Oculus Rift Crescent Bay Prototype Shown, Looks Comfy

Good news for people who like spinning around in their chair. This weekend saw the Oculus Connect conference take place, at which Oculus’ many smart people gave talks about the future and current state of VR. In between talks by Abrash, Iribe and Carmack, Oculus also revealed their latest prototype, called Crescent Bay. It features “new display technology, 360° head tracking, expanded positional tracking volume, dramatically improved weight and ergonomics, and high-quality integrated audio.”

The new kit was available to play at Oculus Connect, with a new set of demos designed to show off the increased sense of “presence” provided by the device. If that word sounds familiar, that’s because that’s what Valve called it when they worked on their own VR prototype. Michael Abrash, now at Oculus, headed that team at Valve.

Oculus Connect also further detailed the company’s partnerships with software firms: Epic provided another playbale Unreal Engine 4 demo called Showdown; while Unity announced a free Rift add-on that would make the VR device “an official platform and build target” for the favored indie development software.

Lastly, Oculus gave more detail of the headphones now built-in to the machine. They’ve licensed audio technology made by a company called RealSpace3D, which should allow for proper positional audio in games designed to support the head-spinning headset.

It’s interesting that they’ve built headphones into the set and seemingly made steps to improve the “weight and ergonomics”. I’ve used the DK1 and DK2, and in both what puts me off most is that it feels like I’ve strapped a TV screen to my face. If this is lighter, and perhaps less hot against your face, then that’s a more exciting step forward than if they’d increased the resolution.

Although the conference is over, you can still watch some of the livestreams on Twitch’s archive. Here’s hour-long the keynote panel with John Carmack, Palmer Luckey and some other people saying things I don’t fully understand.

51 Comments

  1. Dr_Barnowl says:

    “Crescent Bay”

    Is this a coded acronym for

    “Consumer Beta”

    Perhaps this hardware is substantially what we can expect for the Consumer Version (CV1) ?

  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    PCG have a hands-on with it and it’s fair to say the writer is somewhat enthused…

    link to pcgamer.com

    • Vandelay says:

      Every time I read an article about trying out a new version of the Rift, it always starts with them saying “the previous version had problems, but now it is done right.” Will this be said again when the next version is tested in a few months time?

      The other question I have to ask, if Crescent Bay is so good, why are they not getting ready to make a consumer release of it?

      • DonkeyCity says:

        Yes – all technological progress improves, at least in the theory, over the perceived weaknesses of the previous incarnation. Bursts of collaborative innovation, such as we’ve seen around VR, are going to be extremely iterative.

      • thelastpointer says:

        In this article: “we were barely allowed to touch the fragile prototypes for fear of breaking them”

    • P.Funk says:

      Wow that article is such a shill.

      “experiencing true VR presence for the first time”, that title line reads like it was written by Palmer Luckey and just handed to the PCG editor. This pretty much reads like a testimonial.

      And people complain about RPS’ vision of objectivity, pft.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Yeah, it’s almost as if the Oculus Rift is actually an excellent piece of technology or something.

  3. phelix says:

    I have some doubts about the “high-quality” headphones. Earpieces that small and flat usually don’t give great sound; I don’t understand how this adds value?

    • Clavus says:

      It provides a baseline for the hardware. Developers can now rely on the fact that the consumer will have headphones (and thus use the fancy audio modelling algorithms that Oculus acquired). There will also be an inbuild microphone from what’s been reported.

    • AlexClockwork says:

      As long as it doesn’t make the price rise too much, I guess it’s fine, so that they make sure every customer has headphones. Assuming they’re detachable, of course. I’d like to use my own headphones, which I’m pretty sure are better ones.

    • PoulWrist says:

      I guess it works as a proof of concept. Hopefully they’ll be replaceable/removable so I can use any other pair in conjunction with the thing.

    • Zanchito says:

      I *really* hope the headphones are optional, some of us have personal headphones setups that are much preferred to what they can put toghether. I appretiate they are needed if they want to build a plug&play solution, but please, let me use my own setup if I prefer it.

      • Synesthesia says:

        yeah, ill add my voice to this. Let’s hope those are detachable.

        • DonkeyCity says:

          Oculus has already said they are detachable in this version, and likely in the final consumer release. They’ve also said they are far higher quality than their form factor might indicate (personally, they look a lot like my rather well-regarded Sennheiser on-ear pair)

  4. GAmbrose says:

    “I’ve used the DK1 and DK2, and in both what puts me off most is that it feels like I’ve strapped a TV screen to my face. If this is lighter, and perhaps less hot against your face, then that’s a more exciting step forward than if they’d increased the resolution.”

    They apparently have also increased the resolution to 1440p and 90hz according to other reports.

    • SIDD says:

      “They apparently have also increased the resolution to 1440p and 90hz according to other reports.”

      What’s the horizontal resolution?
      I remember the announcement of the DK2 which was “1080p” .. but only when you added the total of the two displays as they were 960×1080 per eye i.e. the convention of stating it as a 16×9 aspect ratio sort of went out the window….so by that logic the horizontal resolution per screen would be … 1280pixel?

      • PoulWrist says:

        It only has one display inside, in the DK2 it’s a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 display. link to ifixit.com if you want to see for yourself.

        • SIDD says:

          Thanks Poul,
          but that still doesn’t answer my question..
          I mean, when someone says “it has a resolution of 1440p”, I (unlike Oculus PR drones) read that to be per eye – but without a horizontal resolution, I can’t tell- although of course based on what you’re saying that it’s using just one screen for both eyes, it seems extremely unlikely that the horizontal resolution is particular impressive.

          • WhatKateDoes says:

            What you have to remember is that this equals 2560×1440 (yes, with that 2560 divided by 2 and compressed horizontally for the display) – but rendered internally much greater than that to encompass the greater field of view and lens distortion.

            2560×1440 is enough to bring most super-high end gaming PC’s to their knees usually considerably under <40fps for high detail settings in AAA games. I've a DK2 and Elite Dangerous runs 1920x1080p @ 75hz in high detail (medium shadows, ambient occlusion off) and manages to keep that 75hz locked *most* of the time. When it doesn't, and drops to say 68fps – we get the jarring judder caused by loss of sync. Now, it's early yet in terms of Oculus drivers, and also Nvidia & AMD drivers not going for VR focus yet, but we're going to have to look at some pretty hefty visual fidelity compromises if we're to achieve 2560×1440 @ 90hz.

            Or, and maybe this is the reason for the slow rollout/development.. tho I really hope not…. :-

            Now is not yet the time for VR?

            I'd disagree with that, but I do think we're going to have to be prepared for some compromises based on the current level of GPU tech.

          • Asurmen says:

            That isn’t slightly true. Super high end systems can quite happily deal with that res with bells and whistles.

          • grimdanfango says:

            @Asurmen – Bear in mind that with the Rift, you need to render anything up to twice the amount of geometry – it needs to render the entire scene twice per frame, once of each eye position. It would work out less than twice typically, as each eye has less horizontal field of view than a combined single-camera widescreen image, but it’s still noticably heavier than *just* rendering a game at 2560×1440@90hz

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            @grimdanfango
            Are you sure it has to render geometry twice? The usual trick to stereoscopic 3D is to render once then use the same frame twice with a horizontal offset.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Rift games actually render at resolutions much higher than what you ultimately see. I forget the numbers but for 1080p your PC actually renders some margin ABOVE that figure, but you only see 1080p. VR is way more demanding than normal gaming. The new direct to VR SLI option in the 900 cards will massively improve performance however.

            Right now it’s a rich mans hobby, and they need to solve that. Asynchronous timewarp could be that answer, allowing judder free performance at less than 75fps. Thats the goal, anyway. You still need 75Hz+ refresh though. Check out Michael Abrash’s judder article on his blog .

          • fish99 says:

            Press X to Gary Busey/

            A horizontal offset? That wouldn’t give you a stereoscopic view. Unless you mean horizontal offset as in the camera is moved, in which case the scene has to be rendered again, but you can’t just take the rendered frame and slide it to one side and think that’ll get you 3D, it won’t.

            Having said all that, once you have one frame set up to render, rendering the offset view for the other eye is significantly less than double the amount of work because a lot of the culling and geometry setup doesn’t need to be done again. In reality the framerate drop is more like 30-35% instead of the 50% you would expect (I’ve tested this with my 3D Vision setup).

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        phuzz says:

        Don’t forget that the field of view for one eye isn’t 16:9, it more square than that (technically almost a circle), so splitting a 16:9 (or 16:10 or whatever) screen down the middle and having half for each eye makes sense. If you had an entire widescreen for each eye, then to fit it all in, you’d end up limiting the vertical resolution and/or having black bars top and bottom.
        I’ve got a DK2 and having a ‘square’ screen for each seems to work fine, and when it’s properly adjusted I can’t see the left/right or top/bottom edges. (Partly because there’s more distortion on the edges from the lenses).

        • WhatKateDoes says:

          Interesting that they’re going for asymmetrical lenses this time around, I wonder what that will mean? Something akin to the ye olde anamorphic projection lenses.

        • SIDD says:

          That actually sounds like a reasonable argument .. and I guess 1280×1440 per eye is not that bad a resolution…
          Without first hand experience, who am I to judge anyway.

          I think my biggest issue is mostly that the Oculus team like to say “oh now we’re running in 1080p/1440p/whatever-p” which is Marketing bullshit…
          If I watch a 3D movie on an active 3D enabled TV at 1080p, closing one eye sure as hell doesn’t reduce the horizontal resolution to half that which is exactly what I’ll experience with the Oculus Rift and which is what the Oculus team seems to avoid saying by being deliberate vague about it.

          • fish99 says:

            1280×1440 per eye might be decent if the screen wasn’t an inch from your eye ball. You’re still talking about a much lower pixel density than a tradition monitor, just as monitors are transitioning to 4K.

            Won’t stop me getting one though (once there’s something to play on it).

  5. gruia says:

    its too soon to give a shit about this. I’m waiting for it to get mainstream

  6. Eukatheude says:

    Eh. I’ll want to use my own headphones. Not sure they’ll fit comfili though.

  7. killmachine says:

    i hope the final product won’t have headphones or at least there’s an option without them. i have audiophile headphones and don’t really need some inferior audio output with my VR.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I’m not sure I’d want to use headphones at all so I can at least retain some amount of awareness of the world around me, especially if I’m the only person in the house. What if the phone rings, or the doorbell… or the house burns down while I’m busy experiencing presence?

      That said this is going to be interesting for sure. I’ve only tried DK1 and was not a 100% sold but it’s easy to see the potential.

      • P.Funk says:

        I imagine we’ll see all kinds of consumer solutions for this kind of sensory depriving VR gaming. Apps for your phone that link to in house systems that’ll vibrate a certain way if your doorbell is wrung (good luck with knocking), perhaps Oculus themselves will have ways to render information to you overlaying your gaming to remind you of things like its time to go to work or warning your girlfriend is behind you in the door frame glaring about to throw a book at your head.

    • DonkeyCity says:

      Yes, they are detachable.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    What are those white dots on it? Are they points for a trackIR-esque setup?

    I thought this thing was gonna have its own internal inertial tracking for face direction…

    • golem09 says:

      They are for positional tracking in space, not rotational tracking.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Makes sense. I can’t think of an obvious way of doing positional tracking using only things that fit in the headset..

    • alfie275 says:

      The Rift does have built-in tracking, but they only detect accelerations – not any kind of absolute value. This means that as you integrate over time the small errors add up and you get drifting, which is what the external sensors correct.

  9. trjp says:

    I assume the people expecting to wear their own headphones have never worn any form of glasses before ;0

    Wearing a normal pair of glasses limits the headphones you can wear at the best of times – wearing something like this will just-about eliminate headphones completely.

    You can’t put that much mass around your ears and then put headphones on-top of it – it will grind the arms into your head, supra-aural headphones won’t seal against anything and so will leak sound and the headbands will rub making a hell of a lot of noise.

    I’d be happy you’re getting a proper ‘on ear’ headphone and not being asked to put it an earbud or sports-style earpiece because that’s usually all you can get away with when there’s that much mass in a pair of ‘glasses’.

    Note: the greatest headphones in the world – the Koss PortaPro – remain the only headphones I’ve ever seen which are designed to work with glasses. They’re cutaway above the ear to allow for the arm to pass under them, but that’s a cutaway for normal glasses, not those “V alien” things ;0

    • Asurmen says:

      I’ve had glasses near enough my entire life. Headphones of any type have never bothered me.

      • fish99 says:

        I wear glasses and after a few hours they can definitely cause pain, even with a fairly light headset like the Sennheiser PC310s, and definitely with my AKG 601s. Add my 3D Vision glasses into the mix and it’s quite a paintful formula. The trick is to move the arm of the glasses up so it’s not trapped between your ear and head.

        In other news, those built-in headphones look like shite.

        • Asurmen says:

          I suppose it’s very hard to be objective about it. Everyone has different heads, ears, different glasses and different headsets.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Likewise. Sounds like you may need better fitting frames or better/looser fitting headphones.

        (Reading some of these comments it probably helps tons that I wear great bit cans. The lobe is entirely inside the headphone, and the padding rests directly against my head. Squashing your ears against the spectacle arms sounds terrible.)

    • Eukatheude says:

      I have Audio Techinca M50’s and they don’t bother me even after hours of having them on, with fairly thick framed glasses.

    • SamMeeDee says:

      Solution: a version of the Rift with some sort of adaptive lenses or other hardware that the user can set up to fit their eyes, so that they don’t need to wear glasses. I have no clue how it would work, but it seems like the best solution that would keep it relatively affordable. Otherwise, the solution is custom ordering an Rift with custom lenses, which surely would jack up the price well beyond a base model.
      Or y’all could just pony up for contacts, this is 2014 after all… /sarcasm

  10. DXN says:

    Carmack’s “on there” is clearly starting to infect the speech patterns of his colleagues. :P

  11. amateurviking says:

    ‘I have an abnormally large head, can I still use the rift?’ is a question that I would like to see answered by these chaps.

  12. Geebs says:

    Oh come on now, the headline should clearly have been “Virtual Bay”