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AMD APU13: Oculus Rift Revisited, Now in HD

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 22 comments

We take the HD version of Oculus Rift and TrueAudio for a test spin.

During AMD's APU13 developer summit, there were two demo stations for testing the Oculus Rift headset. This would be my third time testing Oculus VR's device, the first having been at CES 2013 in January in a test behind closed doors, and the second behind closed doors again while testing the Virtuix Omni "treadmill" platform in June. In both instances I was dazzled by what I saw, and that feeling still hadn't worn off by the time I was thrust into a virtual environment at AMD APU13.

I know I've said this a number of times before, but Oculus Rift is an industry disrupting device much like 3DFX's Voodoo card and id Software's Quake brought true 3D to gaming in the mid-90s. You don't really get this until the device is planted on your face and you're chasing butterflies around in a virtual environment, or hiding behind a stationary train avoiding bullets fired from a nearby enemy.

As Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe said in his keynote speech this week, virtual reality is here. Of course, we still can't see our hands, so using Oculus Rift feels like a carnival ride of sorts: you can move around using a gamepad, but you feel as if you're sitting down, steering a car but you also have the capability of looking around freely, including whatever is over your shoulder. Regardless, it's an incredible first step into the future of gaming.

During his keynote, Iribe mentioned blurring when you turn your head. I never once noticed the problem until after he pointed it out. Curious, I went to the booth and discovered exactly what he's talking about: there's a motion blur when turning your head after a certain speed. Yet given what Oculus Rift brings to the gamer, this is a minor setback. I also noticed a weird sensation if I actually shifted in my seat while moving within the virtual world: good thing I hadn't eaten!

As the Virtuix Omni showed back at E3 2013, the visuals are only part of the immersion. The Omni actually allowed me to physically walk around in the environment by tracking my steps with a Kinect sensor. For the demo at AMD's event, I was thrown into an environment with the aid of AMD's TrueAudio technology, which accelerates audio thanks to an embedded chip on the GPU or APU die. The audio portion was incredible, rendering a church bell in the distance, a water founding splashing behind me, and so on. Granted, I spent my time chasing butterflies, the audio made me forget the real world around me.

The second Oculus Rift demo was actually the HD version. This model was much slimmer than the older unit used at the TrueAudio demo, and I ended up going back and forth to see both the physical difference, and how both look in-game. In the older standard version, you can definitely see the pixels. Eventually you forget about them as immersion takes control of your brain, but in the HD version that pixelated effect is eliminated. Of course, the HD demo was a darkened theater so it was hard to pinpoint any abnormalities save for some blurriness in the Man of Steel trailer playing on the big screen.

Still, you really can't complain about small issues with emerging, industry disrupting technology. I know I've used that phrase a lot, but it's true: Oculus Rift is disruptive tech and will change the face of gaming much like 3DFX did back in the 90s. I'm actually honored to watch the technology grow as it has since January, and hopefully we'll see a retail product in the early part of next year. Believe me when I say that it will change everything, that 2014 will indeed go down in the gaming history books.

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  • 0 Hide
    michalmierzwa , November 14, 2013 9:29 AM
    I am super excited with Oculus Rift and Omni! I was busy teaching my young pupils at school about the technology, screening a video showcasing the product and how it works. Their jaws dropped down from disbelief and awe. They kept asking me if I can ask Father Christmas to drop one under their door. LOL
  • 0 Hide
    FlyingHelmet , November 14, 2013 10:18 AM
    In comes oculus rift, out go consoles.
  • 1 Hide
    ethanolson , November 14, 2013 10:30 AM
    I had Virtual i/o i-Glasses back in the 90's and even had head-tracking. They were awesome for their time. The colors weren't totally accurate and the low-res pixilation was apparent but I loved it because the 3D was spectacular. The biggest problem was that the head tracking didn't have a good calibration method so they often had a slow drift. I only used that in Descent.
  • Display all 22 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher Shaffer , November 14, 2013 11:06 AM
    I think this is going to be awesome!

    I still haven't heard a clear explanation on what is needed for games to support this.

    Is there a separate API? Are games that already support 3D in some fashion compatible?

    I see this being great technology IF, and ONLY if it can be used either via an adaptive plugin or API with any game.

    If a game has to be developed around the Oculus hardware, I see this as an uphill battle.
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , November 14, 2013 11:34 AM
    As far as not seeing your hands, that's fine with me. I'll need them on the keyboard and mouse, which would look a little funny, and disruptive in-game.
  • 1 Hide
    TechnoD , November 14, 2013 12:09 PM
    Already saving up some cash for one of these! Its going to be great.
    @ethanolson
    I still have all the original Descent 1,2,3 and Freespace 1 and 2 discs. One of my favorite games of all time.
  • 0 Hide
    Thorfkin , November 14, 2013 12:18 PM
    This isn't the first time 3d HMDs have been in the spotlight. Back in the mid-90s there was a company called VFX3D that produced an HMD with motion tracking. However the hardware was prohibitively expensive back then. In the range of $900 per headset if I recall correctly. Also the HMD's screen resolution was limited to something like 320x240 while most people were using a minimum render resolution of 1024x768 by then so it never really caught on. The Rift looks set to succeed where it's predecessors failed. The resolution is decent in the HD version and the cost looks set to be a lot more competitive. I'm definitely in. Looking forward to playing Doom 3 again with one of these.
  • 0 Hide
    Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer , November 14, 2013 5:43 PM
    Of course, I never had the opportunity to play Descent with the 3D head-mounted displays that were available in the '90s (though I was aware of them)...but I can't wait to play with this. It'll be five-minute sessions every night, but I'll love every second of it until the nausea wins and I have to rip the goggles off before I throw up. :D  My body is kinda sorta ready...
  • 0 Hide
    jankeke , November 14, 2013 10:57 PM
    @Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer

    Not everyone will feel sick using these. But if you have been sea sick before there is a good chance you'll get at least a headache with this. But maybe you should have a bucket in your lap while you play, just to be sure. Ah but how will you see when your bucket runs over with a OR on your head ? Dilemma ... ^^

    And soon you'll be hearing a lot of "AFK ! My bucket runneth over !" in MMOs. ^^



  • 0 Hide
    Bloob , November 14, 2013 11:27 PM
    Quote:
    I think this is going to be awesome!

    I still haven't heard a clear explanation on what is needed for games to support this.

    Is there a separate API? Are games that already support 3D in some fashion compatible?

    I see this being great technology IF, and ONLY if it can be used either via an adaptive plugin or API with any game.

    If a game has to be developed around the Oculus hardware, I see this as an uphill battle.


    AFAIK, there is an API for this, and it is very easy to implement. Basically you need 2 view matrices instead of 1, and tie their rotation around a point in between them, and then rotate according to what the Rift tells you. Of course you need to render to both eyes, making it quite demanding, but you can also skip things like anti-aliasing, as it shouldn't be very noticeable with VR (your brain will filter the separate images anyways, reducing aliasing).

    So yes, it can be used with any 3D game, which adds support.

    edit: turns out there is a bit more to it, but still doesn't seem too difficult: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/NickWhiting/20130611/194007/Integrating_the_Oculus_Rift_into_Unreal_Engine_4.php
  • 1 Hide
    hixbot , November 15, 2013 5:00 AM
    I hope FPS developers realize nobody wants to aim with their head. They need to dissociate the viewport from the crosshairs. In other words, when I move my head, I should be able to look around the game, but the "gun" should still be aimed with the mouse (or gamepad).
  • 0 Hide
    rolandzhang3 , November 15, 2013 5:48 AM
    Had the privelege to try an early 720p version, awesome stuff, too bad I get dizzy when it comes to these things :( 
  • 0 Hide
    dozerman , November 15, 2013 8:58 AM
    Test comment.
  • 0 Hide
    dozerman , November 15, 2013 8:58 AM
    Test comment.
  • 0 Hide
    dozerman , November 15, 2013 9:27 AM
    This is an exiting time to be a PC gamer. I'm honestly a little iiffy about this, though, for a few reasons. One, there are probably applications for this in 3rd person games, but It's obviously geared for first person. As disruptive as it may be for FPS and the such, it isn't going to completely change everything. There is also a social stigma against this already. It's definitely not going to be for the mainstream gamers. Aside from that, it's a good idea that I think will catch on in the hardcore gamer crowd. Just gotta see how it does. It seems a little like the NIA, and we all know how that ended.
  • 0 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , November 15, 2013 11:20 AM
    Throwing money at screen. Nothing happening
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher Shaffer , November 16, 2013 5:49 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I think this is going to be awesome!

    I still haven't heard a clear explanation on what is needed for games to support this.

    Is there a separate API? Are games that already support 3D in some fashion compatible?

    I see this being great technology IF, and ONLY if it can be used either via an adaptive plugin or API with any game.

    If a game has to be developed around the Oculus hardware, I see this as an uphill battle.


    AFAIK, there is an API for this, and it is very easy to implement. Basically you need 2 view matrices instead of 1, and tie their rotation around a point in between them, and then rotate according to what the Rift tells you. Of course you need to render to both eyes, making it quite demanding, but you can also skip things like anti-aliasing, as it shouldn't be very noticeable with VR (your brain will filter the separate images anyways, reducing aliasing).

    So yes, it can be used with any 3D game, which adds support.

    edit: turns out there is a bit more to it, but still doesn't seem too difficult: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/NickWhiting/20130611/194007/Integrating_the_Oculus_Rift_into_Unreal_Engine_4.php


    Nice. Thanks for the detailed reply. Also throwing money at the screen. Nothing happening. Screen is now dirty.
  • 0 Hide
    youssef 2010 , November 17, 2013 5:12 AM
    Gaming is a great way to leave your worries and stresses behind for a little while. I say that when I'm gaming @1080p without 3D. I've never used a 3D monitor for gaming. I can only imagine the immersion that Oculus Rift will bring. The future of gaming never looked so promising before.
  • 0 Hide
    computerguy72 , November 20, 2013 1:01 PM
    For those who are discussing 3D headsets of the past they all had both a very narrow FOV and very low resolution. The lag was often also quite significant. I've bought 5 or 6 such headsets over the last 15 years or so and they were all so incredibly flawed. I've tried the Rift a couple of times and it really does address the major flaws previous tries all had. I really do think this is a game changer. Pardon the pun.
  • 0 Hide
    badtaylorx , November 21, 2013 4:47 PM
    I got two words,,,

    DRIVING SIM
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