My first steps with the Oculus Rift

Seems as if I’m a lucky person: My company wants me to evaluate the Oculus Rift. I’m working in the simulation business and the Rift obviously has a lot of potential.

Last week the developer version arrived, but I was bugged with other projects. So the current plan is to bring the Rift home for the weekend and have a deeper look into it. Today was the first day and after a couple of hours I can say that the experience is mind-boggling: There are a lot of moments where I found myself holding my breath, on the other side you can easily see that there is some work to do (I’ll write about that in a separate post, give me some days…).

So where to start when you get a hardware which is completely new for you? Right: Gaming!

  • The first experience which probably every user of the Rift has is the Tuscany demo. It’s a south european style house where you could move around and get used to the virtual reality. It feels great to simply stand on the balcony and have an outlook over the mediterranean sea.
  • The Riftcoaster is a good demonstration of how immersive the virtual reality could be. There were ridable rollercoasters in Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park World, but that was nothing against what the Rift gives you. The demo itself isn’t very high-end, what makes the experience so immersive is that your body knows how high altitude and heavy g-forces feel like. During the first rounds you repeatedly feel your knees getting weak.
  • A great concept of how to play with the Rift is the Dumpy Going Elephants demo. Just a very good combination of virtual reality, head tracking and physics.
  • To show that the Rift is not only capable of providing first-person experiences one could try Proton Pulse. It’s also a good demonstration of how well the orientation-tracking of the Rift is working. It has some nice ideas on how to create a good hands-free user interface.
  • Last but not least there is Titans of Space, an educational space simulator where you get some information about our solar system. It’s stunning how good the Rift is when it comes to displaying very large objects. When I first got the sun into my view I was speechless as how big it was. I’m curious how future games and applications will use these effects.

So after getting used to the device I was able to jump into coding. I like to have a very minimalist example to get started, it wasn’t a problem to find one: The minimalist ‘Hello Rift’ lead me in about 10 minutes to my first Rift application. It’s not what one would call a blockbuster app, but everything needed to get data from the Rift gets done.

What will be next? The forums have a lot of open source examples and tutorials to get a start. There also are the examples from the Oculus SDK. But first I’ll have to refresh my knowledge of DirectX and basic GameEngine stuff.

UPDATE: Just uploaded my version of ‘Hello Rift’ to GitHub. Have fun with it.

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