Every single manufacturer worth its salt is joining the virtual reality revolution. We have seen some amazing things, among our favorites is the HTC Re Vive, but there is no doubt we all have a special little place in our heart for the VR headset that sparked the new era of virtual reality – the Oculus Rift.
This small, yet amazingly ambitious project shook the internet and showed us all what VR could do for the future of gaming. We could finally play worthy games from a truly first-person, 3D perspective, naturally being able to look around the in-game environment. Nothing was more immersive and those of us who were lucky enough to try it in person were blown away. It was like magic compared to what most of us knew as commercial virtual reality (remember the Virtual Boy?).
A successful Kickstarter campaign, an acquisition by Facebook and three years of hard work later we find ourselves taking a look at the final Oculus Rift hardware. This is the device that will actually live in your desk and rest on your heads soon.
How does it fare in an industry where it is no longer alone, and possibly not even the best around? First let’s take a good look at it, inform you about its characteristics and tell you how it has been improved over its past iterations, which only lived in developer offices and garages until now.
The new Oculus Rift and its mind-boggling controller
Details on specs continue to be a bit of a mystery, but the key elements we do know show us this thing is finally a consumer ready product. It takes but a quick glance at it to realize this much. The device is now much smaller and is made of higher quality materials. These still include mostly plastics and fabrics, but keep in mind other Oculus Rift iterations looked like half-baked products.
Key differences also include the much smaller frame, which you can now easily bear with a single hand. A pair of headphones are mounted on both sides, and these can be detached. A big improvement is that this headset can actually be used with glasses, a very important feature that simply had to be included before the Rift hit store shelves. Furthermore, you can adjust the distance between the glasses (we all have a different distance between our eyes) and there is a whole set of sliders that allow you to perfectly fit this contraption in your head.
As for the controller, every consumer version of the device will be bundled with an Xbox One controller. Kind of boring, right? But don’t go flipping tables just yet. Oculus did assure us they were working on a very unique controller that is perfectly crafted for the VR experience. It’s a pair of “Oculus Touch” controllers that seem to wrap around your hands. They include analog sticks, triggers and a couple traditional buttons. They truly look like something out of this world.
What about them games?!
The selection of games will obviously be limited at first. That’s the way things work with any gaming platform, especially one as complex as the Oculus Rift. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer came onto the stage giving us the ray of hope we needed to push us into buying this device sooner than later, though. It turns out Xbox One games like Forza, Halo and Sunset Overdrive will be able to stream to the Oculus Rift.
Granted, the Xbox One experience is not quite what you would expect out of something like the Oculus Rift. You won’t be able to look around within the game and experience the full virtual reality experience. It will seem more like you are sitting in a virtual room playing the game. Honestly, you might as well sit in an actual room and play the game… but at least this is something to hold us off until the real Oculus Rift-optimized games come around.
Thankfully, Oculus gave us a pretty neat list of games that would be optimized for the platform and ready to roll when the Oculus Rift is released, or soon after. These include titles like EVE Valkyrie, Edge of Nowhere, Chronos, Damaged Core, VR Sports Challenge, Esper, AirMech and Lucky’s Tale.
Price and release date
So this is what we all want to know, right? Will this break the bank? And how soon will it do so? While Oculus is staying pretty quiet about prices, the company has previously mentioned it should sell for under $1,500 when paired with the required PC hardware. Not too bad when you consider this PC hardware will pretty much be a gaming rig. As for the release date, the gadget should be launching during Q1 of 2016.
VR now, and in the future
So we know this isn’t exactly Android-related news, but it does give us a glimpse at where VR technology is heading and almost all of us can appreciate the doors that advanced VR may eventually open up.
Due to the limitations of mobile hardware, Android-based VR devices like the Gear VR and Google Cardboard aren’t quite as impressive as what you get from products like the Oculus Rift, but they have the advantage of being cheaper and more consumer accessible. The Rift is also being aimed almost completely at gaming at the moment, while Google and Android are looking more into the education, entertainment and productivity side of things. It should also be said that these more mobile VR solutions are powered by your smartphones, and therefore can pretty much be used anywhere.
As for the future? As technology advances, so to will the power of mobile devices, and the next-gen VR headsets that work with them. In the meantime, the Oculus Rift is an impressive look at where VR is today but, in its current form, a (likely) high price tag and the high-end PC tether requirement means it isn’t for everyone. Oculus Rift may win a place at every gamer’s desk, but Google Cardboard and other Android-related VR solutions will likely end up having more mainstream appeal, at least for the time being.
What do you think of the Oculus Rift, how much would you be willing to pay for one (including the costs for both the PC and the headset)? What do you think of current Android based alternatives, excited or do you feel they are still mostly gimmicks?