Visions Of The Future: Face-On With Oculus Rift

By Nathan Grayson on August 6th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

John Carmack is building the future. Well, technically, he’s only helping this time. Along with Palmer Luckey and the other fine folks at Oculus Rift, Carmack’s diving headset-first into the world of virtual reality. Of course, this isn’t the first time gaming’s tried taking Bambi-like first steps onto the Holodeck. But then the Virtual Boy happened, and everyone got really sad. Now, though, Carmack and co are claiming the tech’s reached its threshold for “useful coolness,” and – after a hands/eyes/face-on demo with a duct-tape-and-hot-glue prototype of the Rift – I’m sold. This thing’s the future. Or at least a big part of it, anyway.

Oculus Rift made me fear a ladder. I was trying my hand (and head) at Doom 3, and I’d climbed up one floor to flip a switch. Then it was time to go back down. Now, admittedly, I fear many things. Spiders, clowns, the fanbase of the Insane Clown Posse, those weird fish with the lights on their heads that live at the bottom of the ocean, the fact that humanity’s supply of coffee is finite, social awkwardness, finding out that all my friends like Nickelback, etc. But gosh, heights are basically the worst. We are not birds, squirrels, or hovercrafts. Our feet were made for the ground, and that’s where mine quite like to stay. So I approached Doom 3′s ladder, glanced down it via the future magic of the unwieldy plastic box strapped to my face, and felt a deep-seated, instinctual tingle of fear slither down my spine. “This is high!” said my brain. “We could fall and bruise something and then die!”

These, of course, are not the concerns of BlastoBiff McSpaceMarine, granite-jawed hellpuncher. But in that moment, I couldn’t help it. My mundane worries crept into a patently unreal setting because – on some subconscious level – my brain believed it was there. I mean, these events were unfolding right in front of my eyes, and if I moved my head, my field of vision shifted exactly as I expected it to. As far as my brain was concerned, I’d taken an abrupt vacation to demon-overrun outer space, and I was one wrong step away from certain, well, doom.

My multi-runged metal nemesis was just the beginning. When enemies moved in close to take a swipe at my most precious of visceras, I physically – as in, in the real world – took a step back. It was a bit strange, too, because only part of it was motivated by a fear of getting hit. The remainder, meanwhile, came from simple boundary issues. If someone gets that close to me in real life, I step away. They’re in my bubble, after all. These demons were making bloodthirsty lunges right into my personal space. It was very rude of them.

So what, exactly, has changed since the days when virtual reality plummeted from its pie-in-the-sky space realm back down to earth in the most blood-curdling of fashions? Raw hardware muscle, mainly. To hear Carmack tell it (and admittedly, he might not be the most representative sample for mere mortals like ourselves), the headset itself is a relatively simple piece of tech. It does, however, require a massive amount of resources to render stereoscopic 3D at a high level of graphical quality, and we’re finally hitting the point where that’s very feasible.

Granted, the Rift is still far from ready for primetime. For one, the graphics were still fairly blurry – and it becomes all the more noticeable when they’re centimeters away from your eyes, doing their damndest to give your eyelashes some strange new breed of bedhead. Also, more pressingly, the control system still leaves a lot to be desired. For the purposes of this demo, I used an Xbox 360 pad (hisssssssssssss [flesh begins sizzling]), with the left stick only in control of the gun’s position – not my field of vision. The right stick, meanwhile, took care of movement just like always. In practice, this setup was functional, but clunky. Sure, I sent hell’s minion’s packing all the same, but it never felt particularly natural or intuitive. Instead, the appeal was in simply being there. Looking around with my own neck and nearly stumbling over couches while John Carmack (note: sold separately) snickered to himself and probably read my mind because I bet he can do that.

These problems are, however, not insurmountable. In fact, according to Carmack, most of them will be ironed out in the very near future. Blur-o-vision, for instance, will disappear with higher-res screens, which Carmack and co are working on getting into a new prototype right now. As for controls, he suggests the Razer Hydra or even something like Kinect could provide a much better fit. At that point, however, a total lack of feedback becomes a problem of immersion-killing magnitude (think: punching someone’s face in-game, only to send your fist sailing right through air – and nothing else). But on that front, Carmack’s already dreamed up quite a few potential solutions. And only some of them might be fatal!

Pictured from left to right: the Rift prototype, a TV, me looking incredibly disgruntled/unattractive/blurry for no apparent reason.

“[There are possibilities like] Galvanic nerve stimulation,” he told me, “where you can put these electrodes on your head and send currents through your brain, and it makes you feel like you’re going different directions on there. And if it felt like you were moving when you pressed the joystick or when someone hit you in the game, that’d be really powerful. But, well, there was some sense of scarring on the inner ear of people who’ve used that technology,” he added, laughing a bit nervously.

“There’s a guy that made a flack jacket with a bunch of thumpers in it for FPSes several years ago. We could have that integrated in.”

In the near term, though, Carmack’s more focused on perfecting the central device. Specifically, he’s hoping to add a 120hz OLED panel to make graphics sharper and – here’s the interesting part – some form of position tracker (for instance, cameras on the outside of the Rift) to track users’ arm/leg movements and simulate them in-game. Optical tracking – that is, tech that follows individual eye movements – is also on the list, though Carmack’s not 100 percent on it just yet. “I’m confident that optical tracking is possible with new stuff, but I’m not entirely sure. But a lot of the stuff is more ‘I’m positive we can make this happen,’” he noted.

The hope, then, is that we’ll see the Rift make a serious splash before too much longer. “It’ll be our secret weapon for Doom 4 showings,” he explained, quite visibly excited. But the potential here goes far, far beyond first-person shooters about BFGs, cyberdemons, and mortal man’s most dangerous threat of all, the ladder. Carmack’s hoping to garner interest from every developer under the sun, and he’s quite hopeful that even non-first-person genres will benefit in a big way. “As I see more and more the value of having the headtracking on this, I realize practically anything would benefit from this immersion,” he said. “I’ve looked at god games, and it is a better experience.” Meanwhile, I suggested some form of Mirror’s Edge spin-off and a game with no action component – one that simply focuses on looking and the awkwardness a lingering stare creates – and he nodded vigorously in agreement.

I think somehow, by the grace of god, it's going to be OK.

For now, though, Oculus Rift is an amorphous blob of potential just waiting for someone to shape it. And with an absurdly successful Kickstarter putting plenty of wind in its sails, it seems almost guaranteed to go far. Put simply, I’m excited. Incredibly excited. Games have been chasing the holy grail that is “immersion” for eons, but this stands to be one giant leap from the stone age to reaching out and touching the stars – or at least feeling like we can, anyway. Back in the day, everyone from developers to sci-fi novelists dreamed of this sort of thing. Now, claims Carmack, the day’s finally arrived for virtual reality to be, well, a reality.

“Now that all of this is happening,” he concluded, “the dreamers can come back out. It’ll be the creative market again.”

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124 Comments »

  1. Flukie says:

    This thing kind of has to be perfect in order for it to work, if it isn’t then no one will adopt it, however if it is then it will really be the next big thing, not just for games but media in general or at least a step forward.

    (By the way the porn industry will jump on top of this)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Indeed, the porn industry will straddle it in reverse cowgirl

      It’s probably a good thing to remember that the Kickstarter is aimed much more at “devs/dev kits” rather than normal consumers.

    • tumbleworld says:

      You know, I’m not sure I agree. As long as the potential is clear, the early adopters will be totally all over this. Very few things are perfect first time out the door.

      • Shuck says:

        Are we forgetting that “early adopters” were working with VR in the game industry in a limited way twenty years ago, and VR has been pretty much dead ever since precisely because it didn’t work well enough?
        I remember playing “Magic Carpet” on a friend’s gaming VR headset in the early ’90s – it really seemed like the beginnings of something. It obviously wasn’t. I’m a tad more skeptical this time around.

        • Xzi says:

          And technology has advanced exponentially from twenty years ago. For christ sake, I could emulate any OS or program from ten years ago on my PHONE now. I don’t think it would be pushing it to say even seven years. We’re dropping quad-cores into 7″ tablets at a price point of $199.

          Needless to say, I think it’s time we gave this VR thing another go. For no other reason than that it’s every geek/nerd’s wet dream, and we’re willing to put 1.3 million dollars worth of faith into the prototype alone.

          • Shuck says:

            It sounds like some of the same major stumbling blocks are still there however, thus my skepticism.

    • trjp says:

      There things don’t have to be anything like perfect – you couldn’t be more wrong about that.

      Sit in a cinema showing a video of a rollercoaster and watch people swaying and ducking and moving around – humans are wired to their vision very strongly and react to what they see more than any other sense.

      Attach the view to their head so that it reacts to their movement and you’ve captured their attention even more strongly – even tho there’s a lack of feedback (you simply learn not to expect it).

      F1 drivers now ‘learn’ tracks in simulators which offer no actual physical feedback – and all those g’s are a major factor for a race driver – but despite that they gain a lot from the tech on-offer.

      The only reason we’re not all sitting wearing headsets instead of using monitors is one of cost, comfort . resolution and practicality – and all of those things are surmountable if attacked by the right people in the right way.

      Whether this is the device to do that this remains to be seen – I’m personally a bit doubtful because unless something like this works with consoles, it’s market is too specialised – but there’s time for all that I guess.

      As a purely PC gaming thing tho – I’m calling gimmick and dead in a few years.

  2. TheApologist says:

    *second convulsive excited noise of the day*

    • santheocles says:

      *second time I read ‘convulsive exit noise’ and was slightly repulsed*

  3. c-Row says:

    I am curious about how good this works for people who wear glasses instead of contact lenses (or none at all), but with Carmack wearing some himself I am rather optimistic.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      People usually design these things while COMPLETELY IGNORING the fact that the majority of the target market wears glasses and doesn’t like to jam things in their eyes.

      • Toberoth says:

        I assume with the screens being so close to your eyes it won’t be a problem for short-sighted people like myself. As for people who wear reading glasses, I’m not so sure.

      • braincruser says:

        Actually, if there are distance(depth) controlls and Field of View it could be possible to match the device to your own eyes and see without the glasses

      • Ovno says:

        I think the word you might be looking for there is minority, as the majority of people aged below 40 and indeed of geeks do not wear glasses.

        And that is from the perspective of a software engineer sat in a room of 40 – 50 such geeks and believe it or not most of us don’t wear glasses.

        • trjp says:

          I’m willing to bet 40% of the room is wearing contacts…

          I’ve never worked in an IT environment where less than a third of people wore glasses or lenses – and pretty-much everyone over the age of 40 should be wearing one of the other (and around 1/3 of people below that).

          Of course some people called other people ‘specky’ when they were kids and are terrified of opticians – which is always funny when they stare at things for eons trying to read them :)

      • Clavus says:

        I wouldn’t worry about that. Carmack and Abrash both wear glasses. The Oculus guy said he was near-sighted in the Quakecon panel. I’m sure they’ll figure something out for the first consumer version.

      • Sic says:

        Let’s be honest here, though. How hard is it to get some contacts?

        • Dick Valentine says:

          It’s not about difficulty in getting contacts, it’s about preference.

          • Axess Denyd says:

            Agreed. Some of us respond violently to the idea of anything being put in out eyes.

            Plus some of us have vision that is so bad in such interesting ways that contacts won’t correct our eyes anyway, and we NEED glasses to see properly.

          • Nick says:

            and, indeed, price.

          • Aatch says:

            My eyes are too sensitive for contacts. Wearing the softest, loveliest contacts available still made me want to rip my eyes out. So, I have a very strong preference to not wear contacts, to the point that it is almost physically impossible.

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      I’m quite sure it’s possible to add filters (or whatever you’d call them) to the displayed images so you don’t need glasses while using the Rift. And I guess only farsighted people would have any problems. I have difficulty distinguishing object from a distance of a couple of meters, but when I take of my glasses and hold a digital camera in front of my eye, I can see the image on the screen just fine, even if I can’t actually see that far.

    • Edawan says:

      In his keynote at Quakecon he specifically mentioned this is something they’re taking into account. I think with adjustable optics if I remember correctly.

    • noom says:

      Yeah, they touched briefly on this subject in an interview over on Eurogamer. It’s definitely something they’re giving consideration to.

    • hap says:

      I was reading about this the other day, they said they could ‘warp’ the output for your prescription so that the image looks sharp without the need to wear glasses.

    • GreatGreyBeast says:

      Actually, with my contacts in I’m unable to focus clearly within … *checking* … 5-6 inches of my eyes. So many may have to take their lenses OUT to play.

  4. sonofsanta says:

    The problem will be in convincing people they want it – the only way to sell it will be hands-on, adverts on TV will never get the point across.

    I really, really hope they get the momentum behind this form factor though. Between this and the Kinect, gaming is about to do some very cool things in medicine.

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Yes. Apart from that, not so much. I simply do not see this thing being practical to anyone other than a very niche market of gamers, since it is basically a glorified Track IR. Apart from that, there is no real market as far as gaming is concerned. Hospitals and museums, however, would kill to have a bulk order of these, the former to assist with various robotic surgery equipment, the latter to make guided virtual tours that aren`t simply a booth with an outdated version of Encarta installed.

      • AmateurScience says:

        From a science perspective, a device like this would be amazing for pharmacokinetics and protein folding studies as well as some other tasks. At work we already have a Cave that lets us manipulate 3d visualisations of molecules in realtime. I imagine this would be both cheaper and as effective as that.

        • RakeShark says:

          And from a medical perspective, this /could/ be very useful in several fields if we get the obvious “macro/micro surgery” out of the way. Pathology, cardiology, and neurology could very much benefit from 3D realization of their tissue studies.

          However, the other half of the battle is inventing something that can scan a precise amount from a sample, and then translate that sample into a readable 3D environment without taking a year. Hell most fields are still struggling to get high-resolution pictures of tissue slides, ever since Olympus dropped out and no other optics/camera company bothering to pick up the ball.

      • Sic says:

        >since it is basically a glorified Track IR

        It really isn’t. Listen to Carmack in his keynote.

    • markcocjin says:

      This is simply a case of not needing to advertise this device as a good thing.

      Simply put, if you ever ask around what is the best way to play games, Virtual Reality will be the de-facto format to enjoy it in.

      It’s like how the mere existence of giant flat screen LCD TVs rendered the home theatre projector a thing of the past.

  5. Jayson82 says:

    *franchise* Beach Beach Volley Ball will be a massive success with this.

    • yogibbear says:

      As long as when I lean my head down I am staring at a pair of boobies… then YES!!!@ SHUTUP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

  6. wodin says:

    Nathan always has to get in the non violent no combat game in somewhere in his articles..American wuss, actually it’s a refreshing change for our cousins over the water to be so anti war…however all games need some sort of conflict or competitive element..well not all but most..otherwise I may aswell walk to the shops or something.

    By the way I’m only joking here..though whenever I read an article here where the writer mentions a non violent game it’s usually our Nathan. I think Mr Carmack was just humouring you on the non violent game idea though.

    • Ta'Lon says:

      Shopping Simulator you say. I smell a “The Sims”-sized market for our female demographic there.
      You may have just stumbled upon a way to make your girlfriend a gamer and save yourselves a bunch of time and money :D

  7. TheWhippetLord says:

    Practical VR is only a couple of years away. And has been a couple of years away for, say, 25 years? :P

  8. MOKKA says:

    Call me a technophobe, but I don’t like the idea of having a bunch of electrodes sitting on top of my head to mess around with my perception.

  9. Yuri says:

    “So I approached Doom 3′s ladder, glanced down it via the future magic of the unwieldy plastic box strapped to my face, and felt a deep-seated, instinctual tingle of fear slither down my spine. “This is high!” said my brain.”

    SOLD! SOLD! SOLD!

  10. Christian says:

    I was just playing a round of Far Cry 2 yesterday..these would fit perfectly with that game as it’s already quite immersive.
    IMHO a much better way to show off this “new” tech than Doom..

    But what would interest me:

    What kind of tech (CPU, GPU, RAM..) is needed to power one of those? I’d expect at least a separate GPU for each monitor?

    • paddymaxson says:

      Indeed! FC2 has goddamn fantastic sound design that really akes the game (if you have the audio setup for it, cheap stereo speakers need not apply).

      You shouldn’t need one GPU per eye for this as stereoscopic 3d is supported on single GPUs, you’re just having a seperate display per eye, and even the cheapest cards now support multiple displays. The performance hit will come from needing to render two seperate scenes, and the requirements for that will be heavily based on the game I guess. I could run 6 copies of counter strike source happily on my current PC, but it might struggle a little bit with 2 copies of Metro 2033 with everything on Max. That said, it may not need to render in as high a resolution to look “good”, so performance can possibly be regained from that.

      • gamma says:

        Actually the thing is driven by a single display which is half split for each eye, and given the stated resolutions (1280×800 – 640×800 per eye) it should be fairly easy on the current GPUs.

        Resolution may increase later in the year, Carmack was confident on the availability of a suitable higher res display.

        • paddymaxson says:

          mm, this is why I mentioned rendering two separate scenes. I can’t imagine it not being a considerably higher resolution and probably in a more widescreen aspect ratio.

  11. BoZo says:

    To be honest though, this already exists. All you’d need a is HMZ-T1 and track-ir, see links.

    http://www.sony.co.uk/hub/personal-3d-viewer
    http://www.naturalpoint.com/trackir/

    I’ve wanted to get one since they came out but can’t really justify the cost.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      This is true, but the supposed advantages of the Rift are a massive FOV and a significantly lower price. I believe it also weighs about a third as much as well (although obviously it’s not actually made yet, so this is just what i’ve read).

      • BoZo says:

        Yeah the FoV for the HMZ-T1 is 45 degrees which is just way too low.

        Besides, I don’t really think that integrated headphones is necessary at all.

    • hasuto says:

      Yes and no.

      Carmack discusses the HMZ in a number of his interviews from E3. Basically it fails on 2 accounts (for VR gaming, it’s still good for watching movies or hooking up to a console; which is what it is designed to do). First the field of view, at 45 degrees it is the largest one available to consumers, but it is still like watching the world through a pair of toilet paper rolls. (Or, a bit more glamourously, like playing a game on a big projector screen. It does however not fill your vision because then it wouldn’t work for it’s primary purpose, which is to show normal TV or console content.)

      Second there is too long delay between game input and something happening on the screen. In fact there is too long delay from the graphics card sending a new frame to that frame being shown on screen. (Almost 50 ms.) This makes it fairly unusable for VR stuff. You can try it, but it won’t be a very pleasant experience.

      Apparently Carmack did try to get in touch with the engineers at Sony who makes it to see if they could make a firmare upgrade with low latency support. But no feedback so far. (Sony is a big company and most complaints or feedback go into the big black hole.)

    • PopeJamal says:

      If you had bothered to watch the keynote you would know that latency is the big problem with the Sony gear. This isn’t revolutionary tech, but it is better than just buying a bunch of shit on the internet and slapping it together. There are tons of custom software hacks that make this possible.

      Far from “plug and play”. Watch the keynote.

    • Schwerpunkt says:

      Regarding the Sony HMZ, I bought the thing a few weeks back and played through all of Resistance 3 (and a little bit of Uncharted 3) on the PS3 with it. The 3D works pretty well, nothing amazing, but yes, the resolution is a bit lower.

      Some points:
      1. The commenter who said it’s like looking at a widescreen far away is completely right. That’s exactly what it is like. But, only if you properly damp all the light coming in around the edges of the glasses. This absolutely kills any feeling of extreme immersion, because it doesn’t get anywhere near your peripheral vision. If this Oculus thing can get a wider FOV, that will be amazing. IMO, this is the key feature of something like this.
      2. It is pretty heavy.
      3. It is designed for somewhat smaller skulls than mine. As such, a large portion of the weight rested squarely on the bridge of my nose, which was painful for more than 10 minutes. I was able to lie down and relieve most of it, but still painful. I eventually returned it for this reason.
      4. The Resistance 3 level with the zombies in the warehouse-like area was pretty immersive despite all problems.
      5. I tried it with Skyrim on the PC, didn’t work very well. Couldn’t get my nvidia card to output 3D properly to it.
      6. You have to fiddle with it quite a bit to get it to look right. If it’s at the wrong angle or the lens are improperly aligned, things look… wrong.
      7. I wear glasses, and they fit over them. It was slightly harder to put it on and take it off because of the glasses, though.

  12. Knightley4 says:

    How to turn around 180 degrees with this?

  13. Grape Flavor says:

    If the the technology for the display itself has finally arrived, then great. It’s indeed very exciting.

    But the first thing I start to wonder with these things, is whether the immersion your brain feels from the incredible visual experience, is going to be lessened by how your body still knows perfectly well you’re sitting in a chair holding a controller.

    I’m glad to see that was brought up in the interview and that the fine minds behind this device are thinking about it.

    • Kitsunin says:

      I think it could actually still work very well, even without any physical feeling being given back: It’s like how if you close your eyes and walk forward, even if you know the ground ahead of you is perfectly flat, and you can feel its flatness, with every step you take you feel uncomfortable, as if somehow you might not still be walking that same ground you saw before shutting your eyes, no matter how impossible it is that you are anywhere else.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I would think that same sort of feeling would translate into feeling like you are there, in a game, even without the sense of touch.

  14. markcocjin says:

    The future of gaming has always been peripheral vision. Bigger and wider resolutions are simply trying to solve that problem but going in the wrong direction.

  15. Mollusc Infestation says:

    I’m all varieties of excited about this. I’m also extremely glad that the designer is apparently pursuing as open an architecture as possible (in contrast to, let’s say, an nVidia Rift).

    Regarding the Razer Hydra as a control method, i’ve always been bothered by the shocking absence of force feedback on this device. Since it can apparently report “absolute position”, i feel like they missed a trick by not exploring the notion of 3D force feedback. I know it wouldn’t be perfect, but “stereo”, spatially aware force feedback seems like something which could be done with existing kit.

    • migueluli says:

      You only need to consider the price point of 6 degree of freedom haptic devices (a hint: it’s in the tens of thousands of $) to see why they chose not to explore with force feedback.

      Although those would probably suffer an insane price drop when mass produced… Hummm…

      • Mollusc Infestation says:

        Google has revealed to me that many of these devices provide resistance, in order to simulate objects in 3D. That’s pretty amazing. My thoughts though were of a somewhat simpler system, with an actuator in each hand, to vibrate at a given rate when you move the controller into certain spacial regions. Far from perfect, but not a big stretch from current technologies found in gaming peripherals.
        If we’re talking 10s of thousands, then a cheaper alternative is to hire a friend to punch you in the ribs whenever your character gets shot.

      • hasuto says:

        There is the Novint Falcon which exists today and works with a few games.

        They even have a full arm version on the way. (But it seems to have been delayed a few times already unfortunately.) Hopefully if the VR craze starts up again they will bring it to market.

        • NamelessPFG says:

          Isn’t the Novint Falcon only 3DoF? (Translational axes only, no rotational axis input.)

          That device had me tempted somewhat, but without full 6DoF and only four buttons with no wheel or hat switch, I felt it was too input-constrained for the price, even with 3DoF force-feedback compared to a typical FFB joystick’s 2DoF.

  16. Arkon540 says:

    Imagine a horror game like Amnesia while using this. I can only imagine the “Amnesia reaction using Oculus Rift” youtube videos with people falling backwards, scrambling across the ground and tangling themselves up in the legs of a table, sobbing and bleeding from furniture impact.

    • Shooop says:

      Oh dear god yes.

      Combine that with the Razer Hydra and what’s already very immersive thanks to great sound becomes “Keep 911 on speed dial, I may suffer cardiac arrest at any moment.”

    • Gorf says:

      Oh yes definately. I STILL havent been able to finish that game.

  17. Kleppy says:

    Does it make me an idiot that before reading this I thought the Rift was a really cool set of heaphones?

    • Toberoth says:

      I totally thought it was a pair of headphones, judging from the picture at the top! You’re not alone.

  18. golem09 says:

    I want to play The Witness with this. A looking around / puzzle game with nice graphics. GOREOUS!

  19. Jon Tetrino says:

    Combine this with the coming Leap Motion, see the effects. Screw Kinect.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      That’s incredibly cool. I love living in the future.

    • sophof says:

      Wow, that has to be fake ;)

    • Sic says:

      I think that’s basically what Carmack says he is experimenting with now, things that can track and subsequently render your limbs in the game-world.

      It would be pretty cool to have something similar come with the VR package.

      Now, all we’re missing is binaural sound (which is pretty damn easy, really) and some sort of treadmill so that we can use our legs to walk/run within the game world.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      kinect sees a whole skeleton not where you’re pointing your finger

  20. 7hink says:

    I was very excited to hear Carmack talk about this during his keynote. It has so many possibilities. Think about ways to cure things like agoraphobia and indeed fear of heights. The possibility to go somewhere else in the world without having to go somewhere else. Streetview 2.0. I’m really looking forward to a working model for consumers. I think this has a way broader audience than just gamers.

  21. vodka and cookies says:

    A 120Hz OLED panel would jack up the price by quite a bit those things do not come cheap and the smartphone makers are using up pretty much every OLED panel being made.

    I would definitely have to use a gamepad with something like this, as you don’t have to see the buttons. With a keyboard I would constantly be making mistakes pressing the wrong keys.

  22. AmateurScience says:

    My great sadness is that I’ll never be able to play metroid prime on this device.

  23. paddymaxson says:

    While I think this is cool, I can spot some fairly major issues with it that could stop it being mainstream:

    1. Not everyone wants to wear goggles to play games, believe it or not, the sitting with some friends and observing a friend playing is still a thing.

    2. I don’t care how light and comfortable it is, I would get sick of that thing on a long gaming session, so it can never replace the normal monitor I currently use, making it an optional addon rather than a mainstay. I personally quit using headphones for gaming as even the nicest ones cannot stand up to a long session comfortably, so I doubt I’d be happy with an elasticated strap on the back of my head for 4+ hours.

    I’d also like to know how well it supports people with glasses, will my glasses fit under it? If not, how does it make up for this with people who have vastly different prescriptions per eye (3d effects are literally obliterated if the focus on each eye is very different).

    • AmateurScience says:

      Both your points can be easily rectified by not buying the thing.

      This isn’t going to replace your monitor, it’s just a potentially cool peripheral for first person games (and maybe some other tasks). Clearly you’re not going to use this for writing a document.

      • paddymaxson says:

        Oh I know it’s just a peripheral, but that’s exactly why it’s not the glorious future that some people act like it will be. It can’t ever become mainstream as it’ll never be a suitable replacement for the current tech. I will probably take your advice and not buy one unless they’re very cheap.

    • Shooop says:

      That’s why this is a peripheral. It’s not a requirement to play anything like the toy guitars for Guitar Hero. It’s something you only use if you want to.

      There are games where VR simply wouldn’t work, but there’s enough that it would work brilliantly that it’s a very exciting thing.

  24. RakeShark says:

    And yet, I predict POV issues will persist with this thing, and even worse it’s strapped to your eyeballs so you can’t look away.

  25. sophof says:

    Screw cynicism, I’m getting VERY excited about this :D

  26. Nosgoroth says:

    We are so so so close to Sword Art Online, I can already taste it. Let’s just hope Carmack doesn’t turn out to be a secret omnicidal maniac.

    • Malarious says:

      While reading the article, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, we might actually only be a decade away from NERvGear at this rate.”

      I’m so goddamned happy we’re going to have functional VR in my lifetime.

    • inawarminister says:

      When Carmack was talking about the Galvanic nerve stimulation, I was all ‘oh, this is basically SAO’
      I just hope it won’t kill people

      Who am I kidding, I’m totally using this even if it kills me.
      VR for everybody!

  27. sophof says:

    And if I may speculate, right now they probably are using homogeneous screens, with the same ppi at all places. Likely one can use much lower resolutions on the peripheral vision, once you have the eye tracking in place. That could significantly lower the cost of the screens, or increase the resolution in the centre for the same price.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      From my fanatical reading, i gather that this effect is already present due to the way the optics work; the middle of the image has a higher pixel density than the outside, and it has to be “warped” in software to de-fisheye the image.

    • dragonfliet says:

      You should really follow some links. They are not doing that at all, but, rather, are using screens with lower PPI in the peripheral vision to better accommodate their huge FOV.

  28. SkittleDiddler says:

    I’m having a difficult time getting excited for this, considering that a) Carmack is involved, b) I wear glasses, and c) this VR stuff is inevitably disappointing when it comes to final real-world application.

    The last great push for this tech — back in the early 90s — was extremely bland in the end and never caught on outside of the kiosk/arcade sector. Hopefully these new guys can do something impressive with it.

    • Shooop says:

      The main reason for that was it was impossible to render stereoscopic 3D for anything more demanding than the original Doom engine. Today we’ve got video cards that can do protein folding so that’s the primary obstacle gone.

  29. tungstenHead says:

    I wonder what kind of motion sickness this thing can induce. I don’t think it’d be worse than anything people experience on a desktop monitor, but my biggest fear would be to drop a few hundred on this thing, giddily strap it to my head, then promptly fall down and throw up.

  30. derbefrier says:

    i bet(at least hope) this will release simultaneously with Doom 4 and come as a bundle package which i will buy. Just dont use this device around your asshole friends. I predict great mischief at lan parties :D

    • Pzyclopz says:

      I can imagine someone poking you while you’re sitting in a very tense moment of either Amnesia or Slender.

      Not sure whether that is amazingly awesome or horrendously horrifying.

    • Shooop says:

      They say on the Kickstarter they’re going to bundle it with Doom 3 BFG edition. Which means it may be coming to stores within a year or two.

      Sounds about right – all they’ve got to do is fix some of the blurry image issues for which Carmack’s already got a plan for. The only other thing left to do is find a more intuitive control interface like Hydra or Kinect. These are excruciatingly exciting times.

  31. kael13 says:

    Sounds exciting. Carmack spoke of research into being able to focus on separate points on an image and having it adjust the DOF. If they could master that, keep the weight down and use super hi-rez panels I’d totally buy one.

  32. flndring says:

    The real test are the mods for the outside case. A nice Alien face-hugger or head-crab with integrated headphones.

  33. bill says:

    This would be perfect for some kind of voyeur game of the kind that they make in Japan…

    er.. maybe..

  34. D3xter says:

    I’d like to point out again, that there was a second panel from QuakeCon called “Virtual Insanity” about this very thing and VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) with Carmack, Michael Abrash (of Valve and formerly Quake1 fame) and Palmer Luckey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gaqQdyfAz8&hd=1

  35. Shooop says:

    If this doesn’t take off I’m going to be incensed at the industry. VR that’s practical affordable is what games need to really help them take off, much more than photorealism.

  36. thebigJ_A says:

    Anybody else go insane with the number of time Carmack said the words “on there” in his Quakecon keynote talk on there?

    He used those words like they were punctuation on there. Over and over on there the guy kept saying on there.

    On there on there on there……

  37. ptoxiq says:

    Like another above who imagined these for museum displays, I find myself imagining laser-tag- (or paintball-)like environments where a game’s assets are “painted” onto actual (realworld) objects in the laser-tag/paintball warehouse/field/acreage. I fondly envision my friends and I taking a two day gaming vacation where, having each spent a theme-park-like fee, we suit up in bulky VR suits and explore exotic environments or scenarios a few hours at a time.

  38. uh20 says:

    im hoping for the soft a.r glasses where you can read news off to the left corner and still be able to see where your walking
    i will probably wait for those, because giant boxes on my face are wierd

    only problem is that theres yet to be a way to draw a desired color on a constantly moving transparent background that is real life

  39. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    I can’t believe people want it. Does nobody remember how bad the previous VR headsets were? If the trend continued, vomit will spray out of every orifice of your body as soon as you put it on

  40. Shazbut says:

    Won’t wearing this destroy your vision? Having a monitor on your eyeballs doesn’t sound healthy.

  41. BatmanBaggins says:

    I can almost feel myself getting motion sick just thinking about it.

  42. Caerphoto says:

    So many people asking “but what if I wear glasses?!?!?!”.

    Try this: go into a camera shop, pick a camera with an electronic viewfinder that has a diopter adjustment (most of them). Marvel as you are able to see a sharp picture in the viewfinder without glasses.

    Seriously, it’s very simple optics. Sure, with a wide field of view the lens design might get a bit esoteric, but it’s not in any way an unsolvable problem.

  43. NamelessPFG says:

    I played Quake with a Forte VFX-1 headset once. It was the coolest thing ever at the time (over a decade ago), though the VFX-1 is one dated piece of hardware by today’s standards. (Per-eye resolution is BELOW 320×240, and it needs an ISA card and a graphics card with a VESA feature connector to work.)

    If the Rift lives up to the hype, I could re-live that experience, except with more FOV, more resolution, and better head-tracking. I’d even consider replacing my TrackIR 4 with one of these if the head-tracking is that good.

    Needless to say, I’m excited for this and hope it takes off like no HMD before it has. If the $300 dev kit pricing is any indication of what the final consumer version might cost, they may not have priced themselves out of the market entirely.

  44. RegisteredUser says:

    This is that kind of technological advancement where we charge ahead cheerfully, thinking nothing of it, only to then later realize this shit has MUCH bigger implications than we can cope with or understand right now.

    I say its a pretty damn good thing that most of our immersion right now comes from an additional “head step” of fantasy or just letting go while in front of the screen. It already can create severe addiction and sleep withdrawal as it is.
    And people already can get nightmares from horror games, nausea from 3D and so on.

    Do we really need to step further into the fold?
    I’d rather still have a tangible barrier between real reality and virtual reality.
    For a lot of reasons.

  45. Josh W says:

    Oculus .. Rift .. sounds a little dangerous to me!

  46. AlFitz says:

    Yes yes, gimme now!