Jacking In: IGR Tests The Rift
Judging by the insanely successful Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign, gamers and designers alike have high hopes for the VR headset. At $300 USD, the Rift Developer’s Kit is priced reasonably enough that devs and enthusiasts alike are buying in at the ground floor. Currently, teams are hard at work creating virtual worlds that may soon make their way into living rooms.
Recently, we had the opportunity to test out the Rift for ourselves. In the too brief time we had, we sampled a few of the numerous community-made demos. Our first experience was with RiftCoaster. Check out a synopsis of our session below:
Roller Coaster of Love
Using resources from the Epic Citadel demo, RiftCoaster runs a looping track through the medieval castle town. It has the standard big drop, banking turns and even a hefty jump. If you were to just see the 2D footage, the RiftCoaster might appear to be a fairly standard amusement park ride simulation. Once the Rift headset is introduced, it quickly changes into something entirely different.
Once I donned the headset, I was instantly impressed with how it enhanced my sense of depth and most surprisingly, dimension/scale. Even with the slightly muddy resolution of the 720p display (sometimes referred to as the “screen door” effect), it felt as though I was really riding on the coaster rails, between the castle walls and towers as the tracks climbed to their high point. Having the device register my head movements as I looked about only cemented my sense of presence in this virtual realm.
Are You Ready For The Virtual Drop?
The drop of the first hill is what totally sold me on the Rift experience. Despite knowing full-well that what I was seeing was a simulation, I had butterflies in my stomach during the rapid descent. As the ride banked around turns, I involuntarily leaned in to compensate for a non-existent g-force. I hit the jump, and I found I braced for impact as the coaster rejoined the rails. On some level, my mind was convinced that there was more to the visuals and my body reacted in ways that it would if I were on an actual ride at a theme park. No matter how many times I went around the track, my instincts – fooled by this grand illusion – got the better of me every time.
Other members of the team reported similar experiences, and even attempted to run the circuit while standing. While I didn’t try this myself, I noted that none of them merely stood up: their arms went out instinctively to maintain balance as they winded through the course.
This speaks to the nature of the Rift: by eliminating the space between a person and the display, there’s a real sense of actual presence in the world created for the game or experience, as the case may be; we also played an educational title involving flying past the planets in our solar system.
As stunning as we can make things appear with the latest generation of graphics processing, there is still a considerable distance between a gamer and the screen displaying the game. Bring the screens close enough to the eyes, and it almost seems as though what you see is the real deal.
Oculus Rift: You Will Believe
This year’s IndieCade will feature the winners of the recently announced IndieCade VR Jam. The buzz surrounding this remarkable product is reaching World Cup vuvuzela levels, and now that we’ve seen through the Rift first-hand it’s not hard to understand why.
Even in its current form, the emotional and physical effects are beyond anything we’ve encountered. It’s also something that can’t be adequately described: This really is something you have to see to believe. With reports of SDKs sporting 1080p displays, news of numerous design teams creating content, the near future looks bright for the Rift.