Two weeks ago while pursuing the online computer classifieds I came across something I didn’t think I’d see locally for some time, an Oculus VR headset at a reasonable price. After the announcement that Oculus wanted $600 USD for the upcoming consumer version (known as CV1 in the Oculus community) I figured my dreams of trying modern VR were all but washed away, except for maybe the odd industry convention for the foreseeable future. Here are three things that I’ve learned after acquiring and using my Oculus DK1 for more than a week.
#3 The Actual Hardware Is Pretty Easy To Come By
Despite being labelled as a “development kit” the two development kits released to the public for the Oculus Rift – the DK1 and DK2 respectively – have been adopted not only by developers as the current defacto standard for VR but also by a dedicated community of enthusiasts. This shouldn’t be too surprising since the whole thing started out with a momentous KickStarter campaign but to find one locally was a real treat.
For those not wanting to pay the absolutely flooring $600 USD price tag and have a chance to try out VR before the rest of the world – like the tech hipsters some of us are – the opportunity to get a piece of development hardware is hard to pass up. Generally a DK2, that is the second generation development kit that is closer to the final CV1 model will run you about $450 – $600 CDN including shipping if you are buying one online. I got mine locally, and decided to go for the first kit despite it’s bleak future of absolutely no support when it comes to commercial games in a few months so I could save a few bucks. I’ve seen DK1s listed as low as $180 CDN which isn’t so bad to enter the world of virtual reality – just don’t expect any kind of longevity out of your prototype development hardware that is far surpassed by the upcoming consumer model.
#2 Setting Up Your Oculus Rift Can Be A Bit of A DIY Nightmare
After pining over technology like the Oculus Rift for quite a number of years and never having the chance to try VR, with the exception of Google Cardboard which absolutely floored me, I finally had the sleek black development kit in my hands. The big question the moment I brought it home was “will this thing even work on my gaming rig?”.
Before purchasing the Oculus Rift DK1 I knew that my current gaming rig wouldn’t meet the recommended requirements for the CV1. The necessity of a $400+ CDN graphics card – the Geforce 970 – pretty much assured me of that. But before I could even worry about whether or not my games would run at an acceptable pace I had to get the Rift set up properly.
Hardware wise the DK1 (and presumably the DK2) are fairly simple to set-up. The head mounted display usually sits in my nice soft Oculus box while I plug the HDMI connector, single USB cord (2 on the DK2 and 3 on CV1) and power supply into the control unit. After that it should be as simple as flipping the switch and playing some immersive games, right?
Unfortunately not quite, even with the Oculus Runtime (and optional SDK) installed there is no guarantee that your computer will detect your device. I had this issue with Runtime versions 0.8 and 0.7 – both told me that no device was connected and although head tracking worked fine on 0.7 I couldn’t actually change any of the Oculus specific settings like IPD or run the calibration demo.
Once you’ve decided on which games you are going to play with your new shiny Rift you need to know three basic things:
- Does the game I am intending to play have native Oculus support?
- If it doesn’t support Oculus natively does it have SBS 3D (side by side 3D) support built in?
- Does the game have built-in head tracking support?
Once you have the answer to all of these questions you can begin tailoring your Virtual Reality experience to the particular game that you are attempting to play. Most of the time, at least in the week I’ve owned an Oculus, this has meant getting upwards of two or three pieces of software to work in concert to make the Virtual Reality experience more than just a pipe dream or a heap of crashing code.