Hands on Oculus Rift HD, VR LaunchPad and the future.

* Also seen on Gamasutra.

Most virtual reality developers will tell you that their passion for the field originated from the motivation to see classic sci-fi technology become an actuality. As the technology coming in 2014 reveals itself, some developers may finally be able to create such experiences. While not much has completed testing for today, and some excitement can’t be public just yet, let’s take quick hands-on look at that future:

Oculus Rift HD prototype

The senior engineer of Oculus, Peter Giokaris, was happy to answer questions and give demos of the latest Oculus Rift HD Prototype. He was quick to remind developers what “prototype” means, and also noted that the current resolution of the prototype (1080p) is the lowest possible they’ll be moving forward with for the consumer version next year.
While remembering what prototype means, I’ll cover my early impressions with the Oculus Rift HD. Right now, it doesn’t scream HD to the user. Although the screen door effect (blackness between pixels being too far apart that close to your face) was much less compared to the original Oculus Rift, it’s not yet the answer to developers and consumers hopes for the future. However, the latency and tracking seemed as smooth as they’ve always been. And what’s better is the Rift’s signature huge field of view (the best defense for Oculus believers) stayed to the outside edges of your eyeballs. I don’t get simulator sickness much, but the HD version seemed to have no negative effect on the condition. Some say that the sickness will be Oculus’s downfall. But I imagine that it will also have to be addressed better by developers through content and feedback. The main cause of simulator sickness is the break of connections in a player’s senses. Believe it or not, your ears feed a tremendous amount of information to your brain every time you turn your head. We’ll need proper game engines and feedback (like the subtle ‘whooshes’ sound when turning) to help better bridge this disconnect. Overall, I was impressed with the HD prototype, and hope they provide a product that peoples dreams and hype can live up to next year. No doubt it’s a difficult and long road.

OculusHD_1

The Oculus HD prototype (I tried to selfie, but I missed)

VR LaunchPad

Currently, developing on or just using the Oculus Rift seems like a hackathon with no time limit. There may be great support out there from game engines, but the workflow contains a mess of mystery video inputs, unique standalone resolutions, alt-f4’s and other frustrations. The always awesome and kind Karl Krantz has created VR LaunchPad, an open beta executable which easily allows a user to get in and play an Oculus experience with ease. You can select a game by looking at it, while LaunchPad chooses the max resolution the app supports, allows app icon/image customization, get’s you right into the game and then creates a universal quit function with one esc key press. For such early tech, having quick access to games and projects from your desktop shaves entire minutes off your development workflow. It would be expected that Oculus creates their own store and environment, but this download for the months ahead (and possibly after the Rift launches) is a huge time saver.

VRLaunchPad_2

To shave minutes off your workflow, download VR LaunchPad.

Playing DOOM inside your glasses.

Seems the futures so bright, we gotta’ wear shades -or wear glasses. Didn’t think I would ever have the pleasure of playing DOOM 3 on Douglas Lanman’s SIGGRAPH NVIDIA funded “Near-Eye Light Field Displays” seen below. This blog is much too high-level to go into details on Lanman’s research paper about the benefits of these displays, but even with my non-prescription eyes I loved the fact that each screen side could be adjusted for personal use. No doubt there is a market for people already wearing glasses to avoid children taunts transitioning from 4-eyes to 6-eyes. Especially now that castAR was kickstarted in 48 hours, it will be interesting to see if this shift for lighter AR displays raises a consumer’s eyebrow for the bulky VR market leaders like the Rift.

dylan-jones-glasses

Sure, the Near-Eye Light Field Display glasses aren’t as sexy as Google Glass, but I’m playing DOOM 3…

While this future also pointed to some products still behind closed doors, it’s looking like we might be able to start living those dreams in real life.

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