Once you get the Rift working, the immersive virtual reality is spectacular. It’s very hard to describe if you’ve only seen a few online videos. But, for example, the Tuscany demo is quite a lot like sitting outside in another world.
The Rift Head Mounted Display (HMD) is essentially the screen of a large mobile phone / 7″ tablet attached to some motion sensors, with lenses in front that split the display in half for each eye. It’s a tremendously simple idea, made possible by the wide availability of these parts thanks to the current smartphone revolution. There’s a large dongle (which I guess they’ll be trying to eliminate for the production version), which handles DVI, HDMI and USB (for the motion sensing). When plugged into my laptop running Linux it appears as a second 1280×800 display, and you can manage it using xrandr and other normal tools.
usb 1-1.2: new full-speed USB device number 41 using ehci-pci usb 1-1.2: New USB device found, idVendor=2833, idProduct=0001 usb 1-1.2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3 usb 1-1.2: Product: Tracker DK usb 1-1.2: Manufacturer: Oculus VR, Inc. usb 1-1.2: SerialNumber: 8GK4H3RGQMJ8 hid-generic 0003:2833:0001.0024: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.10 Device [Oculus VR, Inc. Tracker DK] on usb-0000:00:1a.0-1.2/input0
If this is first gen technology, I can see how the generations will happen: Second generation (production Oculus and clones) will get rid of the dongle but still require a PC graphics card to drive them. Third gen will probably integrate a beefy ARM chip into the HMD to drive the display, and have only a USB connection (powered by USB too). Fourth gen will probably look like a pair of regular shades and connect wirelessly. This is one case where I can genuinely see the need for an 8000x4000px display.
Will this be something people use regularly or will it turn out like shutter glasses and 3D TV? I’m not totally sure. The addition of a camera which integrated the outside world into the display (similar to “AR” — augmented reality) would be a huge deal, I think. It would make the experience far more sociable.
This is a development kit, and I had a few problems with it:
- The wall wart blew up when I first plugged it in. Luckily I have a universal charger, and nothing else was damaged.
- It’s really hard to work out a sequence that reliably brings up the Oculus. It’s usually a case of plugging in all the cables, then turning the power on last, then maybe replugging the USB cable.
- I wear glasses, so I have to use the “C” lens, which means a fiddly interchange of lenses on the HMD.
Surprisingly using Linux is not a problem at all. How the world has moved on.