Oculus Rift Australian Hands-On: Someone Get Me A Bucket

Your fearless editor is today nursing a bucket and some herbal tea, because yesterday I went a round with the Oculus Rift gaming headset. Sure, it's a whole lot of future that you can strap to your goddamn head, but it might just be too much future, too fast and now I need a lie-down.

If you've never heard of the Oculus Rift before, that's ok. It's still in the development phase.

The Oculus Rift is a device that attaches to your head and sits in front of your eyes. It has two screens inside a black box that act as a head mounted, stereoscopic display. The great thing about the Rift is that wherever you look, that's where your character looks in the virtual world. It looks like Google Glass on steroids: a giant black box attached to ski goggles strapped onto your head. You don't look fetching in this, trust me.

The upside is that there's no more moving the mouse around to reorient your character. Just look and move. It's true immersion in a game, and it's pretty incredible.

The Oculus Rift is yet another success story out of the crowdfunding supermarket, Kickstarter. Posted in August last year with a funding target of $US250,000, the Rift went on to be one of the most successful projects, finally getting funded in September 2012 with almost $US2.5 million in backing.

It went on to win a bunch of awards, despite not being a full retail product just yet, and already developers are hacking it with other technologies to further change the way people video games. Needless to say, we were pretty excited to get our hands on it and test.

It's pretty confronting putting what feels like two giant screens in front of your face, especially combined with the sensory depravation that goes along with completely covering your eyes. Once you get used to that, you're then bombarded by the stereoscopic display in front of you and you struggle to adjust.

We didn't actually play any games on the Rift -- for that you can check out Kotaku's hands-on with Team Fortress -- instead we did a virtual walkaround of the Rift's demo environment.

The strangest part by far is holding your hands up in front of your face or looking down at your feet and not actually seeing your extremities. You're a floating head in space. Climbing stairs, looking out over vistas, even walking up to a roaring fireplace made my head spin, not because of the 3D, but because your brain tells you that you should be feeling all the sensations that go along with the various external stimuli.

You walk up to a fire and put your hands out instinctively to warm yourself, you walk up stairs but don't feel any effort or strain in your legs, you don't squint at the light of the sun, feel yourself fall or smell anything. Your brain goes one of two ways with this: it reconciles that you're in the Matrix, and that's fine, or it freaks out, and you're left with a strange buzzing in the back of your head for days. I am the latter.

The Oculus Rift is amazing, but it's also the most polarising product I have ever used.

I'm off to lie-down again now.


    Weak Luke!

      YUUUUUUP. I make no excuses for my soft hands and softer tolerance for all things move-abouty.

        Is it heavy? It looks kinda heavy and awkward.

        On another note; I've been waiting for years for someone to bring this to home gaming. I remember playing some proper stereoscopic games at the awesome Intencity in Parramatta Westfield in 1996. They were running on Amiga computers. Then the fad died off and I died a little inside :-(

          It's actually really light. Deceptively so. I thought itd be a lot heavier based on the way it looks, but really it's not much heavier than a pair of hefty ski goggles.

            I got mine a few days ago and most people that have tried it have gotten nausea to some extent.

            Even if you have good eyes id suggest trying the b lenses and adjusting it back about half. This seems to reduce the feeling for everyone ive tried so far.

            Its all early days, though be careful with some of the demos around the forums some havent been configured well for the oculus and can cause some real stomach churning :)

              I agree - I'm not prone to motion sickness and have no trouble with any sort of 3D, but certain specific demos definitely made me feel queasy.

              OTOH, others were fine - and some people I showed my Rift to had no problem with the ones I did, but had a reaction to some demos I was fine with. If the demo was misconfigured (wrong FoV or large latency), it definitely made things worse. And then a few people had no problems with any of the demos at all.

              The good news is, you do acclimatise to it, as with seasickness - and it's well worth persisting coz it's just so damn cool wandering around *inside* Skyrim. After a few shorter sessions I'm already feeling more robust. Soon I hope to try out Mirror's Edge - leaping off buildings should really test my stomach :-)

        Move-abouty, hahaha, love it! Contact Oxford right now, that word needs to become official!

        Maybe try wearing it laying down, no where to fall, it's just assumed you need to be seated or standing???

    Wow, I really am making my best derp face there aren't I.

    gee a device that creates an illusion of 3D immersion causes disorientation and similar effects to motion sickness in some. I would have never guessed at that happening

    Ethno Tekh have had it for about 24 hours and are doing some pretty awesome stuff with it using the Kinect and their own custom music software etc. Check it out: https://vimeo.com/65229978

    I was sooooo sick, I did the roller coaster on the unreal epic citadel, I felt queasy for hours and had a splitting headache. That being said it was AWESOME, and I'd keep using it till I get used to it or die.

    I just *know* I'll be a nausea induced pansy. I find every 3D movie migraine inducing.

    I think what would be interesting is doing a scientific study on what 'kind of learning' the person is most responsive to, and whether that predisposes them to nausea when watching this 3D stuff.

    For sake of explanation. I'm a visual learner. Majorly so. I learn nothing when someone verbally explains. Write it down? Got it (Not literally. Don't go trying to explain some advance stuff to me in text in an attempt to be 'smart'. You get the idea). 3D makes me feel really horrible really quickly.

    What would happen if a person was an 'auditory learner'. Would they be less predisposed to the nausea? More so? No effect?

    At the end of the day, we all learn in a way that plays to our strengths, even if subconciously. Can this be an indicator.

      There are people with regular problems with stereo 3D and/or with car sickness, who have no trouble with a well-configured Rift, so you might be lucky :-) Not sure if anyone's noticed a correlation with visual vs auditory (or anything else really). But it also gets easier with practice, so don't give up hope!

    what about a full body suit to go with this so when your near a fireplace the front warms as you turn around the warmth follows . maybe im thinking too far ahead

    Firstly I have to say the Oculus Rift is kind of ridiculous when you have them on, kind of like a mix between an oversized pair of goggles and a brick on your face.

    But jokes aside, I have to admit the technology's awesome and is definitely something to look forward to in the world of gaming. Virtual reality MMORPGs are not that far now...

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now