Oculus Rift - Dev Kit Review

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TheNut 179 Oct 09, 2013 at 03:22

Last month I decided to purchase the Oculus Rift and it finally came in the mail today. So I quickly unwrapped it at work and within minutes we were all nauseated :) I tried quite a few demos to start with, most of which you can find here. Overall, I am impressed with the unit. Coming from stereo glasses, this is the real deal and objects truly feel 3D. The head motion is absolutely fantastic. It feels like you’re really there and looking behind you is quite a game changer. I think the next big move is going to be incorporating body frame capturing such as from a Kinect device in order to simulate arm and hand movements in game. At least that’s how I felt when playing some of those demos. It’s just such a natural reaction to reach out and grab something. The unit is also quite lightweight, so it’s comfortable to keep on your face for long periods of time. The dev kit is only 1280x800 resolution however, or 640x800 per eye. Some content appears very pixelated, so anti-aliasing is going to be a VRs best friend. The commercial units are slated to support 1080p resolution; however you still need to divide that per eye and I think 960x1080 pixels per eye might still not be enough. I think the tech will shine if they ever manage to fit 4K resolution in there.

Despite the good stuff, I think there’s one major problem with the technology (note I’m saying technology, not specifically pointing out Oculus here). You cannot play first person games. As cool as they are for the first minute, beyond that motion sickness kicks in. You can relax and try to take it in slowly, but if you look the wrong way or to fast, your brain will get a kickback from it. I think that is fundamentally going to hurt their business because it’s first person games that truly shine the most with VR tech, and yet gamers are going to have to overcome motion sickness to enjoy it. I equate it to the same experience you get at the Imax. Not those big flat screens, but the huge dome shaped ones that cover your full field of view. It’s your eyes telling your brain something crazy is going on, but your body is sending calm signals so the brain gets all messed up.

There is however one area where first person is acceptable. Space sims. Space is very relaxing to watch and all that darkness makes it easier for you to spin around and do crazy things without your brain feeling like it’s swimming in its own fluid. One of the space demos I tried was very well done and I had a blast doing barrel roles and stuff. Move that same behaviour over to the Unreal Rift Coaster demo and suddenly my brain is swimming again.

I’m looking forward to developing some demos for it. Their tech paper offers a good introduction into stereo vision and the render pipeline is very straightforward to implement. It’s even possible to port these shaders over to WebGL. You just won’t have the head tracking capabilities.

Oh, and I would say there’s one problem with the unit… that new factory smell.. Forget about motion sickness, that smell alone is enough to make you hurl. I have it sitting by an open window with burning sandalwood incense, and I plan to keep it that way for the next 2 days before I use it again.

– Edits – I mentioned the wrong resolution. It’s 1280x800, not 1200x800.

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Reedbeta 167 Oct 09, 2013 at 04:00

That’s an interesting point about the first-person games not being playable. I don’t quite understand though, what are you saying is different about first-person games versus others? I mean, you can turn your head too fast in any game, can’t you?

Anyway, I’m sure the latency will be improved over time, which I’d guess is the main factor in motion sickness (plus also maybe the lack of a position sensor, which they’re working on fixing). Most current game engines, GPUs and displays aren’t built with latency as a prime concern, so it’s hard to get it lower than 30 ms or so, but Michael Abrash says you need to be down to 10-20 ms for seamless movement. There is a lot of thought going on in the graphics community about how to accomplish this, both with software and possibly with new hardware.

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TheNut 179 Oct 09, 2013 at 07:30

A first person camera gives you six degrees of freedom, of which I find pitch the most influential with motion sickness. On numerous accounts, walking up to an object (like a lamp post) and looking up and then down often generates an uneasy feeling. I think the choice of FOV greatly effects that because your peripheral vision will notice that stretch effect along the edges of the frame and that gives the sensation of speed or warping. There’s also sharing of rotation between the mouse and the head set. Either on their own is fine, but certain combinations with the two can generate an unpleasant feeling. For example, moving the mouse to rotate on the positive yaw while rotating your head along the negative yaw. In real life you can synchronize your head and body quite well, but it’s not so easy with your hands and mouse. You get a lot of random motion doing this activity and it becomes a very unpleasant feeling. I think if head tracking was disabled, I wouldn’t find it so uncomfortable (something I’ll have to try). I believe that ties into what you were saying about latency as well. The device has a latency between 30 and 50 msec from start to finish of the frame, although they use predictive tracking to help compensate for that and I do find tracking quite reasonable. It’s not like rubber banding or anything like that.

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fireside 141 Oct 09, 2013 at 12:14

Hmm, so it’s something I will have to avoid for a while. I get motion sickness on the computer sometimes. Those dome theaters give me a splitting headache. Sounds like a novel experience though. The head tracking would be the most interesting feature for me. I’m sure the resolution will increase really fast.

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AticAtac 101 Oct 09, 2013 at 14:22

Thanks for the review. Did you also try to watch some (2D) videos? Does motion sickness also kick in for videos?

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TheNut 179 Oct 09, 2013 at 15:07

fireside, it depends largely on the game and how the cameras are used. As I mentioned, space sims are just awesome. You don’t feel any motion sickness and the beauty of looking out into space, gazing at planets and asteroids, watching comets and meteor showers coming right at you, and walking along the hull of a giant battleship is just breathtaking. Other games that use fixed cameras (no rotation) such as in RTS top-down cameras are also very relaxing. I haven’t felt any motion sickness from translating to fast, it’s just the rotation you need to be careful with. But yes, I think there’s a lot of games like Crysis, Battlefield, and COD that are going to have a difficult time overcoming the motion sickness problem, at least at the present state of things.

AticAtac, I haven’t seen any stereo videos, but I have watched 3D cinematics. I enjoyed it and didn’t really feel any motion sickness, but that could depend largely on what’s going on. In this particular cinematic, I was undocking from the inside of a space station. At first I was mostly awed by my surroundings, but there was a brief moment when travelling through the hanger I felt somewhat nervous. It was not motion sickness, but being forced and pushed out into space in that VR environment and against my own will gave me an uneasy feeling. I would say that is largely what most people will have to overcome when it comes to watching content. Unlike a flat screen, you’re now inside and can look around. You can feel like you’re really there.

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AticAtac 101 Oct 09, 2013 at 15:19

I should say that i am only interested in watching (2D) videos with such a device, so the question is, is it doable with occulus? What can be connected to it? E.g. can i play a (2D) movie on my smartphone and sent it to occulus through hdmi? do i need to have a “smart” video player on my phone which sends a special format to occulus?

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TheNut 179 Oct 10, 2013 at 02:17

You can plug your android into the Oculus Rift, although I haven’t seen any stereo films. Assuming the film was recorded using a proper stereo camera, then I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. By itself, you won’t be able to watch the video if the frames are side by side. You need to apply a distortion effect to the images in order to get the desired 3D look. Although this would be trivial for any movie player developer to support.

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Reedbeta 167 Oct 10, 2013 at 03:20

I think Oculus also has an app that renders the interior of a movie theater, with a video file from your computer playing on the big screen. That sounds like a cool thing to try.

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David_Gallagher 102 Oct 13, 2013 at 08:42

Ordered mine at the beginning of September and hear it should be in my hands around the end of this month. Looking forward to experimenting. From all the reading I’ve been doing it seems that content made specifically for it will be best. but I won’t know till I get to play with it. Good to see others trying it out also. I really like reading these first impressions, helps prepare for when I get to try it and what pitfalls to avoid. If the speed of motion was reduced and you where using a hydra, in an fps, do you think that would improve the fps experience?

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photographer__ 101 Oct 14, 2013 at 12:06

Fix “barrel roles”.

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WormSlayer 100 Oct 14, 2013 at 15:17

You cannot play first person games. As cool as they are for the first minute, beyond that motion sickness kicks in.

I’m guessing you didnt use the OculusConfigUtil to measure your IPD And make a user profile? Then proceeded to play really unsuitable games roughly retro-fitted with Oculus support? XD

A lot of people experience some initial v-sickness, but most get over it within a few days. I can play FPS games for hours at a time.

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potentialauicide 99 Oct 15, 2013 at 01:03

Oh no, some weak-stomached sissy nerds couldn’t handle VR, there goes the entire industry. Meanwhile, thousands of videos showing all kinds of people, even grandmas, having no problem with extreme content - even rollercoaster sims.

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nooan 101 Oct 15, 2013 at 10:54

I am considering the purchase of an OR dev kit as I would like to add VR capabilities to my Typhoon 3D engine. My biggest fear is motion sickness. Generally I cannot handle FPS games and get sick after few minutes of playing. It is even worse with the rift; I tried a prototype here at work and had to rush to the toilet after one minute or so. The experience itself, while short, was amazing and spectacular. The added sense of immersion can turn environments that look dull and soulless on a flat screen into rich worlds. On a technical note, I read sparse material here and there on adapting an existing 3D pipeline to the Rift. Did you find major issues so far and would you like to share them with us ? Is the overall process from ordering the kit to installing it relatively straightforward ? And how long did you have to wait for its delivery ?

Thanks,

Stefano Lanza www.typhoon3d.com

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TheNut 179 Oct 15, 2013 at 15:07

Just some updates.

I did find a stereo video on the web called Making Viewer. Sadly the quality of the video was heavily compressed and the blocky artifacts made watching the video difficult; however that camera technology is awesome. Not only stereo support, but 360 degrees as well. So while you’re watching the guy wingsuit fly, being able to look around you was pretty cool. I would imagine with proper 1080p resolution for both eyes this would produce some fantastic results.

David, I’m not sure how much latency would effect motion sickness. I guess I would have to experience it to know. I’ve since reduced the brightness and contrast of the unit significantly. The factory default settings were to bright and I believe that’s what led to my discomfort. I find the new settings a bit more tolerable now and I can go for a bit longer before taking a break. I haven’t used Hydra so I can’t say much about it. Personally I think a camera and sensor based solution like Kinect is the best way to go. When the time calls for it in a game, you would release yourself from your current controls and then use your hands to interact with the environment, like opening a door or pressing buttons on a panel. Personally I think the Hydra would get in the way of that.

Worm, I don’t disagree with that. I do find myself adapting better to the unit. However, we need to consider the entire market, not just the individual. When you multiply the number of initially negative comments about motion sickness, it will discourage other prospective consumers from buying it. Others might complain and request a refund. this is why Oculus needs to be careful and proceed with the consumer in mind first. Right now it’s all about the tech. At some point they need to shift that focus.

nooan, it’s surprisingly simple to integrate stereo into your render pipeline. If you register as a developer on Oculus’s website (it’s free), you can download their SDK. They have a paper in there that gives you the basic rundown of stereo vision, the mathematics involved, as well as some C++ & shader code. I was able to integrate this very easily into my existing engine without compromising any design. I haven’t got around to head tracking though, which requires additional, special support. As it stands, simply implementing stereo vision rendering will enable you to support the VR unit as well as run on a multitude of devices like Android and WebGL. Delivery took about a month, which seems standard since they started. They posted a notice on their website in early October that new units will take slightly longer due to demand, but they removed that notice so I imagine they cleared up whatever issues they had. There’s nothing to install, save for the head tracking software that Windows will automatically do for you (no special drivers required).

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WormSlayer 100 Oct 16, 2013 at 14:32

This thread is so full of misinformation I cant even be bothered to address it all. If anyone is actually interested in learning about the Rift, and Rift development, check out /r/oculus and /r/oculusdev on reddit!

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Reedbeta 167 Oct 16, 2013 at 17:07

Just because someone else’s experience didn’t match yours doesn’t make it “misinformation”. :P

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TheNut 179 Oct 17, 2013 at 04:08

xkcd has pretty much nailed down humanity quite well :)

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Morder 99 Oct 16, 2013 at 21:52

This is a very poor review. It does not sound like you took the time to properly calibrate it to your needs, it doesn’t sound like you calibrated for anyone else that tried it, and I’m going to guess you went in hard and fast to FPS instead of getting accustomed to VR.

This is misinformation indeed, and it’s a misrepresentation of the product in my eyes, simply because you obviously did not take the time to learn about the product.

MANY people will have difficulty jumping straight into a FPS, yet nobody I have met or talked to yet claims they absolutely cannot stand first person view after getting accustomed to VR.

Also, your claim that the next big step is kinect-like support further demonstrates your ignorance about VR and what Oculus is trying to accomplish. As an aside, you are absolutely the FIRST person I’ve ever heard complain of the “smell” of the product.

Please, if you are reading this, take it as you will but definitely do not base your opinion off this mishandled review.

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Stainless 151 Oct 17, 2013 at 09:26

I’ve not tried the Rift, but I have tried VR kits before.

My problem is I wear glasses, varifocal glasses at that. When I first got varifocal lenses, I was constantly sea sick for two weeks. When you tilt your head left and right, the focal length changes and the view “swims”.

I have the same problem with the VR kits I have tried, because you don’t have control over the focal length of the headset, it can cause me problems.

TheNut has given an honest report of his experience with the Rift, that’s all. He’s not gone on the news slagging Oculus off, he’s not saying the Rift is rubbish, he’s given an honest review of the kit he has received.

You may think that after a while you will get used to it, but how many end users will do that?

As far as I am concerned you have about 30 minutes to sell the experience. If after 30 minutes the end user feels sick, the product is not ready for shipping. Most end users will try it once or twice, then bin it.

They have no wish to put up with feeling sick for a couple of weeks like I had to with my glasses.

Ignoring this issue is not an option

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Morder 99 Oct 17, 2013 at 14:22

It’s an honest experience this guy has talked about but my point is that he obviously did not calibrate it to his needs. When you have the proper calibration and setup the effect of the VR nausea is greatly reduced. It’s not fair review for me to try a keyboard upside down then complain it’s hard to use.

Now, I feel for you on the varifocal glasses, I’ve heard about peoples experiences with those before. And I agree with you that Oculus will have to be careful on how they market. But I think for the first while they will be targeting a gamer/enthusiast crowd, and if I was them I would let crowdsourcing and word of mouth be the driver for sales. Many of the owners of dev-kits are absolutely aware of the delicate nature of delivering a new experience like this. The guys at Oculus who do their expo’s and show the product have the right way of setting it up and I have heard much much less complaint from those foray’s than reviews like this one, where it was not properly used. Also what frustrated me is he outright claims first person will not work with VR, period. That is just simply not true, and won’t be for the majority of users (Perhaps not 100%). Whereas to someone new to the Rift reading this review would come off with the impression that it just wont happen for them. That’s not a fair review, in my opinion.

The consumer version will also include positional tracking, which will help reduce the VR sickness. But in the end, there’s really no solution for VR sickness until you have full body holo-deck type experiences. So the consumers that give up on it after 30 minutes are never going to be able to truly experience VR anyways, until they grow accustomed to the technology.

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Reedbeta 167 Oct 17, 2013 at 17:30

You know, Morder, you’re really coming across as a fanboy here. I think TheNut probably did calibrate it. He’s not an idiot. I mean, if I was having problems with any new device I would certainly go look through the settings and read the instructions. You’re just assuming he didn’t calibrate it, apparently based on some belief that no one should get nausea in the Rift if they’ve got it set up properly. But people are different, and the Rift won’t necessarily work well for everyone in all cases, even when calibrated. There’s no need to get so upset about one person having trouble with it. :)

Whereas to someone new to the Rift reading this review would come off with the impression that it just wont happen for them.

With all the rave reviews and great press they’re getting? I wouldn’t worry about it. :) I’m certainly still planning on getting one, when they have position tracking and the high-res screen available.

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fireside 141 Oct 17, 2013 at 18:13

Personally, I’m really glad he gave this review. It’s not that I won’t buy one, but now I know there’s no way I will buy one without trying it out first. I’ve done that so many times. Read a bunch of good reviews, then bought it, and was disappointed. It’s being over hyped, I think. I’m pretty sure it will get there, especially with John Carmack helping with the software, but I’m not going to get into any hurry.

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David_Gallagher 102 Nov 03, 2013 at 01:28

this looks like a good solution for the foam padding smell and comfort, I’ll be using 2 sleeves lol (yes I’m that sensitive). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwiR_D9tzqw