Hardware Review: Oculus Rift

Dec 30, 2013

Old Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is an up and coming virtual reality head-mounted display being developed by Oculus VR, who as of this writing has raised over $90MM US dollars to fund this hardware wet dream.

For Christmas my business partner and I decided to go ahead and splurge on a couple of the developer kit versions of the OR because we have some development ideas that we want to explore.

But of course we also wanted them just to play with them and check them out. Holy crap. It’s awesome. Not perfect by any stretch of the meaning, but as developer kits go it’s impressive as hell. Once the final consumer version comes out, you should get one.

The developers kit is very nice and extremely professionally produced. The Rift unit itself seems pretty solid and works well once you get used to it (more on that in a minute).

What amazes me about it is how good the accelerometers are. The head tracking system is perfect. I expected it to be kinda crappy to be honest, or lag a little when you turned your head but it really isn’t. Accelerometer technology has come a long way and the precision there is excellent.

The unit itself isn’t heavy and in fact I stopped noticing it after the first 5 minutes.

The cost of the unit itself is $300 for the developer kit and they are guessing the final version will be between $300 and $400. I think this is completely reasonable as it’s essentially just another monitor. How much did you pay for your nicest monitor?

As for the bad – this is all I can really think of;

Developer Kit Resolution: The developer kit is very very good, but its really low resolution. The system works by putting a small flat screen (think cellphone) about 3 inches from your eyes and putting two images on that single screen that you look at through lenses. The picture as you have probably seen is just a fisheye view of whatever the game or software is displaying split in two and slightly offset to give you the left/right eye. Clever. But the dev kit has a 1280x800 resolution. That means its effectively 640x800 per eye. That’s pretty poor. The image itself while amazingly responsive and the over all performance of the unit is good, the image looks kind of like an image made with lego blocks a couple feet away.

The good news is they are working on the Resolution and the final version will be a lot higher. So for a developer cheap version, this is awesome.

Positional Tracking: As I said in the review above the orientation tracking is amazing. The unit itself has a gyroscope/accelerometer system that makes unit orientation spot on. I was very happy with this, they did a fantastic job here. But it has no positional tracking what so ever and likely wont ever have that without another piece of hardware.

For those familiar with the Track IR piece of hardware it gets around positional tracking by forcing you to put something on your head in order to get position in space, without that I’m not sure how good positional tracking could be.

But I hesitated to put this here as I dont know that it needs positional tracking. I imagine there will be some pieces of software that could benefit from it, but for the most part I don’t know that it’s needed.

Motion Sickness: I NEVER get motion sick. Never. Not at all. …. or at least not until I used the Oculus Rift for 20 minutes. This says a lot to me. I know my wife and my best friend get motion sick if you show them a first person shooter for a minute or two. I don’t. In fact one of my favorite games of all time was Descent a true 360 degree first person shooting game. This is a game that was known for (and eternally banned for) making my buddy nearly projectile vomit. heh Loved it.

Anyway, the rift made me feel very queasy. Stunned me actually. But after 3 sessions of 20 minutes or so, I was able to play for an hour before it started to hit me. So it’s clear to me that this is something you just have to get used to.. But be warned. I know some people that once they get motion sick are down for hours.

My only other suggestion or wish (aside from the higher resolution thing which is already coming) would be to have a slightly wider field a view. I want it to wrap around more.

But seriously those are really minor complaints all things considered =) If you’re any kind of gamer at all, once the consumer version comes out.. get it.. You’ll be glad you did.

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