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The Oculus Rift Review

The Oculus Rift, the first high-end, consumer VR head-mounted display is now available, and it's poised to usher in a future of immersive experiences.

Health, Safety & Maintenance

Health & Safety Concerns

Many new technologies raise concerns about our well-being. Virtual reality is no exception, and it may actually involve some legitimate health and safety worries. You don’t often find yourself so isolated from the real world, but with VR, that's kind of the point.

A convincing virtual reality experience can be dangerous because you lose track of physical obstacles around you as you're drawn into this other world. We've heard stories of folks falling over after leaning on a virtual table that obviously wasn't able to support their real weight. One of our reviewers even hit his head on a table leaning forward to look down in a virtual environment.

Oculus tries to prevent this by encouraging developers to target seated and standing experiences. The Rift, at least until its Touch controllers arrive, mostly presents environments that don't leave you vulnerable. It should be fairly easy to avoid physical harm while using the Rift in its current form, especially if you do your part to clear away obstacles before sliding the HMD over your eyes.

There are other concerns to think about, though. For years we’ve been told that sitting too close to a monitor can damage your vision over time. Now we're strapping two displays right onto our faces. It’s hard to predict the long-term effects of habitual VR use, so many enthusiasts will try to use the Rift in moderation for now.

Not For Young Children

Oculus doesn't recommend the Rift for anyone younger than 13 because its headset is not designed to accommodate a child's IPD. The Rift can only adjust down to a measurement of 58mm, which even exceeds the IPD of some adults (as low as 55mm.) Children can have IPDs more than 10mm narrower than that. Using a headset configured to an unoptimized IPD can cause eye strain and, eventually, motion sickness. Oculus goes so far as to say that the eye strain from an incorrect IPD setting can have lasting effects on kids. It even cautions parents to monitor children 13 and up after they use Rift, and to limit play time. Prolonged use of VR when your body is still developing may adversely affect balance, hand-eye coordination and even the ability to multitask.

Children aren't the only ones who need to be careful. Oculus warns us all of repetitive stress injuries, potential skin reactions caused by the foam gasket and motion sickness you might experience for any number of reasons. It says you should immediately quit using the Rift and consult a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms (if this sounds a bit like a Fraxiga commercial, we agree...but, you know, enjoy that Rift):

Seizures; loss of awareness; eye strain; eye or muscle twitching; involuntary movements; altered, blurred, or double vision or other visual abnormalities; dizziness; disorientation; impaired balance; impaired hand-eye coordination; excessive sweating; increased salivation; nausea; lightheadedness; discomfort or pain in the head or eyes; drowsiness; or fatigue.

Hygiene

In some ways, the Rift is similar to a hat, not just another gaming peripheral. The hardware is designed to rest on your face, sometimes for long periods of time. Those sessions may involve intense games that get your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing. Frightening and exciting experiences leave many people perspiring. You can imagine what the foam face gasket is going to be subjected to after months of epic space battles in EVE: Valkyrie.

Oculus approached the Rift's materials as if the HMD was an article of clothing. The company went with a fabric lining specifically designed to be breathable, which, again, means it's able to pass moisture vapor through. That's going to keep the lenses from fogging up and the rest of the headset from developing sweat condensation. In the event that it does wear out, the face plate is replaceable. And the foam gasket is attached to the face plate, so you don't have to worry if it starts to break down over time.

Maintenance

Oculus provides a few instructions for maintaining the Rift. To start, never clean the lenses and sensor with anything but a dry microfiber towel. Scratching the lens surface will affect its clarity, and damaging the sensor could impact tracking precision. You should also avoid cleaning those components with any liquid, including water, as it could damage the delicate surfaces.

To keep the foam face gasket as fresh as possible, Oculus recommends wiping it down with non-abrasive anti-bacterial wipes. Alcohol-based cleaning products could damage the foam. If you plan to share your Rift, consider investing in a third-party gasket cover that can be easily washed. Putting on a Rift with a gasket damp from someone else’s sweaty face is just gross.

Find a dark place to store your Rift, too. Oculus says you should avoid leaving the headset, sensor or remote in direct sunlight, which can affect tracking performance and cause premature wear.


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  • ingtar33
    My main concern about the Rift isn't addressed in this article. And that's if it will become Orphanware. You see, there is a fraction of the gaming public who has a computer able to play games on a Rift, and an even smaller number of those people who will spend $600 to buy a Rift.

    This leaves the game manufacturers in a tough spot. They want to make and market games that will play on the most pcs possible. So my fear is that in 6-18mo we'll see the end of titles that will play on the rift, and nothing new in the pipeline as those titles will prove to be financial duds to the industry, thanks to the tiny install base.

    And then the Rift will become Orphanware, a product without a market or market support.
    Reply
  • Realist9
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw:

    1. "you're asked to set up an account..."
    2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..."

    What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    17729616 said:
    My main concern about the Rift isn't addressed in this article. And that's if it will become Orphanware. You see, there is a fraction of the gaming public who has a computer able to play games on a Rift, and an even smaller number of those people who will spend $600 to buy a Rift.

    This leaves the game manufacturers in a tough spot. They want to make and market games that will play on the most pcs possible. So my fear is that in 6-18mo we'll see the end of titles that will play on the rift, and nothing new in the pipeline as those titles will prove to be financial duds to the industry, thanks to the tiny install base.

    And then the Rift will become Orphanware, a product without a market or market support.

    Time will be the ultimate test for the Rift, but I don't see that fate coming.
    The companies working in the VR industry are incredibly excited about the prospect of this new medium. When the biggest companies in the world are pushing to bring something to market in the same way, it should be telling of the potential these companies see.

    Facebook and Oculus have not been shy about saying that adoption will be slow. If developers haven't been paying attention to that, then they will surely fail. Most understand that the market will be small, but in the early days of VR the market share will be large, as most people buying in this early will have a hunger to try out as much of the content as possible.

    I've also spoken with several VR developers in person about this issue. Most, if not all of them, are prepared for low volume sales. This is precicesly the reason why you won't see many AAA titles exclusively for VR for a while. The games will be shorter, and inexpensive to produce.
    VR games are mostly being developed by indie shops that have little overhead, and few employees to pay. They are also mostly working for minimum wage, hoping to see bonuses at the end of the year from better than expected sales.

    I don't think we have any chance of seeing the Rift, or the Vive, fall into the realm of abandonware. Tools are getting easier to use (VR editors), and cheaper to access (Unity, Unreal Engine, Cryengine are all free for individuals.) The resources for people to build for this medium are vast, and there's no better time to be an idie dev than now. VR is a new market, and anyone has as much chance as the next to make the next big killer app. It resets the industry and makes it easier to jump into.
    VR will not be dominated by the likes of EA and Activision for some time now. It opens the door for anyone with a good idea to become the next powerhouse. That will be a very compelling prospect for many indipendant, and small development firms.


    Reply
  • Clerk Max
    No mention of VR motion sickness or kinetosis in this conclusion ? This is a major showstopper, preventing more than a few minutes of immersion for most people.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    17729694 said:
    I stopped reading in the "setup up the rift" when I saw:

    1. "you're asked to set up an account..."
    2. "you're prompted to configure a payment method..."

    What am I setting up an account for, why do I have to 'sign in', and what am I setting up a payment for??

    If you kept reading you'd know the answer.
    You are signing up for Oculus Home, the only way to access content for the Rift.
    As soon as you put the headset on, the sensor inside it initializes Oculus Home. Without an account, you can't access any of the content. It's exactly like accessing content on Steam. You need to sign in.

    That's the same reason you need a payment method. There's free games, so you can skip it, but you can't access any of the paid content without an Oculus Home account.
    If SteamVR ends up supporting the final rift, then you may be able to play other games on it, but at this time, you need Oculus Home for everything on the Rift, including existing games like Project Cars.
    Reply
  • Joe Black
    I get the sense that it is where 3D gaming was right after Windows95 and directX launched.

    That's cool.Believe it or not you actually did need a relatively beefy PC for that back in the day. It was not for everybody yet.
    Reply
  • bobpies
    What am I setting up an account for,
    to download and play the games

    why do I have to 'sign in'
    to access your games

    and what am I setting up a payment for??
    to buy the games.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    17729767 said:
    No mention of VR motion sickness or kinetosis in this conclusion ? This is a major showstopper, preventing more than a few minutes of immersion for most people.

    Read page 8 if you want to know about my motion sickness experience. Only two games gave me any kind of trouble, and both of them were caused by first person experiences. Its well established that moving around in first person is not comfortable for many people. The motion messes with your brain because you aren't actually physically moving. actually sitting, while your character moves around isn't comfortable at all for me. Some people don't have trouble, but the comfort levels are there for a reason. Both of those games are listed as intense experiences, so even Oculus acknowleges that that some folks will get sick.

    All of the 3rd person games that I tried, and the games with cockpits (Radial G, Project Cars, Eve: Valkyrie) are all very comfortable.

    We'll talk more about motion sickness and effects of being in VR for extended periods over the coming weeks. So far, with the limited time we've had with it, I've only used it for less than 10 hours total. There's plenty of games that we've not even fired up yet, so a full discussion about getting motion sickness seesm premature.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    17729831 said:
    I get the sense that it is where 3D gaming was right after Windows95 and directX launched.

    That's cool.Believe it or not you actually did need a relatively beefy PC for that back in the day. It was not for everybody yet.

    That's a good comparison.
    I like to use the first Atari console as a comparison. This is the dawn of a new medium that people don't yet understand. It will be expensive, and not for everyone in the early days, but look at where video games are today. If everyone had the same opinion about Atari back then, as many people seem to feel about VR, the entire video game industry wouldn't have existed as we see it today.
    VR will be similar. It will take a long time to get mass adoption, and the road there will have plenty of changes and advancements, but it's definitely going to happen. VR is far too compelling and has far too much potential for it not to.
    Reply
  • Realist9
    The 'conclusion' page is really spot on. Specifically, the parts about AAA titles and casual audience.

    So, does the release version of the Rift still require graphics settings in Project Cars to be turned down with pop in and jaggies? (read this in a Anand article from 16 Mar).
    Reply