What is the Oculus Rift?
It’s a head-wearable piece of technology that plugs into one of your digital devices in order to display rendered scenes on internal screens inside the headset, generating a virtual reality environment.
Unlike its predecessor, this version of the headset has a built-in control box which processes the movements your head makes to affect the virtual scene. This is linked to your PC/Device via a joint HDMI+power cable to provide the source imagery.
What does it do?
The Rift uses tracking devices to synchronise your head movements with the rendered images on the screens in front of each eye. The screens show the rendered scene from slightly different viewpoints, just as your own eyes would see the same scene if you were seeing it for real. This has an amazing effect on convincing your brain that you are actually there (though you need a bit more convincing to get a true sense of ‘being there‘).
How does it work?
Your brain sees in 3D thanks to our binocular vision. The input from each of our two eyes lets us build up a mental image of the world as we triangulate distance based on the slightly different views each eye gets.
Typically, digitally-rendered scenes require the placement of a camera, or point-of-view from which to render the 3D perspective. Oculus Rift (or any virtual reality headsets) require two cameras, set side-by-side about the same distance apart as your eyes. The scene is rendered slightly differently due to the changing perspective viewed from those subtly different points. So when the two 2D views are applied to your eyes correctly, the experience you have is of seeing the view as if it were a real environment with 3 dimensions.
What are the specs of the Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2?
Achieving an immersive virtual reality (i.e. one that your mind doesn’t constantly battle with) requires a lot more processing power and sophistication than previous generations of VR equipment can handle. Not only do the screens have to be higher resolution, but the tracking devices have to have high-frequency updates, in order to match your own biological system’s awareness of orientation. There is a lot more to presence than that, but its a great start.
What specs will the retail Oculus Rift have?
Palmer Luckey confirmed an upgrade to the Rift’s display resolution without mentioning any specifics. The only commentary currently available indicates that Oculus are working on a higher-res display (2560×1600?) – though only if they are confident of processing power keeping up. It’s hard to imagine average household PCs throwing around dual-1600p images, but who knows? Additional updates include; lighter and smaller overall, even lower latency, wider field of view (110deg), and faster tracking.
Luckey also suggested that audio could be built into the consumer Rift itself – which would be a welcome addition if it were optional (i.e. giving people the chance to use their own hardware).
Other factors under development are: compatibility with consoles/mobiles and standardising the integration with a growing number of add-ons.
Why do we need VR?
This is the subject of a much broader discussion you can read more about in the ‘Virtual Reality‘ section of the site.
What’s the retail Oculus Rift going to cost?
The long term aim from the Oculus camp is ‘free’, but for the realistic launch price we’re working on the assumption that it will be cheaper than the dev kit at around £300 (£299 RRP). Oculus are looking to create subsidies by partnering with other players in and around the game industry, so this could be even lower come release time.
Will the consumer Rift work with my device?
The dev kits only work with Windows, Mac and Linux PCs (inc. Steambox) at present, but Oculus are working hard to ensure compatibility with Xbox, PS4 and even mobiles for the retail-ready version.