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PAX Prime 2012: Oculus Rift VR Headset Hands-on

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 20 comments

Taking VR head tracking to the next level.

Oculus Rift is a virtual reality, head tracking, and stereoscopic 3D headset that allows a gamer to literally turn their head and look where they want to inside of a compatible virtual environment. We were able to go hands-on at PAX 2012 and play DOOM 3 BFG and the experience blew us away. The complete integration of head tracking and stereoscopic 3D creates an almost surreal experience. Being able to aim at a target literally by looking at it is an amazing feeling, and the complete immersion experience is well beyond any other existing experience on the market today.

The Oculus Rift has been receiving outstanding support through its Kickstarter page since its inception. Official recognition coming from developers such as John Carmack, Gabe Newell, and Cliff Bleszinski shows a promising future for the virtual reality headset. As an avid gaming enthusiast with a triple-monitor surround, Track IR, and AmBX ambient lighting setup at home I have to say that it doesn't even compare to the Oculus Rift.

Oculus Prototype Running on WindowsOculus Prototype Running on WindowsOculus Prototype Running on WindowsOculus Prototype Running on Windows

The project isn't without its challenges, there are a few technical issues that need to be revised for the consumer unit of the product. The issues appear to be limited to prototype-centric issues such as a low response time for the display panel -- something that the Oculus team is aware of and working to correct.

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  • 11 Hide
    rgjhawkins , September 3, 2012 10:47 AM
    This is going to be a complete game changer!
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    waxdart , September 3, 2012 10:02 AM
    I want one. If it costs the same as the Sony HMZ-T1 . I can't afford one. It looks good.
  • 11 Hide
    rgjhawkins , September 3, 2012 10:47 AM
    This is going to be a complete game changer!
  • -5 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 3, 2012 11:45 AM
    Can you overclock it ?
  • -7 Hide
    Pennanen , September 3, 2012 11:46 AM
    rgjhawkinsThis is going to be a complete game changer!

    Oh this is one of those products. Like 3d, wii, touch screen and many others, this is going to change the way we play games! This is something that we never seen before!

    Yeah, no.
  • 1 Hide
    reprotected , September 3, 2012 11:59 AM
    PennanenOh this is one of those products. Like 3d, wii, touch screen and many others, this is going to change the way we play games! This is something that we never seen before!Yeah, no.

    Yeah, you know like analog sticks and microphone input? Like who needs em? We should just increase the graphics of every new game because graphics is 10 times more important than approaching new trends of gaming that could potentially be the future.
  • 2 Hide
    freggo , September 3, 2012 12:07 PM
    mayankleoboy1Can you overclock it ?


    Overclocking what is basically a 'screen' ?
    What do you mean by that ?
    If it shows 60 frames/s per eye that should do.
  • -3 Hide
    Pennanen , September 3, 2012 12:20 PM
    reprotectedYeah, you know like analog sticks and microphone input? Like who needs em? We should just increase the graphics of every new game because graphics is 10 times more important than approaching new trends of gaming that could potentially be the future.

    I think microphones existed way before gaming. Also analog sticks? Oh right, console people, luls :D 
  • -5 Hide
    Achoo22 , September 3, 2012 3:11 PM
    I don't understand why this is such a big deal. Similar devices existed, with nearly identical specifications, way back in the mid 1990s at prices around $500. NVidia didn't break any new ground w/ their LCD shutter glasses nor are these guys doing it now.
  • 8 Hide
    indecom , September 3, 2012 5:09 PM
    Achoo22I don't understand why this is such a big deal. Similar devices existed, with nearly identical specifications, way back in the mid 1990s at prices around $500. NVidia didn't break any new ground w/ their LCD shutter glasses nor are these guys doing it now.

    similar devices couldnt have existed back then because the hardware that's in the rift has been unavailable until recently. You really think that a 1200 by 800 lcd screen existed in the 90's? Or a gyroscope with a latency level this low existed back then? No, those older devices were like looking at a small screen off in the distance that would lag behind when you moved your head. The point of the rift is to totally encompass your entire field of view with the video game world and update it with your heads motion so quickly that you can't detect any latency. You don't think these guys are breaking new ground, well id Software, Epic Games, Valve, mojang, Wolfire, and about 10,000 other developers beg to differ, myself including.
  • 0 Hide
    shin0bi272 , September 3, 2012 5:16 PM
    The concept of VR has been around for a while the cool factor has always been off the charts. The thing about the oculus is that it connects to your pc and plays regular games once support has been added for the hardware. So it enables you to play your favorite game with head tracking...

    The down side though is a) what's the price? b) how long can you play with 2 screens an inch from your eyes? and c) how many games will support it?

    So you get into a very limited market sort of like ageia physx except the physx software was given out for free and you had to buy an add on card to get it to work... and its only supported by a limited number of games. It was a disaster and no one bought them and that caused the company to get bought out by nvidia who wanted to put hardware accelerated gpu physics on their boards. The tech has had limited acceptance since the unreal engine uses it but outside of the 50-100 games that support it (and some like metro 2033 not very well) its not used at all.

    I fear that that's what will happen to this tech... at best it will get bought out by a company like nvidia for something like their 3d vision surround tech.
  • 5 Hide
    indecom , September 3, 2012 5:41 PM
    shin0bi272The concept of VR has been around for a while the cool factor has always been off the charts. The thing about the oculus is that it connects to your pc and plays regular games once support has been added for the hardware. So it enables you to play your favorite game with head tracking... The down side though is a) what's the price? b) how long can you play with 2 screens an inch from your eyes? and c) how many games will support it? So you get into a very limited market sort of like ageia physx except the physx software was given out for free and you had to buy an add on card to get it to work... and its only supported by a limited number of games. It was a disaster and no one bought them and that caused the company to get bought out by nvidia who wanted to put hardware accelerated gpu physics on their boards. The tech has had limited acceptance since the unreal engine uses it but outside of the 50-100 games that support it (and some like metro 2033 not very well) its not used at all. I fear that that's what will happen to this tech... at best it will get bought out by a company like nvidia for something like their 3d vision surround tech.


    A.) The price on the rift has always been labeled as affordable, so you can expect the consumer version to cost somewhere in the hundreds of dollars rather than thousands.

    B.) You don't seem to understand how Optics work. The lenses in the Oculus Rift make it so that the lcd screen inside appears to be as far away from you as the horizon so that your eyes are focusing at infinity, which is a very comfortable place to be. I've heard of people playing with the rift for several hours, even up to 8 without causing eye strain.

    C.) If you've been watching the kickstarter you'd know that there has been a tremendous amount of support from developers, somewhere in the lines of 9000+ developers having pledged to the kickstarter. However as of this time there's around 7 games that have officially announced that they will be made compatible for the Rift once the developer kits arrive in december.
  • 1 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , September 3, 2012 7:39 PM
    The success of this device will depend on the games it support. If it works for every FPS and other games I own then I would definitely buy this.
  • 1 Hide
    alidan , September 3, 2012 10:08 PM
    PennanenOh this is one of those products. Like 3d, wii, touch screen and many others, this is going to change the way we play games! This is something that we never seen before!Yeah, no.


    3d when done well, adds a new level of visual stimulation that is VERY satisfying, but it needs to be built with 3d from day one, not just be able to become 3d like many games currently handle it. before you can comment on 3d, you should play something like uncharted 3, yea i know, console game, but its one of a few that i know was from day 1 made for 3d.

    touchscreen, they have their uses, and in many cases, if i had a multi touch pad i would find it better to use than a mouse/keyboard combo, but thats thinking of things like photoshop and not games, for gameing, i can see it in a skill heavy game like an mmo, where you could have 20+ combat skills and a touch screen if done right would be a better place to use those than a mouse keyboard.

    and as for the wii motion gaming, its just not there, granted the move that is far FAR better than the wii, but no one is making the hard core combat simulation game, and i will never have a sword in my hand, fighting another person online in 1 to 1 combat, it will forever be a waggle fest... at least this generation... if we ever get a wireless headmount... we may have the single greatest piece of hardware we will ever get in gaming.

    while touchscreen, the wii, and 3d are not currently integrated from day 1 or work all that well, this head mount would force 3d from the get go, solving that problem, and if you ever used one with head tracking, my god, can that experience become something you till now were reluctantly forced to live without.

    reprotectedYeah, you know like analog sticks and microphone input? Like who needs em? We should just increase the graphics of every new game because graphics is 10 times more important than approaching new trends of gaming that could potentially be the future.


    there are more than a few trends that i would like to see die, but this one i can see having long legs.

    PennanenI think microphones existed way before gaming. Also analog sticks? Oh right, console people, luls


    well, for movement, i would take an analog stick over wasd, because i could have sneak speed, walk speed, and run speed all tied to just how far i push it, sadly, there are no keypads i know of that use an analog stick, they use a glorified d pad...

    for aiming, i would take a mouse any day though... as they dont make good analog sticks for aiming anymore.

    Achoo22I don't understand why this is such a big deal. Similar devices existed, with nearly identical specifications, way back in the mid 1990s at prices around $500. NVidia didn't break any new ground w/ their LCD shutter glasses nor are these guys doing it now.


    back than we also weren't at a graphical wall either, back than you had massive leaps in tech faster, but we hit a plateau where they power necessary to make a game look better wasn't ramping up as exponentially as it currently is now.

    lpedraja2002The success of this device will depend on the games it support. If it works for every FPS and other games I own then I would definitely buy this.


    not quite, as i see an application of this outside of gaming.

    an infinite desktop. if this thing comes out and it can support a desktop that would mimik a 20-30 screen desktop, that would be perfect.

    or a pc for personal use. i know at least when my computer wasnt in my bedroom behing a lock, my family constantly screwed with me, shineing a spot light flash light on it, blinding me and makeing be screw up, putting their hands on the screen so i cant see, and because its in the family area, i couldnt look at anything above a pg13 without being nagged, much less looking at porn.

    this, at least in a family setting could be a great thing.

    granted i would want a webcam on it too, doesn't need to be a good one, i just dont want to have to take the thing off an on constantly to look at someone.
  • -2 Hide
    ashinms , September 3, 2012 11:48 PM
    indecomsimilar devices couldnt have existed back then because the hardware that's in the rift has been unavailable until recently. You really think that a 1200 by 800 lcd screen existed in the 90's? Or a gyroscope with a latency level this low existed back then? No, those older devices were like looking at a small screen off in the distance that would lag behind when you moved your head. The point of the rift is to totally encompass your entire field of view with the video game world and update it with your heads motion so quickly that you can't detect any latency. You don't think these guys are breaking new ground, well id Software, Epic Games, Valve, mojang, Wolfire, and about 10,000 other developers beg to differ, myself including.


    There was a device just like this that was invented by nintendo forever ago to play one of the original Mario games in stereoscopic 3d. Only difference was that it was in monochrome red. Eventually got scrapped for reasons you mentioned above, but it still happened. Don't say it was impossible, just ahead of its time.
  • 1 Hide
    indecom , September 4, 2012 12:00 AM
    ashinmsThere was a device just like this that was invented by nintendo forever ago to play one of the original Mario games in stereoscopic 3d. Only difference was that it was in monochrome red. Eventually got scrapped for reasons you mentioned above, but it still happened. Don't say it was impossible, just ahead of its time.

    Wow, that was NOTHING like the rift. I used to own one of those things, all it was was a glorified gameboy that was about 8 times larger and about 40 times heavier. You couldn't display real 3d content on the device, only 2 separate 2d images of flat sprites. You couldn't strap it to your head because it would break your neck and your nose, trust me i tried. It didn't have motion control either, so there was no way to get immersed into the game, it was just like watching a small red 3d tv with gameboy resolution. Also the virtual boy didn't use any lcd screens, rather it used two rapidly twisting mirrors and red laser beams. Sufficed to say the virtual boy was just a small heavy 3d gameboy that you shoved your face into. It was cool, but you'd get eye strain after about 30 minutes of playing with it.
  • -1 Hide
    kenyee , September 4, 2012 12:35 AM
    Would love this if it had more screen resolution. It was less than 1080p IIRC...
  • 1 Hide
    indecom , September 4, 2012 12:37 AM
    kenyeeWould love this if it had more screen resolution. It was less than 1080p IIRC...

    This is just the developer version, when the consumer model comes out it will have a high resolution display.
  • 0 Hide
    Steelwing , September 4, 2012 4:36 AM
    I want to see this combined with the Leap Motion.
  • 1 Hide
    ashinms , September 4, 2012 3:36 PM
    indecomWow, that was NOTHING like the rift. I used to own one of those things, all it was was a glorified gameboy that was about 8 times larger and about 40 times heavier. You couldn't display real 3d content on the device, only 2 separate 2d images of flat sprites. You couldn't strap it to your head because it would break your neck and your nose, trust me i tried. It didn't have motion control either, so there was no way to get immersed into the game, it was just like watching a small red 3d tv with gameboy resolution. Also the virtual boy didn't use any lcd screens, rather it used two rapidly twisting mirrors and red laser beams. Sufficed to say the virtual boy was just a small heavy 3d gameboy that you shoved your face into. It was cool, but you'd get eye strain after about 30 minutes of playing with it.


    I don't know. Before my time. All I know is that it got some guy in some serious trouble because of its failure.
  • 0 Hide
    jackbling , September 4, 2012 4:52 PM
    If it improves my gaming experience I will gladly strap on a pink vest, purple yoga pants, a visor, headset, and shock collar. This is a tech site; if you do not find this device exciting, you should probably just go back to facebook.

    And a thankyou goes out to the Oculus team for creating a real website, not a facebook/twitter page.