Oculus Rift: First Inspirations (Updated x2!)


As I've already written about, I had the pleasure of trying out the Oculus Rift for the first time last night at IGDA-TC. I spent about 3-5 minutes in the so-called Tuscany Demo of 90 year old grandmother tries the Rift fame. I found the experience very inspirational. I thought I'd share some of the ideas and aspirations for VR that sprung to mind through my experience. If you'd like, you can also check out my post about my first impressions of the Rift itself.

The obvious application of the Oculus Rift is 3d first person style environments. There will be an endless supply of first person shooter "hardcore" video games for the Rift, and that really is its self proclaimed target market and audience. It is so obvious that it is not even particularly interesting to me, perhaps compounded by the fact that my once love of FPS and "hardcore" games steadily fades away. I think there will be some good first person, immersive exploration and puzzle games that I would enjoy on the Rift. I also think some of the racing/simulation games could be really fun.

But none of those games are why I am excited about the Oculus Rift. To me, the experience of immersion when you've put on the Rift is itself the most compelling part of the product. It is an experience you fundamentally cannot get anywhere else, and it will be truly new to almost all of us. I now believe that even a fixed 2d television-like display experience that completely fills your field of view like the Oculus would be a novel and interesting product itself. However, when you add in the 3d view and nearly perfect head tracking of the Rift, the immersion becomes complete and you've got something special. It is the difference between an omnitheater movie about the Amazon, and actually standing in the Amazon yourself. Well... if the Amazon were pixelated, and without smells or anything you could touch, but still. Let's remember this is a very early product, and technology moves fast.

I want to ask you when thinking about the potential applications of the Oculus Rift to broaden your thinking. Think beyond FPS games and other experiences where you look through the eyes of an avatar in a familiar (even if fantastical) world. With this new level of immersion on headsets like the Oculus Rift, and what I hope will be its many future competitors, lots of other new interactive experiences are possible. Think of being an eye floating above a 3d abstract puzzle game, whose environment you are a part of. Think of playing a 3d sidescrolling platformer, but instead of playing it on your TV, it is like you've moved inside of the screen and you now occupy the same space as the characters you control. You could watch a 3 inch tall Mario walking, running, and jumping his way through a model-sized game level laid out in front of you. This is where I say, "This would all make a lot more sense to you if you go and try out the Oculus Rift yourself."

Ok, now imagine a few years from now when the Rift has a resolution beyond the "Retina" display densities of today. The resolution of the Rift has reached maybe double that of your current laptop screen. Now sit down, put that laptop in your lap, and now put on your Oculus Rift. Your laptop is outputting its display in realtime into the Rift's simulation where there is a virtual laptop displaying your screen's contents. Your arms are being tracked, so you can even look down and hunt for the home row keys if you need to. Now you can program a game, write a grad school paper, or code up a web page inside of the simulation. You are no longer sitting at a desk in a cubicle. You aren't sitting on the same boring couch in your living room. You can be anywhere. You can laptop on a beach. You can laptop on the moon. Bottom of the sea. Whatever. Indulgent? Bit creepy? Only because it is actually going to be possible. And soon. And at tablet prices.

Let me walk you through another imaginary experience with an Oculus Rift. One that wouldn't necessarily have to wait for some future super high resolution iteration. Ok, grab a real SNES gamepad, and now put on your Oculus Rift. You've just entered a 3d simulation of your living room. And there's your TV in front of you, a virtual 2d display embedded in the 3d simulated environment. Pop your Zelda: A Link to the Past cartridge into your Super Nintendo. You are playing Zelda and controlling Link with the gamepad, but you are watching it on a virtual TV instead of a real TV. You enter the Lost Woods. The graphics on the screen are those familiar tiled-based green trees with that pixel fog you loved so much as a kid. But something is happening now that has never happened before. The drywall disappears and trees move in. Grass grows over the couch you were sitting on and also the floor beneath your feet. A fog fills the room. You are sitting in a 3d Lost Woods now that surrounds you. Your TV set sits on top of a hollow log, and you are still playing Zelda: A Link to the Past for SNES.

I know, right?

Check out my initial post where I talk about my first experience: Oculus Rift: First Impressions.

UPDATE! Check this out:

AND ANOTHER!! The horror equivalent of what I was saying: