The Oculus Rift started the most recent resurgence of Virtual Reality. However, since then, it has failed to capitalise on its head start as other players such as Sony and Valve have revealed their products. While a retail release might still be a ways away, the Rift finally has PC requirements. And boy are they high.
In a new blog post, Oculus Rift’s chief architect Atman Binstock explained why the system specs are the way they are:
Traditionally, PC 3D graphics has had soft real-time requirements, where maintaining 30-60 FPS has been adequate. VR turns graphics into more of a hard real-time problem, as each missed frame is visible. Continuously missing framerate is a jarring, uncomfortable experience. As a result, GPU headroom becomes critical in absorbing unexpected system or content performance potholes.
Finally, we know that minimizing motion-to-photon latency is key to a great VR experience. However, the last few decades of GPU advancements have been built around systems with deep pipelining to achieve maximum throughput at the cost of increased latency; not exactly what we want for VR. Today, minimizing latency comes at the cost of some GPU performance.
Framerate and latency are what can make the difference between immersive VR and an experience that leaves one feeling nauseous. So, what’s required to run the Oculus Rift? Well, here’s the recommended hardware:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
The guts of the machine are quite high-end – way beyond what we’re used to seeing as recommended hardware for games. However, it’s the video output that might leave some people in the dust – laptops tend to have their external video output connected to the integrated GPU. Considering the GPU performance of laptops, they will not currently be able to support the Rift at the levels of performance required.
At least PC gamers with this level of high-end specs can shoot to pick up the VR headset when it eventually ships at retail. Mac and Linux gamers won’t be as lucky:
Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.
Not only has Mac and Linux development been paused, there’s no timeline for when it will be resumed. I know that the Mac and Linux market is much smaller than the PC one, but it still makes me sad to hear about this. Plus, Valve’s VR headset will presumably be Linux compatible considering their commitment to the OS with their SteamOS and Steam Box setups. This could mean a further setback for Oculus Rift when competitors can offer something above and beyond what they can.
I’m really not too surprised that VR will require such high-end components. It’s a top of the range technology and won’t be for everyone. Plus, seeing as it won’t be releasing this year, by the time it does come out, these chips won’t be nearly as top of the range as they are now. These system requirements may seem heavy now, but by the time you’re plugging in the Rift, I’ll bet you’ll barely bat an eye. That’s if you end up opting for the Rift anyway – my money is on the other VR competitors at this stage.
Last Updated: May 18, 2015