Monday, November 03, 2014

Oculus Rift DK2 (part two)

I've learned a fair bit about Oculus Rift in the last few days, so let me share it with you.

First off, I discovered on Friday that my glasses actually fit inside the headset. It was snug, but it worked. So for the first time, I got to see the image from the Rift with 20/20 clarity.

Well, that's quite a difference.

There's definitely a noticeable screen door effect with the DK2 prototype. The recently displayed Crescent Bay prototype, though, runs at higher resolution, and from the reports I've seen, the screen door effect is essentially gone.

From what I've read, the Crescent Bay prototype is not going to be freely available, though, which is unfortunate.

Back to DK2. When seeing the image with its intended sharpness, the effect is stunning. I am not exaggerating when I say it's transformative. This is a big, big deal. we briefly tried out a game called World of Diving, and it was mind-blowing. Eli 13.3 said it was like being in Key Largo, where he went on a biology study trip last year.

Several of you have e-mailed me and asked about nausea. I sometimes get nauseated in first-person shooters, much to my embarrassment, so I'm trying to be very careful with oculus risk. I'm using it for only brief intervals, and trying to move my head in a very measured way. So far, I've had no problems. At times, though, there are noticeable framerate issues, and lag is one of the things that will definitely produce nausea in some people.

Dealing with that, though, is problem, at least with DK2.

Here's a technical note that explains the rock and a hard place situation developers find themselves in right now. There are two supported modes with the Oculus Rift: direct and extended.

Direct mode is very plug and play. You start an application, the application senses that the headset is active, and it gets used. This is the mode that the commercial version will primarily use, because it's extremely consumer-friendly.

Unfortunately, right now the performance in direct mode is somewhat poor, at least in the demos and games that I've tried.

Extended mode performs much better. If I understand it correctly, extended mode uses the Rift as your desktop, essentially (with all kinds of caveats/combinations, depending on how you configure it for that particular app). I can't comment on this myself, because I haven't used it yet, due to all the machinations necessary to get it to work. Almost every game has a different set of instructions, and it's a bit time-consuming to get it working.

I don't have that time--for now--so I haven't fiddled with it yet.

This is an awkward situation for developers. They will get much better performance if they support extended mode, but in the final commercial version of the product, extended mode will be supported as a last resort only. So it makes more sense to support direct mode, but the performance is not good enough to make that feasible for most programs. The commercial version of the product will have to solve this issue for the headset to have any chance of success.

Do I think it can be solved? Yes. If you look at where the headset is right now, and how much it improves with each hardware iteration, I absolutely believe that it will be solved.

In goofy news, I did order a very basic set of prescription glasses with much smaller lenses, specifically to use with the Rift. I've certainly done crazier things than that when it comes to gaming.

I'm not even sure that would make the top 10.

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