Menlo Park, Calif. – The long-awaited Rift headsets start reaching consumers today, but only those who preordered them in January. Until now, the only versions of the headset available were made for developers so they could try out the software and hardware in the device. The Rift ready to reach consumers has improved lenses and electronics to make the VR experience astonishingly immersive.
After having been involved in its development since 2009, VR firm Oculus’ founder Palmer Luckey personally handed over the first consumer-ready device to a customer in Alaska a few days ago and said he wouldn’t let some “random delivery guy” get the “satisfaction” of delivering the first Rift headset, according to a report by the BBC.
Oculus, which was bought by Facebook in March 2014 for $2bn, has been teasing gamers since 2012. The news had been all tagged by the words “prototype” or “developer kit” or “pre-release version”, but the Rift is now real. It’s finally here.
The box contains the real headset, a real small IR sensor, a real tiny remote control and a Xbox gamepad. Instead of a user manual, people who pre-ordered the Rift in January will find a simple URL to download the installer.
Having a Rift implicates a serious investment. It costs $599, but it isn’t a self-contained device, which means that it needs a computer to work. But it can’t be any computer. Users will need a high-performance Windows PC or an “Oculus Ready”-certified computer, meaning that they will end up spending about $1,500 or more to be able to do all the incredible stuff the Rift allows to.
After downloading the installer, users will have to update their graphics card driver and run through the entire calibration setup. The whole process could take at least 30 minutes.
According to a review by Wired, the headset is actually very comfortable, successfully designed to be wearable for a long session. It feels lighter than it really is. Users only need to adjust the side and top Velcro and the sides are spring-loaded so they won’t have to adjust the headset again after they have taken it off.
The Wired report only warns people willing to use the Rift not to make it too tight, otherwise, they will get a “VR face” after a while.
As for the sound, the integrated on-ear headphones deliver an outstanding sound that represents a key ingredient of the immersion. The spatialized 3-D audio accurately reflect distance and direction.
Another distinctive characteristic of the Oculus is the positional tracking, which enables users to get a different perspective on the virtual world by crouching and leaning. The functionality is not available for pictures and 360-degree videos, but games do take advantage of positional tracking, one of the most noticeable differences between a higher-end headset and a mobile VR gadget.
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The Rift marks the first time customers will be able to get sophisticated consumer-ready VR headsets. A device from HTC will be available in April and Sony’s PlayStation headset will reach people in October. While the HTC device is the cheapest of the three with a price of $799, the PlayStation headset will cost $399.