A New Oculus Rift

You know, the Oculus Rift is a real Marmite thing to me: On the one hand, I’m really getting tired of hearing about it. Tired of hearing how great it is, tired of hearing about the development kits that are being released, tired of hearing no dates for release, I’m just getting tired of all the in-a-vacuum hype (no-one criticizes the thing, so I couldn’t add a link there).

On the other hand, I can’t [profanity redacted] wait for it to be released. It’s one of the few bits of technology that I believe will be revolutionary, a game changer in more ways than one.

And now they’ve just released a milestone new development kit called “Crescent Bay,” and big surprise, it’s pretty great.

In case you’re not familiar with the Rift, it’s a virtual-reality headset that you wear over your eyes and actually works, perhaps the first of its kind. It supports 360-degree movement and head tracking, so if you spin around, or look up, or down, or wherever, it tracks that and adjusts the view accordingly. From what I’ve heard, it’s so insanely immersive and unbelievable an experience that I have yet to hear a single bad review.

Here’s someone exploring Tuscany using the Rift

But all that is the problem. There’s no release date. They keep releasing development kits, with each one having vast improvements over the previous. Bloggers and journalists keep talking about how fantastic the experience is. They even have legendary programer John Carmack on board as Chief Technology Officer, for which he left his position at id Software, the company he founded and where he programmed the games that made him a millionaire like Doom and Quake, and who also programs software for low-earth orbit spacecraft at his other company Armadillo Aerospace. If a guy like that believes in it, it must be fantastic.

Of course, there was a huge, and I mean HUGE brouhaha when it was announced Facebook of all companies was buying Oculus, the company that makes the Rift headset, for $2 billion. No one knew why a company like Facebook would want a technology like the Rift, who would want to explore Facebook using VR? Exploring the ocean, or outer space, or a (not so) derelict spaceship, now that sounds more like it. In case you think it is no more than a game system, it is also seeing educational applications on the level of teaching surgeons their techniques, and in one instance allowed a terminally-ill woman experience a place she had always wanted to go (warning: the video in the linked article is touching but very sad).

In what may be a threat to the Rift, out of nowhere came Sony with a product called Project Morpheus that actually looks like it will be just as capable if not more so, and likely released sooner. Plus, it looks cooler, in as much you want to look like the person they never let join Daft Punk.

Here’s a video of Project Morpheus title The Deep:

The huge, and in my opinion very bigly huge problem with Sony’s plan is Morpheus only works with the Playstation 4 (for now) and will require the Sony camera and motion controllers. That seems very limiting in many different ways, but the PS4 sales have been doing well so who knows.

The Rift has a lot of potential, I think it’s one of the main future directions we’ll see technology go, if they would just [expletive deleted] release it already.