The Oculus Rift is set to start shipping out on March 28th with a retail price of $599, but there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the machine and the impact it will have on the way digital media is experienced in the future. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion back in March of 2014, and Mark Zuckerberg has said that he wants to develop virtual reality for more than just video games. Only time will tell just how much impact the Oculus Rift will have on society, but for now, if you're thinking about ordering one, here are some things you should know about it:
What does it come with?
The Oculus Rift comes with the VR headset with built-in headphones and a microphone, an XBox One controller, and a small remote control for settings like volume and screen brightness. The Oculus Rift is not a stand-alone system, you still need a PC to run it, so be sure to see if your PC will run it before committing to buy one.
There is a downloadable file on on the Oculus Rift webpage that will tell you if your computer's specs are up to par. Oculus also has a selection of "Oculus Ready PCs" on their site made by ASUS, DELL, and Alienware for around $1,000.
The Oculus Rift also comes with two free games if you pre-order. The first game, which is free even for those who don't pre-order is called "Lucky's Tale," a platformer game that centers around a cute fox who wears sneakers and what is either a short cape or a long ascott. Lucky looks similar to Tails from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, but with only one tail, a darker shade of orange, and of course that ascott-cape to avoid copyright infringement.
In all seriousness though, the game looks really fun. I love the art style they went with and I'm really excited to find out how it feels to be immersed in a cartoon universe. If you're somebody who's into games for more mature audiences, this will at least give you a game to show off if you ever find yourself entertaining a friend or relative's children and they inevitably want to see your sweet VR setup. You can learn more about Lucky's Tale on their developer, Playful's website.
If cartoony platformers with cute critters aren't your thing, I recommend pre-ordering because all pre-orders get a free copy of EVE Valkyrie! EVE Valkyrie is a space fighter game set in the popular EVE universe. You will receive the Founder's Pack for pre-ordering which contains a free extra ship, a war chest with gold and XP boosters, as well as granting the "Founder" title for you achievement junkies. I think their website can describe it better than I can. If you would like to see more games for the Oculus Rift, I recommend looking at Steam's Oculus Compatible titles.
How does it work?
Virtual reality is made possible with a process called sensor fusion. Sensor fusion is software that combines the data from multiple sensors in order to mimic the physics of being on a three dimensional plane with gravity. This diagram made by Kionix shows how the combination of multiple sensor types working in tandem allows for things like screen rotation, gesture recognition, step counting, and personal navigation. If you have a smartphone, it uses sensor fusion!
After the aforementioned sensors working together, there is also a 5.7 inch Full HD AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, which is basically a very nice smartphone screen, the ones used in the latest Samsung Galaxy phones. In fact, Oculus' other VR system, the GearVR works exclusively with Samsung Galaxy smartphones. It's a little mind-blowing to think about how the screens making virtual reality possible are smaller than six inches!
You will also want to keep in mind that the Oculus Rift runs through an HDMI cable, so make sure that your computer has an HDMI port or make sure you have some sort of adapter if your computer only has VGA ports. If you would like to see an in-depth deconstruction, Online Components did a teardown of the Oculus Rift developer version in their Tech Exposed series.
The Oculus Rift is going to be one of the more popular VR systems thanks to the massive financial resources at Facebook's disposal and its compatibility with Steam. It may change the way we interact online forever, but for now, I'm happy to see all of these awesome games coming out! Just make sure that you have a setup that can handle it before ordering one, so you don't end up with a $600 paper weight!