Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oculus Rift: First Impressions

This Monday UPS delivered my Oculus Rift - which were a pleasant surprise since it's still, as of today, which is Sunday, listed as "Processing for delivery" on my account page on the Oculus web site.

Shipping box.
Nice and sturdy packaging.
High product value going on here. Even if it's "just" a developers kit. Me like :)
As I'll probably will be bringing the Rift with me the case will be handy to have.
As the OS X devkit weren't available when I got the kit didn't have anything to test it on as I'm mostly on Mac and Linux these days. Still - the new PC arrived after a couple of days so no big deal. Had to fiddle a bit around to get it up and running though; It's been quite a while since I put together a "gaming rig" and a dated BIOS prevented me from booting with the Nvidia card.

Getting the system up and running with Windows 7 and the rest of the software needed took most of yesterday so it weren't until today I could hook up the Rift and do a test run. Very excited!

Current setup with a small 1280x720 display to extend/mirror the Rift. Oh, and a big iMac 27" in the background. Kind of the reason I don't want any more big displays at the moment ;)
My first impression, when I put on the goggles, were: "Wow! Those pixels are big!". Which is nothing new, and something I were prepared to experience, but still. On the other hand I did fire up the goggles while still on the desktop and a pure, blue, background doesn't give you much to look at. Having since learned that you can start the Unity Tuscany demo on your other display and switch it over to the Rift using the F9 key makes things a bit easier. As others have noted; you can't navigate your desktop with the Rift!

It's a must to have a second monitor to navigate the desktop and in-game menus.
I know there's work being done in this area, but I haven't had time to test it out myself yet. There's an active thread on the MTBS3D forum about this.

That said; the Tuscany demo is very nice and you kind of forget those pixels when you move around - which is the best part. The Rift tracks your head movement very precisely and you really get the feeling you're "there". Until, after a couple of minutes, you get pretty nauseous. At least I did...

As I'm prone to motion sickness this didn't surprise me at all, but I think the main reason in this case were from moving around using the keyboard and mouse. As long as I'm in one place, just looking around I didn't feel a thing. My hope is that having positional tracking as well will alleviate this since the cues picked up by the middle ear will correlate to what the eyes see. I might try to implement some means to test this later on. Later when I tried out some other demos the effect weren't nearly as strong so I hope it will pass entirely in the future.

Firing up Hawken were a nice surprise. As it's not released with Rift support yet, at first I didn't understand why my POW was looking straight down, until I saw the headset laying on the desk next to me with the front down. Seems like the tracking works as expected, but the camera-rendering isn't enabled yet. There might be a way of enabling this in an ini file, but I haven't gotten that far yet. The same goes for the Citadel demo in the Unreal Developers Kit. Works fine with the head tracking, but I need to tweak the same (?) ini file to turn on the 3D view. Something to try out tomorrow.

The Rift being a developers kit I didn't expect too much, but so far I'm very happy with it. If the guys at Oculus VR manage to implement positional tracking as well as a more pixel-dense display I think the consumer version will be great product. And I hope this time around VR won't flop like it did back in the 90s.

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