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Virtual Reality – The Oculus Rift

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The world has taken a step closer to virtual reality after an innovative new head mounted display (HMD) called the Oculus Rift more than tripled its Kickstarter target of $250,000… in a mere four hours. The Oculus Rift sets is unique because it offers gamers an all-encompassing field of view, ultra-low latency head-tracking and real 3d vision that gives gamers a level of immersionunseen in modern gaming.

It all started way back in June when John Carmack of Doom fame introduced a prototype version of the Oculus Rift during June’s E3 presentation. Journalists were invited into a small room one-by-one, to test out the machine on a highly upgraded version of Doom 3; due out later this year. Every journalist and gamer that experienced the Rift went away flabbergasted by the level of immersion, saying they had felt vertigo when looking over heady drops, fear when monsters crept around corners and a sense that they’d had some kind of out of body experience when they’d donned the headset.

“The demonstration was particularly low-key but the response it gained online was unprecedented.”

The prototype wasn’t created by Carmack, however. It was developed by a young tech expert from America called Palmer Luckey. Palmer is the founder of Oculus and has over 200 HMD’s in his own personal collection. The Rift is his piece de resistance. It has a 640 by 800 pixel screen for each user’s eye – the final product won’t be so low resolution – and a diagonal field of view of 110 degrees. That means you aren’t looking at one big screen off in the distance like Sony’s HMZ-T1 instead you will actually feel like you are in the world.

The Rift is unique because it is the first VR machine that doesn’t suffer from latency problems. In the past gamers would tilt their head and the screens of the VR machine would have to catch up with the heads position and that requires a large degree of suspension of disbelief. With the Rift, advancements in technology – like the introduction of inexpensive motion tracking devices and high-density lightweight screens – means that the Rift has perfect head-tracking and zero latency.

Yet the Kickstarter project won’t get you a finished model. It is specifically for professional and indie game developers who want their games to have native support when the consumer product finally arrives sometime within the next couple of years.

For me the Rift is a far more appealing product than the next generation of consoles. Sure the graphics will be improved, but I suspect the gameplay will remain largely the same. The Oculus on the other hand will provide an entirely new experience to enjoy. An experience that can build upon what is already there. Imagine revisiting all of your favourite games as if you were actually there in thrilling 3d. Just imagine strolling down the halls of the abandoned planet cracker Ishimura, or experiencing the destructibility of Battlefield 3 first hand.

All in all the Oculus is best summed up by John Carmack himself, he said: “What I’ve got now, is, I honestly think the best VR demo probably the world has ever seen.” And I’m dying to get one for myself.

Until virtual reality arrives poperly, we should enjoy the best new games out there – such as Borderlands 2 available at Grainger Games, or the new Darksiders 2, which is out soon.

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