With the end of the electronics show CES in Las Vegas, it’s time for a conclusion: among all the gadgets, TVs, cameras, smartphones and hi-fi devices, only one device stood out so far from the crowd that it has potential for a real super hit: the 3-D virtual reality glasses Oculus Rift.
It creates the illusion of a virtual world with a high-resolution display and a system of lenses. Thanks to a field of view of 110 degrees, the user no longer perceives the images shown as a screen, but feels transported into the 3-D world.
The inventors of the start-up Oculus showed their latest prototype, called Crystal Cove, in an inconspicuous back room on the edge of the trade fair – but tech journalists, analysts, game developers and investors held hands there.
The Oculus Rift is not completely new: Already at CES 2013 and at the Gamescom game fair in Cologne in autumn, far advanced prototypes were on display, since the start in 2013, the Oculus makers have sold 50,000 developer kits.
But Crystal Cove solves almost all the problems that plagued its predecessors: thanks to an OLED display, the glasses work almost without delay, the image is sharp and bright.
But the real innovation is a dozen LEDs on the outer housing of the glasses. With its help, a small camera tracks the user’s head movements relative to the virtual image horizon. What sounds so dry in theory completely amazes in practice.
If you put on the glasses, you will immediately find yourself in a virtual world and can look around in it. The illusion is perfect thanks to the head tracker. In a space simulation specially programmed for the Oculus, the simulation of the field of view of a pilot in the cockpit is so good that you involuntarily want to reach for the virtual controls.
If you tilt your head forward, you can see the legs and feet of the pilot, if you look behind you, the roof of the glass pulpit and the space behind it come into view.
By tracking the HD image, the user can freely look around in virtual reality. “Since no delay disturbs the illusion, the user’s brain accepts virtual reality as real,” explains Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey.
He is right: in the test, no blur effects or disassociations between head movement and image disturb the illusion. No technology before has the potential to throw players into a virtual world as seamlessly as the Rift. You almost want to interrupt Luckey and say, ” Ok, shut up and take my money, bought.“
But the Oculus Rift is not yet on the market. The new prototype looks much closer to series production than previous models, but it also has potential for improvements: The inventors want the 1080p display to be even more high-resolution, the new outer shell with the LEDs is still too fragile, the lenses should be even more distortion-free.
The Oculus creators hope to be able to show a prototype close to series production by the time of the Gamescom games fair in autumn.
Thanks to the broad support of programmers – no start-up has been able to sell 50,000 developer kits before-there should be enough suitable content ready for launch. Among other things, the Oculus Rift is supported by Doom inventor and game developer John Cormack, as well as the creators of the space game EVE online.
But in order for as many games as possible to support the device in the long term, so many players must use the Oculus that the development of new, specific content for game developers is worthwhile. This goal can only be achieved if the glasses remain affordable. Oculus is therefore targeting a price of less than 300 euros.
They already have the capital for the series launch: In a financing round at the end of 2013, they received $ 75 million in capital from the Silicon Valley investment firm Andreesen Horovitz-an accolade for the project, which had raised $ 2.4 million on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2012, but has since disappointed several times due to delays.
“We believe that Oculus will not only change the gaming landscape, but can also fundamentally enable new experiences in areas such as film, education, architecture and design,” commented investor Marc Andreessen on his commitment. The man could be right.
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