Oculus Rift - First Impressions

We have acquired an Oculus Rift Development Kit (original, not the DK2).

After fun and games persuading it to work with a Mac, we managed to experience VR for the first time. It is a truly remarkable experience. So here is the story of how we got it to work, and what it looks like...

Unpacking
The Development Kit comes in a black ABS rugged case which contains shaped foam to hold the components snugly. The components are:
  • Headset - it’s a big black box with straps which pass around and over the head. A cable connects the headset to the control box.
  • Control Box - this unit connects to the Rift headset as described above, has an HDMI port and mini-USB to connect to the host computer, and a small jack plug to connect to the power supply unit.
  • Power supply unit - this delivers 5V from the mains by means of a small plug-top style adaptor.
  • Lenses - the Rift comes with three pairs of lenses - normal, short-sighted and long-sighted, named A, B and C.
  • Cables - HDMI and USB to mini USB. There’s also a DVI to HDMI adaptor in there.

Connecting
The Control Box needs HDMI from the host computer - this can be derived from DVI using the supplied adaptor. The mini USB port is connected to a spare USB port on the host computer and power is applied via the power supply.

Driver
A suitable driver has to be downloaded from the Oculus Developer website. The website seems to not respond at all until you have registered for (and logged in using) an Oculus Developer account. As I write this is free. Drivers are available for Mac and Windows.

Applications
In the Oculus folder found in the downloaded Zip file, there is a configuration tool which allows fine-tuning of the device. Configurable items include the user’s height, whether they are standing or sitting, and the distance between the eyes and the headset (more on this below). A demo scene may also be displayed.
A Share section on the Oculus website yields masses of free software which makes use of the VR functionality of the Rift. We have yet to evaluate this but we hear these apps are as good as they look online.

Experience
The headset may be work over glasses if required, or alternatively the alternate lenses may be fitted. We used the device over glasses with no problems (including one user with vari-focals). The unit contains a screw on each side for adjusting the distance to the eyes - this works very well (remember to set the screw setting on the driver config tool as mentioned above).
This headset isn’t really too heavy and feels so comfortable once fitted that one soon forgets it’s there.
The demo scene mentioned above is an electric blue-coloured grid in the distance, with a desk and chair the user is sitting on. The desk has normal desk items on the top. There is a screen ahead which has some helpful text on it. I found that “ahead” was right round to my left but there’s a function to centre the view with the user looking forwards.
Of course, this is because the device tracks your head movement... You turn your head to the left and the scene smoothly animates to show the view to the left - same for the right. And even the same for up and down. It is totally immersive from the start...
It’s a shame Oculus didn’t provide sound to the device - even a little 3.5mm stereo jack would have been useful... Having two cables from the headset might be awkward when playing particularly intensive games - and they tell me that horror games are really, *really* horrific when played on this platform.

Our Plans
We plan to try to use this device with Google Streetview to allow virtual exploring of streets. This seems a logical application for VR in general, and the Rift in particular.
Part of this work will be understanding if this has already been done, and if so: how well, of course.
Then there’s the whole piece around using Google’s data in this way, and building a framework to drive the right images to each eye.


Groves Systems Ltd
Making Virtual Reality useful!