Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Oculus Rift: The Hardware

Oculus Rift: Changing The VR Landscape At CES 2013
By

We'll start with the hardware. One of the key components of virtual reality is effective stereoscopy, and this is dependent on getting a unique image to each eye. Modern 3D technology does this using a single display, either by filtering out half of the resolution (passive polarized) or by covering each eye alternatively 60 times a second (active). Both solutions encounter drawbacks when it comes to display quality and fatigue.

But the Oculus Rift does something different: it uses one display to service both eyes, with one half dedicated to the left and the other half to the right. This alleviates the fatigue associated with active glasses, as well as the artifacts associated with polarized solutions. It also means that, when you tilt your head, the 3D effect isn't lost, as it does with shutter-based and polarized glasses.

Oculus Rift Demo

The downside, of course, is that resolution gets split. For instance, a 1280x800 display gives each eye 640x800 (the usable resolution is a little less than that, due to the lens distortion adjustment that developers have to include, as you can see in the monitor output). Indeed, the prototype's resolution is 1280x800. And while it works well, the aliasing artifacts are pretty obvious. The good news is that, by the time Oculus is ready for production, the company says it expects higher-resolution, lower-latency screens. A 1920x1080 display would give each eye 960x1080, and that'd make a huge difference in quality.

Field of vision is also important. Until now, the headsets I've tried were limited to about 40 degrees, leaving me with the impression that I was looking through a window. Conversely, the Rift offers a 100-degree field of vision thanks to the design of its optics.

Tracking is another critical component of a VR headset. If the movement of your head isn't synchronized with what you see on-screen, the whole illusion falls apart. Perhaps surprisingly, Oculus' head-tracker was developed completely in-house. Everything from the hardware to the software was designed to enable VR. The Rift tracks at a high 1000 Hz polling rate and includes an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer to help compensate for drift.

It simply works, too. All six degrees of freedom are tracked, including roll, pitch, yaw, and movement on the X, Y, and Z axes. After putting on the device, I was immediately treated to impeccable accuracy without a calibration process. Even as I turned my head sideways and looked up and down during the demo, tracking stayed true. The Oculus team told us tracking would be improved in time for the consumer version, allowing for a better sense of movement in 3D space as you perform more complex maneuvers like crouching.

What about the hardware? The prototype weighs about half of a pound, and I felt absolutely no neck fatigue during the admittedly short demo. The company hopes to cut weight even more in time for the Rift's introduction, aiming for something comparable to scuba goggles.

The Rift is powered by a USB cable. And while it didn’t get in the way during our demo, we wonder if it might in the future as VR technology enables games with more movement. Oculus made the decision to avoid audio hardware as part of its Rift, leaving that piece of the VR puzzle to existing solutions, for now at least. Audio headsets don’t get in the way, we found.

I wore contact lenses during the demo and noticed that my eyelashes sometimes brushed up against the Rift's lenses, which was a little distracting but not uncomfortable. If you wear glasses, we can imagine that frames might interfere, though.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 64 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    army_ant7 , January 12, 2013 7:40 PM
    Now that's something that could use 440PPI (or more) screens! I don't really know if these smartphones coming out with 1080p screens would benefit from that kind of PPI, but since Occulus seems to have the screens way closer to your eyes. (Not sure if there are still lenses or something in there, but yeah, I'd really think super high PPI would be beneficial then.) :D 
  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , January 12, 2013 7:05 PM
    Obviously the tech has a lot more potential uses, but I believe that Gaming is the huge industry that will allow the Rift to achieve critical mass.

    Certainly after there's a large deployment of the tech, we'll see many interesting uses for the Rift headset that has nothing to do with games.
  • 15 Hide
    Sumukh_Bhagat , January 12, 2013 11:29 PM
    I saw this earlier on IGN.

    I would love to play BF3 with it.
    But not Horror Games because that might Give a Heart Attack
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    avjguy2362 , January 12, 2013 6:44 PM
    Why gaming only? Why not be your monitor for browsers and everything else you would use a monitor! Eyeball tracking would be easy and standard input devises would be usable too. They should also put a camera on the outside, so you could switch or overlay the outside with the inside to see your physical environment when needed so you don't have to take the headset off briefly to see where you put your drink or reach for anything else in you physical environment.
  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , January 12, 2013 7:05 PM
    Obviously the tech has a lot more potential uses, but I believe that Gaming is the huge industry that will allow the Rift to achieve critical mass.

    Certainly after there's a large deployment of the tech, we'll see many interesting uses for the Rift headset that has nothing to do with games.
  • 11 Hide
    inscothen , January 12, 2013 7:32 PM
    Gaming will sell this. Other applications could include therapy, education, training, research and development.....
  • 19 Hide
    army_ant7 , January 12, 2013 7:40 PM
    Now that's something that could use 440PPI (or more) screens! I don't really know if these smartphones coming out with 1080p screens would benefit from that kind of PPI, but since Occulus seems to have the screens way closer to your eyes. (Not sure if there are still lenses or something in there, but yeah, I'd really think super high PPI would be beneficial then.) :D 
  • 11 Hide
    killerchickens , January 12, 2013 7:54 PM
    Drool :love:  :bounce:  :pt1cable:  :) 
  • 3 Hide
    Integr8d , January 12, 2013 8:32 PM
    Interestingly, super high resolution isn't as necessary in the 3D world. You can look at those stereographic images online (the ones where you have to relax your eyes till' they nearly cross). They're fairly low resolution images. What happens is that your brain takes that pixelated image, in the 3D space, and 'fills in' the missing data. It's pretty cool. You just 'understand' the data that should be there.

    FWIW, contrast is more, if not equally as, important than resolution. You can have all the resolution in the world. But if you don't have contrast, you'll never be able to perceive the resolution.

  • 11 Hide
    hixbot , January 12, 2013 8:50 PM
    FPS games will need to unassociate the crosshair and body turn with the screen. I don't want to aim and turn around with my head.
  • 3 Hide
    mcd023 , January 12, 2013 9:44 PM
    good thing it's not like the VR I just watched in Sword Art Online!
  • 0 Hide
    killerchickens , January 12, 2013 9:47 PM
    mcd023good thing it's not like the VR I just watched in Sword Art Online!


    lol Soo good but so slow much better than any of the hack series.
  • 4 Hide
    xpeh , January 12, 2013 9:49 PM
    mcd023good thing it's not like the VR I just watched in Sword Art Online!



    I hope we can start watching anime in virtual reality soon.
  • 4 Hide
    C12Friedman , January 12, 2013 11:20 PM
    I just made up my mind, I'm waiting at least three years before purchasing a new monitor - I may not need to
  • 15 Hide
    Sumukh_Bhagat , January 12, 2013 11:29 PM
    I saw this earlier on IGN.

    I would love to play BF3 with it.
    But not Horror Games because that might Give a Heart Attack
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 13, 2013 12:32 AM
    Somebody should start finding Kayaba Akihiko! Only 9 more years till the making of the NerveGear.

    Jokes aside, they should probably look at SAOs style for VR games.
  • 0 Hide
    kingnoobe , January 13, 2013 1:21 AM
    Now that you mention it sumuk I think horror games would be freaking awesome on this specially after taking some ambient lol. I remember playing RE 2 on that stuff o that was interesting.
  • 3 Hide
    eodeo , January 13, 2013 1:32 AM
    Cant wait. I wonder if it would work with smart phones too as an external monitor. It would be a great way to view a movie while traveling by bus/train/airplane...
  • -2 Hide
    gtracer93 , January 13, 2013 2:06 AM
    Part of your statement is false. I have both a Samsung Active 3D and a LG Cinema 3D. I can watch my LG Cinema 3D, in 3D from any angle and with my head tilted, and it remains 3D. The samsung, not so much. But 3D is amazing on the LG with 240hz. So you're broad statement of Polarized and existing 3D doesn't allow angle viewing, isn't 100% accurate.
  • 1 Hide
    MauveCloud , January 13, 2013 2:06 AM
    Two questions:
    1. Does it avoid the discrepancy between the focus distance for the lenses of the eyes and the apparent distance based on binocular cues?
    2. Is it usable by someone who already has glasses?
  • 4 Hide
    cleeve , January 13, 2013 2:24 AM
    Quote:
    Part of your statement is false. I have both a Samsung Active 3D and a LG Cinema 3D. I can watch my LG Cinema 3D, in 3D from any angle and with my head tilted, and it remains 3D.


    Not possible by it's very nature. Some solutions are better than others, but if you tilt your head 90 degrees any 3D screen will fail.

    Not so with the Rift.
  • -1 Hide
    MauveCloud , January 13, 2013 2:34 AM
    CleeveNot possible by it's very nature. Some solutions are better than others, but if you tilt your head 90 degrees any 3D screen will fail.


    If you go all the way to 90 degrees, the 3d effect will look wrong (or the display might go completely dark with active shutter glasses), but minor tilts would only cause a problem with linearly polarized glasses. Some screens use circular polarization.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , January 13, 2013 3:03 AM
    Though they already have lots of money, they could use some money to hire a professional industrial designer to reduce the weight, and add a external camera.
Display more comments