Thursday, January 24, 2013

Palmer Lucky, OculusVR and the Rift

The shipping developer version may differ a little to this.  <== take a look here for a quick clip explaining what it's all about. If you're like me you were rather excited in the mid 90's at the thought of virtual reality taking off but ultimately disappointed as the tech and implementations never materialised beyond The Lawnmower Man, then you'll understand my enthusiasm for this whole project! As Michael Abrash [now a developer at Valve] puts forth in posts on his blog, the time may finally be right for the holy trinity of micro-componentry [tracking chips, hardware gyros, LCD displays with enough density], computing power and audience acceptance for VR to finally arrive.

Enter Palmer Lucky and his Kickstarter campaign to create the Rift which ultimately raised nearly 2.5 million dollars US [ten times what they asked for], and now the developer kits look like they'll ship to keen recipients in March/April this year. There's talk of a commercial version in the coming months which may be compatible with current and future gaming platforms including consoles that should include an internal display capable of 1080p.

The Oculus Rift's FOV can be summed up in the image below:
Now that's immersive.
This widely expanded FOV [Field of View] is achieved through a combination of anamorphically pre-distorted stereoscopic left and right views and LEEP optics. You can get an idea of what the pre-distortion looks like in this image here... check out the monitor view:
 Cue moments of vulnerability where friends and family re-arrange the furniture while you're in RiftSpace or pelt you with projectiles in an effort to increase the immersion.
Alongside Mr Lucky are some heavyweight industry proponents proclaiming their involvement including John Carmack [of ID software and Doom fame] supplying space-industry know-how in the form of low latency gyro software and hardware, Gabe Newell and Valve Software [who have already prepared Team Fortress2 for the Rift], Epic Games' Unreal SDK and game engine, Unity3D's game engine [ready alongside the Unreal SDK with built-in support for the Rift's launch] and Adhesive Games' outstanding Hawken already Rift-ready. The list increases almost daily!

Naturally this head mounted display will offer the kind of immersive experience gamers have been craving for years, but as an artist as well as a gamer I see a new possibility opening up, that of creating experiences that people simply want to be part of - moments of exploration, virtual sculptures and the kinds of visual poetry that is rather lost when displayed on a normal computer monitor. Alongside the entertainment options I'm interested in creating and sharing 'places' that cannot be visited physically and moments that are otherwise impossible to be part of.

All in all it's a very exciting time for game development and game consumers and I can't wait to try a set of these things out!


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