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Preview: Further Hands-On with the Oculus Rift

Gear & Gadgets Screenshot - 1134708

Even though it wasn't on the show floor alongside the NVIDIA Shield and the other technical doo-dads, the Oculus Rift still managed to make a small, dramatic impact during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just over a week ago.  Huddled up in a small suite outside of the show floor, the development team happily showed off an updated build of the device, which it first revealed at PAX Prime following a successful Kickstarter campaign.  There were two models available – a 5.6 inch one for display purposes, featuring a 1280 X 800 image (with two combined 640 X 800 images put together) and a 7-inch model, which, at the time of our appointment, wasn't operating, but was set to be the one developers would start receiving in March.

For those who missed our previous impressions of the Oculus, which we got to try out with Bethesda's Doom 3: BFG Edition a few months back, think of it as an interactive 3D headset.  It straps onto your head and immerses you in a realistic gaming universe, where you can actually move your head around to look about you, whether it's up, down, or behind you.  We were impressed with the technology that was shown back then, even though it was a makeshift development model that was nowhere near its final build.  But with this past week's test, we got a better feel of what could be hitting stores eventually in 2013.

For this demo, the Oculus team skipped over the Doom 3 tech demo in favor of a much brighter demo, taking place in the medieval world of the Epic Citadel.  We managed to try out three different worlds, enabling us to move around with the help of an Xbox 360 controller, and get a look in multiple directions by, once again, moving our head about.

A word of warning- Oculus Rift does take some getting used to.  By putting this headset on, you're literally injecting yourself into these worlds, and after a few minutes' time, it's easy to get drawn in, resulting in some disorientation when you take it back off.  That said, there's still no technology quite like it.

Two of the three pieces of terrain that we got to wander around truly stood out.  The first was a medieval village, featuring townsfolk standing around and talking, little houses that scattered across the city, and snowflakes falling from the sky.  The 3D effects were mesmerizing with this demo, really giving us an idea of what kind of sheer depth can be added to certain game experiences – the ones supporting the medium, anyway.

OculusThe second level we got to check out took place on some small island, where we could see the craggy orientations of the rocks, up close, as we walked past them, eventually making our way into the water below.  What's cool is that we actually got to walk around underwater, without any sort of drowning penalty, to see the true depth the headset could bring.

As for the third area, it was a small garden-style setting, but there was a neat twist.  We were able to drop off the side and watch the land slip further away from us, in full 3D, descending to – well, pretty much nowhere.  That's why we prefer the previous two levels, there's a lot more to see.  But still, it was a nifty effect, for what it was.

Despite getting a little dizzy from the presentation, the Oculus Rift is quite an impressive piece of tech, and we're eager to see when it finally ships.  Sure, an official release date and price point would've been nice, and we couldn't help but ask the Oculus VR team, "WHY YOU NO BRING HAWKEN WITH YOU?!"  But still, it's coming along smoothly, and should be a nice piece of gaming hardware for those who can handle it.

Be sure to check back for more news on the headset soon!

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Robert Workman
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Games: Gear & Gadgets

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