It’s been a tumultuous 4 years since Palmer Lucky first posted his Kickstarter for the rift, in those 4 years a lot has happened. The DK1 (DevKit 1) was released the following year, with its basic tracking allowing for just 3 DoF (Degrees of Freedom) due to it just tracking tilt and rotation of the headset. The next year we saw Oculus VR, the company Lucky had established to develop the Rift bought by Facebook bringing criticism and concern from many corners. Shortly after this we saw the DK2 launch this time featuring a full 6DoF thanks to its camera, which tracked the position of the headset for lateral movement, as well as shipping with an improved screen. Finally, two years later the first consumer model finally launched for order in January with early adopters starting to their hands on the CV1 (Consumer Version 1) the following March. It’s not been plain sailing since launch though due to controversy surrounding the pricing, issues with supply constraints causing delays and similar problems along the way, not to mention complaints regarding their practices concerning developers and the Oculus Store. But finally we’re starting to get close to a full retail launch, with UK gaming outlet Game being spotted with marketing material for the currently absent Oculus Touch in the windows of one of its stores.
The Oculus Unboxing!
After placing my order a few days after the pre-order window opened and being told shipping would happen around July, it was a surprise to get an email in mid-June confirming the Rift would be shipping imminently. A few days of waiting later and it had arrived! The question is, was it worth the wait? It’s been a long road for Oculus VR from the initial Kickstarter through to early pre-order and finally an as yet unconfirmed date for a full public launch and other companies have managed to get to retail earlier, with the Valve backed HTC Vive already being available to purchase at retail.
The fact the rift has been in development for the last four years with a few iterations shows in terms of how the device looks. First up, its packaging is clearly meant to see continued use for storage between sessions or transporting the device to other locations, everything has a place and snugly fits in it. The packaging feels premium, with a nice rubberised texture The box magnetically seals, meaning that the packaging should withstand multiple unboxings with minimal fuss and as mentioned the entire thing is designed to be easily transported, thanks to a retracting cord that serves as a handle.
The device itself has a minimalist, premium feel. Light, yet durable would be the best way to describe the rift, since as delicate as it seems when looking at it, the unit certainly feels like it can take a few knocks when handling and wearing it. Overall the design is fairly well thought out, black, opaque cloth surrounding the main body hides the various infrared LEDs the camera uses to track the unit, while giving the user something to grip the headset with. Upfront a thin matt black plastic hides the front LED array, the straps while tight feel solid and secure and have a nice bit of movement to them from the front to assist putting the headset on once the straps have been set for the users head size. On the base of the unit is a small, notched, sliding stick which sets the IPD (interpupillary distance) of the lenses, I found the default setting to be ideal, with it being set around the 3.5 mark, finding the slider is trivial when wearing the headset meaning adjustment should be simple when needed. The included removable headset speakers feel comfortable on the ear and sound far better than I expected them to. Inside the headset, there is a black mesh, hiding the electronics and mechanical parts which move the eye pieces from view. With rubberised facial interface surrounding the back of the actual headset to ensure comfort for the user. The facial interface is pretty firm and when wearing the headset tightly can leave an impression on the users face, it’s also worth pointing out that the gap for your nose can allow for significant light leakage to occur. Thankfully the interface is removable and many aftermarket interfaces are readily available which means that this can be tailored to suit your tastes and comfort levels.
As an occasional glasses wearer, I was disappointed, but entirely unsurprised to find my frames of choice (a fairly thick set of Ray Bans) wouldn’t fit when wearing the headset, so if you do wear glasses this is something you do need to bear in mind. I have heard that people with thinner frames can wear them alongside the rift, but as ever with these things your mileage may vary. Thankfully, much like the facial interface there are already aftermarket firms striving to find solutions for this. Finally, to connect the entire thing to your computer, there is a single, thick cord that passes over your left temple and over your shoulder, held into position by a clip that’s locked into place on the rift to ensure no movement from the cables default seating is possible. I’ve had a few people test the unit and to date none of them have highlighted any real issues in terms of comfort once the headset was set up correctly for them and almost all of them have been surprised at just how light it feels when in use.
In addition to the headset, the Rift includes an Xbox One pad with Wireless Dongle, a small Bluetooth remote for use with the Rift and a single jet black camera to track your position. The camera is fairly reminiscent of Apples old FireWire connected iSight Cameras, since a single, monolithic tube which sites on a removable stand, leaving a small, thin threaded arm poking out of the bottom. The threading is compatible with standard Camera mounts, meaning the camera should be able to be used with any camera stands or other accessories, something I used to shift the position of my camera to behind and above my monitor to keep it out of the way and ready to use; finally, selfie sticks have a valid use! Still, the inclusion of a monitor clip would have been nice here.
Of course, as nice as the device looks and as cool as it may seem. Wearing it has the exact opposite effect on users. While using the Rift in a static setting is less amusing to onlookers, using it in conjunction with the Oculus Touch makes the user look a little bit more ludicrous, as they twist and move and reach for objects in a silent, rhythm less dance. You really do need to not have any concerns regarding looking silly when using a device like this.
Set up is easy, but long winded, taking me around 30 minutes from start to finish including device calibration and adjustment. Thankfully Oculus have done all they can to simplify what could have been a fairly complicated process by providing a guided set up during the installation process. This includes animations to demonstrate processes that many not translate well when simply being read. By the end of it, you are wearing the rift and experiencing a few short VR demos, such as being on an alien planet, in a museum or stoop on the edge of a ledge in a massive city scape. Once you are finally done taking in the sights of the few demo scenes you get to see, you are finally taken to the Rifts default user interface, the Oculus Home.
- An utterly immersive experience
- Nicely designed headset with great build quality
- An increasing number of supporting titles
- VR is something you really need to experience to 'get' which may make this a hard sell
- Potential for nausea when gaming
- An expensive peripheral that needs an expensive computer to run it