Tag Archives: Oculus Rift

christmas

Guide to Virtual Reality Gifts

Virtual reality (VR) is shaping up to be one of the most popular gifts for Christmas 2016.  VR is new medium that offers a wide range of immersive experiences unlike anything else.

It’s one of those experiences you really have to try to believe.  It’s fun to share with the whole family and can be enjoyed by everyone!

About this VR Guide

This guide is to help people unfamiliar with VR, whether they’re parents or just someone who’s curious.  The goal is to provide a well rounded explanation of VR systems available and not to get bogged down in technical specs.

The guide covers the VR systems available, has advice on what VR to buy, and has recommendations for the VR system that will be the best fit.

Is VR Safe?

VR Safety

VR is a relatively safe experience. The number one complaint is motion sickness or nausea with some experiences.  Sometimes moving images in the headset can cause a feeling of disorientation or a loss of balance.

Wearing a headset also prevents users from seeing obstacles in the room.  Bumps and collisions into furniture, walls, or TVs can happen so it’s important to clear your VR space of any clutter before you start.

Most headsets also have an age limit to protect young eyes.  Oculus recommends users be 13 or older, PlayStation VR has a recommendation of 12.  Younger users may experience eye strain when focusing on a small screen that’s close to their face.  Short breaks are recommended for everyone to reduce eye strain.

Will VR Give me a Workout?

VR Workout

Surprisingly yes!  The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift will have you on your feet dancing around and dodging enemies.  You’d be surprised at how much work it is!  It’s easy to get your heart rate elevated while moving your feet and waving controllers around.  The headset is still tethered to a PC so you won’t quite be running circles around the room but some experiences will still be very active.

The Gear VR is best enjoyed when seated and promotes less movement.  The PS VR will have you on your feet but won’t let you move too much or stray too far from your TV.

 

GearVR

GearVR

What is GearVR?

GearVR is a VR system that uses a Samsung cell phone with a headset to create a VR experience.  The cell phone mounts in a headset to act as the screen and the phone software takes over to create the VR experience.

Oculus partnered with Samsung to create the system so you have a combination of great hardware, great software, and excellent content.  If you’ve ever tried Google Cardboard this is easily 10 times better.

The best thing about the GearVR is that it’s 100% mobile.  You’re not tied to a computer so you can use it anywhere – on a plane, on vacation, or on your couch.

The downside is that any phone is slow when compared to a computer so VR experiences are good but won’t match higher end systems such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Who is GearVR for?

Anyone who wants a VR experience they take anywhere  or anyone who already has a Samsung Galaxy phone. It’s great for frequent fliers who want to enjoy movies on planes.

The GearVR has a broad appeal because it allows anyone with a Samsung phone to easily try VR if they’re curious.

GearVR is compatible with the following Samsung Galaxy phones:

Content Available on the GearVR

Gear VR has an excellent library of games and apps!  It’s amazing how well games run on the GearVR, you’ll be surprised!

  • Netflix
  • Minecraft
  • Oculus Arcade
  • And much more!

What to Buy for the GearVR

PlayStation VR

psvr

 What is PlayStation VR?

PlayStation VR is a VR headset that works with the PlayStation 4.  It has great games, great visuals, and almost all of the features as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.  A camera is used to track the illuminated headset and controllers to allow for a wide range of motion.

The PlayStaion VR has great support by Sony and many game developers.  It has some of the best content available and is a great fit for any home or family.

Who is PlayStation VR for?

PlayStation VR is prefect for anyone who already has a PlayStation 4.  The VR headset builds on the PlayStation 4 by adding touch controllers, a camera, and a VR processing unit.

It’s easy to setup and great for families to share.  This is your best VR option for anyone who wants to try VR.  It’s easily approachable, provides an amazing VR experience, and is inexpensive when compared to the top of the line VR systems.

Content Available on the PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR has some of the best games and experiences available.  An amazing demo disc is included with the system to give you a taste of what’s possible.

What to Buy for the PlayStation VR

Oculus Rift

Rift with Camera

What is Oculus Rift?

The Oculus Rift the “original” VR headset that has jump started the recent VR craze and attracted competitors.  It is a high-end VR headset that requires a powerful computer for it to work.  It is arguably the best designed headset available with the best visuals and headphones that are built in.

The Oculus Rift originally launched with a hand held controller for playing games which was a bit limiting for VR.  They are working on hand held motion controllers that will be launched soon.  The system uses a camera to track the headset and will require additional cameras to track the controllers.

Oculus has partnered with many software developers to create a great library of content and games.  Some of the best VR experiences are only available on the Rift.

Who is  Oculus Rift for?

Oculus Rift is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best-looking VR experience. The Oculus Rift has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The Oculus Rift is a little technical to setup but users are guided through the experience by the software.  The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.  Oculus makes it easy to check your PC with a compatibility tool.

Motion tracked controllers aren’t immediately available for the Rift but they are launching soon.  If you want a more complete and immersive VR experience immediately then you may want to consider the HTC Vive.

Content Available on the Oculus Rift

  • Minecraft
  • EVE: Valkyrie
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Project Cars
  • Dirt Rally

What to buy for the Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

What is HTC Vive?

The HTC Vive is a powerful VR headset that is a competitor to the Oculus Rift.  It requires a powerful computer to work but has the most immersive VR experience available today.

The HTC Vive includes motion tracked controllers and allows users to have a “room-scale” experience where they can walk around and experience VR in 360°.   A laser-tracking system called Lighthouse tracks the headset and controllers.

The HTC Vive has a huge advantage over the Oculus Rift because the Rift doesn’t allow users to walk around in VR like the Vive.  Oculus is offering this option as an upgrade in the future.

The Vive works with Steam software and has many great games and experiences available. Many of the games available for the Oculus Rift are also available on the HTC Vive.

Who is  HTC Vive for?

HTC Vive is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best and most immersive VR experience available. Motion tracked controllers and room scale experiences are available right out of the box. The HTC Vive has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The HTC Vive is the most technical system to setup with many parts included. The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.

Content Available on the HTC Vive

  • Minecraft
  • The Lab
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Space Pirate Trainer

What to buy for the HTC Vive

VR Recommendations

What’s the best VR system for someone who’s curious about VR?

Consider trying Google Carboard which will use a standard smartphone.  A better experience would be the GearVR although it may be pricey unless you have the correct Galaxy phone.

If you already have a PlayStation 4 you may want to consider PlayStation VR.

What’s the best VR system for families?

The PlayStation VR is probably the best fit for a family because it’s easy to use, easily shared, and works off of a PlayStation 4.

What’s the best VR system for gamers?

Serious gamers are going to be the most interested in the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive because of the performance available from either of these systems.  HTC Vive may have better game support since it is well integrated with the Steam library.

What’s the best VR system for kids?

There are concerns about young children using VR but the PlayStation VR is probably the best bet for older kids.

What’s the best VR system for adults?

The HTC Vive or Oculus Rift will offer the best VR experiences out there although each system will be somewhat complex to setup and use.

What’s the best VR system available?

The HTC Vive currently offers the most immersive and enjoyable VR experience with its room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.  Oculus is working to match the Vive’s capabilities but isn’t quite there yet.

What’s the most immersive VR system available?

The HTC Vive is the only system to currently offer room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.

What VR system has the best graphics?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both offer excellent graphics through the use of a powerful gaming PC but the Oculus Rift has a slight edge in screen and optics.

What’s the most expensive VR system?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are both pricey options considering you need a powerful computer to go along with each system.  The HTC Vive is the most expensive as a single product but the Oculus Rift will be more expensive if you factor in the cost of the headset plus the additional touch controllers.

Rift Banner

Building the Rift PC

If you were waiting months and months to build a Rift PC now is the time to start ordering parts.  CV1 is officially on the horizon! Oculus has released the official recommended specs for the PC hardware to power the Rift.  This is a smart move as it standardizes the experience for developers and end users.

Surprisingly my generic VR PC build was very close to the recommended specs.  This build will focus on the recommended Oculus requirements and provide you with the exact parts you need.  The goal was to build a capable PC with quality components that would meet the specs without greatly exceeding them.  I also made some decisions in order to make future expansion or upgrades easier.

The big question for most people will be, “What specific components are best for the Rift?” It can be hard to mix and match parts to find the right combination.  Here is what I would recommend:

Intel i5 CPU

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4590K – Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  Also consider the  Intel Core i5-4690K which slightly exceeds the recommended spec.  Note that this includes its own cooler and fan, nothing else is required here!

PNY GTX 960 GPU

Graphics CardEVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – Good performance for the price, EVGA makes a great card.   It’s great that Oculus set a fixed GPU bar for the Rift, just keep in mind that one day this may need to get replaced.

MSI Motherboard

MotherboardMSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 – supports Z97, modern and inexpensive.  (2) USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and will support upgrades over the life of the PC.  Great BIOS screen for easy setup.

Kingston RAM

MemoryKingston HyperX Blu 8GB 1600MHz 240-pin DDR3 – A single stick of 8GB will leave room for expansion.  I would recommend two sticks right off the bat for 16GB but this is an easy upgrade in the future.

Samsung SSD

StorageSamsung SSD 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III – Solid state drive for the OS. Also consider a  3.5 SATA disk for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

Corsair Case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice clean case that is solid and inexpensive. Beautiful with plenty of quiet cooling.

Power SupplyRosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 – Decent power supply to support future upgrades

OS - Windows 7 64-bit OEM – The old standard here, I prefer it over Windows 8

The RiftOculus Rift – Available directly from Amazon

This should be everything you need to put together the perfect Rift PC with upgrade potential.  Budget versions of this are possible but this PC is a quality build for the Rift.  I included Amazon links for everything and recommend them for their Prime shipping and ease of exchanges.

Here is the complete list with totals:

Component Link Price
Processor Intel Core i5-4590K $199
Graphics Card PNY NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 $320
Motherboard MSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 $85
Memory Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB 240-pin DDR3 $104
Storage Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch $78
Case Corsair Carbide Series 200R $66
Power Supply  Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 $70
OS Windows 7 64-bit OEM $135
Total  $1057

Never built a PC before?  It’s easier than you think – everything snaps together.  I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.

 

rift_fox

Building a Budget Rift PC

As the release of the Rift draws closer I thought it would be a good idea to put together a budget Rift build.  There is a lot talk online about the steep price to buy into VR since many people will need to purchase a new PC in addition to  the Rift headset.  Oculus has published a set of official recommended specs as a guide map for any PC build but the question still remains:

“What is the cheapest PC I can build for the Rift?”

I thought it would be possible to build an Oculus PC under $1000 and cheaper than a premade “Oculus Ready” PC. It can be hard to mix and match parts to find the right combination. but here is what I would recommend:

Component Link Price
Processor  Intel Core i5-4590K $199
Graphics Card  EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 $335
Motherboard  MSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 $95
Memory  Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB Kit $38
Storage  ADATA SP600 2.5-Inch 64 GB SATA III $35
Case  Rosewill ATX Galaxy Case $48
Power Supply  EVGA 500W $35
Total  $785

This covers the bare minimum for the PC but you may need some additional items if you don’t already have them:

Component Link Price
OS Windows 10 Home – USB Drive $120
Monitor Acer S220HQL Abd 21.5-Inch LCD $100
Keyboard and Mouse LED CM Storm Devastator $30
Total  $250

My previous Rift PC Build slightly exceeded the recommenced specs by using a few higher end components and was built to support some future upgrades.  I wanted to shoot for the lowest price components to deliver the most inexpensive Rift build possible.

The selection process was straightforward since Oculus’s recommended specs already have the CPU and graphics card already selected – I only needed to find the supporting components.

Two key decisions I made were eliminating an optical drive to save money and the inclusion of a SSD over a regular hard drive for performance reasons.  Physical media is almost dead and if you’re building a new PC you should have a SSD otherwise you’re selling yourself short.

Here are the components and a few details about the selection process.

Intel i5 CPU

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4590K – This is the minimum Oculus recommended processor so no options here.  It’s a Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  Note that this includes its own cooler, fan, and thermal paste – nothing else is required here!

EVGA GTX 970 GPU

Graphics CardEVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – This is the minimum recommended chip set from Oculus and the most inexpensive card that has it.  Great performance for the price and EVGA is a quality manufacturer.

MSI Motherboard

MotherboardMSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 – supports Z97, modern and inexpensive.  (2) USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and has an awesome BIOS screen for easy setup.

Crucial RAM 8 GB

Memory – Crucial Ballistix Sport XT 8GB Kit – Two sticks of 4GB RAM to meet the minimum requirements.  Nothing special here but it does look cool!

ADATA SSD

Storage – ADATA SP600 2.5-Inch 64 GB SATA III – Solid state drive for the OS.  It’s on the small side at 64 GB but it will make the entire system snappy.  Consider a  3.5 SATA expansion disk for game storage.

Rosewill Case

Case – Rosewill ATX Galaxy Case – Nice inexpensive case with plenty of room inside. I don’t think this is winning any style awards but it fits the bill and Rosewill makes quality products.

Power SupplyEVGA 500W – Inexpensive but well made power supply, plenty of juice to go around.

OS - Windows 10 Home – USB Drive – The new standard here, shipped on a USB drive for easy installation.

Monitor – Acer S220HQL Abd 21.5-Inch LCD - Inexpensive LED monitor that’s great for gaming for when you’re not wearing the Rift.

Keyboard and MouseLED CM Storm Devastator – A nice combo to go with this PC, the back lit keyboard is a nice touch

This should be everything you need to put together an inexpensive Rift PC. I included Amazon links for everything as they have competitive prices and I recommend them for their Prime shipping and ease of exchanges.

Never built a PC before?  It’s easier than you think – everything snaps together.  I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.

 

Headphones for the Rift

Headphones are preferred for the Oculus Rift as they provide a much more immersive experience than speakers.  There are many wired headphones that will work well with the Rift but one of the key requirements is comfort.  Wireless headphones may be preferred to eliminate the inevitable tangle of wires when wearing and storing them with the Rift.  Latency is a concern with wireless headphones and most Bluetooth headphones introduce a noticeable amount.

Here are my two picks for headphones.  The wired Audio Technica set is comfortable and the cord can be disconnected at the ear to make untangling wires much easier.  The Sennheiser wireless set is rechargeable and uses a digital signal to eliminate any interference. I’m personally using an older pair of the Sennheisers, the RS140 model that has been discontinued.

Wired: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Wireless:  Sennheiser RS 160

Limitations of the Oculus Rift

Over the last few months I’ve heard nothing but praise sung for the Oculus Rift.  More recently while I have ramped up my research I’ve found the most common complaint regarding the Oculus is the limited “draw distance” due to the low resolution of the display.  Anything in VR that is of a great distance from the viewer will be a challenge to display with the current Oculus technology, including DK2 and CV1.

The issue isn’t actually draw distance in a traditional sense.  Your PC is theoretically able to draw an object at any distance whether it be two feet or two miles.  The challenge is displaying that object on a screen at a given resolution.  The clear lines your PC sees must be broken up and represented by individual pixels.  The more pixels, the more clarity for displaying your object.

I lack the knowledge and effort to really give this explanation justice but the Oculus struggles with “draw distance” because it is forced to use half of the normal screen real estate to display an image.  A normal image displayed on a monitor will take up the entire screen.  To display a stereoscopic image you need two slightly different copies of that same image, one for each eye.  That’s fine if you can display those stereoscopic images individually on separate monitors.  But if you want to display those images side by side on one screen (like the Oculus does) then you need to squeeze each image to fit both of them on screen.  All of a sudden you’re using half a screen to display a full screen image and your using less pixels per eye.

With fewer pixels objects lose clarity.  This is especially true for objects that are farther away from the viewer.  An object that is displayed with clarity and definition in a full screen image may be reduced to a smudge of pixels in VR. Anything of great distance from the viewer will be a challenge to display in VR.

This problem can be explained and understood much better than I could ever articulate with an interactive visual demo.  Luckily I was able to find one:

The Oculus Rift Simulator

To see the resolution and draw distance limitation issue illustrated, focus at a point on the map and switch between the available resolutions.  Notice how much of an impact this has on text.  We should be happy that everything from here on out will be an improvement on DK1. DK2 and CV1 look comparable.  4K is obviously where this technology is headed but will be further down the road.  Available 4K displays need to drop in price and rendering smoothly at 4K will massively tax current PC hardware.

Note that I’ve read complaints about the above simulator regarding the fact that it doesn’t accurately represent the pentile pixel arrangement of future displays.  This is a minor quibble with a great demo.

DK2 Shipping Update

Yesterday Oculus community manager cybereality released a statement regarding the shipment of DK2.

Via Oculus’s forums and reddit:

The first batch of official DK2s have left the manufacturing facility and are making their way to our distribution centers now. We expect to ship roughly 10,000 DK2s from the factory in July, with just over half of the units through distribution centers and on their way to doorsteps before the end of the month. The very first units are expected to reach developers the week of July 14th. Tracking numbers for all DK2s will be generated as soon as the shipment has been processed by a distribution center.

Please take a moment to confirm that your shipping address is up to date via the Oculus Sales page (https://www.oculusvr.com/sales/). We’ll ship to the address on file, and if the information is incorrect, it may cause delivery delays. In the event that your payment information is no longer valid, you’ll receive an email prior to shipment with instructions on how to complete your payment.

We’re now over 45,000 DK2 pre-orders, which is incredibly exciting. That said, we’re slightly behind in manufacturing and there’s currently a high chance that some developers with estimated shipping in July may not have their DK2s shipped until August. We have a team in China working on continued ramp of production at our factory, and we’ll work our way through the queue as fast as we can.

Once your Development Kit 2 is ready for shipment, you’ll receive an email with a tracking number which can be used to see an estimated delivery date. Please do not contact Oculus support asking for a shipping estimate, as we do not know the status of your package until a tracking number has been generated.

We’ll continue to post status updates, so everyone can stay current on what’s going on behind the scenes. Thanks again for your continued support, and we hope everyone is excited to be begin working with DK2!

So it sounds like my DK2 will be pushed into fall, hopefully I’ll see it sometime in September.

The very first line of this statement is interesting:

The first batch of official DK2s have left the manufacturing facility and are making their way to our distribution centers now.

EDIT:

Apparently I am way off base and ill informed about Oculus’s distribution network.  The following blurb was originally included with this article and is best described as nonfactual.

Without reading between the lines too much it sounds like the first batch of DK2s are in a sea container steaming across the Pacific.  And that’s if we’re lucky and the container has already left China.  Otherwise you’re looking at a minimum of 20+ days before the container hits US ports for domestic distribution.  I’m guessing Oculus is using the US as their main distribution hub so orders outside of the US will lag further behind.

DK2 units should still reach early preorderers before August but shipment dates will realistically be in late July.  Expectations should be tempered.

DK2 Recommended PC Requirements

For those of you who are curious if your current PC can handle the demanding Oculus requirements (myself included), I decided to do some cursory research.

From Oculus’s own DK2 FAQ:

Recommended specifications: A desktop computer running a dedicated graphics card with DVI-D or HDMI graphics output, with capability of running current generation 3D games at 1080p resolution at 75fps or higher.

Hmmmm, the concern here is the required frame rate at a 1080p resolution.  That’s a lot of high res frames for a graphics card to crank out.

A little more digging and I find a reddit comment from cybereality, a community manager for Oculus, regarding a recommended graphics card :

A GTX 770 is probably the minimum spec that would be OK. I wouldn’t go any cheaper than that.

So the floor for a graphics card is a Nvidia based GTX 770 card which is currently $300+

Interesting, I may need to invest in some new hardware soon.  I’m guessing most low end demos will run fine on my current PC so I plan to do a lot of initial evaluation before I start piecing together a new PC.