First off, I’m not a hard core gamer. But that didn’t stop me from eagerly anticipating my hands on with the Oculus Rift’s Crystal Cove prototype. New to this iteration – Oculus has only released a Dev kit to date – is the inclusion of OLED screens and a body tracking camera that works in tandem with an array of LED sensors scattered across the face of the mask. The result, which I can’t truly speak to in the most technical means due to my lack of experience with the product, is a more immersive experience thanks to reduced motion blur and the ability to track not only the direction you’re looking, but where your body is. So lean forward and you can view things up close – the first Oculus couldn’t and can’t (for now) do this.
Strapping on the Oculus VR is something akin to wearing night vision goggles. Or so one would assume. Honestly, there isn’t a wide number of examples that draw parallel to the experience. Nevertheless, it was comfortable despite the added weight placed on the forward portion of my head.
After our friendly OC Rift tech dude adjusted the centering and activated something called low persistence - this reduces motion blur during head movement by only showing the correct image every other frame – it effectively capitalizes on the persistence of vision to give you a crisper image. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my glasses with me, so things were still a bit blurry. Oculus says you can still wear your glasses with the headset, though you’ll likely need the frameless or thin framed types to make the situation copesetic.
However, despite my poor eye sight, the experience, to put it mildly, was, and is, very compelling. The game in demo was EVE Valkyrie (teaser trailer below), a spaceship dog fighting game that, from my understanding, was specifically developed with the Oculus Rift in mind. Before I was jettisoned from the mothership, I was able to lean forward and in great detail and accuracy, examine the interior of my cockpit, which included two screens and the surrounding windows. Once I lifted off the challenge began. At first I failed miserably. A second go around and was able to succeed with a respectable score.
You see, unlike traditional games of this ilk, which are simply controlled using a joystick to position the cross hairs of the enemy, you look to aim. At first it’s a perplexing and almost disconcerting experience. And rightfully so since it goes against tradition. But during my second attempt, and exemplified by my score, I was able to quickly acclimate to the experience. Instead of flying to find enemies, I begin looking through the cockpit’s windows. So once the target was located above me, I then positioned my ship accordingly, locked on and fired. Whamo! I was in the thick of the battle. Too bad the demo only lasted for about 2-minutes, but the point and case was well made.
Oculus Rift was quick to point out that the Crystal Cove prototype is just that. The OLED screens are likely far too expensive, at least for now, to bring it to market at the goaled $300 price tag. But nor did they entirely exclude it as a possibility, because, and as they said, the OC Rift is largely sourced using smartphone parts, as were the OLED screens. It’s obvious that they’ve still got some minor tweaks to fully solidify the tech behind the positional tracking and low persistence. But there is no disputing the VR headset’s awesomeness, and that’s coming from a non-gamer.