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Oculus Rift to make virtual reality gaming an affordable reality


Alright, that’s enough real life news for one day – time for a dose of unfeasible sci-fi to remind us we’re all living in the future. At one point during the Kickstarter pitch for virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, a man uses the word “augmentation” in the Deus Ex sense. He’s deadly serious – and so are John Carmack, Gabe Newell, Cliff Bleszinski, and CEO of Unity David Helgason.

So Oculus Rift has already circumvented the issue of industry backing common in groundswell hardware movements, in that its pitch is little more than a compilation of compliments from high-level industry figures. But let’s talk tech.

The headset promises ultra low latency, an 110 degree field of view – so immersive we “won’t even see the screen” – and 1280×800 resolution. Crucially, its weight currently sits at around 0.22kg, ensuring that extended play sessions won’t be a recipe for crushed necks.

A dev kit is already available, and Doom 3 BFG Edition will reportedly ship VR ready, in an instant making the id remake a dramatically more attractive proposition. The Rift’s SDK is designed to be squeezed into existing games as easily as possible, and developer Oculus is working on “out-of-the-box” integration for Unreal and Unity.

Away from the slight hysteria of the pitch video, John Carmack dishes the dirt – Oculus Rift is not wireless, its prototype “could not be worn with glasses”, and in practical terms its resolution leaves something to be desired.

“The display is a single 1280×800 panel; each eye only sees a 640×800 image stretched across the huge field of view,” says Carmack in the comments.

“The perceived resolution is therefore much lower than even previous generation consumer HMDs. If you are looking for high resolution, this isn’t for you. For immersion, the high FOV is much, much more important, though.

“The early prototype could not be worn with glasses. If you modify it to stand off far enough from the face to allow glasses, the fov will be reduced a lot. One reason it can be so light is that it has smallish lenses very close to your eyes.

“With the limited resolution, you don’t really need 20/20 effective vision,” he adds, noting that the headset really is very light indeed. As is my head. Living in the future can be a disorientating, delightful experience. Fingers crossed for this one.