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Oculus Rift's latest VR headset prototype gets a showing at Gamescom 2012 (hands-on)

Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
August 16, 2012
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"This is the latest prototype," the Oculus guys tell us. That's great, now strap us in. The team decided to make a sudden stop in Germany ahead of appearances back in the US over the next few weeks -- and we're glad, because it meant we got to call in on them and grab some time with the Oculus Rift. If you didn't know, the Rift is a Kickstarter-funded VR gaming headset (stay with us) that's caught the attention of several games developers -- most notably John Carmack. He liked it so much, in fact, that he developed a special Rift-ready version of Doom 3 for the headset and Doom 4 will also be heading to the VR peripheral too. We got to play with the earlier game and while there's a video after the break, we reckon you'll really need to try this in person to fully grasp how the Oculus Rift plays. Check out our impressions after the break.

Gallery: Oculus Rift prototype hands-on | 12 Photos

Picking up the headset, we were surprised by how light it was -- we held it in one hand with ease. The weight's already been reduced since Oculus' developmental model did the rounds earlier this year, and it's almost comparable to a pair of ski goggles. Once the Rift is around your eyes, you can nudge it to hit the optimum sweet spot -- the two screens project 640 x 800 respectively, creating a 3D image that's 1,280 x 800. This resolution was picked to ensure that the Oculus Rift danced at a frame rate up to 60Hz and was HDMI-friendly. If they had plumped for 1080p on those screens (which is possible, for a price) then the frame-rate would arrive at around 24Hz if using the existing HDMI standard.

Oculus Rift's latest prototype gets a showing at Gamescom 2012 handsonThe wide-angle view works in generating a more immersive gaming environs, and even slight turns registering on the game avatar. Tilt your head, and your view will do likewise -- not that we'd be doing that too much in-game. When you reach the limit of your head-turn, you can then use the games controller to see beyond it. Movement within the Doom 3 demo (also not the finished article) was dedicated to the left analog stick on an Xbox 360 controller, while the right managed our heavier turning.

When polled on whether Oculus was working with those major console makers, the team told us that it was completely focused on its developmental PC version at the moment, but that there was "no technical reason why it wouldn't work (with other consoles)." Oculus is keeping game developer support a secret at the moment, but the sheer fact that there's a workable title to show off (albeit an eight-year-old one) gives the project a strong kick -- and gives our short play-through a semi-accurate feel as for what the end result will be like. A few hours after seeing the Oculus Rift and we're still raving about it, with a low-latency response to our head movements augmenting the VR at work. While we're not sure whether it'll have a huge effect on how we play games, it's that immersive effect (and how surprisingly comfortable they were to wear) that's got us fascinated by how that final developer model -- and eventual consumer version -- turn out.

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