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AMD APU13: Oculus Rift Revisited, Now in HD

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.

  • michalmierzwa
    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
    Reply
  • FlyingHelmet-1373206
    In comes oculus rift, out go consoles.
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  • ethanolson
    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.
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  • Christopher Shaffer
    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.
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  • clonazepam
    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.
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  • TechnoD
    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.
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  • Thorfkin
    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.
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  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer
    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...
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  • jankeke
    @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. ^^



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  • Bloob
    11936575 said:
    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
    Reply