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Is the Oculus Rift Worth $400? VR REVIEW
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PlayStation VR vs Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive - Which One is Best?
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WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE

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Oculus Rift
Oculus-Rift-CV1-Headset-Front.jpg
Oculus Rift Consumer Version 1
Developer Oculus VR
Manufacturer Oculus VR
Type Virtual reality headset
Generation 1
Release date March 28, 2016 (2016-03-28)
Introductory price $599.99
Display PenTile[1] OLED
Graphics 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) @ 90 Hz
Sound
  • Integrated 3D audio headphones (user removable/exchangeable)
Input 6DOF (3-axis rotational tracking + 3-axis positional tracking) through USB-connected IR LED sensor, which tracks via the "constellation" method.
Controller input
  • Xbox One game controller.
  • Oculus Touch motion tracked controllers.
Connectivity HDMI 1.3, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Weight 470 g (1.04 lb)
Website Official website
Oculus Rift workstation in Gamescom 2014 Köln

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset developed and manufactured by Oculus VR, a division of Facebook Inc., released on March 28, 2016.

Oculus initiated a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 to fund the Rift's development, after being founded as an independent company two months prior. The project proved successful, raising US$2.5 million.[2] In March 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 billion.[3][4] In March 2017, after 3 years at the company, it was announced Oculus founder and creator Palmer Luckey was leaving Facebook.

The Rift has gone through various pre-production models since the Kickstarter campaign, around five of which were demonstrated to the public. Two of these models were shipped to backers, labelled as 'development kits'; the DK1 in mid 2013 and DK2 in mid 2014, to give developers a chance to develop content on time for the Rift's release. However, both were also purchased by a large number of enthusiasts who wished to get an early preview of the technology.[5]

The Rift has a Pentile OLED display, 1080×1200 resolution per eye, a 90 Hz refresh rate, and 110° field of view.[6][7][8] It has integrated headphones which provide a 3D audio effect, rotational and positional tracking. The positional tracking system, called "Constellation", is performed by a USB stationary infrared sensor that is picking up light that is emitted by IR LEDs that are integrated into the head-mounted display. The sensor normally sits on the user's desk. This creates 3D space, allowing for the user to use the Rift while sitting, standing, or walking around the same room.[9]

History[edit]

Initial prototypes[edit]

Through Meant to be Seen (MTBS)'s virtual reality and 3D discussion forums,[10] Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus and longtime MTBS discussion forum moderator,[11] developed the idea of creating a new head-mounted display that was both more effective than what was then on the market, and inexpensive for gamers.

The first rough prototype was hacked together in 2011 by Palmer Luckey (then 18 years old) in his parents’ garage in Long Beach, California.[12] Coincidentally, John Carmack had been doing his own research and happened upon Luckey's developments as a fellow member of MTBS.[13] After sampling an early prototype, Carmack favored Luckey's approach and just before the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Id Software announced that their future updated version of Doom 3, BFG Edition, would be compatible with head-mounted display units.[14]

In June 2012, during the E3 convention, Carmack introduced a duct taped head-mounted display based on Luckey's Oculus Rift prototype, which ran Carmack's own software. The unit featured a high speed IMU and a 5.6-inch (14 cm) LCD, visible via dual lenses, that were positioned over the eyes to provide a 90 degrees horizontal and 110 degrees vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective.[15][16]

The Development Kit 1

Development Kit 1[edit]

Rear view and control box

Two months after being formed as a company, Palmer's Oculus VR launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on August 1 of 2012 for their virtual reality headset, which was named the Rift. The main purpose of the kickstarter was to get an Oculus Rift prototype—now referred to as DK1 (Development Kit 1)—into the hands of developers to begin integration of the device into their games.[17][4] DK1 was given as a reward to backers who pledged $300 or more on Kickstarter, and was later sold publicly for $300 on their website. These kits sold at a rate of 4–5 per minute for the first day, before slowing down throughout the week.[18][19]

The Rift DK1 was released on March 29, 2013,[20] and used a 7-inch (18 cm) screen with a significantly lower pixel switching time than the original prototype, reducing latency and motion blur when turning one's head quickly. The pixel fill is also better, reducing the screen door effect and making individual pixels less noticeable. The LCD was brighter and the color depth is 24 bits per pixel.

The 7-inch screen also makes the stereoscopic 3D no longer 100% overlapping, the left eye seeing extra area to the left and the right eye seeing extra area to the right. The field of view (FOV) is more than 90 degrees horizontal (110 degrees diagonal), which is more than double the FOV of previous VR devices from other companies, and is the primary strength of the device. The resolution is 1280×800 (16:10 aspect ratio), which leads to an effective of 640×800 per eye (4:5 aspect ratio). However, since the Rift does not feature a 100% overlap between the eyes, the combined horizontal resolution is effectively greater than 640. The image for each eye is shown in the panel as a barrel distorted image that is then corrected by pincushion effect created by lenses in the headset, generating a spherical-mapped image for each eye.

Initial prototypes used a Hillcrest Labs 6DoF head tracker that is normally 125 Hz, with a special firmware that John Carmack requested which makes it run at 250 Hz, tracker latency being vital due to the dependency of virtual reality's realism on response time. The latest version includes Oculus's new 1000 Hz Adjacent Reality Tracker that will allow for much lower latency tracking than almost any other tracker. It uses a combination of three-axis gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers, which make it capable of absolute (relative to Earth) head orientation tracking without drift.[21][22]

The Development Kit 1 also included interchangeable lenses that will allow for simple dioptric correction.

The entire source for the Rift DK1 was released to the public in September 2014, including the firmware, schematics, and mechanicals for the device. The firmware is released under a simplified BSD license, while the schematics and mechanicals are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.[23]

HD prototype[edit]

In June 2013, a prototype of the rift that used a 1080p LCD panel was shown at Electronic Entertainment Expo. This step forwards to twice the number of pixels as DK1 significantly reduced the screen door effect and made objects in the virtual world more clear, especially at a distance. The poor resolution had been the main criticism of the DK1.[24]

This HD prototype is the only prototype of the Rift shown to the public which did not turn into a publicly available developer kit.

Crystal Cove prototype[edit]

In January 2014, an updated prototype codenamed "Crystal Cove" was unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show, which used a special low-persistence of vision OLED display as well as a new motion tracking system that utilized an external camera to track infrared dots located on the headset. The new motion tracking system would allow the system to detect actions such as leaning or crouching, which was claimed to help alleviate sickness experienced by users when the software did not respond to these actions.[25]

Development Kit 2[edit]

The Development Kit 2

Oculus began shipping Development Kit 2 (DK2) in July 2014.[26][27] This is a small refinement of the "Crystal Cove" prototype, featuring several key improvements over the first development kit, such as having a higher-resolution (960×1080 per eye) low-persistence OLED display, higher refresh rate, positional tracking, a detachable cable, and the omission of the need for the external control box.[28]

A teardown of DK2 revealed that it incorporates a modified Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone display, including the front panel from the device itself.[29]

In February 2015, Oculus announced that over 100,000 DK2 units had been shipped up until that point.[30]

Crescent Bay prototype[edit]

In September 2014, Oculus once again presented an updated version of the Rift, codenamed Crescent Bay. This version has a greater resolution than the DK2, a lower weight, built-in audio, and 360-degree tracking thanks to the presence of tracking LEDs in the back of the headset.[31] Oculus has also licensed software library RealSpace3D, which is expected to provide the Rift with HRTF and reverb algorithms.[31] During a panel at SXSW 2015, titled "Explore the Future of VR", it was publicly announced for the first time that the prototype uses two screens instead of one as previously thought.[32]

Consumer version[edit]

Oculus Rift CV1 from the back

Oculus VR announced on May 6, 2015, that the consumer version of the Rift would ship in the first quarter of 2016 with pre-orders starting on January 6, 2016, at 8 am PST.[33] On January 5, 2016, the day before pre-orders went live, in an update posted to the original Kickstarter page, it was announced that all Kickstarter backers who pledged for a Rift development kit would get a free KickStarter Edition Oculus Rift.[34] On January 6, 2016, pre-orders started, at $599.99.[35] At the same time the shipment date was announced for March 28, 2016.[36] On January 16, 2016, shipping dates for new orders of the Rift were delayed until July 2016 due to the amount of pre-orders on day 1.[37]

On March 25, 2016, the first batch of Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets began shipping to consumers.[38] On April 12, 2016, customers were notified that their shipments were pushed back due to early component shortage. The dates varied between 3 and 8 weeks of delay in regards to previous estimates.

The consumer version is an improved version of the Crescent Bay Prototype, featuring per-eye displays running at 90 Hz with a higher combined resolution than DK2, 360-degree positional tracking, integrated audio, a vastly increased positional tracking volume, and a heavy focus on consumer ergonomics and aesthetics.[39]

Successor[edit]

In June 2015, Oculus revealed that due to the rapid innovation in the VR industry, it intended to release a successor to the Rift in around 2–3 years from the Rift release, and that it was already being worked on.[40][41]

Hardware[edit]

The remote originally included with the CV1, used for Home navigation and with select titles. It was dropped after the Touch controller became bundled with the Oculus Rift headset.

The Oculus Rift headset uses an OLED panel for each eye, each having a resolution of 1080×1200. These panels have a refresh rate of 90 Hz and globally refresh, rather than scanning out in lines. They also use low persistence, meaning that they only display an image for 2 milliseconds of each frame. This combination of the high refresh rate, global refresh and low persistence means that the user experiences none of the motion blurring or judder that is experienced on a regular monitor.[42] It uses lenses that allow for a wide field of view.[6] The separation of the lenses is adjustable by a dial on the bottom of the device, in order to accommodate a wide range of interpupillary distances. The same pair of lenses are used for all users, however there are multiple facial interfaces so that the user's eyes can be positioned at a different distance. This also allows for users wearing glasses to use the Rift, as well as users with widely varying facial shapes.

Headphones are integrated, which provide real time 3D audio effects. This was developed from technology licensed from RealSpace 3D Audio, by Visisonics.[43]

The Rift has full 6 degree of freedom rotational and positional tracking. This tracking is performed by Oculus's Constellation tracking system, and is precise, low-latency, and sub-millimeter accurate.[9]

System requirements[edit]

In May 2015, Oculus VR announced "recommended" hardware specifications for computers utilizing Oculus Rift, specifying a CPU equivalent to an Intel Core i5-4590, at least 16 GB of RAM, at least an AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, an HDMI 1.3 output, three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port. Oculus VR stated that these requirements would remain in force for the life of the first consumer model. The company also stated that while upcoming discrete GPUs for laptops may be able to reach the required performance for Oculus Rift, systems which switch between integrated and discrete graphics may not handle output in a manner that supports the device. Oculus Rift only supports 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 or later; Oculus VR stated that the device would initially support Windows only in order to focus on "delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience"; support for Linux and macOS will be developed in the future.[44][45]

A hardware testing application is available,[46] and Oculus VR has also certified and promoted specific models of pre-built computers that meet these recommendations, from vendors such as Asus, Alienware and Dell Inc., as being "Oculus Ready".[46][47]

On October 6, 2016, Oculus VR announced lessened hardware recommendations, now suggesting an Intel Core i3-6100 or AMD FX 4350 CPU, at least a GeForce GTX 960 or equivalent graphics card, two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, and Windows 8 or newer. The company stated that these lower requirements were enabled by the adoption of motion interpolation; on systems that cannot handle full 90 frames per second rendering, the drivers will allow software to render at 45 FPS instead, and generate frames based on differences between them to send to the headset to maintain its frame rate. Oculus promoted that these changes lowered the average hardware cost of a PC meeting these specifications to US$500, and would also enable certain laptops to run Oculus Rift.[47][48]

Constellation[edit]

Oculus Rift Constellation sensor

Constellation is the headset's positional tracking system, used to track the position of the user's head as well as other VR devices,[49] consisting of external infrared tracking sensors which optically track specially designed VR devices. The constellation sensor comes with a stand of a desk lamp form factor, but has standard screw holes and can be detached from this stand and mounted anywhere appropriate to the user.

The Rift, or any other device being tracked by the system, is fitted with a series of precisely positioned infrared LEDs under or above the surface, set to blink in a specific pattern. By knowing the configuration of the LEDs on the objects and their pattern, the system can determine the precise position of the device with sub-millimeter accuracy and near-zero latency.[49]

Constellation can be used with a single tracking sensor or with multiple sensors working together. One sensor is included with the Rift (without Touch), since in this scenario there are no tracked controllers that could occlude this sensor.

If the user also purchases the Touch controllers, another sensor is included in order to prevent the issue that the single sensor could be easily confused and occluded by one or more of the Touch controllers, and hence block tracking of the other controller, the headset, or both.[50] In this configuration, the system is capable of tracking an entire room, known as "room scale" virtual reality.[51]

Oculus will allow third-party peripheral manufacturers to create their own devices that are tracked by the system, providing an API for them to use.[52]

Controllers[edit]

Oculus Touch controllers

As a result of a partnership with Microsoft, early Oculus Rift units were bundled with an Xbox One controller.[53] The reason for this inclusion was that, in lack of motion controllers such as the Oculus Touch, the majority of virtual reality games that had been in development up to that point required a gamepad, so it was intended to allow users to play those games without the need to purchase any additional hardware.[54]

The Oculus Rift's motion controller system is known as Oculus Touch. It consists of a pair of handheld units, one for each hand, each containing an analog stick, three buttons, and two triggers (one commonly used for grabbing and the other for shooting or firing). The controllers are fully tracked in 3D space by the Constellation system, so they may be represented in the virtual environment,[55] and each controller features a system for detecting finger gestures the user may make while holding them.[56] Initially released as a standalone accessory for the Rift, pre-orders for Oculus Touch began on October 10, 2016, with priority granted until October 27 to those who had originally pre-ordered Oculus Rift,[57] and they were finally released on December 6, 2016.[58]

In August 2017, the standard Rift bundle was modified, replacing the Xbox One controller with the Oculus Touch, and adding a second tracking sensor.

Software[edit]

Oculus Home[edit]

When the user puts on the Rift and no other content is being output to the headset, they are presented with Oculus Home. This is the default environment of the Rift, allowing the user to launch VR applications they own, see if their friends are using the Rift, and purchase virtual reality content on the Oculus Home store from the headset.[59]

Oculus Home's store is curated to only allow applications that run smoothly on the recommended hardware, and experiences are given ratings for their comfort (such as causing motion sickness or jump scares), however developers do not have to use Oculus Home to distribute content for the Rift; it is entirely optional.[60]

Runtime/drivers[edit]

The Rift does not appear to the user's operating system as a monitor. Instead, custom Oculus drivers and a runtime service are used to allow applications to output directly to the Rift, bypassing the operating system and allowing for high refresh rates and low latency regardless of the user's setup.[61]

The user must have this Oculus PC runtime and the drivers installed in order to use the Rift. The runtime service implements a number of processing techniques intended to render an optimized VR experience. These include stereoscopic separation, lens optical distortion, and asynchronous re-projection, among others.

SDK[edit]

Content for the Rift is developed using the Oculus PC SDK, a free proprietary SDK available for Microsoft Windows (OSX and Linux support is planned for the future).[62] This is a feature complete SDK which handles for the developer the various aspects of making virtual reality content, such as the optical distortion and advanced rendering techniques.[63]

The Oculus SDK is directly integrated with the popular game engines Unity 5, Unreal Engine 4, and Cryengine. This allows for developers already familiar with these engines to create VR content with little to no VR-specific code.[64][65][66]

The Rift is an open platform, and thus developers do not need any approval or verification to develop, distribute, or sell content for it, and do not have to pay any licensing fees. The SDK however cannot be modified or reused for other purposes or hardware without permission.[67]

Content developed for the Development Kit 2 using SDK version 0.8 or above are compatible with the Rift; however content developed for the Development Kit 1 or with older versions of the SDK will have to be recompiled using the latest SDK version to be compatible.[68]

On 21 December 2015, Oculus announced the release of their finalized Rift 1.0 SDK, combined with the start of shipping their final version of the Oculus Rift VR headset to developers.[69][70]

On Oculus' 3rd annual conference (Oculus Connect 3), it announced the new technology, called "Asynchronous Spacewarp (ASW)". This technology allows the Rift to compensate for the dropped frames. According to Oculus, ASW reduces the minimum specs of a PC to run the Rift without any judder.

Applications[edit]

Gaming[edit]

Oculus has stated that the Rift is primarily a gaming device and that their main content focus is gaming.[71]

Existing games with a first person or fixed-camera perspective can be ported to VR with some development effort, however, Oculus has stated that the best virtual reality experiences are those that are designed, from the beginning, for the Rift.[72]

A number of AAA games have added Rift support (and can be played with the Development Kit 2), including Project CARS, Elite: Dangerous, Euro Truck Simulator 2, and Dirt Rally, as well as a number of indie games such as AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity and Ether One. Fans and hobbyists have also modded support for the Rift into several popular titles which allow for extensive low-level modding, including Minecraft and Flight Simulator X.[73][74]

At the release event for the Rift in June 2015, Oculus announced 9 launch titles for the Rift, including EVE: Valkyrie by CCP and Edge of Nowhere by Insomniac Games. It also announced that it was working with other developers including Final Fantasy developer Square Enix, Rock Band developer Harmonix, and The Order: 1886 developer Ready at Dawn.[75][76]

In July 2015, Oculus revealed that it was fully funding more than 20 second party high production value games made exclusively for the Rift, one of these being Insomniac's Edge of Nowhere.[77]

In July 2017, Marvel announced in the Disney’s D23 event that it will be bringing 12 superheroes of theirs to VR with an Oculus exclusive game called Powers Uniter VR.[78]

Non-gaming[edit]

Media[edit]

Oculus is including Oculus Cinema as a free application, which allows the Rift to be used to view conventional movies and videos from inside a virtual cinema environment, giving the user the perception of viewing the content on a cinema sized screen.[79] Oculus Cinema will also have a networked mode, in which multiple users can watch the same video in the same virtual space, seeing each other as avatars and being able to interact and talk to one another while watching the video.[80]

The Rift also offers the opportunity to view new types of media that are impossible to view on regular monitors; 360° 3D videos and 'virtual reality movies' (an entirely new medium).

Spherical videos (commonly called 360° videos) can be viewed simply by the user moving their head around, and the Rift opens up the possibility for stereoscopic spherical videos (commonly called 360° 3D videos). In September 2014, NextVR announced that they would be using a $200,000 camera rig to produce 360° 3D content for the Rift, including short films, as well as livestreaming live events such as sports or concerts in 360° 3D.[81][82] In July 2015, Oculus announced a deal with Canadian film company Felix & Paul Studios to produce 360° 3D videos for the Rift.[83]

The Rift also supports new medium of entertainment experiences, which Oculus calls 'virtual reality movies'. Oculus has established Oculus Story Studio to develop this type of content for the Rift, a team which has multiple former employees from major VFX companies such as PIXAR and ILM. Oculus Story Studio showed off its first VR movie, Lost, at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, gaining positive reviews from attendees.[84][85][86]

The studio intends to have 5 VR shorts released with the Rift at launch, including Lost, Bullfighter, Henry, Dear Angelica, and Kabloom.[87]

Social[edit]

A visitor at Mozilla Berlin Hackshibition trying Oculus Rift virtual reality experience on Firefox.

Oculus believes that social applications will be the most popular virtual reality experiences in the long term.[88] A number of social applications for the Rift are in development, and it is expected that there will be significant competition in the sector.[89]

In May 2015, AltspaceVR launched a public beta for DK2 owners to try out their social VR platform. AltspaceVR allows people to inhabit a shared virtual space with spatial voice communications, cast content from the Internet on virtual screens, interact with objects (allowing activities such as playing chess or other board games), and supports extra hardware like eye tracking and body tracking.[90][91]

In 2013, Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life, left Linden Lab to work on a new virtual world designed for the Rift, called High Fidelity, which will link thousands of user-hosted virtual environments together into a consistent virtual world.[92][93]

In May 2015, Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, announced that they too were working on a new virtual world, codenamed Project Sansar, built for virtual reality headsets such as the Rift and Gear VR. Like Second Life, Sansar will be hosted on Linden's servers and lease virtual land to players, on which they can build and sell virtual items and services (which Linden will take a cut of). Linden Lab hoped to release Sansar by the end of 2016.[89]

Industrial and professional[edit]

As well as consumer uses, the Rift has attracted significant interest from industry and professional spheres for productivity enhancement, visualization, and advertising.

A number of architecture firms have been experimenting with using the Rift for visualisation and design. With the right software, the Rift allows architects to see exactly what their building will look like, and get an understanding of the scale that is impossible on a traditional monitor.[94]

In early 2015, Audi started using Rift Developer Kit 2's at dealerships to help customers configure the car they are interested in, as well as to see what driving a race in the car would be like.[95][96]

The Norwegian Army has been experimenting with the Rift Development Kit 2 to allow for a greater situational awareness of armoured vehicle drivers and commanders.[97]

Television[edit]

In October 2016, the television series Halcyon was released as a "virtual reality series", where some episodes are broadcast on conventional television. and some as VR content for Oculus Rift. It is a crime drama following the world's first "VR Crimes Unit" in 2048.[citation needed]

Sports[edit]

Fox Sports began producing content for the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality systems in fall 2016. Its initial content consisted mainly of Fox College Football coverage.[98]

Casinos[edit]

Some online casinos have started using Oculus Rift to provide a unique online casino experience. A user can play slots and experience the lobby of a casino through a computer using a VR headset.[99][100]

ZeniMax/Facebook lawsuits[edit]

ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, which in turn owns Id Software, presented a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the Oculus Rift was the product of intellectual property owned by ZeniMax, developed by John Carmack during his time working for Id Software. The jury ruled partially in favor of ZeniMax, finding the defendants did not steal trade secrets but had violated a non-disclosure agreement. Facebook and some of the Oculus corporate officers were ordered to pay a total of USD 500 million.[101] On March 10, 2017 it was revealed that Carmack was suing ZeniMax for USD 22.7 million it owed him from their purchase of id Software.[102]

Reception[edit]

The Oculus Rift received generally positive reviews from gaming and tech websites. Wired gave 9 out of 10 stars to Oculus Rift and wrote, "The long-promised virtual reality headset is finally here, in a remarkably well-made and accessible device."[103] A review by Dan Stapleton of IGN says, "The Oculus Rift is the first headset available, and it does a fantastic job of not just displaying high-quality VR, but making it easy to use."[104] Many reviewers also wrote about the shortcomings of Rift, such as a hefty price tag ($599 in US) and the need of a powerful PC to run it.

The Wall Street Journal wrote, "The first totally immersive home virtual reality rig is a pricey, awkward, isolating—and occasionally brilliant—glimpse of the future of computing."[105] The Verge said, "Virtual Reality: 8/10. Virtual reality is always almost here."[106]

See also[edit]

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