It seems almost on a monthly basis that something new and exciting is released. A new piece of technology that will change everything as we know it. The Oculus Rift was one such item several years ago when it was announced. Limitless potential, roller coasters in your living room and an immersive virtual reality experience. With the official release date looming in the first quarter of 2016.
After working with the Developers Kit 2 over the past few weeks here at the culture lab, it has instilled an excited yet uneasy future for the final release. Setting up up became the first, natural problem. After downloading the software and plugging in the USB and HDMI cables, when finally turning it on being greeted with the following message was not what anyone was excited too see.
When solving a problem on a computer there are usually a few steps to follow.
Firstly, update everything. We ensured that we had the latest Oculus runtime software installed. Check. Then the latest graphic drivers on the PC itself. Updated those, however that did not lead to any fruition. That still left us in this normal world, not the virtual one we wanted.
Secondly, use a search engline. When working with technology, both new and old it’s important to recognize that odds good someone has had the same problem already. Sure enough, I found countless people with the same problem posting an message boards all over the world. They oozed potential solutions, reinstall everything, update the drivers, change the cables, get a new Oculus, get a new computer, or add in premade sections of code in order to re-configure the software. After going through the ones that seemed like viable solutions, We were still left at a desk with our heads in our hands.
Thirdly, the option is to call a friend. So that’s what we did. When Sean our helpful tech arrived, he immediately went through the process listed above. Watching as those failed him help solidify that calling someone was the right decision. Sean then started fiddling, moving around, checking connections. This is where he found it. When plugging in HDMI cables, many computers have multiple ports, This one was no exception. Like countless other users it was assumed that sll ports are created equal and serve the same function. This we learned was wrong. Essentially the port the Oculus headset was plugged into lead to the mother board. Of course given the high requirements for the Oculus Rift, it needed to be plugged into one that was attached directly to the graphics card. So after a quick switch of the plugs, we had virtual reality.
The worlds created are in most cases smaller experiences designed to showcase what the technology is capable of. The immersion is wonderful, however the true engine for real immersion is not photo realistic graphics, a platform to walk on, or even specialty controls. After long term usage, it became noticeable e that the issue was a need for more precise, smooth motion tracking.
Our brains are amazing at adapting to what we see. For example we can’t see our noses, unless we close one eye or really focus on it. It’s there, however we just filter it out. It’s the same with virtual reality. Once in your VR enviroment with smooth and accurate tracking, when things move as your touch them, then your brain will stop say “it’s just a game” and will start making assumptions that it does in the real world. When you look over a precipice in virtual reality, right now there is a sudden moment of dizzyness, but it passes very quickly because what’s below isn’t the abyss, its just your rug, so you can jump and experience the sights of free fall. But if the mind believes that truly is the edge, then no one would jump. Total immersion and issues like this are expected to be improved in the official release of the Oculus Rift.
Working with this technology has been an enlightening experience, and one can’t help but look forward to the drastic changes that virtual reality will bring to the new media landscape, from gaming to teaching; everything can change.