The age of VR is finally here. For many years, virtual reality was a concept found only in science fiction. Authors, screenwriters, and futurists dreamed of a time when we’d have the computing power to create alternate realities.
While we may not be able to create a fully immersive world that fools every sense, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. A company that has been at the forefront of this technological revolution is Oculus VR. They formed in 2012 with a Kickstarter campaign to make virtual reality headsets. This campaign smashed their expected goals, securing over $2.4 million to fund the project. The company was then purchased by Facebook in 2014, for a staggering $2.3 billion. Their flagship product, the Oculus Rift is one of the best VR headsets currently available. So what is it?
In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to know about the Oculus Rift. This includes how it works, what you need to use it, how it compares to competitors, some of the real-life uses, and some of the top games currently available on the system. Welcome to your ultimate guide to the Oculus Rift.
What is Oculus Rift?
The Oculus Rift is a head-mounted display (HMD) which gives users a virtual reality experience when they wear it. Essentially, it’s a set of goggles that plug into your PC or laptop and then strap to your head. Two OLED panels, each with a 1080 x 1200 resolution display create an immersive visual experience, rendering various forms of content.
Integrated headphones create a 3D audio effect, giving further levels of user involvement. It comes with two touch controllers that allow the users to interact with their virtual surroundings and an optional positional tracking sensor. This gives the ability for the Rift to track head movements and 6 degrees of freedom tracking.
Although the Oculus Rift is often considered as a gaming or entertainment device, there are many applications that it can be put to. Businesses and educational institutions both make use of the VR headset, and development of new applications is ongoing.
How Oculus Rift Works
For the VR headset to create a somewhat immersive environment, there are a few components that work together. We mentioned the OLED screens, one for each eye, that display two images side by side. Autofocus lenses allow for the creation of a creating a stereoscopic 3D image. The screens and lenses create a 110-degree field of view, which determines how much of the virtual environment you can see at any given time. The HMD has a set of sensors which track head movements, adjusting the displayed environment accordingly. The Oculus Rift connects to your PC or laptop via an HDMI cable, meaning that you have to be constantly tethered to your device.
Oculus Rift Requirements
Due to the intense amount of processing power and graphical resources needed to power the Rift, the required specs to run it are still quite high. Below we’ve outlined the recommended components required to run the VR headset:
NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater.
Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater.
At least 8GB of RAM.
Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output.
At least 3x USB 3.0 ports, with an additional USB 2.0 port
Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or later.
As you can see, these are reasonably advanced components, mainly the graphics cards. Although the minimum specs are slightly lower, these recommended ones will get you the most out of your Rift headset. Essentially you need something that will deliver at least 60 frames per second with a refresh rate to match; otherwise, you may experience a kind of motion sickness while using the headset.
How Much Does the Oculus Rift Cost?
With the components mentioned above, you may be asking what the Oculus rift price is. Well, in the UK the Rift and two touch controllers will set you back around £400 or $400. If you want to add the optional (but recommended) Oculus Sensor for improved motion tracking, you’ll need to add another £60-70 to the bill.
However, it’s not as straightforward as that. If you don’t have a PC or laptop that’s built to run the device, you’ll have to splash out on that too. Currently, the cheapest pre-made PC tower capable of running the Rift is around £650-£750. Of course, you may not need to buy an entirely new system, but even the recommended Oculus Rift graphics cards cost about £250. The point being, the world of high-end VR isn’t cheap.
Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive
The main Oculus competitor on the market is the HTC Vive. This headset is very similar to the Rift, but there are some differences, as we’ve outlined below:
Price: The HTC Vive is currently around £500, making it roughly £100 more expensive than the Oculus headset. This gap is lower than it was when both headsets were released, however.
Specs: There’s very little to separate the two devices. Both have the same resolution screens, same refresh rate, and same field of view. The quality of the visual display is pretty much comparable.
Equipment: The Vive comes with slightly more as standard. With two controllers and two base stations for motion tracking, you get somewhat more than with the Oculus Rift.
Motion Tracking: Again, the HTC Vive has slightly better room tracking, thanks to its laser sensors. The Rift is still fantastic; it just doesn’t quite have the range of freedom or ease of setup offered by the Vive.
Oculus Rift vs PSVR
Another contender to the VR throne is PlayStation’s VR headset. Formerly known as Project Morpheus, the PSVR has been met with considerable success. For those not looking to drop over £1000 on a new PC and headset, it offers a good alternative. Here’s a comparison:
Price: The PSVR headset currently costs around £250. This is considerably cheaper than the other high-end headsets on offer, even when you consider the cost of a PS4 Pro (around £350).
Specs: The Rift headset boasts slightly better specs than its Sony rival. The PSVR has only 960 x 1080 pixels per screen and only 100-degrees in terms of field of view. Although the refresh rate is slightly better at 120Hz, overall the Oculus model performs better.
Equipment: The PSVR notably lacks motion controllers in the standard bundle. It does come with everything else needed to get started, but this omission is frustrating. As for the controllers themselves, they’re not quite up to the standard of the Rift’s.
Motion Tracking: Unfortunately for Sony, there have been numerous head tracking issues associated with the PSVR. The PlayStation Eye camera does an adequate job of tracking movements, but the Vive, particularly with additional sensor, is by far superior.
Oculus Rift vs Oculus Go
There are many other mid-range VR headsets available, most of which are powered by a smartphone. Oculus themselves partnered with Samsung to deliver the Gear VR, which performs reasonably well. However, the company recently released a standalone headset called the Oculus Go. Priced at only £200, it comes with everything you need to experience VR. Although it won’t be as powerful as the Rift, Vive, of PSVR, it will have a higher resolution screen, with a single 2560 x 1440 display. It comes paired with a touch controller, but it doesn’t have the tracking capabilities of the more powerful Rift. However, it does present a very affordable first step into the world of VR, as no extra equipment is required.
Oculus Rift for Business
Although the primary market for VR technology has been in video games and entertainment, there is enormous potential for it in other markets. Oculus VR recognised this and has launched a specific Oculus Rift for Business bundle. This bundle is aimed at giving business the chance to develop proprietary software to be used with the VR headset.
The opportunities are apparent; training, virtual prototypes, and remote conferencing are just some of the areas in which the technology is being put to use. Using virtual reality in this way has some tangible benefits. It gives businesses an immersive form of training for potentially hazardous roles in a safe environment, reduces the cost of producing multiple prototypes, and bridges any distance for remote workers. Expect to see more businesses adopting the technology in the future.
Oculus Rift for Education
Another practical example of the headset’s use is in education. There are a wide variety of apps that have been developed for the system, creating a fun and engaging way for students to learn. Although Oculus Rift education may not be the standard any time soon, there are some benefits the hardware brings.
It presents an entirely different way to demonstrate essential material, through an interactive medium. Students can get hands-on with an environment in a safe manner. With the possibility of surgeon or pilot training on offer, it’s clear to see the technology’s potential.
Oculus Rift for Gaming
Virtual reality gaming has long been the dream of gamers. Playing games on the Oculus Rift is a truly breathtaking experience. It’s amazing how involved you become in the virtual world around you. The library of games is extensive, meaning you can experience everything from interstellar travel to fast-paced gun battles.
The system excels when you’re using the touch controllers; without them, movements feel a little counter-intuitive. The extra sensor is also a vital addition, as it gives better tracking and range of motion when using the headset. It’s clear that this is a developing technology, as the experience isn’t as seamless or immersive as it could be, but that will come. For now, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive offer the best possible VR gaming experience currently available.
Oculus Rift Top Games
So, what are the Oculus Rift best games? The game library has expanded greatly since the system launched, and there are some big titles now available. Some notable ones are listed below:
Skyrim VR. Skyrim is a game that has been around for a while now, on a wide range of systems. However, it was recently launched on a range of VR systems. It’s the kind of game that you feel is ideal for virtual reality; a huge world, stunning environments, and first-person combat. Although it wasn’t designed for the VR space, it performs more than adequately.
Fallout 4 VR. Another blockbuster title that has been ported to VR is Fallout 4. Again, a sprawling environment, excellent combat, and engaging story make this a great choice for Oculus Rift gameplay.
Resident Evil 7. Unlike the other two games mentioned, Resident Evil 7 for Oculus Rift feels like it was specifically designed with VR in mind. It’s creepy and atmospheric and packed with pulse-raising scares that play so well in virtual reality.
Eve: Valkyrie. Another game designed specifically for VR is Eve: Valkyrie. It shows off everything Oculus Rift gaming is about; otherworldly graphics, space dogfights, and arcade-style action.
Oculus Rift Review
It’s evident from what we’ve examined in this article that the Oculus Rift is a fantastic piece of technology. It heralded the start of mainstream VR technology and has proved it’s capable of everything it promised. Although the tech is in its early stages, the Oculus Rift headset and accessories have laid some excellent foundations.
Although there are rivals to the system, mainly from the HTC Vive and PSVR, the Rift is well placed in terms of performance versus cost. Powerful PC aside, the headset itself has an attractive price point. Furthermore, the range of games is increasing rapidly.
Virtual reality technology has huge potential, not just in the entertainment sector. As Oculus VR have demonstrated already, these systems can be effectively used for business, training, and education. The future looks exciting, and the Oculus Rift is showing the way.
Needs additional equipment for room-scale tracking
The design is well considered and gives the user everything they need to dive into a virtual world; it was easy for us to get it configured and start playing. An excellent VR headset, and we can’t wait to see what’s next from Oculus.