I left E3 this year without having gotten to test what could well be the most interesting development in videogame technology in recent history; the virtual-reality enabling headset, the Oculus Rift. I made damned sure not to let that happen at Gamescom this year. I’m happy to report that I did get some time with the device – and we could be on the cusp of a revolution.
First up; the unit I got to have strapped to my head was the HD prototype – and it’s surprisingly light and comfortable, which is a good thing. Honestly, a minute in, and I could barely tell that the thing was attached to my head.
Resolution though, is still a bit of an issue – and there was certainly a bit of the screen door effect that’s generally quite noticeable with digital projections, making each and every pixel kinda stand out. It’s noticeable, but also something that you could quite easily ignore. Less easy to ignore is the prevalence of motion blur; there’s a slight bit of blur when you look around on the HD prototype that could become a bit annoying.
Those issues hardly matter though, because the overall experience is something quite remarkable. Sitting in the cockpit of a racing car in the iRacing demo I tried quite literally puts you in the driver’s seat. Looking about in the cockpit, turning your head about you can see a full virtual reality in front of you; turning your head to the left or right and you can see the other cars, and the rest of the stadium as your car drives about the circuit. Turn your head back, and you can actually see the seat you’re pretending to be sitting in.
iRacing itself is probably not the best thing to demonstrate the Rift with, but it did a decent enough job of selling the tech; it really does create a wonderful sense of immersion. I found myself tilting my body when my digital car went around bends and turns. Rotational Tracking is responsive and precise; pretty much spot-on. the iRacing demo was passive though, so I didn’t get to actually control anything – which may account for why I got none of that motion-sickness that others have complained about.
Still, using the Rift was terribly exciting – and while I’m not convinced it’s “there” yet, it’s definitely something worth investing in. I sincerely believe the Rift could change the way we play games – and it’s something I’m very keen on playing with more.