REVIEW – OCULUS RIFT: YOUR CUBICLE WORKSTATION CLASS, TETHERED VR TICKET TO FLIGHTS OF FANCY

REVIEW – OCULUS RIFT: YOUR CUBICLE WORKSTATION CLASS, TETHERED VR TICKET TO FLIGHTS OF FANCY

PROS

·        Impressive visual and spatial audio VR experience

·        Easy set up and configuration for PC gamers & most Windows users

·        Sleek, light, comfortable headset design

·        Compact headset-tracking camera, mountable to PC monitor or pole

·        Well-designed, 3D audio capable integrated headphones

·        Good VR game tech platform that will only get better, especially with the growing portfolio of upcoming Touch controller based games

CONS

·        Expensive price/performance proposition for non-gamers

·        No motion controllers (yet; the 2H.2016 delivery clock ticks)

·        No room-scale VR – cubicle scale, yes

·        Unresolved motion sickness issue for 1/3 to 1/2 of all games

·        No killer title or app; Eve: Valkyrie comes closest to a killer VR game

·        Kludgy wireless Xbox One adapter

·        Oculus Home disappoints on UI design & social networking features

·        Where are the non-game titles – the simulations, apps, productivity tools, and business applications?

VERDICT

Oculus Rift is the best cubicle workstation class virtual reality platform for today’s global community of desktop centric, serious Windows PC gamers.

 

OVERVIEW

Much like an international commercial airliner enables you to travel to other destinations of your vacation dreams and inspired imagination, today’s virtual reality systems are your passenger teleportation system to wonderfully stimulating and highly productive alternate worlds and artificial realities.

Given this analogy, consider the Oculus Rift VR system your cubicle workstation class, tethered VR ticket to flights of fancy.

Whether your powerful gaming PC equipped cubicle workstation is at work or home matters not, as the Oculus Rift cubicle workstation class, tethered VR ticket to ride offers virtually the same astounding VR travel experience in either spatial reality.

Now the Oculus Rift does not offer you the nearly wide-open play and productivity vistas of a rather free roaming, room-scale class tethered VR ticket to flights of fancy as does the HTC Vive VR system.

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The Oculus Rift does, however, offer an otherworldly VR travel experience that is several levels above the visual and audio worldspaces you could encounter this October 2016 with the couch or recliner chair class, short tethered VR tickets to flights of fancy offered by the upcoming Playstation VR unit and your PlayStation 4 (PS4).

Additionally, with the Oculus Rift system, you’re not restricted to the relatively humble graphics chipset driven performance limitations of mobile smartphone class, untethered VR tickets to your flights of fancy, . . . smartphone flights that are way cool, but simply not in the same stunning class of teleported vistas and worldspaces as are offered by high end VR teleportation units such as the Oculus Rift.

Such are 4 of the 5 major product classes of the virtual reality headset devices and accompanying systems presently on the market or coming soon to a private or commercial VR teleport of your choosing.

BTW, in the ex post Marty McFly era launched by the year 2016, it’s really, truly okay now to tell your spouse, parent, sibling, uncle, neice, neighbor, or even your dog or cat or Gizmo, your pet hamster, that the family room or entertainment room, basement, attic, utility room, SoHo office, garage, or back patio is now an ass kickin’ “VR teleport” open for passenger travel and you have an amazingly fun new career as a International Civil Teleportation Organization (ICTO) authorized Flight Controller. It is! Trust me on this. We’re just awaiting on official name approval for ICTO from the yet to be invented United Nations VR ICTO Language Standards Committee (UN-VRICTOLaSC). How’s that for an ugly acronym?

A description of the 5th major class of VR system awaits your return to www.iwearthetech.com where and when an insightful breakdown of a brand new class of VR unit will be presented.

With this in mind, let’s briefly review each of the major issues to consider before you purchase and fire up the revolutionary Oculus Rift teleportation system that can provide you in the years ahead with hundreds of VR travel experiences to flights of fancy well beyond the limits of your current imagination.

PERFORMANCE

Considering the virtually identical display and core hardware specs and high end gamer class PC requirements for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR systems, there are only a few substantive hardware driven performance differences the Oculus Rift offers versus the HTC Vive VR, which is its main high end VR experience competitor.

The residual performance issues to evaluate for your own personal Oculus Rift VR teleportation system are related to the fit of the headset, the comparable accuracy and responsiveness of the headset tracking and positioning system, the 3D spatial audio headphones, the current temporary lack of hand controllers (until later in 2016), and the early programming development status of the entire software platform.

All things considered, the Oculus Rift performs its VR teleportation functions with customer satisfying speed, responsive wire tethered maneuvering in a cubicle workstation sized area, a “buttery smooth” head tracking and visual display experience with very few glitches, pixel, judder, or latency issues to inconvenience your travel experience. The lightweight headset unit enables well reasoned, long duration play and staycation work activities sans substantive neck ache problems, and an overall customer satisfying performance level for high end VR game experiences.

If driven by a powerful gaming PC with a mondo graphics board, the Oculus Rift far surpasses the experience you could get with the PlayStation VR and there is simply no reason whatsoever to compare the Oculus Rift experience to a Google Cardboard platform experience or even something as seemingly successful as the Samsung Gear VR. You just can’t expect the energy efficiency optimized, humble graphics chipset on a smartphone motherboard to compare to a behemoth graphics module that drives a top shelf VR experience on the Oculus Rift.

HEADSET

The Oculus Rift headset sports a sleek and refined industrial design that is lightweight enough to enable consumers to spend hours in the unit with little in the way of residual neck aches or cramps. In terms of appearance, the only better headset industrial design on the VR market belongs to the Sony PlayStation VR headset.

Bare in mind that lightweight head mounted display devices are an essential design element for mitigating against VR nausea. As the years ahead progress in the VR industry, look for all headset designers to focus on using ultra light weight designs that continue down the path of minimizing the head inertia and equilibrium imbalances felt by your body while moving in VR worldspaces.

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Now your family, friends, and colleagues are going to ask you how the darn thing works, and you need a capable drifting rifter answer in your holster ready to fire.

As far as the actual visual display system goes, just be aware that there is one 1080 x 1200 AMOLED smartphone type display fixed inside the headset just a few dozen millimeters from each eye. Most of the early adopter Oculus Rift user community is reporting that the “sceen door effect” problem generated by lower resolution VR displays from previous generations of experimental VR display technologies is not very present at all in most games and apps on the Rift.

Between your eyes and the display are adjustable lenses that when positioned to match the biometric location of your eyes converge your perception into stereoscopic 3D vision.

Just like the HTC Vive VR headset, the Oculus Rift operates at 90Hz, which means that it is refreshing what you see 90 times a second, just fast enough to prevent most cases of nausea at comfortable and moderate levels of VR use.

So you should note the engineering brilliance of the head mounted display unit (HMD). The Oculus Rift “Constellation” system integrates a specialized geometric grid array of several dozen LED lights on the front, sides, and top and bottom of the façade of the HMD. A Webcam with an infrared filter tracks the geometric grid array of small blinking LED lights to computationally track the grid’s movement in time and space.

One of the key innovations Oculus Rift engineered from the earlier development kits was centered on lowering the hear factor for users by covering the HMD and its constellation of LED lights with a breathable black fabric that lets enough light through for LED detection and tracking in 3D space, yet offers users a pleasant experience sans heat build up that can be a problem with other VR HMDs, especially when you’re involved in a mentally and physically demanding game, simulation, or experience.

Lastly, integrated on the left side of the Rift CV1 HMD is a microphone, which supports good, though not great quality pickup.

Overall, there are several elements of this HMD design that speak to the four years of careful research and development by Oculus Rift. Kudos to the industrial designers and tech engineers for blending VRergonomics with cost effectiveness.

FIELD OF VIEW

Another arrow to put into the quiver of your Oculus Rift VR knowledge kit is the topic of “field of view.” With both eyes looking straight forward, the human visual field is about 130 to 135 degrees vertical and 180 to 220 degrees horizontal, depending on which source you consult.

Both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR system headsets present a 110-degree field of view to the user. Try it, you’ll be amazed at what you see.

Enough on that, we’re not trying to school you in optometry.

SPATIAL AUDIO

Bigtime kudos also go to Oculus Rift for figuring out that a 3D spatial audio enabled set of headphones and a rotatable headphone stem apparatus should be integrated into a consumer VR headset. It appears that others have not yet figured this out. Though seemingly underappreciated by the majority of VR techies and consumers, 3D spatial audio is here to stay in a big way in the VR industry and woe be to those headset designers who do not follow Oculus Rift’s lead in this important functional and ergonomics headphone integration matter.

The great thing about the Oculus Rift headphones is that they can be super easily flipped up at a moment’s notice to tend to ‘life interrupted,’ as in answering a phone call or responding to a jealous family member who’s yelling at you from the hallway to finish your VR session so they can have some time in the VR cockpit.

Additionally, Oculus Rift figured out that it’s best to offer the consumer choice, so they engineered their headphones to be plug-n-play interchangeable with many of the consumer market leading sound cans of your choice.

Excellent work, Oculus Rifters!

SOFTWARE PLATFORM

Perhaps the two biggest software platform challenges and issues for Oculus Rift customers are related to the user interfaces of Oculus Home and the entire suite of social networking functions lacking in the Oculus Rift environment and community.

As for the Oculus Home VR interface — which is the VR system equivalent to the home screen or the Windows desktop or the Mac desktop interface — the modernist Japanese-Chinese-Malibu-Miami international fusion style interior design is a good first attempt at a globally acceptable user interface for a VR system. However, it’s quite clear that this suboptimal design will not be the best nor the last time a VR interface is designed for the Oculus Rift. To put it bluntly, it’s very “game-ish” and speaks to a motif and ambience that will not be widely accepted beyond the gamer market.

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For that matter, as a shout out to all VR developers and more importantly to all computer and interior design and architectural design students looking for a future career upgrade, think about how all VR environments of the future will need your brand of value added, specialty artistic sense to augment the traditional UI designers who’ve honed their skillsets to the beat of now conventional tried and true requirements driven by flat screen PC experiences. “Virtual Reality Interior Designer” seems like a pretty mondo attractive business card title to me.

As a shout out to Facebook and Oculus, perhaps hiring a world-class, modernist international interior designer to augment your UI and UX graphics design team might be a great move.

Second, the Oculus Store embedded within the Oculus Home VR environment or home screen offers a good first attempt at a browseable library of some 30 to 40 Rift compatible VR titles, but there are mounting user community criticisms concerning the lack of even modestly second level search functions for the Oculus Store title offerings beyond search functions that depend on knowing beforehand the name of the game or experience title you seek or lustily, yet exhaustively navigating through menu after menu after menu item.

Yes, the Oculus Home and Oculus Store menus are pretty natural, but they are just not yet the sleek, fully fleshed out, and robust interfaces we’ve all come to expect from early 21st century PC and Internet systems. Additionally, Oculus Home is just too busy, with too many things going on in that VR penthouse suite interface to distract the VR user. All you have to do to understand this point is to go to some of the today’s most artfully designed and leading edge Websites to underscore and highlight the UI challenge that Oculus Rift faces to broaden the appeal of their system beyond the gaming community, which if they do not do, spells trouble for Oculus Rift.

Oculus Home is a UI trifecta of game launcher, gamer community, and digital store for VR games. Yet Oculus Rift’s user community seems to be often commenting on the lack of social networking features. They are adamantly requesting title recommendations, rudimentary lists of top selling titles, user-suggested title categories, reviews of games and other titles, including something approaching the VR industry equivalent to the ol’ Siskel and Ebert movie rating system of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on titles, wishlists so common in a not to be named top online ecommerce site, product bundles. Oculus Rift is missing these features and needs to upgrade Oculus Home and Oculus Store bigtime.

More to the point, the Oculus Rift user community is not desperately seeking Susan necessarily, but they are definitely after Oculus Home and Oculus Store social media features such as comparable game player achievement levels and badges of game honor, swappable online trading cards, features above and beyond mere lists of VR friends online, social chat, a way to join another user’s game-in-progress, and a robust developers’ community filled with social media features and benefits that help grow the Oculus Rift platform at large.

Personally, I can express a great measure of disappointment that two full years after the closing of Facebook’s USD2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, more has not been accomplished in both the hardware and firmware, but even more importantly the portfolio of Oculus Rift software.

Clearly, Oculus Rift has a long road to hoe to first match the HTC/Valve Steam VR platform and then surpass it.

The Facebook/Oculus CEO would be well recommended to start immediately bankrolling a major expansion of the Oculus Rift software development and programming team, like next Thursday at the latest. Anyone with elementary knowledge of the IT and software industries can easily conclude that in order for Oculus Rift to catch and surpass HTC/Valve Vive VR’s software environment and community before its too late, many dozens and, more likely several hundred more software developers and programmers are needed on the Oculus Rift team. That’s another one-hundred to two-hundred million dollars in required budget above and beyond what Oculus Rift now has. Either that or several hundred Facebook software engineers need to be posted to the Oculus Rift project a.s.a.p.

Wither way, word to the wise!

Indeed, the very survival of Facebook’s USD2 billion investment in Oculus Rift likely depends on it.

SENSORS

Once again, you’re gonna need some basic blackboard knowledge to convey how these VR sensors work to your family and friends, so let’s drop few dime assists of knowledge into your VR mind.

The headset contains a package with a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope that constitutes the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) of the Oculus Rift.

In general, these virtual reality IMUs are the consumer era grandchildren of the same type of IMUs that were developed for the Polaris missile program and the Apollo space program in the 1960s to help guide the spacecraft through their missions when communications with earth were interrupted.

This IMU does most of the work of tracking where your head is moving in X-Y-Z space per unit of time. The webcam with infrared filter, the sensor that tracks the HMD’s Constellation array of LED lights does precision corrections and refining of the IMU tracking data, sort of the frosting on the cake.

We all know that frosting gets most of the publicity vis a vis life’s desserts. So now you know why the Oculus Rift “Constellation” of LED lights behind the HMD’s breathable black fabric cover gets most of the tracking and positioning press.

TRACKING AREA

Depending on one’s chose comparables, the Oculus Rift offers a tracking area that is roughly about 25% of the tracking are of the HTC Vive VR system. The Oculus Rift offers a tracking area of 1.5 meters by 3.4__ meters and the HTC Vive VR system tracks an grid of roughly 4.6 meters square. Whether or not this Oculus Rift tracking area increases with the addition of the upcoming 2H.2016 GA release of the Oculus Touch hand controllers is up to question.

For now, what these tracking area numbers mean can be gleaned by thinking about the title of this blog. The Oculus Rift is basically a VR experience that is tethered to one’s cubicle workstation PC gaming unit – whether that cubicle is at work, in school, or at your house — whereas the HTC Vive VR unit is a rather free-roaming VR experience that offers 4x the floor space and freedom of movement for exploring an entirely different scale, scope, and variety of more VR games, simulations, and applications.

Think about that for a moment, please. This means that the Oculus Rift offers a wire tethered VR roaming experience area that is just 5% of the area of the conventional 3m x 3m enclosed business office. Is that the long term future of VR?

So other than that limitation, just why is tracking area so important? Two reasons predominate.

First, we must all realize that the entire global information technology industry is constantly on the lookout for new markets and applications that will drive mass market consumer demand for more breakthroughs in R&D and cost efficient mass manufacturing of profitable new IT hardware systems. Industry leaders now realize that the smartphone market is almost played out in terms of market adoption growth rates. What new IT territories are there to grow and conquer such industry leaders must be musing to themselves? What innovation will next drive the always hoped for hypergrowth of the global IT industry?

At this moment in time, when most IT systems are suffering through the malaise of declining profit margins due to global mass manufacturing efficiencies driven by outsourcing to lower capital cost, manufacturing cost, and labor cost markets, the more expensive and thus higher profit margin virtual reality hardware and software systems are a great ticket out of dodge city trouble during the 2016 through 2020 period for dozens of major IT companies and hundreds, more likely thousands tech startups.

This is the main innovation impetus for why the entire global IT industry will be highly motivated to make VR work for all consumers, and for business as well.

In short, the growth of the virtual reality industry has become the proverbial ‘categorical imperative’ for the global IT industry.

Once you understand this megatrend, it helps to transform your entire thought process on why, when, and how you and your family and friends and colleagues choose to jump into the shallow or deep end of the VR pool and jumpstart your control over your own course of innovation and career path self-reliance.

The problem is, that tethered, small floor space and mobile VR systems do not tax the VR processors and graphics chipsets anywhere near as much as do untethered, free-roaming units with upcoming 4k and 8k display units for each eye that are the near- to mid-term future for nexgen VR systems.

Do the math yourself on how truly free-roaming, untethered VR generation 2, 3 or 4 system upgrades using 4k and 8k displays will tax the unit’s graphics chipsets and processors. It’s the key to the kingdom, my friends and colleagues. That’s why industry will work overtime to drive VR home to mama.

A second categorical imperative arrives at your doorstep in the notion that sedentary reality experiences with your posterior in a chair whilst you free roam experience virtual movement in all types of alternative worldspaces will never make much biometric sense to your body, your central nervous system, and your mind.

Do you believe it is just a coincidence that most of the current VR games that involve intense VR player movement inside the VR worldspace or fast VR camera movements, prop movements, platform movements, and character movements, and fast movements in in the peripheral vision areas of the VR headsets are often causing disorientation and nausea with players/users who are merely sitting down during the experience?

The human equilibrium system instinctively knows when it is being fooled. So until a massive technological breakthrough in anti-nausea VR tech comes along, the second categorical imperative of the entire VR industry will be to drive IT techs toward realizing the nexgen of free-roaming, untethered, 4k and 8k and 120Hz to 240Hz (or better) displays that truly tax the multi-core processors, the graphics modules, and the math coprocessors that perform the instantaneous massive calculations required to keep pace with the tracking systems enabled by the inertial measurement units, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers inside the VR headsets of the future.

Now you know the two categorical imperatives on why much more expansive, user satisfying, and perhaps unlimited and untethered tracking areas are so important to the two major stakeholders interested in the growth of the VR industry worldwide, the IT industry players and the consumers and VR users themselves who can enjoy better VR experiences.

Thus, unless Oculus Rift has this path stapled onto their technology and product roadmap with a humungous red milestone marker that signifies to their own executives and internal and external stakeholders just how they are going to topple HTC Vive VR’s considerable headstart lead in the area of expansive tracking area and relative 3D freedom of VR movement that caters quite well to a much larger portfolio of possible VR worldspaces and experiences, then the nexgen future of Oculus Rift is in some measure of serious doubt beyond attaining a minor global VR market share devoted to rather sedentary users who are short tethered to their cubicle workstation class gaming PCs.

POSITIONING

The positional tracking accuracy of your head and headset in time and space is very good with the Oculus Rift. It is just apparently not quite as precise, glitch-free, and ‘buttery smooth’ (a VR industry word you need to know and adopt) as it is with the HTC Vive VR unit.

However, since the Oculus Rift seems to largely cater to the sit down crowd of power-hungry PC gamers who are tethered to a cubicle workstation chair, with only a moderate level of stand up and movement activity, they will not be tether roaming about through more than 4+/- square meters of floor space.

So for most games, simulations, and experiences then, the positioning technology of the Oculus Rift — driven as it also is by its IMU (Inertial Measuring Unit) and the one webcam sensor in the packaged consumer offering and by Oculus Rift titles that are dominated by sit down type cockpit, racer, and platform viewer scnenarios – is more than adequate to the VR task.

That said, it should be clear that if you want a higher level of precise moment in VR, you can do so by adding a second webcam sensor module to augment the positioning accuracy of the IMU and webcam sensor combo, as Oculus Rift presciently engineered this add on capability into the system. Using a tandem of the webcam sensor modules will make a clear and noticeable difference in your VR experience.

CONTROLLERS

Until the Oculus Touch controllers are released for general availability later in 2016, investing in a revolutionary VR platform that uses a functional, but obsolete wireless Xbox One controller and an Apple TV style remote control for menu navigation and video playback control functions as does the current instantiation of the Oculus Rift seems like an unwise expenditure that is better put off until after the Oculus Touch arrives on the scene later this year (CY.2016).

That said, there is a lot of built up excitement in the Oculus Rift community for how the Oculus Touch controllers can turboboost the platform’s VR experiences. One thing seems certain, unless and until a VR player or user is able to see their hands, arms, and legs and some measure of their body, their self image, if you will, the general impression of immersion in the VR world is simply not anywhere near as intense as it could be with those abilities. When you are sitting in a rolling, rotatable chair facing nearly straightforward for most of your VR experience, it puts a damper on how immersed and “present” you actually feel in the worldspace you’ve chosen to visit.

VIRTUAL DESKTOP

Before any game or title purchases, a “virtual desktop” is your first “must have” app within the Oculus Rift VR metaverse (and the same goes for the HTC Vive platform too). These apps live on top of the Windows DirecX (V.11) media layer on your PC to enable you to use your PC’s functions, apps, files, and contents ‘while in the Rift.’ With a virtual desktop app, you can literally access all of your personal computer’s capabilities with your Oculus Rift headset on.

To put it short and sweet, virtual desktops on your PC are your best bet to have a pseudo Minority Report type experience in 2016 through 2018 time frame. If you want that, go for it; you’ll likely not regret it and you’ll probably make a lot of new friends in the process who want to Al Bundy your VR system several times a month while they raid your fridge. Oh the sacrifices VRastronauts make.

If you want to browse the web or watch movies or NetFlix, Hulu, Twitch, or even Crunchyroll, play your own videos, or play non-VR adapted PC games, use a Windows-based application such as Excel or PowerPoint, or even write a report in Word or do some prioritizing for your next few weeks of calendar items, but you just prefer to do any one or all of these things while you’re ‘in the Rift’ with your Oculus Rift VR head mounted display (HMD) on your noggin’, no problem, you’re good to go. You can even watch your favorite YouTube 360-degree videos.

Soon, taking a ‘VR break’ to play Rocket League or Heroes of the Storm or watch a flick for lunch ‘in the rift’ is likely to become a common scene around work or at home.

One of the bigtime benefits of these virtual desktop VR apps is the ability to resize one or more giant screens floating at a customizable virtual distance and angle away from your face while you have your VR headmounted display (HMD) on and active. You can make the screen flat or leave it curved to match the natural curve of your human visual field. You can even set the screen to appear floating above your VR horizon or below.

A transparency function allows you to blend your desktop windows with a VR wallpaper background of your choice, such as a Hubble galaxy image type environment or an estate level home movie theater room. You can also use the environment editor to create your own VR environment (a.k.a. PC wallpaper background) using 360-degree panoramas or rendered models.

Via the photos applet, you can view 360-degree panoramic photos.

And for those of you who are ultimate work or home multitasking PC power users on multi-core chipset steroids, VR virtual desktop function is where you need to spend a good portion of your future computer-aided work and hobby and home improvement time. If you have multiple displays connected to your PC, you can see all of them within a VR virtual desktop by merely scrolling your head and eye gaze from one screen to the next. Sometime in the near future, it just may be the case that many VR early adopters and early majority professionals and consumers may wind up using their headsets as enjoyable, practical, cost saving replacements  or upgrades to their current stash of monitors.

Getting more done in less time is almost always a good thing, unless you’re burning calendars and deleting emails, that is.

With one of these virtual desktop programs, almost anything you can do on a monitor, you can do with your Oculus Rift headset on. The image clarity is quite sufficient to enable reading even small text fonts. And these virtual desktop apps work quite well with many Windows PC applications.

It is, indeed, totally surprising that these programs were not considered sufficiently foundational to be included in the platform development agenda list of either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR as a standardized, core element of the VR experience. How can you invest four years in a revolutionary product and not include a VR web browswer? Sorry, just sayin’.

Ooops – for every platform developer mistake there is a tech startup opportunity. Booyah!

These virtual desktops will even allow you to listen to 360-degree spatial audio and conduct VOIP teleconferences with your friends and colleagues located in various locations.

MilkDrop support for music visualization is enabled on at least one of these VR desktops. For many VR users, the sweet trifecta+ of a VR virtual desktop, Spotify, and the MilkDrop music visualizer plus a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk would be worth the price of Oculus Rift admission to the VR music worldscapes of your dreams.

In this regard, the billion dollar meditation industry would do well to combine MilkDrop music visualization with Spotify and 360-degree panoramas of calming, serene scenery inside an Oculus Rift VR headset environment to boost the ability of people to quickly and deeply swim into and stay in a relaxing, stress free state of mind.

These virtual desktops are indeed a key application innovation for the entire VR industry, since normally, you’d have to take off your Oculus Rift HMD (or HTC Vive VR HMD) in order to do work at your desktop, watch a movie or video, or play a non-VR upgraded game on your PC.

Considering the laptop screen privacy issues on commercial airline flights, don’t be surprised at all to see a major international airline take the leap of faith by custom tweaking and installing a handful of Oculus Rift ready PCs and HMD units in the first class section on transoceanic routes. I can see this as one of the first major business applications of VR – and it’s do-able today.

If Oculus Rift wants to show one bigtime successful and profitable customer adoption and market segment application for how its new VR platform can be used for non-gaming applications in the business world, they would do well to take some of that Facebook acquisition money and use it to budget a tech demo partnership with a multinational airline to introduce this feature.

However, it’s probably not a great idea to offer the first person VR shooter genre, VR racing simulator genre, or VR horror genre of games on today’s airlines lest 250+/- passengers simultaneously feel the urge to go to the bathroom and change clothes after the passenger in window seat 7A screams bloody murder and hurls across the aisle during VR playtime with Eve: Valkyrie or Elite Dangerous only moments after warm cookie time in first class.

The two best programs at this time appear to be Virtual Desktop and BigScreen. Check ‘em out either before your make your VR buy or five minutes after you open the Oculus Rift box. Either way, you won’t be sorry and a VR virtual desktop may just push your purchase decision and VR customer satisfaction rating way over the top to the 110% win-win category for you, your bank account, and your personal and family return on investment.

Now it’s quite likely the case that you won’t be using VR virtual desktop PC mode 8 hours a day, lest your over-stimulated and strained eyes pop out like a ridiculous Judge Doom character in Who Famed Roger Rabbit. A couple of hours a day of power user multi-tasking VR virtual desktop PC work or home hobby activity could very well be the right level of use to ramp up your weekly productivity by a helpful and not unhealthy margin for you and your family.

In any case, virtual desktops for VR systems are likely to be the unsung hero of this revolutionary consumer technology platform.

TITLES: Comfortable, Moderate, and Intense Ratings

Providing a complete list of the 30 to 40 some odd game and experience titles you can buy and play on the Oculus Rift is a bit like reading the list of first run movies you can see at the theater any given weekend. There are always a bunch of movies that you simply have no interest in spending money on, let alone ever seeing on streamed video or TV a year or two later. If you like horror movies, you go see horror movies, . . . comedy movies, same thing.

The Oculus Rift titles are, for the most part, longer and more richly developed titles than those available on the HTC Vive VR platform, but given the diversity of titles, you’ll likely focus your interest on less than a dozen titles. Most of them are priced in the 5 bucks to 10 bucks class, while some of the sportier games can be purchased for USD40 or USD50.

Now when you go to the movies, you always see the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) film-rating system advisory just before the movie starts. Oculus Rift employs a similar mechanism, with “Comfortable,” “Moderate,” and “Intense” ratings for VR games, simulations, and experiences.

These ratings provide guidance on the propensity of the title to cause VR disorientation and nausea to the average person.

Intuitively, you already realize the Comfortable rating is sort of the “G” and “PG” MPAA rating equivalent. The Moderate rating is the PG-13 type of rating. The Intense rating for VR titles pretty much equates to the “R” and “NC-17” ratings of the MPAA.

The best thing to do then — if you’ve got the “I want an Oculus Rift VR system, but I don’t know what titles I want to play and experience” bug up your sleeve — is to figure out your “comfort level” with virtual reality systems, games, simulations, and experiences by tagging a friend who has a VR system, trade something of value or depend wholly on their humanitarian virtues, and piggyback some otherwise unused time off their system to try out several titles in each ratings category.

In every case, be sensitive to the immortal words of Clint Eastwood’s character, Dirty Harry: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

In the following statement, Oculus Rift recommends that “users who are new to VR ease into it with content that is rated “Comfortable.”” As such, we offer a trifecta or quadfecta of titles for you to try in each rating category, starting with the Comfortable titles. Dirty Harry might go for broke and start with the Intense titles, but you should not.

In a coming blog, we’ll offer some evaluations of most of these games and experiences.

Comfortable:

·        Chronos

·        Darknet

·        Pinball FX2 VR

Moderate:

·        Smashing the Battle

·        Lucky’s Tale

·        BlazeRush

·        The Climb

Intense:

·        Adrift

·        Elite Dangerous: Deluxe Edition

·        Eve: Valkyrie

In all of your consumer research and experimentation in preparation for your decision to purchase or wait, be aware of the following. Playing Moderate to Intense rated VR games, simulations, experiences, and applications can be very active, taxing on your mind and body, and exhausting. Combine common sense with your enthusiasm to dive into this new VR user environment. And remember the cautionary note that today’s VR systems are only recommended for those aged 13 and older.

SPECIFICATIONS

Except for the headset tracking webcamera and Constellation mechanisms and the hand controller issue, the core hardware specifications for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are almost identical. Oculus, for one, recommends an Intel i5-4590 or better CPU and an Nvidia GTX 970 (preferably a 980) or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better graphics/video card, and three USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port.

One notable difference is that the Oculus Rift requires 8GB of RAM on your PC while the HTC Vive requires just 4GB.

All this serves to underscore the notion that you should not wade into the VR pool unless you have a top shelf, high powered gamer type PC. For those of you who desire to take the leap, but lack such a PC, there are a number of “Oculus Ready” certified PCs you can buy.

SET UP, CONFIGURATION, AND CALIBRATION

The set up, system configuration, and calibration for the Oculus Rift is impressively polished and efficient. For those consumers and users who are hyper sensitive to set up gerbils and glitches and are tentative about a VR system set up in your crib, don’t worry about that with the Oculus Rift. It’s a surprisingly easy gig. Hey, there are even sensors inside the headset that know when you put it on and the Rift’s OS perks up right away to get you going on your VR travel experiences.

To perform a trouble free set up once the Oculus Rift arrives, you’ll need the following required and recommended elements in place:

Required:

·        Windows 7 (64-bit) with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 PC

·        2x USB 3.0 ports

·        1x USB 2.0 port

·        1x HDMI 1.3 port

·        2+ GB of space on your C drive

Recommended:

·        Windows 10 PC

·        8GB of RAM on your PC

·        Graphic Card: Go to the Oculus Rift “Graphics Card compatibility” website page for a complete list; you can check your PC’s graphics card via the Windows DirectX Diagnostic Tool

·        100+ GB of available storage on your C drive

·        Swivel chair with swivel casters w/ wheels

·        2m x 2m of floor space

·        1x carabiner clip and 1x cable holder for cable management

Given these requirements, please note that a number of users are reporting issues with USB ports and graphics cards that do not work with the Oculus Rift. Recall the old construction industry term, “measure twice and cut once” before you buy a VR unit. Make sure that your Oculus Rift will work with a PC that presents all the necessary ports, interfaces, CPU, graphics card, and RAM, minimums.

PRICING, PACKAGED CONTENTS, AND AVAILABILITY

The MSRP for the Oculus Rift is USD599 and is available now to order. It offers a one year warranty.

For this, you get the following items:

·        Oculus Rift headset + Quick Start Guide (plus a 4m long Cable that splits off into USB and HDMI terminator connections)

·        Webcamera Tracking Sensor + Pedestal Stand (w/ 2.5m cable the provides power and data flow via a USB port)

·        Power, HDMI, and USB cable/s

·        Oculus Remote (w/ battery integrated) for making selections inside the Oculus VR environment

·        Wireless Xbox One gamepad

·        Wireless Xbox one receiver/adapter dongle + Instructions

·        2x AA Batteries for Xbox One gamepad

·        Tool for Removal of the Integrated Headphones

·        Oculus Lens Wipe Cloth

·        2x oculus Logo Stickers

THE ASSESSMENT & VERDICT

The most pragmatic assessment to make about the promise of the Oculus Rift is that it is what it has almost always been perceived to be for four (4) years now, a premium VR gaming experience peripheral for their target customer set, the desktop workstation centric, serious PC gaming community.

The hard part to decipher is just how quickly and how well Oculus Rift’s development community can bring to market a game changing portfolio of compellingly entertaining games, simulations, and experiences, high productivity consumer applications, and profitable new ways of doing business for many different industries. In this regard, Oculus Rift’s decision to focus on building out its own, rather exclusive development platform, ecosystem, and social community rather than completely open it up seems to present one of the ‘win or go home’ questions for the next 18 to 24 months.

One last little drama to watch as VR platforms such as Oculus Rift rollout is how the issue of VR simulation sickness is either resolved with a real breakthrough technology or if the industry will forever be irrelevant to a significant and perhaps decisive minority of the PC, consumer electronics, games, and business applications segments of the global marketplace. Certainly it seems that as long as Oculus Rift needs to openly rate its games according to their tendency to stimulate motion sickness, the VR industry will have problems widening its audience to mass-market appeal beyond the serious PC gamer market.

In recent comments, Valve CEO, Gabe Newell stated that the problem of VR sickness is “non-existent.” As much of a fan of VR as I am for its potential contributions to our socio-economic systems — in well reasoned proportions each day, week, and at the appropriate ages and circumstances — I for one would appreciate knowing if such a statement soon will be validated by reputable third party scientific and medical organizations as anything other than what used to be called, “balderdash.”

If I were Valve’s CEO and I really believed that statement, I’d put several million HTC & Valve bucks into funding a slew of such third party scientific and biomedical studies. Until then, my virtual self hails from the “show me” state of Missouri. Who knows, Gabe, you might just strike gold from them there findings and figure out a way to really pitstop VR disorientation and nausea. Until then . . . .

Ooops, stop the bus — such an innovation appears to be waiting on the side of the road to VRalhalla. Stay tuned for another upcoming VR review on this innovation that could really break the industry wide open for everyone, nauseous nellies included.

Ultimately, Oculus Rift and its owner, Facebook may have to ask themselves if that serious PC gamer community is profitable enough to enable Oculus Rift to survive and thrive in the long run.

Meanwhile, your cubicle workstation class, tethered VR ticket to flights of fancy via the Oculus Rift and a high end gaming PC are taxiing down runway niner L in anticipation of your flights of fancy takeoff to deliciously vibrant and exhilarating worldspaces yet explored.

In sum, the verdict on the Oculus Rift depends on you, who you are amongst the universe of potential VR consumers.

If you are an existing or emerging enthusiast for the future of the virtual reality industry, then you could do much worse than buy an Oculus Rift now, get VR wet and experienced, and then purchase the Oculus Touch controllers later this year so that you can upgrade your experiences and really turboboost your level of enjoyment and exploration. If you don’t get in the pool early, you’re missing half the fun of this emerging growth industry and its many pregnant opportunities for you to help birth with your own creativity and ingenuity.

If you are a serious gamer, you normally spend most of your time at your cubicle workstation PC, and your want to dive into VR, then the Oculus Rift is your obvious choice for now, and just buy the Oculus Touch controllers later.

If you are an IT, PC, and consumer electronics experienced average consumer and you are intrigued by the promise of VR experiences that you can leverage for fun and profit for both you and your family, then test out the many mobile VR headsets and tiles and experiences that cater to the Google Cardboard crowd. If you like the waters you’ve tested, you can upgrade to an Oculus Rift or other high end VR system later.

In my considered opinion, virtual reality is very much like scuba diving, even down to the similarity between a scuba mask and a VR headset. You can never really truly comprehend the ginormous wonder of earth oceans unless you learn to scuba dive and individually transit (using the buddy system, of course) those new otherworldly worldscapes yourself. A large measure of the ability to appreciate the diversity of awesomeness, preciousness, and fragility of earth’s oceans nearly 100% depends on exploring it personally.

The world of Oculus Rift and the entire VR industry awaits your exploration. You deserve a little extra fun and adventure this year and next. Treat yourself. Dive into the shallow end and learn how to swim and scuba dive in the VR worldscapes that await you.

Your Oculus Rift VR teleporter to new worldspaces is available now, at an MSRP of USD599, just one year after that 2015 Marty McFly moment in time.

Aint’ that a kick on the ol’ superconducting electromagnetic hoverboard!

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