Oculus Rift is a step into virtual worlds. The headset system provides the most true-to-life feeling of immersing into other reality. The Rift has an OLED display, a 1080×1200 resolution per eye, a 90Hz refresh rate, and 110° field of view. It has integrated headphones which provide a 3D audio effect, rotational and positional tracking. The device was developed by Luckey Palmer and John Carmack, Oculus VR. It has a wide range of applications entering the life of gamers, professional and industrial spheres and life of ordinary people.
In 2011 at the age of 18 years, Luckey Palmer created the first prototype of the Oculus Rift in his parents’ garage in California. Over the next 10 months, he developed a series of prototypes adding 3D feature, wireless connection with the game console, reducing size and weight. John Carmack, game programmer, virtual reality engineer, supported the development.
The device was funded on Kickstarter campaign. About 10 thousand enthusiasts donated $2.5 million for the development of virtual reality kit. For more info check the project page on Kickstarter. In 2013 another $16 million was invested. Only in half a year the enterprise value of Oculus VR increased in ten times up to $300 million. The total investment sum is $93 million.
In 2014 the company was purchased by Facebook for $2.4 billion. Up to this moment Oculus Rift was positioned as a device exclusively for computer games. Mark Zuckerberg announced that he sees in the Oculus Rift a new generation of computer technology, which is going to replace smartphones.
In 2013 Development Kit (DK1), the first version of the product, was on sale. The second version DK2 became available in 2014. By the end of the year more than 100 thousand sets were sold. The consumer version (CV1) was released on March 28, 2016. The consumer edition of the Oculus Rift includes an Xbox One controller, remote, tracking camera, and the headset itself. The device is an elegant, sleek and stylish black brick you stick on your face. The Rift weighs about 380 grams.
Rift is now available to pre-order for $599 USD on Oculus.com and it will ship to 20 countries: Italy, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Netherlands, Poland, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Taiwan, Ireland. Bundles that include an Oculus Ready PC (a new PC to power your Rift) and a Rift are available for pre-order starting at $1499. The pre-odered Oculus Rift devices will be shipped starting August 2016. A small number of Rifts will be available for purchase at select Best Buy stores and online from Microsoft and Amazon.
One of the key elements to create a virtual reality is an effective stereoscopy. To achieve that each eye gets its own image. Unlike other 3D technologies, the Oculus Rift doesn’t use polarizers, but a single OLED display divided into two halves (each having a resolution of 1080×1200), one for each eye. The image is corrected using the lens to widen the field of view. Stereoscopic effect is intensifies due to the fact that the field of view of the eyes doesn’t fully overlap. So the right eye sees only the fragment of the picture designed for the left one. This side-by-side solution is close to normal human vision and thus eliminates eye fatigue.
The Oculus Rift provides 90 degrees horizontally (110 degrees in the diagonal) field of view. It is twice larger than any VR goggles and helmets ever offered.
Tracking system is an essential feature to get sunk into virtual reality. Oculus has developed the Constellation sensor that includes an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. The system provides 360-degree headset tracking. The CV1 has also an external IR sensor for additional head position tracking.
The additional device not included into the Rift kit is a pair of controllers Oculus Touch. They are lightweight, wireless controllers with a joystick, buttons, and two triggers. Controllers are fully tracked by Constellation tracking system. Oculus touch has a system of gesture detection. This allows the user to give the thumbs up or point at objects or other people in the virtual reality.
The device requires individual setting and the calibration of a magnetic sensor before usage. The Rift must be connected by a cable to a PC running Microsoft Windows. The computer should be equipped with a powerful graphic unit and a powerful processor.
The Rift was developed primarily as a gaming device, and the main space of its application is gaming. It has gained a significant lead in gamer awareness by consistently being a frontrunner in VR product announcements and news. Many popular 3D-games support the gadget: Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Mirror's Edge, War Thunder, Star Conflict, EVE Valkyrie, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Minecraft, Live for Speed. Several game platforms announced to integrate with the Oculus Rift: CryEngine, Unreal Engine, Unity, Unigine, Source, CopperCube. Three drivers for games not supporting the Rift system: VIREio, VorpX and TriDef.
Mark Zuckerberg sees virtual reality as a “social platform” of the future. The developers work upon the opportunity to interact with others who live on the other side of the planet as if sitting with them in the same room.
Oculus Cinema is a free application for immersing into conventional movies and videos using the Rift. In future Oculus Cinema will also develop a networked mode, so that viewers will be able to watch the same video seeing and talking to each other. To design "virtual reality movies" Oculus created Story Studio. The company cooperated with Felix&Paul Studios to create a 360° 3D-video for the Rift. Likewise, virtual reality can transform the viewing of sports programs, concerts, etc. The viewers will be able to get the best position and change it the way they want.
The Oculus Rift is a better alternative to online courses, providing the feeling of real attendance. The device allows children in primary school to study 3D models and increases their interest.
The device can be used for designing and prototyping models. Oculus Rift enables engineers and architects to observe the models they designed in cyberspace. Diverse architectural models developed in the virtual environment can be combined with a 3D printer.
Although there are many classy equipment tools for medicine, military and aviation training, the Oculus Rift has the advantage that it is easily portable and is significantly cheaper. The device can be beneficial in treating patients with mental illness.
- In early 2015, Audi started using Rift DK2 to help consumers configure the car they are interested in.
- NASA uses Oculus Rift and Omni at JPL laboratory for virtual exploring the surface of Mars and the International Space Station.
- In 2014, the Norwegian military conducted an experiment on the armored transport management using the Oculus Rift.
- British Airlines partnered with Oculus to give their European customers to explore popular destinations in the US: Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
The Wall Street Journal: "The first totally immersive home virtual reality rig is a pricey, awkward, isolating—and occasionally brilliant—glimpse of the future of computing."
The Verge: "Virtual Reality: 8/10. Virtual reality is always almost here."