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I tried Oculus for the first time and it completely changed my opinion

Oculus is, of course, not new by any stretch. But while some of my Mobile Nations colleagues have had the pleasure, it's taken until this past week in Taipei to have my own first experience. And it completely changed what I thought of it.

For the better.

So here's the thing. I've always thought of VR in general as a bit gimmicky, a bit flash, a bit, well, pointless. While Microsoft has marketed the usability in a real world setting of its augmented reality HoloLens project, I've never seen the appeal of VR products like Oculus.

Thanks to NVIDIA who were using the latest Oculus development kits in part to show off the power of its new GTX 980 Ti graphics card, I'm pleased to say I've changed my outlook on it. Personally, I still see HoloLens as the way forward in a 'real-world' setting. But I'd love to get into gaming with Oculus.

The demo we saw was some kind of futuristic setting filled with bullets, explosions, cars flying through the air and giant robotic monsters. The detail and level of immersion genuinely shocked me, but it also highlights how important the hardware driving it is.

Compared to the Oculus supported Samsung Gear VR, for example, a much more affordable consumer headset, or Google Cardboard, the difference is night and day. With VR you need pixels, you need pure horsepower to make the experience worth a damn.

So, I'm not going to wax lyrical on it, but I am left very impressed where I always assumed I wouldn't be. Instead I'm left pondering where the technology will go for gamers. A totally immersive battlefield where you're actually inside the action? Perhaps a future version of FIFA where you're actually on the pitch?

We're soon going to find out HoloLens' initial gaming plans, since Microsoft has said that it's on agenda for the Xbox event at E3 (and we'll be there covering it live,) but it is a very different device to Oculus. I couldn't see myself ever using a VR headset in any kind of productivity setting, but if the gaming scene takes it by the horns and goes with it, I think we're in for a very exciting future.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

73 Comments
  • Still waiting for the MSFT announcing the games that work with HoloLens..!!
  • Just imagine: HoloLens is a Windows 10 device. You will be able to stream Xbox One games to any Windows 10 computer... Please Microsoft, don't fork this up. :D
  • Minecraft. What else u want with AR to play forza. That will just a mess.
  • Think of a holo-HUD for every Xbox game. Leave your TV for full-screen immersive gaming and have the HUD show up around the TV.
  • I still think that VR fits the gaming scene better than mixed reality (or whatever MS calls HoloLens). Its not just features you get with VR, like a HUD or something, but immersion.
  • Not really how you going to get any better visuals then real world visuals like imagine you and you friends could go out in some field and play call of duty so life like your brain would think it is real. That's what hololens promises yeah maybe in a stand alone gaming vr is the shit but to communal games games that can be play with friends or family in and outside the home hololens is were to go.
  • In AR you can cover the screen portion according to your choice so if you cover full space isn't it works like VR
  • This. AR can be VR. VR cannot be AR.
  • But can it. Id the screens don't cover your view what do you see? Light?
  • Mmm, it's important to note these are on the same side of the family tree, but cousins. I think both are awesome in their respective areas (admittedly, from reports, Microsoft needs to up the FOV, otherwise there's no covering the whole screen...). And to be honest both can be the other, but not as good as the other. AR can be VR if you can cover your entire FOV witha video feed or overlay, but then you suffer from light leaks from your environment and other artifacts. VR can be AR with a video pass through feed (already common) and then overlay that video feed with what you want. The issue here is video latency and overall quality/performance trade offs.  
  • Not true.  If you can see the world around you, you won't be fully immersed.  AR is awesome for a lot of applications but VR will be awesome for fully immersive applications.   Then again you could always have a clip-on blinder I suppose.   But apparently initial AR goggles will have very narrow field of view, current VR offers > 100 degrees already which really helps with immersion. The converse is also true, while you could black out an AR headset, you could integrate cameras and synthetically instead of optically capture the world around the viewer.   With a setup like that you can completely black-out and properly composite AR renderings on top of the real world instead of the real world lightly shining through.  The difference being between something like a semi-transparent hologram ala Star Wars or a fully opaque, virtual avatar. 
  • Not that simple. You are assuming you can do this and receive a virtual reality experience. But, the hololens was not designed to do VR. They are still 2 different technologies with 2 different forms of hardware. The hololens would be quite limited in transporting you into another world in the way that the Oculus Rift or Htc Vive does.
  • gaming is slowly and slowly isolating gamers. not much local coop games, not many games are split screen online, and now your friends can watch your head move around as you enjoy your game.
  • So in essence this is not for someone on a budget at the moment
  • It is not for anyone at the moment as it is still in beta and will not be released for a little bit yet.  But on release the headset will not cost too much.  I think they are aiming at a $250-300 price point (US), but the PC required to drive it will likely be another $1200+, or if you already have a decent PC then you are looking at upgrading to a modern $400+ GPU.
  • So, he is correct
  • Depends on the games, but $1200 is probably overkill, if you assemble yourself, $800 is likely enough. Otherwise a $1200 desktop sounds about right.
  • My wife asked me last night over dinner for a new gaming PC. CPU $1k video card $700 PCI SSD was $400 RAM was $500 And a bunch of other stuff added up to another $1k. She hasn't even picked out her monitors yet. I don't see the point of a computer that cost this much.
  • No point in investing in a powerful (and overpriced) CPU. A $300 one will do more than fine, especially after dx12 comes.
  • Your wife sounds cool!
  • Are you talking about occulus rift or hololens cuz hololens will be a stand alone unit no other computer needed.
  • Coming up next! Intravenous feeding tubes and colostomy bags so gamers never need to leave the game. I guess it's horses for courses but it's not appealing to me.
  • Lol.
  • nice
  • Haha :D
    I think you are overdoing it a little.
    What I find to be so astonishing, is that most techreviewers that thought of VR to be meh are blown away after they tried it out. So maybe this also goes for you :)
  • I'm not biased toward MS and I do like competition between who gets my money, but things could work faster and better if companies joined forces.... Even google would be an asset working alongside projects for us, the consumers
  • Totally wrong, if they all colaborate together, there would be no competion and companies become lasy at innovating... Take Apple as a 2007 tech company as reference!
  • I've used it extensively. And it actually turns to the opposite. It becomes very limited. Playing alot of battlefield 4 with it I went back to mouse and keyboard. Because you want to look around 360 degrees but can't. It starts to de immerse you if you get what I mean. And players with mouse and keyboard can destroy you. The only way id go back to vr is when I can afford the full walk around in complete 360 degrees. Not just turning my head side to side. A long way to go before I buy one. I've played 16 games with it on pc so far. Only racing games worked due to not needing 360 degrees head movement.
  • Absolutely see your point. The demo at Computex was naturally a pretty high spec affair. When we can be properly immersed, I think we're in for something special. I could move around a little and it certainly felt like I'd been sucked right into that world
  • I don't see your problem. Why cant you just turn your mouse 90 degrees and then your head another 90? Isn't this better and faster than turning your character only using a mouse?
  • Ok, then why not just use your mouse to make that radical turns? That should still be possible.
    Also, I know that you are never gonne be a quake pro with this device (at least not without puking) but in a game as slow as BF shouldn't it still do?
    Also it definitely is no gimmick as gimmicks do serve little to no purpose. VR, however, greatly improves immersion, so I'd say its far from a gimmick.
  • It depends on how much you value immersion then... some people swear by IMAX type movies but others (like me) have been to one and couldn't care less about going to one again. The same goes for 3D-movies - they're interesting, but sometimes it can be more of a hassle than it's worth as you have to wear cheap glasses all the time, some movies have limited # of 3D scenes, and people have been known to get headaches or other problems. 3D is a well-known gimmick that is successful at getting people to go to cinemas amid dwindling ticket sales, as well as getting them to upgrade their perfectly good home entertainment setup's to support 3D and in many cases people rebuying the 3D version of movies. I see Oculus as an extra level of that - the cost, pain-in-the-arse factor (having something on your head), and possible issues vertigo/nausea/headaches will limit the broad appeal of this. I dare say there will be a limited number of games that you will want to play with this anyway, especially if you're competing with non-headset plays as some other guy said 
  • Really? This is not for gaming, more for professionell use e.g. engineers, doctors etc... Not everything is for gaming... wake up, kid.
  • *professional... (Learn to spell, kid, before you go trying to shoot down the opinion of others)
  • I dont think I'd fancy a doctor using oculus looking at me. I mean...face covered much?
  • While professional use may be what this is aimed at, it is most likely gaming that will push the borders. Gaming seems to love to embrace new technologies and push the boundaries. There will be gaming uses pushing the envelope on this, mark my words!
  • In case of the Oculus, I'm nit even sure whether it is aimed at professional usage as its main target.
  • The Oculus Rift was specifically designed for gaming by gamers and funded by gamers. How is it suddenly aimed at professionals? Just look at the original kickstarter page that funded it. All the VR tech at the top is for gaming. HTC Vive is a partnership with Valve and HTC to be used on steam games that support VR. Even the Morpheus being developed by Sony for the PS4. They are developed for gaming. Doesn't mean there won't be fields that VR will be used in. But, gaming is the driving force of VR technology.
  • Wouldn't you be using your keyboard and mouse anyways? Sure you can look with your head , but I don't see why you can't still using your kb and mouse like you've always had. With that said I haven't used it, yet.
  • And for VR to truly shine, you need a game that is actually designed from the ground up for it. It will be interesting to see how many of those we'll get, and if any of them are AAA.
  • That's a problem with implementation not delivery.   Your mouse and keyboard should control your body and gun and your head should just be able to look off-center much like a flight simulator where your joystick flys the plane and fires the guns but you can look around the cockpit.   
  • Perhaps FFXIV could use HoloLens in order to display the HUD on the game, such as my abilities, names of players, chat, etc, while keeping the main screen clean for streaming purposes. That way when streaming all you see is the game action on stream, and not all the hotbars. Much cleaner interface, that other games could use too.
  • The Rift itself will be affordable but the PC to drive it will need a top end graphics card, GTX970 or better. The target market probably already have a gaming PC, but may need to invest in a new card so overall you're looking at £700 for a rift and a GTX980. It's interesting how people assume that first person shooters are the natural gaming use for this, I can see that from the article's penultimate paragraph, but there is still no input solution for those. To feel real you'd need to be able to run, stand, hold a gun which you aim and fire. Currently that genre of game is tied to gamepads of a keyboard & mouse. Plus you have the issue of cables, length, tripping & falling. It's the seated simulations which will really benefit from VR. Driving and Flying already have affordable peripherals which mimic the real thing. Sit down, hook up a steering wheel and put the Rift on and start iRacing or pCars and you're in. That's where this will get big initially, simply because the input hardware already exists. I think FPS will take a while longer to get working in a natual manner with VR. For me as a sim racer, the Rift means a space saving solution as I can fit an immersive setup into a tight space without needing big expensive triple monitors. For FPS you're looking at neeed a big empty room to walk around in, an assitant to move cables out of your way OR a VR treadmill. None of those are spacesaving or cheap.
  • I did also mention FIFA ;-)
  • I know you did, I can see the bills for broken furniture flooding in :p
  • Aye. This could work for Elite Dangerous. I've already got the flight stick (and gamepad for extra buttons), so this could integrate well in it. Would still need to buy the right stuff for it though, as I've got a GeForce GTX 760 and i5-2400. Need a couple of GTX 980 Ti and an i7-Extreme octo-core processor for it.
  • I have Elite Dangers and a Rift DK2 runs perfectly on my GTX980. You can even use Nvidias superscaling for a clearer image and still get a rock solid 75fps so it bodes well for the consumer release with higher native reoslution screen.  Looking around 360' to find a docking station's entrance is very cool. You'll never go back to monitors after that.
  • I'm a streamer, that's the only problem. I'll always need monitors for that, and therefore means I can't use VR (how am I meant to see chat!?) but for none streaming this will be amazing to experience. Just a shame that being a streamer means I'm limited to AR. :(
  • I don't see it that way. Sure it would be even more immersive if you could run around and had some sort of a gun, but I think you are underestimating the bump in immersion you get only by having headtracking. And this should work fine with it.
  • You can get a Google Cardboard/OR experience now on your Windows Phone. There are quite a few VR apps on the store. I even posted an article about VR on Windows Phone on Reddit. You can read it here: http://www.reddit.com/r/windowsphone/comments/366yiq/google_cardboard_vr... Also here are images of the apps: http://m.imgur.com/a/dWGMG
    I suggested my reddit VR article to Windows Central about the state of Google Cardboard experience on a windows phone but they never follow through with any news I pass their way. :(
  • Your should freestyle your articles on a beat ;)
  • SwordArt Online (without the brain popping lol), enough said :P.
  • That's what I'm waiting for... Lol
  • I will buy this thing if I can swing through NY as Spiderman in VR. Only then I will buy it.
    And I will not puke.
  • That would be amazing.
  • Was the experience.... Devine?
  • Loool
  • Hmm
  • Occulus rift is relly amazing , consumer version will start in first quarter 2016 though.
  • I want to see this tech put to use with flight sim x or something. So you don't need multiple monitors and can just have a 360 view. Would make handling controls a little tricky maybe but whatever. lol  
  • Pretty spot on review with what I expected. Hololens market != Oculus market. Some overlap, sure, but not the same. I hope reviews like this help set expectations appropriately.
  • I always thought occulus would be great paired with Kinect. Visual immersion with full body tracking? Yes, please.
  • VR true power is in games where your virtual body is stitting. If you are driving a car and you can look behind or you are in giant robot and you are looking all around while driving in one direction but shouting in other. Of course, it has to be fast enough to render image based on your head position without any lag. After that, the more detail the better... On the other hand, if your virtual body is frely walking, jumping, flying, while your phisical body is sitting... it's a gimick...
  • I'm more interested in HoloLens (Augmented Reality) than Oculus Rift or Oculus Gear (Virtual Reality) 1) From what I understood, HoloLens will be compatible with Windows 10 devices or Xbox One, so you can have your Minecraft game running on your PC or Xbox One and stream it to your HoloLens 2) Oculus Rift requires an expensive desktop which costs more than 20 grand 3) Oculus Gear requires a flagship Galaxy phone but gets much less power graphics than the Rift. I think HoloLens requirements are something in between the Oculus Rift and the Oculus Gear, so it will be adopted by most PC's with graphics card or Xbox One owners. Just my 2 cents.
  • Last September at Innotrans, world leading expo fpr rail technology, I found a little company offering an Oculus based simulation system for training of train inspectors. You could virtually go around a train and look for damages. Since I had this training myself I know how difficult it is to do this without VR. For our practical exam we just look for little paper cards which discribed the damages you should deal with. It would be much more realistic to do this in VR then it is with a real train. I thought Oculus would be perfect for trainings like that until I saw Hololens. Hololens could combine the best of both, walking around a real train and seeing VR damages on the waggons.
  • As far as productivity, I'd use this as a monitor with mouse and keyboard. Watch movies and YouTube, since I don't game that much. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • VR still needs to tackle the social problem before it is going to gain any sort of mainstream traction.  They will get the entusiast group naturally, but for the average consumer, it's a tough choice to say "here, give us $300 for this, which means you and your family/friends you would normally watch TV/movie/games with can't look at the same thing, you are totally removed from their presence in the same room, and requires you to move a piece of equipment strapped to your face if you want to send a text or check SOCIAL MEDIA SITE in between rounds of games (and basically preventing you from doing that during)."  That's a tough pill to swallow for the average consumer, and it's going to really have to tackle that if it wants to get around the whole gimmick thing.
  • But of course there's the vertigo issue.
  • I used Oculus and had the polar opposite reaction, it fealt cheap. The resolution is horrible, the head tracking is fairly inaccurate and it never feels immersive. I used Hololens and was disappointed but impressed, disappointed by the FoV being so small but impressed by how high resolution it was. If Microsoft fixes the FoV it's miles and miles ahead of oculus which imo just feels like holding a cell phone really close to your face.
  • Uh yeah, that sounds really awful to me. Any closer than 12 inches and I would be screwed. Wouldn't be able to see a thing even with glasses.
  • I'm wondering how people who need glasses or who can't focus on things too close (eg. me) would go with Oculus?
  • Not interested in feeling nauseous for the sake of immersion. Novelty would wear off quickly.
  • Reminds me of Johnny Quest