A friend of mine invited me to check out his Oculus Rift dev kit last night.

I’ve heard a lot about it, and read articles, but like any physical accessory, you can’t really understand what it’s about until you’ve had a chance to experience it for yourself.

I sat down at my friend’s computer as he handed me the tech. It’s a sizable headseat that you strap on your head, and once fitter, he suggested that I close my eyes to really experience the full effect. Once the program ran, he told me to open my eyes.

My first impression was that you need a rotating chair to play with this. The visuals literally become your eyes. You can look up,down, and all around you in a full 360 view, and it’s unlike any other VR headset I’ve seen in that regard.

I watched a few demos of what Oculus Rift can do: One of the demos looked like a Windows screensaver on steroids as the rendered, jagged white balls slowly cruised past me. As they passed, I could look up and see them float past me, then turn around and watch the same ball pass into the distance. Other demos had me floating through psychedelic tunnels, while others had me ride on a medieval rollercoaster. The first drop, being able to look over the edge to see over both sides and straight down, gave me that twinge I get when riding a rollercoaster, especially considering that the in-game footage is all you see. Nothing else from the outside world provides a distraction.

Other demos included rides in a space ship through the solar system. To the left and right of me were control panels. If I looked down, I could see my legs and body in my spacesuit. If I looked behind me, I could see my suit’s collar. It’s a shame that part couldn’t animate, but the proportions were correct.

The final program I tried was a lunar lander simulation. This one, I felt like I really was in the pod as I launched and (unsuccessfully) tried to land my craft. I hit something, and my craft started spinning wildly out of control. Looking around, I could only see the game world, so the experience felt disorienting, but very immersive.

I had a few further thoughts on my overall experience. A keyboard is too difficult (for me) to play with on the grounds that if you ever lost your place on the keyboard, it makes control difficult. A controller is better, but doesn’t do the experience justice. Motion control would work very well here, though I’ve seen controller that simulate hands, and even a treadmill to actually walk around.

This would be excellent for already established games. Half Life 2 is already up and running, but games like Skyrim, Doom, Fallout, Left 4 Dead, and even Myst would be incredible experiences. And, however unlikely, the Metroid Prime series would have been incredible on this. Put unless it becomes a console accessory, I don’t see Samus’ adventures happening that way.

Overall, the technology is very impressive, and I would love to really sit down and try out a fully realized game with it. If you ever get a chance to test it out, definitely try one. I will be very interested to see where developers take this.

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