Trying out the Oculus Rift DK2

Trying out the Oculus Rift DK2

In the last two weeks, I've had the opportunity to try out a couple of demos. Here are a few quick impressions.

Tuscany was one of the first demo available for the Occulus Rift, allowing a user to visit a beautiful garden house. I was very impressed when I tried the demo with the first Occulus kit. Thus, my expectation were high with the second kit. I was not disapointed.

The Tuscano demo seperates itself from the others by the level of details in the experience. From the little butterflies fluttering in front of you and the sounds of the birds chirping, the Tuscano demo tries to replicate reality. Because of this, the demo magnifies a weakness of the DK2, the resolution of the screen. Although better than the first kit, the resolution of the DK2 is still to low to create a perfectly immersive experience.

The Helix Rollercoaster is a good experiment in nausea generation. Considered one of the best rollercoaster demo, it is an exact replicas of Liseberg's newest and fastest attraction. The demo was built by ArchiVision, a Dutch studio that has been building 3D architectural content for 19 years.

The visuals are pretty impressive, but the experience is impaired by excessive jittering when my I move my head. Given my weak graphic card (Geforce GTS 450), this is not surprising. If you have the hardware for it, I would definitely recommend it.

Edit: I've since upgraded to a Geforce GTX 760 and it makes quite a difference. The experience is quite smooth, although I would suggest looking straight during the experience.

Vangard V is a fast-paced 3rd person rail shooter, designed for Virtual Reality headsets. The key to Vanguard V is that it successfully leverages the motion tracking to create an effective control system. Navigating the game's character is an intuitive experience that is much deeper than the traditional "being able to look around you" experiences.

Initially a failed Kickstarter project, the author, Justin Moravetz is raising funding for a game studio dedicated to VR. Although the game did not reach its funding goal, Justin is still working hard to find the funds he needs to complete this game.

Couch Knight is the main Unreal demo for the DK2, highlighting both the 3D display and the positional tracking of the new kit. Two players each control a toy knight, battling in the living room. Not having a second Occulus Kit, it was difficult to experience the demo at its fullest. Regardless, the potential is impressive.

Release in 2004, Half Life 2 helped redefine the gaming experience. Given Valves' interest in VR, it is not suprising that the game was recompiled to work with the Occulus Rift. Playing the game in a full immersive 3D environment is very impressive. Unfortunetaly, the game was not designed for VR and the motion tracking is less than ideal.

The best definition for Minecraft would be digital legos. It's a natural fit for VR technologies. However, when Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook, Minecraft's owner announce that the game would not support the Oculus. That didn't stop a group of resourceful developers from building Minecrift, a Minecraft mod that provides Oculus compatibility. Visually, seeing the blocky landscape is breathtaking. Motion tracking is adequate, and the controls do the job.

The founders of the Oculus have often stated that the success of the Oculus plateform will depend on the strength of both the software and the hardware that powers it. The evolution between the DK1 and DK2 is a good step for the hardware, improving the emmersive experience. The current software that is available is impressive, but lacks the polish that would be needed by "Mr. Everybody" to properly appreciate the technology. In addition, current software lacks a compelling argument, beyond "it's cool", to sell the technology to consumers.

The DK@ is very impressive. However, the product remains far from being ready for a consumer release.