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  • Oculus Rift’s bold bid to bring back virtual reality – and change videogames forever

    The virtual reality origin story begins and ends quickly. It starts with the rise of VR as a pop-culture phenomenon in the early ’90s, fuelled by Virtuality’s arcade machines, The Lawnmower Man, the BBC2 game show Cyberzone, Sega’s Mega Drive headset and Atari’s prototype Jaguar head-mounted display (HMD) that never made it to shelves. It ends soon after with an abrupt full stop. For a moment, virtual reality was everywhere, then almost at once, it was nowhere.“I don’t know if you can say any one person killed virtual reality,” says Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey. “That implies it had a chance of surviving anyway, but the technology just wasn’t ready at the time. Virtuality was pushing the boundaries of what was possible, but most people imagined VR was some crazy thing that transported you into the Matrix, and it could never be that. I don’t think anyone has ever pushed or surpassed the expectations of the general public – once the expectations and the reality collided, I think that’s what really killed VR.”Oculus’s head-mounted display is where reality at last meets players’ expectations. To enter an artificial world so convincing it fools your eyes and mind was the dream of virtual reality long before the idea was ever given a name. As early as the 1500s, Italian artists were painting frescoed rooms designed to evoke more expansive spaces. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, filmmakers experimented with cinematic immersion. The first experiments with head tracking were successfully completed in 1968 at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, where The Sword Of Damocles – a terrifying contraption suspended from the ceiling of a lab – offered mechanical tracking and a headset displaying simple wireframe rooms and cubes. The first mass-market HMDs designed for gaming were launched in 1991 by W Industries, shortly before the company was renamed Virtuality. Powered by an Amiga 3000 and retailing for $60,000, the system was expensive for arcade owners and disappointing for players. This was not The Lawnmower Man or Star Trek’s holodeck. Expectations collided with reality and reality came up short.Oculus Rift is a long way from finished and an even longer way from a holodeck, but after watching the reactions to it at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Game Developers Conference (GDC) where Luckey demonstrated the dev kit, it’s good enough. Look up in the Unity-powered Tuscany tech demo and you’ll see sky; look down and you’ll see grass. Peer over a balcony and you might feel the lurch of vertigo as Rift tricks your mind with its fast response time and all-encompassing screen.“Our visual system is by far the most powerful sense we have, and it overrides pretty much everything else,” says the 20-year-old Luckey, “so I wanted something that actually covers as much of your visual field as possible. I was looking for something that made it actually feel like you were inside of the game, not just looking at a screen that happened to be strapped to your head.”

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Oculus Rift’s bold bid to bring back virtual reality – and change videogames forever started by wraggster View original post
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