Unlike other new hardware demonstrations, Oculus isn’t sharing specs for their latest Rift Crescent Bay prototype which was recently introduced at Oculus Connect. This is an interesting choice and one that I think Oculus made for a very specific reason; I elaborate a bit in my own hands-on impressions of the new unit:
Oculus isn’t saying anything about specs right now and they wouldn’t let us take any pictures, but that hardly matters because it’s all about the experience. If Oculus does their job right, no one will ask about the resolution, no one will ask about the framerate—people will simply don the headset and be transported. Oculus is steadily working toward that elusive goal of ‘invisible technology’.
Not having any specifications to worry about, people who I interviewed just after their demo talked much more about the various scenes and their subjective experience rather than things like resolution, framerate, or tracking performance.
The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype demo that the company showed at Oculus Connect was about 10 minutes long and featured a number of vignettes that were produced in-house by Oculus. The scenes were impressively polished and seemed to appeal to each person differently. In each scene, the player had no control other than their own head movements and the ability to walk around in a small area. I described several of the experiences in my Crescent Bay hands-on article.
From my brief survey, a few of the experiences appeared to be favored over others, particularly the ‘alien’ demo which had an extraterrestrial standing in front of you on a lunar-like surface. The alien spoke in a foreign tongue and tracked players as they moved with its huge eyes. Another favorite was the ‘paper town’ that had a small city constructed out of papercraft with tiny cars and people animated within. Players could lean in and inspect the action up close. This one particularly blew me away; again from my own hands-on impressions:
Another moment of presence, the one that stood out for me most in my 10 minutes with the unit, was from a demo showing a miniature town that was made of papercraft. I leaned in to see tiny cars and trains moving around this town. It was cute. But the thing that blew me away was when I started to get in even closer to look at the detail of the paper material. I started to get so close that my vision was blurring, I think because the virtual cameras representing each of my eyes weren’t made to get that close to virtual objects. So I closed one eye and kept getting closer. The paper texture was of such quality, and the screen such high resolution, that as I got within inches of a little paper doorway, I thought I was looking at real paper. This blew me away… my brain was telling me that this was a real paper model, inches from my face. I wanted to stay there are be with that paper model, alas, I faded to another scene.
The third recurring favorite was Showdown, a demo made by Epic in UE4, which puts the viewer in a slow-motion action scene with some futuristic soldiers fighting an alien robot.
See our past reaction videos to virtual reality hardware: