by A.C. Hall
Virtual reality is a concept that has been around for a long time now. Like many technological advancements, the concept long predated mankind’s ability to make it a reality. Much like moon colonies, interplanetary travel, and fully cooked microwavable bacon, virtual reality is a long talked about advancement that has always seemed just on the edge of what technology can create. However, the long awaited Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is now available for pre-order. With the first units set to start shipping to customers in March, the virtual reality company that was bought by Facebook for $2 billion is ready to make virtual reality available to the masses.
The long-in-development Oculus Rift is already making waves for how incredibly immersive it is. The Internet has no shortage of videos showing people testing out the early Oculus Rift prototypes and the results appear unanimously good. The strong feeling of immersion causes some surprising side effects, like people falling out of their chairs when the game they’re playing scares them, or people getting motion sickness from an Oculus Rift demo that puts them on a fast moving roller coaster.
Watching people get so caught up in the immersion of the Oculus Rift puts to rest any questions about how well the headset makes people feel like they are really in a virtual reality environment. In fact, the Oculus Rift itself is the one aspect of virtual reality that actually appears to be solidly in place. The real issue comes from the lack of accompanying software and hardware to supplement the Oculus Rift. While there are plenty of technological demos that seem to make good use of the Rift, there appears to be a lack of any blockbuster games or software that will make the Oculus Rift a must buy when it releases this year.
The other issue is the fact that Oculus Rift suffers from a lack of related accessories that make it a true virtual reality platform. The display is undeniably immersive, but the headset ships with a standard video game controller. So while a user’s eyes and hearing will feel like they’re really a part of virtual reality, having to utilize a standard controller to manipulate the virtual worlds will break the sense of immersion. There are accessories and hardware in development that will make Oculus Rift more of a full body virtual system, but those will not be widely available or affordable for many years.
No matter what the early drawbacks will be, Oculus Rift is the first true step towards virtual reality that has ever been released. Pre-orders are being taken for $599, but those interested should first download the provided application that checks your computer to make sure it’s capable of handling the Oculus Rift system. That application can be found at oculus.com.