30 Things to Know About the Oculus Rift Before You Buy It
If you’re even peripherally interested in tech and gaming, you’ve surely heard about the Oculus Rift. This highly anticipated VR headset just started shipping, and early backers of the project are finally (finally!) getting their hands on their brand new toy.
As for the rest of us, well, we’ll probably get to try out a Rift eventually. Until then, here are 30 things you should probably know about the device that’s exciting tech industry professionals and gamers alike.
What Do You Know?
1. The Oculus Rift project was first announced in the summer of 2012. Right away, the gaming world was interested.
2. The big selling point of the Oculus Rift was its capability for immersive stereoscopic 3D rendering. In other words, it was a true virtual reality device. The industry tried VR back in the 1990s, but the initial excitement over it quickly fizzled as users realised that the technology could not produce a fully immersive experience. The Rift, on the other hand, did have the advanced technology needed to make VR viable again.
3. With the stated goal of creating the world’s greatest gaming headset, the Oculus Rift raised over $2.4 million on Kickstarter in 2012. Units were expected to ship to initial backers by the end of 2012, which of course never happened. Since the campaign ended and the real development began, Oculus has been wildly behind schedule, but as those of us who follow tech know all too well, that happens a lot.
4. Oculus was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) in March 2014. Once Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried out a prototype, he was enamoured, and he sees the purchase as the company’s investment in future technologies and, in his words, “a chance to create the most social platform ever.” The future integration of Rift’s VR capabilities and Facebook’s features could be fascinating.
5. The resolution specs on the Oculus Rift are quite good. There’s a 1080p OLED display with a refresh rate of 90Hz and a 110 degree field of view. All of this helps make VR with Rift feel totally immersive.
6. Advanced sensors on the Rift — a magnetometer, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope — mean ultra low latency. There’s simply no drag; you look in a new direction, and the field of view changes accordingly. It all feels very natural.
7. Along with the visuals, the audio on the Oculus Rift is 3D as well. Related sounds come from all directions, and again, that contributes to the feeling of total immersion.
8. The VR immersion on the Oculus Rift is thorough. Again, the VR set-ups of the 1990s were underwhelming at best. The Rift, however, truly tricks your brain into believing the VR it’s shown is real. Some studies show that when people use VR like that on the Rift, they exhibit increased heart rate and adrenaline levels, suggesting that the mind cannot fully discern between virtual reality and, err, real reality.
9. One thing the Oculus Rift is notably missing is a camera. It’s not that you need to take selfies or anything with the Rift, but the lack of camera means that there’s no possibility of using the device for AR, or augmented reality. This is strictly a VR headset. Oculus has hinted at the possibility of a camera included on future versions of the Rift, so we may be able to use it for AR one day. For now, though, the focus is 100% on VR.
10. When you buy an Oculus Rift, you don’t just get a headset. You also get an external positional tracker, which works in conjunction with the other components to locate the wearer in 3D space. The tracker itself is a small, black device that looks like a sleek microphone. It sits next to your computer, and it’s pretty inconspicuous looking. Unless you know what, you’d never really know that it was a part of the Rift set-up.
11. As of this writing, there are over 40 games that work with Oculus Rift. They’re priced between $5 and around $60. Favourites so far include Chronos, Project CARS, and Elite: Dangerous. VR versions of Sports Challenge, Rockband, and others are in the works.
12. More Oculus Rift games are coming! Great content is of utmost importance to Oculus, and the company is investing $10 million in new games from independent developers.
13. You can watch movies on the Oculus Rift. Both Hulu and Netflix have Oculus-compatible apps, and while there may not yet be much in the way of native VR content available on these streaming services, it’s probably coming. In the meantime, you can binge watch “Arrested Development” (or whatever) on your Rift for the ultimate personal viewing experience.
14. In the past summer of 2015, Oculus announced a partnership with tech giant Microsoft. This was a good strategic move by Oculus, as they’re now linked to an established audience, have compatibility with Windows 10 and Xbox, and receive the great synergy that can come from a partnership like this.
15. Speaking of Xbox, each Oculus Rift comes with an Xbox One controller for game play. The headset also comes with a small remote to control more straightforward video content. These offer adequate, if not limited, control over Rift content, but Oculus does have a plan for a more natural-feeling and full body controller.
16. The Oculus Touch controllers (sold separately from the Rift, of course) should be available later in 2016, and using them helps tremendously with complete VR integration and immersion. There’s one for each hand, making game control and manipulation of virtual objects feel more realistic.
17. Professionals in many different sectors are excited about the potential of the Oculus Rift. Yes, it’s great for games and entertainment, but it can also be used as a training device for pilots and doctors, as well as a way for architects and real estate professionals to do virtual walk throughs. As the Rift and other VR headsets get in the hands of more and more people across different industries, the uses for VR will only grow.
18. The Oculus Rift works in conjunction with a PC, and if your computer is on the older side, you may find that you need to upgrade. Oculus recommends a PC with a minimum of an Intel i5-4590 processor and an NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD R9 290 graphics card.
19. It may not come as a complete surprise that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was hugely influenced by the film The Matrix. His desire to be immersed in environments like those depicted in the movie was a big motivation behind the development of the Rift.
20. Speaking of Luckey, he made news in 2015 not for new Rift developments, but for an unfortunate photo on the cover of Time magazine. The picture showed Luckey barefoot on a beach, wearing a Rift, and with his arms out as if he were a child imitating a bird in flight. To put it bluntly, he looked like a dork. It got attention alright, but certainly not the kind of attention the company wanted. Fortunately for Luckey and Oculus, that black cloud blew over, and the focus quickly returned to the product itself.
21. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, and now Oculus has Lucky the Fox. The game Lucky’s Tale comes with all Rift purchases, and because of its simple but challenging nature, it makes for a great introduction to VR gaming.
22. Kids love to get their hands on all things tech, and your kids will probably be chomping at the bit to play with your Oculus Rift. However, parents and caretakers should note that the Rift is not intended for anyone under the age of 13. No, there’s no solid medical evidence for or against kids using VR headsets (not yet, anyway), but 13 is the age that Oculus and Facebook have put out there as a minimum age for users. For the record, 13 is the minimum age to open up a Facebook account as well.
23. Addicts beware: VR gaming could be addictive. Yes, video games in general are highly addictive, but the immersion component ups the ante in terms of desire to play nonstop. Take breaks often.
24. Also be aware that VR goggles can have some adverse effects like motion sickness or eye fatigue. As mentioned above, the human brain has a hard time differentiating between the real world and the world of VR; individuals who are especially prone to car sickness or who have equilibrium issues may have the same problems when using the Rift. Again, it’s important to take frequent breaks…and maybe keep some Dramamine close by the first time you strap on the goggles.
25. The Oculus Rift costs a lot: it’s currently selling for $599, a price that does not include the upcoming Oculus Touch controllers or any PC upgrades you may need to make. So yes, it’s on the high side, and it’s considerably more than Google Cardboard, but it’s also important to remember that the first iteration of most tech devices are usually expensive. The price could come down in the next few years, which would certainly make it more accessible to the general public. However, serious gamers and early adopters will probably shell out the big bucks to be among the first to pull an Oculus Rift over their eyes. Is it worth the price? That’s to be determined, but early hands-on reviews are highly promising.
26. The Oculus Rift is not wireless… not yet, anyway. A VR headset of this calibre needs a lot of processing power, and that can’t happen without a cable. Sure, there are wireless VR viewers on the market, but they don’t offer the same in-depth experience as a headset like the Rift. So that begs the question: is high-end wireless VR coming soon? Well, possibly. In November 2015, as a response to queries of this nature, Palmer Luckey sent out the following tweet: “Cables are going to be a major obstacle in the VR industry for a long time. Mobile VR will be successful long before PC VR goes wireless.” Stay tuned.
27. Is Big Brother watching? Sort of. As part of the Oculus user agreement, Facebook and other third party companies can collect data on how you use your Rift. While data collection is nothing new for users of tech devices, it’s new for VR, and it sets a significant precedent.
28. Additionally, according to the Oculus terms of service, users have no creative ownership of anything they do or make in the Rift’s virtual space. Instead, Oculus has rights to all user content. This has the potential to become a bigger issue as more creative and art-oriented VR experiences are made available.
29. You can order an Oculus Rift right now! Units started shipping last month (on March 28, to be exact), but that was for early pre-orders only. If you order one today, you should get it in July.
30. What’s next for the Oculus Rift? Upgrades, of course! Rift 2.0, or whatever the next iteration will be called, should be coming down the chute in two or three years, as Oculus has announced that it’s already working on a follow-up to the product it just released.
Oculus Rift Finally Here
After four years of wait time, the Oculus Rift is finally available for purchase. Have you had the opportunity to try one out? Was it worth the wait? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!