The age of virtual reality is finally within grasp. We are but a few months away from the first commercial release of an affordable, high-quality VR device — but just like a bus, you wait for ages, then three come along all at once.
We went hands-on with the very first version of free Oculus Rift back in April. It’s since been superceded by the DK2 model and the final consumer version outlined above, but the underlying experience is still largely the same. Our first experience with Oculus Rift saw us taken on a deep sea diving expedition. The unit itself was comfortable to wear and surprisingly lightweight, but it did take a bit of adjustment before it fully encompassed our eyes.
With it attached to our face and a pair of headphones on our ears, the world around us disappeared and was replaced by a murky, wholly believable underwater world. The graphics were more PS2 than PS4, but this was merely a demonstration of what the technology is capable of. Our chirpy guide explained that we could look left, right, up and down. We followed his instructions while air bubbles streamed past our eyes and tiny fish arrowed about in motes of sunlight coming down from the surface. The combination of sound and a wholly immersive world is impressive and Oculus Rift was responsive to every twitch and movement we made.
Admittedly, virtual reality has come a long way since the diabolical Virtual Boy, but Oculus Rift will still live and die by the same measure: games. It’s comfortable to wear, it takes you away from reality, and it is only set to get better, but it needs content and support from top developers if it is to be a success. Sony’s PlayStation VR will hopefully have a big impact on how seriously game developers take virtual reality, but only time will tell if it can really change gaming.
There’s a big list of games that currently have Oculus support or are being planned for vr headset here , but the big hitters right now are Elite Dangerous, EVE Valkyrie, Grid Autosport, Half Life and Half Life 2, Minecraft, Project Cars, Star Citizen, Team Fortress 2, The Witness, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2, the standalone verison of DayZ and Dying Light. More are sure to follow, but it’s likely we’ll see a greater surge in support titles after the headset has been released.
According to Oculus, your PC will need to have either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 graphics card or above, an Intel Core i5-4590 equivalent or greater, and at least 8GB of RAM. It will also require you to be running Windows 7 SP1 or later, have two US3 ports, and an HDMI 1.3 video output that can support a clock speed of 297MHz via a direct output architecture. This will rule out some discrete laptop GPUs, says Oculus, as most drive their video output via indirect mechanisms, but the it’s working on compiling a complete list of compatible systems to make it a bit easier for consumers to see whether Rift will work with their chosen system.