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Trying out the Oculus Rift VR Headset with Palmer Luckey

On the very first moment I heard about the Oculus Rift on Kickstarter and saw the introduction video I was like “Yes, this is it, this is what I have been waiting for years!”. I’ve always been looking forward to create my own virtual reality worlds, but with the previous devices it wasn’t really VR, it was more like 2 little screens in front of you – not feeling you’re “in” the world. With Palmer’s promise of a 110° field of view and a super fast headtracker I was instantly committed and pledged to get my dev kit in december 2012.

During the Unite 2012 conference I was able to get a private demo slot to test out myself the Oculus Rift VR headset. In an apartment 5 minutes away from the main conference venue in Amsterdam I met the Oculus founder Palmer Luckey as well as Nate Mitchell who recently joined Oculus. Palmer gave me a short introduction telling me how to use it and that I should starting seated with the Rift and once I feel comfortable, to stand up. This would increase the experience even more. So I got handed a dual-stick analog joypad and started playing Doom 3 BFG.

Now’s the point where I should describe the experience, but gosh, there’s no words to describe what I experienced then. The Rift instantly sucked me out my body into the body of the space marine game character in Doom 3. Words and videos really can’t describe accurately what kind of feeling that is. I started looking around, I started looking at my own virtual arm. What an immersive feeling. I felt like blown out of this universe. Monsters approached me and I began to shoot them. The volumetric gun smoke looked so… real… I was firing some rounds of the gun just to walk around the volumetric gun cloud. Hell yes, this is the VR I always wanted!

I had one earphone side lifted up so that Palmer and Nate could give me instructions. They told me while playing a bit about the screen resolution, the distortion and other technical details. I was surprised about the screen resolution actually. I expected from the very first reports I was reading in online magazines that some felt it was quite low. I can’t share that experience. Yes, it’s not a Retina display (yet), but it was way over my already high expectations. Palmer told me next year there’s coming out new displays that are Retina like and affordable and will probably replace the current (low-res) ones. While we are at the display: I experienced a slight smearing when rotating the head fast. Palmer said it’s partly software, but mainly hardware and will go away with the next-gen displays most probably found in the final consumer version. But the smearing didn’t actually disturb that much, you notice it when you really watch for it.

I played even more, ran around, wiped out even more monsters, inspected the world and felt sometimes like a little baby learning and experiencing the world around me for the first time. Really awesome feeling. Oh and I should also mention that like after like 10 minutes of playing with the Rift I still didn’t feel like I should stand up from my seat. The experience was so massive that I didn’t dare to stand up to even increase the experience even more. That I save up until I get my own dev kit in december. Try it yourself and you will know what I mean… 🙂

If you have not ordered a dev kit yet, hurry up. The Kickstarter project ends very soon. Make yourself a nice christmas present and start making the next generation VR games. Cinema feels so yesterday once you’ve been experiencing the Rift. Seriously!

It’s not the Matrix, but damn close!

– Martin

Here’s some photo I took sitting next to Palmer shortly before he handed me over the Rift