Oculus Rift: First Impressions

By James Duran

With the Oculus finally launching its first commercial release, the internet’s lit with the fervent as well as the equally predictable naysayers. The long-anticipated headset came from humble roots as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, successfully raising almost ten times its original funding goal of $250,000. While an Oculus Rift will set you back $599 compared to $100 for a Gear VR or a $15 Google cardboard, the Oculus has the added ability to track your movement within a 3D space. 

What exactly does that mean? Users are able to jump, crouch, and tip toe their way through the virtual world using real-life movements: a feature still absent from Gear VR and cardboard devices which rely on split screen smartphone displays viewed through a lens. The Oculus’ superior tech also allows one to turn their head without the disorienting dizziness of Gear VR and cardboard thanks to the headset’s higher refresh rate.

 

Source: Oculus.com

Despite the impressive specifications, Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal wasn’t very impressed having cited glitches with the Oculus’ tracking sensor. “After the novelty wears off, using the 1.5-pound headset is about as awkward as sleeping on an airplane,” says Fowler in his somewhat scathing review.  It’s funny he uses the airplane example because in one of Louis C.K.’s most memorable bits, he goes on to talk about how people describe flying as if they’re on a German cattle car in the ‘40s. Sometimes we take the existence of new tech for granted. “You’re sitting in a chair… In. The. Sky.” Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.

While complaints about the apparent discomfort experienced strapping on a 1.5 pound device seem a bit dramatic, Fowler does raise some valid points about the practicality of such a serious investment for the would-be casual user. The Oculus Rift only runs on premiere, high-end desktop builds, and if you’re a Mac user, forget about it. There is no support for OS X. The specs of the recommended Asus ROG G20CB are pretty ridiculous and the setup will run you $1,449, but the real kicker is the fact that this PC requires not one, but two power cords. 

A casual myself, Google cardboard is pretty wild, letting just about anyone with a smartphone get a taste of VR for themselves. Most media outlets covering the Oculus Rift tend to agree that the tech is simply too pricey. “Oculus Rift is amazing, but you probably shouldn't buy one,” says Lucas Matney of Tech Crunch and “Oculus Rift is the 2016 product you hope your neighbor buys,” says Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. For anyone looking to get a glimpse of the Oculus for themselves, but haven’t the cash to drop, you can always check this mildly creepy stalker map with contact information for Kickstarter backers who opted in. That said, it will probably be a couple more years before a machine with specs capable of handling an Oculus Rift and the tech for the headset itself becomes affordable enough for someone on a budget.