Virtual reality just got a huge boost towards becoming a mainstream technology.
Sean Hollister at The Verge reports that Oculus, the maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, just raised $US75 million in funding in a large Series B funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
The Oculus Rift puts you inside the screen, with an enormous field of view expanding so that it fills your vision. With stereoscopic 3D built in too, its level of immersion is unparalleled.
Head-tracking technology allows the Rift to “keep up” as you turn your head to look around the virtual environment. The best way to describe it: You feel completely immersed in a virtual world. Your real-world surroundings disappear. It can even make you dizzy.
For now, the Rift is still only available to developers who want to create video games compatible with the headset. An HD consumer version with extra features to be released sometime next year.
We tested out the Oculus Rift development kit earlier this year, making sure to put it through the paces. We didn’t have a single person try it who wasn’t blown away.
The Oculus Rift attaches to a relay box, which then hooks up to your computer. This allows the headset to be lighter. The relay box can be plugged in by either an HDMI or DVI cable.
You can register at Oculus' official site, which will give you access to their custom Rift developer software and Tuscany demo.
The Rift comes with three sets of lenses (for nearsighted, farsighted, and those with contacts or perfect vision).
You can also adjust how close the screen sits to your face with the dials located on the side of the Rift.
The lenses expand the image to make it appear like it surrounds you, while in reality the Rift only has a 7' display, with a resolution of 1200 by 800 pixels.
One downside to the lower resolution is the 'screen door effect,' which makes images look a bit fuzzy. The consumer version is expected to have at least a 1920 by 1080 pixel display, which will mostly eliminate the issue.
RiftCoaster is a popular free tech demo that puts you at the helm of a medieval roller coaster. With the Rift's head tracking, you can peer over the edge of the cart, or look up into the sky.
For games that require more than just looking around, you can use a keyboard and mouse, an Xbox 360 controller, or the Razer Hydra motion controller. The Hydra features a magnetic field that allows for very precise positional tracking, and works great with virtual reality games.
For a less intense experience, 'Blue Marble' is a great demo that lets you float out in space, lazily drifting by Earth. You can add your own playlists to serenade your personal space odyssey.
It's not all tech demos; Multiplayer game 'Team Fortress 2' has full Rift implementation, as does Valve's 'Half-Life 2.' Combined with the Hydra controller, it's very immersive.
The Oculus Rift subreddit is filled with recent news. There's also a list of helpful links on the sidebar for finding new demos and compatible games. You can check it out at reddit.com/r/oculus
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