By far the dominant theme at GDC 2016 has been virtual reality. If you’re not a hardware vendor directly creating VR products, then you’re explaining how your products are a good match for VR or make for a better VR experience. And if you’re a software developer, then you’re at a minimum toying with VR, if not outright designing games for it. If nothing else, it’s the session attendance figures that demonstrate just how important VR is at GDC: after Monday’s overflowing attendance of VR sessions as part of the show-within-a-show VRDC, GDC had to move all of the VRDC Tuesday sessions to double sized rooms to accommodate the crowds.

This madness is not without good reason. For both software and hardware vendors, VR represents new opportunities in an already strong gaming market. Software developers get to experiment with new gaming paradigms on the cutting edge of tech, and hardware vendors can look forward to selling the more powerful hardware needed to drive a smooth VR experience. Today VR is a wild frontier, full of risk and rewards, and after this week’s GDC that frontier will be getting a little more civilized as the first consumer VR headsets begin shipping.

VR is not a new idea – as our readers who were gaming in the 90s can recall with mixed feeling – but Oculus deserves the bulk of attention for bringing it back to the forefront and kicking off this wave of interest in and development of VR. Since their 2012 kickstarter they have developed the industry’s blueprint for VR hardware, combining fast refreshing OLED displays with modern sensors that can both quickly and accurately track headset movement. Oculus has iterated on headsets several times now, continually refining the display, optics, head tracking, and more, as they work to bring a retail quality headset to market. And now later this month those efforts will begin to pay off as they ship their first retail headsets to eager backers and first-time buyers.

This brings us to today’s article, my hands-on session with the final, retail version of the Oculus Rift. As part of their GDC festivities, Oculus held a lengthy press demo to give us a chance to try out the retail hardware with a number of games being prepared for the headset, to demonstrate not only the hardware but the games and experiences that it will be driving. A full review of the Rift will be coming later, but for today I wanted to discuss my impressions of the retail hardware and the various titles I had a chance to try.

The Oculus Rift Hardware
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  • cobalt42 - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    I wasn't aware much of the motion sickness was due to the mismatch in vergence and accommodation. I'm sensitive to the this, but it mostly means I have a hard time focusing on some things in 3D movies (generally when things pop out of the screen at me, e.g. I just see double images) and it causes eyestrain and probably some headache. But I've never felt nauseated in a 3D movie.
  • wallysb01 - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    What I'd like to know is when actual reality (AR) will be worthwhile!
  • SlyNine - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    You should try the motorcycle programs, they are amazing.
  • mrvco - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    Requiring a moderately stout gaming PC and then not providing displays capable of doing justice to AAA titles and requiring you to use a freaking gamepad is intolerably retrograde in my opinion. Especially considering how far we've come with regards to gaming monitor technology, but I'm still hopeful that this isn't just another cycle showing us that VR-tech isn't ready yet (or the next 3D, Wii or Kinect / Move). Of course there seems to be plenty of people willing to jump on the bleeding edge for $599, so all I can say is good luck, we're all counting on you!
  • Noctrn - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    It's not that higher resolution screens could not have been used, it's that there is no graphics hardware currently in existence that can maintain 90-120Hz at 4k gaming on a AAA level quality game even in multi SLI or Crossfire. Releasing 4k res virtual reality in 2016 would result is such stuttering movement that it would be intolerable after 20 seconds of use. The most powerful machines currently available struggle to handle a single picture at 4k rendering at tolerable framerates in AAA level games with high end settings. If you're looking for seamless 4k level it's going to be a few years before it'll be feasible with VR and even then it'll be pricey. Until then, I'm happy to be a guinea pig as this is still by far the most immersive experience available to a consumer to date.
  • HigherState - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    I'm sure you can as long as you have enough vram and don't try to run everything on ultra. I could be wrong though.
  • jasonelmore - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    The 4k models are coming. I would say in less than a year, as a specialty product for those with the proper PC's to run it.
  • bji - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    Do you have some special knowledge here or are you just guessing?
  • sor - Sunday, March 20, 2016 - link

    AMD has stated they've been working with an unnamed company who has a 4k per eye device.
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    Here's to playing the wait-and-see game with all the current VR stuff, as my money is way too precious to spend it on the first versions.

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