Technology, Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift: first impressions

My Oculus Rift developer kit arrived today, and needless to say, I dived right in to my complimentary 4-month Unity Pro trial, and a handful of assets I’ve been eyeing for a while (namely UFPS). But I may have overdone it a little. Already suffering from a major case of VORTAN.

VR “motion” sickness aside, it was a lot of fun. The Rift came in a slick black carrying case with all the extras, setup was a breeze, the included World demo from the SDK and extra Tuscany demo download both worked flawlessly and helped a lot with configuration. Interestingly, the included World demo also served as a useful case study for my previous post on (fluxus) and the oculus rift; in the world demo, hit your spacebar and you get a sweet floating popup that lists a few important settings. Hit spacebar again and you get more detail. Hit it a third time and you get a helpful list of keyboard shortcuts for adjusting the settings. The floating dialog, appearing more like a wetware HUD for augmented reality than a help screen for virtual reality, followed along with the head tracking; the text was crisp and clear, even without the distortion filter that normalizes the stereoscopic projection for your FOV.

I was honestly surprised how natural everything felt. The resolution of 1280×800 is a bit low, and the obvious pixelation threw off the otherwise seamless immersion in Virtual Reality, but that’s to be expected for a beta devkit device. I expect the commercial, end-user units will be substantially better still. And the fact that text rendering is so crisp and clear is a definite boon. No reason an Oculus Rift powered (fluxus)-like livehacking environment couldn’t surface out of the flow. But as for the Rift’s design goal as an affordable, easy-to-use VR gaming headset, I think Palmer Luckey hit the nail on the head with this device.

Obviously, the real fun began tonight once I downloaded the latest Unity.

I started by hacking on the included demo game, Angry Bots. All I did there was disable the main player camera, and drop in the OVRPlayerController Asset from the Oculus/Unity integration library, just to see what the level looked like through the Oculus Rift; it was mostly sufficient, although movement controls got a little flaky, and the visible player character started moving in the opposite direction of the Rift player cameras. But it certainly looked amazing.

Then I dropped the OVRPlayerController into the demo scene included with Encounter Sci-Fi Pack 1, and went exploring. It was a fun little excursion, but not much to do—just a single door to open and a big hall to wander through.

Finally, once I had a feel for Unity/Oculus Rift integration, I loaded up UFPS and followed the instructions in the manual to replace the AdvancedDemoPlayer object’s WeaponCamera with the OVRCameraController. It took a little more macguyvering than the manual claimed, but within a few minutes I was running around a basic level, shooting away merrily and blowing up crates.

Altogether it was quite a fruitful evening, and I have high hopes for my Oculus Rift and Unity creations.

Sadly, I have quite a lot of work to do this weekend, so that’s about all the time I have to play with my new toys for now. But suffice it to say, this will be a great winter.

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