I've thought about writing this article for nearly five years now, and now that I'm here - it doesn't even feel real. I've looked at a bunch of other articles surrounding the release of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and I have thought long and hard about my approach. It's going to be different because VR deserves to be held in a totally different light.
Reading the other content on the Rift and Vive launches makes me really hate the traditional gaming press, as some - but not all - have "reviews" up on the Rift and Vive. How in the hell do you review something this transformative and revolutionary, in a few days of using it? It's impossible. You can't call it a review if you've only played with pre-retail hardware, without any form of AAA game or system seller.
This is where 'reviewing' the Rift and Vive is something I won't be doing - where I'll be doing more of an on-going experience report. Some of you will like this, and some of you won't - so I'll provide a larger, more detailed review in the next 1-2 months for a few different factors.
Firstly, I want to wait until I've received the HTC Vive before I fully write my Oculus Rift review - and vice versa. Secondly, I want to really get some hours pumped into both before I can put my weight behind a review. I want to play around with the Rift as much as I can before my Vive turns up in 2-3 more weeks, so that I get good, exclusive time with the Rift on its own - instead of juggling both.
Then when the Vive gets here, I'll begin forming my Rift review - as I'll be able to directly compare both of the VR headsets. Not just from a technological standpoint, but from their software lineups, configuration and setup, and the 'month of use' perspective.
It's going to be a long road for VR, and I'll be right here writing about it constantly. I've been a big fan of VR before it was mainstream, reporting on the original Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift. This was before people noticed it when the DK1 was released, and again with the DK2. I've been a huge fan of VR, from an enthusiast perspective, news reporting perspective, and as a gamer.
I'm also a father to two girls who I believe will benefit greatly from both augmented and virtual reality technology, so it has intrigued me since day one. I've been a gamer for 30 years now (I'm 33 years old), and I won't be stopping anytime soon - I will actually be putting more time into gaming thanks to how new, fresh and exciting VR is.
The Oculus Story So Far...
It all started back in 2012 when the at the time unknown 18-year-old Palmer Luckey took to Kickstarter to fund something called the Oculus Rift. The project raised over $2.5 million, but more importantly, it gained the support from some seriously huge industry heavyweights.
Gaming gods like John Carmack began talking with Luckey privately about the Rift and after sampling an early prototype of the Rift, Carmack began to see what Luckey had been working with - even after doing his own research at the time into VR headsets. Carmack preferred the Rift, and then moments before E3 2012, id Software announced that a future version of Doom 3 called Doom 3: BFG Edition, would be compatible with VR headsets.
During E3 2012, Carmack teased a duct taped, head-mounted display based on Luckey's Oculus Rift prototype, with Carmack's software on top. The unit featured a rather large 5.6-inch LCD, which could be seen with its dual lenses, as they were positioned over the eyes to provide the 90-degree horizontal and 110-degree vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective. It was early days yet, but it truly snowballed from there.
From there, it escalated quickly with the DK1 pumped out and pushed to developers with a rather low-end 7-inch screen that had much lower pixel switching time than the original prototype. This provided reduced latency and motion blur, but the screen door effect was pretty bad.
In 2013, the HD prototype was shown off at E3 2013, which had a 1920x1080 display (twice the number of pixels compared to the 1280x720 display in DK1). It reduced the screen door effect significantly and allowed much more items and larger environments more visible to the human eye thanks to the increased resolution developers had to play with.
Then we had the Crystal Cove prototype, which was unveiled at CES 2014. It featured an impressive low persistence of vision OLED display, as well as a new motion tracking system that used an external camera to track infrared dots that were placed onto the Rift.
This new motion tracking system allowed Rift wearers to move around within the environment, as well as help the motion sickness issues that plagued the DK1. Then, Oculus began shipping the DK2 in July 2014, with it being a small jump over the Crystal Cove prototype unveiled earlier that year.
It had multiple improvements, with a 960x1080 per-eye, low-persistence OLED display, higher refresh rate (75Hz), positional tracking, a detachable cable, and no more need for the external control box that was required for the DK1. Inside of the DK2 was a modified display that was found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
Oculus continued the rapid deployment of new Rift headsets, with the Crescent Bay prototype in September 2014. The new Crescent Bay prototype included a higher resolution display, it was lighter, had built-in audio, and a 360-degree tracking system thanks to tracking LEDs placed in the back of the Rift headset.
Then, in May 2015, Oculus announced that the Rift would ship to consumers in the first quarter of 2016. Pre-orders opened up on January 6, 2016, at 8 AM PST - and I was joined by many when I pre-ordered my Oculus Rift CV1 headset.
Fast forward to April 2016, and my Rift is finally here. It has been an insanely awesome journey, and we're only at the beginning. This is day 0 of VR, and it's awesome - but it's definitely not perfect, and strangely - it's not a hardware problem (most of the time).
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