It has been announced that 10,000 developer kits of Oculus VR’s flagship virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift, have been shipped out, so we can expect even more buzz around the internet about the high end piece of gaming kit, here’s a quick round up of the story so far.
The Oculus Rift promises one of the most immersive gaming experience to date, with the 3D visor filling almost all of the users field of vision, which supposedly should put the user right in the middle of their gaming environment. The head-mounted display is a futuristic take on PC gaming, and supposedly the sort of next-gen technology that gamers really want.
It all started around June 2012 at E3, as a very early prototype of the technology was shown off in line with an edition of Doom 3 that was to be developed that would be compatible with head-mounted display units. The announcement of this product almost out of nowhere got attendees excited, and so launched the internet frenzy over what looked like a new era for virtual reality technology.
The next step was fundraising and in August 2012 a Kickstarter campaign was launched. Founder Palmer Luckey asked the online community for $250,000, which was donated in under 24 hours, over the next month almost $2,500,000 was put into the project through Kickstarter. This showed beyond any doubt the eagerness of the gaming and developer community for this sort of product.
The concept isn’t an entirely new one, head-mounted displays in various guises have hit the market in drips and drabs for a while now, however they are normally feeble attempts at something that could be huge and normally end up being flogged on cheesy 24 hour shopping channels.
What the Kickstarter campaign showed was that this is a product that the gaming community could really get excited about, finally there could be a virtual reality headset that we’ve been dreaming about since seeing every kid in futuristic sci-fi movies using something of the sort.
After the Kickstarter campaign and it’s stratospheric success the internet went crazy for this headset, it gained massive endorsements from some of the biggest names in game programming and development, such as Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games.
Not to rest on its success Oculus VR were busy throughout their Kickstarter funding period, with the first demo booths of the Oculus Rift being set up at QuakeCon at the beginning of August.
Still in what was a very busy August for the company the first clues of the sort of games that users can expect from the Oculus Rift as post-apocalyptic FPS Hawken was announced, with a short trailer to go with it.
After this things quietened down somewhat on the announcement front, small bits of information were released here and there, mainly specification details, from this we learnt that the field of view will be over 90 degrees horizontal, which is twice as much as the leading competitor, this should be enough to fill the wearers entire view.
Next came CES, and along with it came the next wave of internet buzz over the Oculus Rift, and for good reason as Oculus Rift took the electronics exhibition by storm, sweeping up a number of ‘best of’ awards. This successful showing at CES went hand-in-hand with other exciting announcements about the impending Oculus Rift, with things like pilot runs being uploaded.
CES gave way to another new prototype of the Oculus Rift with many commentators saying that the final product was getting closer, as well as the news that Unreal and Unity development kits were now fully integrated to Oculus Rift, meaning developers could use these products to build games for the Rift.
The biggest news for a while has come this month however, with Oculus VR probably hoping a whole host of new information leaked over the month would stir up excitement for the first developer products that have now been shipped out.
March didn’t start so great however, as the company was forced to offer rewards to Kickstarter backers who were promised a copy of a Rift compatible edition of Doom 3 with the shipping of the Oculus Rift, as it appeared the game wouldn’t be ready in time for the release of the first pieces of equipment.
Right on the back of this slight bump there was good news however as Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 would become VR compatible within the week of the announcement, which was on March 18. Team Fortress 2 will be the first official game released for the Rift.
Valve rushing through an update to make Team Fortress 2 compatible with the Oculus Rift was the first sign that things were getting close now, and early backers crossed their fingers that their agonising wait to get their hands on this state of the art equipment was almost over. Three days later their prayers were answered as Oculus announced the shipping date for early backers was going to be March 29.
Next came updates in the Unity and Unreal development packs department as it was reported that Oculus developers would receive a four-month free trial of Unity, which is supposedly the SDK for beginners and newbies. In terms of the Unreal engine Oculus told its developers that they had partnered up with Epic Games to release a custom, Oculus-ready version of the Unreal Development Kit, which would be available to all Rift developers.
All this news culminated at GDC this week with Oculus having a booth set up all week and hosting a number of talks on the wider subject of virtual reality. For visitors that dropped by the booth the announcements throughout March were waiting, demoes of Team Fortress 2 and a full run down of the Unreal and Unity SDK’s were the main thing Oculus were trying to get across at this conference.
So that’s the story so far, from inception back in June to shipment to early backers, certainly this could be a game changer for the virtual reality industry and I know I can’t wait for developers to start coming back with feedback on the product once they get to play around with the kits for a while, unfortunately there is still no indication of when the Rift will be available to consumers.
I’d love to know what you guys think about the Rift in the comments below, is it something you’ve been waiting for or a product you’ll steer clear of, with early indication of prices suggesting the kit will be around the $300 mark?
Header image courtesy of vg247.com