse yourself in a virtual world: it can not only make you forget where you really are, but fool your brain into thinking you’re moving (or falling) when you’re actually sitting still, creating a real sensation you can feel in your stomach. It’s hard to believe this technology exists – and that it works – but it does. It is, in a word, amazing.
The Rift headset itself is light, weighing just over a pound. That weight doesn’t include slight addition of the single, four-meter (13.2-foot) cord the width of an Ethernet cable; that cable contains both HDMI and USB connectors, and splits near the end so you can plug them both into your PC. The weight of the headset is comfortably distributed by the straps that secure it to your head, and thanks to soft padding where it makes contact with your face (which is replaceable, but only one comes in the box) it feels like wearing some nice but slightly heavy ski goggles. Despite its light weight, its textured matte plastic housing doesn’t look or feel cheap or flimsy, and it doesn’t pick up fingerprints or smudges – which is nice on a device you’ll handle frequently.
When you put the Rift on it forms a tight seal around your eyes, blocking out everything except a little bit of room around your nose through which you can look down. I’ve found that sliver of light easy to ignore during games (I usually don’t notice it until I look for it) and also useful when I want to look down to find a controller or keyboard, or take a sip from a drink without taking the headset off.
After spending many hours in virtual reality, I believe the launch of the Oculus Rift is the start of a new era. The first time you put it on is the closest thing to real magic you’re likely to experience anytime soon. It’s true that VR has a lot of maturing to do, but this amazing headset is a front-row seat to watch gaming history being made. Its current lack of motion controllers means these enticing experiences are mostly “look, don’t touch,” but even though it can’t live up to its full potential quite yet, the ability to so easily immerse ourselves in a game world or other virtual environment is worth every penny.
Reviewing the Rift means playing a lot of games. It means considering the design of the hardware. How it fits my head. How comfortable it is. How its lenses and screens serve the games they display. But it goes beyond that—it means thinking about VR as an entirely new way of playing games on the PC, and how the Rift heightens or hinders that experience. Not just the mechanics and fun of dogfighting in EVE Valkyrie, but how swooping around asteroids and using my head to aim lock-on missiles makes my brain feel, and how it utilizes this new technology. How true immersion—the kind of immersion that tells your brain not to step off a ledge, because it truly believes you will fall—can change how we experience digital worlds. And what it means for all of those things to be “worth” the buy-in price of $600.
For the past three years, the promise of VR has been bold: nothing short of a paradigm shift in how we interact with technology. For Oculus, this is presumably just the beginning, the first step on a long road of technological progress. For game developers, too, this is just the starting line of a race to design games fundamentally unlike anything we’ve played before.
The sense of potential has been the defining characteristic of my Rift experience so far. The arrival of VR is hugely exciting, but the games and technology available at the start of this journey struggle to keep me in the headset for more than a few minutes at a time.
I can’t praise the strap design of the Oculus Rift headset enough. The semi-rigid rubber strap wraps around the back of my head and cradles my skull closely enough to balance the weight of the headset, giving it a vital leg up on gravity. The Rift weighs 470 grams, but a good chunk of that number is in the rigid plastic arms and the built-in earphones. That weight actually helps support the front part of the headset and also makes it surprisingly easy to put on and take off.
The Oculus Rift is both a headset and a platform for playing games in a new way—hardware, software, and experience, all rolled into one. Compared to Oculus’ prototypes, the Rift is a triumph of engineering, light and comfortable with better optics than I thought would be possible two years ago. But the screen and lens technology still stand in the way of fully buying into these new virtual worlds, and that will be the case for the lifetime of this piece of hardware.
The shortage of compelling games is, hopefully, a more short-term problem. The pool of options is wide, but shallow, and for now, the experience of using the Rift without motion-tracked Touch controllers (coming separately later this year) disappoints.
I still believe in VR. I believe it will let us do amazing things. It will change the world—virtual tourism and classrooms will make the world a smaller place, social networks will become more and more like The Street from Snow Crash, and cybersex is going to get real weird.
For a long time, the hopes and dreams of many virtual reality fans could be summed up with two words: Oculus Rift. Helped by the rise of cheap smartphone displays, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey took a technology that most people considered a retro curiosity and convinced them that it could change the world. The Rift let you skydive without a parachute. It helped artists show the world through another person’s eyes. It simulated beheading. It put you in fictional settings that ranged from kaiju-fighting robots to Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.
Oculus rarely brags about its industrial design, but one of the best things it’s done is make something so stereotypically geeky look (relatively) natural. The $599 consumer Rift is full of clever and thoughtful touches, starting with the delightfully soft rubberized carrying case it ships in, which makes the whole thing feel like a cyberpunk hacker’s console. The all-black headset is downright understated by gaming hardware standards, with a front of smooth rubber, sides coated in coarse cloth, and lenses surrounded by a web of lycra. It’s tethered to a PC by a single wire, which runs out your left temple and along one of the adjustable side straps. William Gibson’s best-known foray into virtual reality might be Neuromancer, but the Rift feels more like something from his design-obsessed novel Pattern Recognition — it’s the kind of minimalist product that its brand-allergic, coolhunting protagonist Cayce Pollard might approve of.
The Rift is something I’d be happy to have in my living room, and compared to the developer-focused Oculus devices of years past, it’s a breeze to set up. The 4-meter headset tether ends with one USB and one HDMI port, and the tracking camera is plugged in with its own USB cable — there’s no external power cable or controller box for either piece. You’ll just download Oculus’ Windows app and run through a short, though descriptive, setup checklist before getting into VR. Granted, getting to this point requires having a powerful gaming desktop, which can produce plenty of glitches on its own. And since most PCs have only one HDMI port, you’ll need to use a different connection for your monitor, an extra and not totally intuitive step for many people. For the most part, though, it’s as easy as I can imagine installing a totally new kind of computer hardware to be.
For the first time, though, there’s something to do while you wait. The high cost of buying and running high-end VR headsets makes them inaccessible to many people, and the Rift in particular is relentlessly focused on gaming. Within these limitations, though, the Rift makes a good case for seated VR, and it lays a solid foundation for what’s to come. The headset you can buy today is not Oculus’ most ambitious vision for virtual reality — but it’s a vision that Oculus has successfully delivered on.
The Oculus Rift headset is simple and understated. It’s a plain black rectangular visor with rounded edges and little visual flair. The front panel is completely flat, marked only with an Oculus logo. The sides of the visor are similarly flat, and connect to arms that pivot slightly up and down and attach to the three-strap harness for securing the device on your head.
On its own, the headset is fairly light and comfortable. You can wear glasses with the Rift, but it will make the fit a bit tighter. I used my glasses when testing the headset, which helped ensure that I saw crisp and accurate visuals. But it also made putting the Rift on and taking it off a bit awkward, and depending on the size of your frames, they could hurt your ability to wear the headset for long periods of time.
The Rift uses a single external sensor, a black cylinder that sits on a nine-inch-tall metal desktop stand. The sensor can tilt up and down, and must be placed where it can maintain a clear view of the headset when in use.
Once you’re up and running, a 2,160-by-1,200 OLED panel is used to produce a 1,080-by-1,200 picture for each eye, separated by the lenses in the headset (just like the Vive). The lenses can be adjusted using a small lever on the right underside of the visor. More on the visual themselves in a bit.
The Rift shares the same resolution and refresh rate as the Vive, and as such the experience is very similar between the two. Like the Vive, the Rift produces a crisp picture with smooth motion and head tracking. In testing, the 3D effect of the stereoscopic images really gave me the sense that the virtual objects I was staring at were actually in front of me. Ultimately, the Rift headset is a display, so smoothness and graphical fidelity will depend on the power of your computer and sophistication of the software. In terms of hardware, though, the Rift produces a compelling virtual experience for the eyes.
I played a few VR titles available on the Oculus store, including EVE: Valkyrie, Farlands, and Lucky’s Tale. I also tried Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games and Virtual Desktop, launched through SteamVR.
Now that the Oculus Rift is finally available as a consumer-ready product and not simply development hardware, it’s even easier to see that it has vast potential. The headset comfortably produces an immersive, crisp virtual reality experience that will continue to improve with the development of new software. We’ll have to see how the video game industry responds to the hardware, but all the pieces are there to build the next big RPG or shooter in VR.
After spending several days playing with the brand new Oculus Rift virtual reality kit, I can finally understand why Facebook pumped $US2 billion into this technology. Forget everything you thought you knew about virtual reality (VR); after a stomach-churning, wallet-burning false start in the early ’90s, VR has finally arrived in a form that shows its incredible potential, though you’re going to have to pay a price to experience it now.
Importing one of these kits from the US works out to cost approximately $1150 once delivery costs and tax are added to the $US599 price tag. And even if you order one now, you won’t get it until July at the earliest, as the first batch sold out in days. You’re also going to need a PC with decent specs to deliver the performance required by virtual reality.
The game library currently has more 30 titles at launch, but there are a range of other experiences to enjoy first. 360 photos transplant me into various world-famous locations, from the beautiful bridges of Paris, to the ancient streets of Rome. Meanwhile the video application grabs content from Facebook, Twitch and Oculus, and plonks me into the centre of videos that now surround me.
To see where the Rift truly shines, it’s time to fire up some of the games, and there’s a nice range compared to other platform launches such as the PS4 or Xbox One. Like the 3D animations, these have been designed with the resolution limitations in mind, using much simpler environments, and the increase in immersion compared to gaming on a 2D screen can be described in one word: breathtaking.
Ultimately though, the Rift is day one of the VR revolution, and I couldn’t be more excited to see how this technology matures in the coming years.