So the Oculus Rift is fantastic. If you’ve used it in its original incarnation, you know that it’s incredible. It’s virtual reality done better than you’ve ever seen it before. It’s revolutionary. And it’s nothing compared to what’s coming next. I mean Oh. My. God.
Dubbed Crystal Cove, the newest model of Oculus isn’t meant for consumers. It’s also not just the 1080p upgrade that’s been floating around (though it does have a glorious 1080p panel). It’s a lot more than that.
There are two main upgrades here, the first of which is “positional tracking.” Previous models of the Oculus treated your head like it was affixed to a stick in the ground. A rolling, pitching, yawing brain-box with a body that couldn’t move. No more. Thanks to an external camera, the Oculus can now grok the motion of your entire upper body. This means you can lean in to get a closer look at control panels, or lean to the side to peak around a corner.
This, on its own, is freaking incredible. You’re not just observing a virtual world, you’re immersed in it. There’s a table in front of you, there’s a world around you. I played a simple tower defence game demo built in Unreal Engine Four and I couldn’t help but reach out and try to grab the stupid little goblins because they were right there. RIGHT THERE!
But it’s not just positional tracking. Crystal Cove also has a screen technology called “low persistence” that helps make the whole experience better and less nauseariffic. In the Oculus Rift dev kit models, swinging your head around caused pretty serious motion blur motion blur. As you’d turn your head, you’d bring with you a whole screen of outdated data and its travel across the screen would blur everything out. Basically, reading text was damn near impossible.
With low persistence, this smearing is gone, because instead, the display only lights up when it has good data, and imperceptibly fades to black when it doesn’t. In short, there’s no more motion blur.
All the technical mumble jumbo in the world can’t encapsulate the utter amazingness of this device. The squeal-demanding, face-melting, mind-bending, soul-rending miraculousness of the experience. It’s just…. oh my god you guys. I really did not want to ever take it off. Even the simple tech demoes I played — the aforementioned tower defence thingy, and an INCREDIBLE space-flight sim — would have been enough to hold my attention for days.
I piloted a space fighter and got shot out of a tunnel and I did a loop and my stomach dropped because it felt that real.
And this isn’t even the consumer model yet! Granted there are still more kinks to iron out; the 1080 panels are great, but you still get a little bit of that “I’m looking through a screen door” effect, which is less than ideal. And sometimes objects appear fuzzy at the edge of your field of view. There’s a little room for improvement.
But if the original Oculus was a proof of concept, this model is proof that the concept is genius. There’s zero doubt in my mind that when the final version of this device comes out it is going to change the world. For me, today, already has.