What Oculus Thinks the Rift Experience Looks LikeAugust 14, 2014
This picture of Oculus’s booth at an upcoming gaming conference is demonstrative.
I am assuming this setup was carefully picked out, because I assume the team at Oculus has a vision for how people are going to consume this. Let’s examine in detail:
The chair users are sitting in is comfortable and wide.
The chair has no arms - less chance of hitting one while moving your head.
There’s no screen directly in front of the user, but a TV that’s shared between two people, so we’re supposed to imagine we’re in a living room.
In fact there is nothing between the user and a positional tracker about six feet away. There have been plenty of incidents so far of people running into things in real life while “inspecting” a digital object.
The PC powering the Oculus is tucked away in a desk between the chairs. Well, two PC’s, one for each Oculus.
There’s a pretty significant difference between the environment Oculus wants people to enjoy the Rift in, and the environment people have been so far.
To be clear, most environments I’ve seen clip the tracker to the top of a laptop/monitor, and position the user at a desk. This is also necessary because most demos are started from a computer, using the keyboard and mouse as the inputs.
This is a far cry from the idealized environment at the conference above, so it’s interesting to look at what’ll need to change to get us from here to there.
Moving the computer into the living room. Most people use desktop computers at a desk, and interact with a monitor via a keyboard and mouse. Obviously Oculus wants to change this, but it’s still a big investment to put a PC tower in your living room, because you’re not going to be moving a giant PC tower back and forth.
An alternate layout would be to have the positional tracker at a 90 degree angle to your desk/monitor. This would require a wall (or appropriate height object like a shelf) to be 5-6 feet away from your normal chair position. Fortunately there’s no cable between the tracker and the PC.
Some way to get Oculus content without a primary monitor. This part implies Oculus plans to build/control some kind of application delivery system, instead of the current, anarchic, download and run .exe’s from your PC. In this arena it’s good to have competition as well, and there are tools like virtualreality.io that are attempting to solve this problem.
Cheaper PC’s. Most people with experience recommend top of the line graphics cards - that run at least $300, in addition to the other non-cheap parts - CPU, memory, power supply, etc. necessary to run a PC nowadays. For someone who plays CPU-intense games already, this is not a problem, but for peolpe (like me) without a very powerful machine, you are looking at at least $500 for a PC on top of the price of the Rift itself. Not to mention Oculus is putting two of those PC’s in a living room, and the unlikeliness of lugging your PC over to a friend’s house to have a collaborative experience with him/her.
Now there are a lot of people who recognize this is a problem and it’s being attacked from multiple angles - the GPU’s are improving, hardware is being developed specifically to optimize the experience on VR machines, the SDK’s are getting better and faster, and developers are sharing tips about how to decrease latency and increase frame rate. Still, there is a ways to go before an Oculus experience is in the reach of the mainstream consumer.
I am wondering if Oculus will launch a line of “approved” hardware; it can’t be too expensive for them as the parts are all commodities at this point, and it would allow them to guarantee a minimum standard of performance.
To conclude, Oculus thinks “the experience” entails much more than just the headset and some software. I’m betting that Oculus will make announcements about the periphery soon.