January 18, 2016

You pull this strange looking device over your head and suddenly you’re transported into a virtual world. You’re no longer sat at home or at the office looking at a movie or video game through a screen, you can look around as if you’re there, an integrated part of the experience. What was once the stuff of science fiction and Hollywood fantasy is now on the cusp of becoming reality.

A start-up by the name of Oculus VR is creating the first mass market Virtual Reality goggles and, boy, have they got everyone’s attention! So who are this company that have seemed to crop up out of nowhere? What is the potential of Virtual Reality? Well, here’s everything you need to know about the Oculus Rift and the way it’s changing the way we consume and interact with media.

What is the Oculus Rift?

The Oculus Rift will be the first major consumer Virtual Reality (or ‘VR’ for short) headset to hit the market when pre-orders are shipped out in just a few weeks’ time. Why is this exciting? Well, it’s bringing VR to the masses with an affordable price tag – albeit still a hefty one. Despite the initial price of $599 (that’s roughly £410 to you and I) you will also need a computer powerful enough to run games at the resolution and frame rates necessary for a smooth VR experience. Why is this important? We’ll get on to that later. For now, as we near ever closer to the much-hyped release of the Oculus Rift, let’s look at where it came from:

Where did the Oculus Rift come from?

At the 2012 E3 gaming convention, Palmer Luckey showcased a prototype of the Oculus Rift, desperately trying to reinvigorate interest in the abandoned format of VR. In doing so, he caught the eye of Brendan Iribe, who then signed on as CEO and helped to set up Oculus VR in Irvine, California. The two then launched a Kickstarter campaign with the hope of raising enough capital to get the concept off the ground. What they didn’t expect however, was the public’s response: The Kickstarter campaign raised $2.4million in total.

A mere two years later, Oculus VR was purchased by Facebook for a cool $2billion dollars. Yes, you read that right…billion.

How does the Oculus Rift work?

An array of sensors and cameras, both on the device and on an external module, track your head within a three-dimensional space. Then, your movement and motions are translated into the game you are playing or movie you are watching. So, however you move in real-life, the camera will move in the virtual-world.

What is Oculus Rift for?

The biggest use of VR at the moment is gaming. It’s the easiest platform to get into and has a wealth of users who are willing to test a product. But where does it go from here?

Well, staying within the entertainment side of things, imagine buying a ticket to the front row of your favourite band’s gig. You don’t have to deal with long cues, expensive drinks or missing out on tickets altogether. You could find yourself watching from centre-court at a basketball game in Miami, or experiencing The Phantom of The Opera in The West End from the comfort of your living room. Sporting events, performances, theatre, museums and art galleries all instantly become more accessible. Wherever you can get a camera, you can get VR users.

There’s also the work-based side of things. You can already ditch the office altogether and work remotely, but imagine using VR to have a face-to-face meeting.

Where can I buy the Oculus Rift?

You can pre-order the Oculus Rift from the Oculus website but before you do, we strongly recommend that you first find a demo unit that you can try. Why? Because some users are susceptible to motion sickness, VR headsets (with lower resolutions or worse, lower frame rates,) are triggering symptoms in users, such as nausea and dizziness. Some users are forced to put down the Oculus Rift after just 5 minutes, in fear passing out. Now, companies such as Oculus, Sony and HTC (who are all developing their own VR headsets) are all aware of this issue and are trying various methods to negate these effects. However, some people may simply be unable to ever use VR.

Is it worth getting an Oculus Rift?

At the moment, we wouldn’t advise anyone other than the most hard-core VR fans to buy straight away. With the advancements in technology (and more importantly, in such a short time since the first developer version of the Oculus Rift was released) the next version is the one you’re going to want. So why did Oculus release the rift now? Because it’s the future, and they are anticipating that impatient Virtual Reality fans will want to get their hands on the device straight away. Much like Apple has done in the past, sometimes you have to release something ahead of its time to get everyone else to catch up.