In The New Yorker, Joel Johnson talks about the Oculus Rift, which may be available in retail stores by the end of the year:
Luckey’s garage creation, which soon was named the “Oculus Rift,” is not far from a smartphone with a headband. An L.C.D. screen spans across a plastic mask, sitting about an inch away from a user’s eyes; a barrier divides the display in two, effectively creating one screen for each eye. Motion sensors track the position of the wearer’s head, then feed this data across an umbilical cord to a computer, typically a gaming P.C. Instead of rendering one 3-D world to a single monitor, as in a typical first-person video game, such as Call of Duty, the computer renders the same 3-D world twice, from slightly different angles. It sends those two perspectives, side by side, to the Rift, creating the illusion of depth. Motion is controlled by the direction in which the wearer is looking; instead of using a mouse or a controller to direct your gaze in the 3-D world, a person simply needs to turn his head.
The Oculus Rift uses optical tricks to create the realistic sensation, like slightly warping the edges of the view in the computer, which is corrected by plastic lenses in the goggles. The pixels are more tightly packed directly in front of the eye, giving the perspective a roundness that feels more like human vision. It works. The Oculus Rift rivals — and will possibly exceed, when it hits the shelves sometime in late 2013 or mid-2014 — the best virtual-reality hardware available, military-grade or otherwise.
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I’ve been testing the Oculus Rift for a month, and in it, virtual reality feels a lot like scuba diving. First, there is the mask. Then there is the strange disconnect between where your body actually is and where your mind, confused by the mask, is telling you that your body is located. This sensation of discombobulation is doubled in virtual reality, since the current version of the Oculus Rift doesn’t track your body or hands, only your head.
Still, more than any of its antecedents, the Oculus Rift is convincingly engrossing. Most of the several dozen people who have tried my Rift put the goggles on as skeptics, but removed them as believers that virtual reality, as a practical phenomenon, now exists.
On YouTube, WoodenPotatoes recently posted a video where he tried out his new Oculus Rift unit with the original Guild Wars Prophecies by ArenaNet. As he points out in the video, the game is in no way optimized for use with the Rift, but is still an interesting experiment: