It didn’t take much to justify $350 for an Oculus Rift DK2 – after all, I told myself the consumer version of the virtual reality headset won’t be out for another year or so, and I’ve spent a lot more on video cards I kept for less time before upgrading.
Don’t think about the credit card. Just press the purchase button.
So I did, and now I’m pretty sure my eyes are going to pop out of my head.
Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. However, I’m definitely running into some weird issues with how the device’s 1920×1080 Samsung AMOLED display affects my day-to-day vision. With the Rift positioned right against my face, the screen’s normally undersized pixel grid is clearly visible, and staring at that grid for hours burns the pattern into my retina, like a Pac-Man maze that makes a lasting impression on a CRT monitor. monitor.
One problem with describing this kind of problem is that the Rift is a lot like the Matrix: you have to see for yourself. There’s no really good way to capture in photos or video exactly what wearers see when they strap one of these things to their face (this site, set to 1920×1080 and low persistence, gives a good approximation of what the Rift DK2 looks like, but it’s not quite right – the pixels stand out much more). So unfortunately I can’t show you what I see when I close my eyes now, but I will try to describe it.
I’ve played Elite: Dangerous, which to me offers the most engaging Oculus Rift experience available today. The developers of the game have spent a lot of time making sure that the latest Elite beta works well with the Rift, and the results are amazing: it feels like you’re in a starship. You look around and the cockpit has weight And depth. You can turn and look over your shoulder at the hallway door behind you. You can crane your neck and peer through your skylight to get a sense of what’s above and behind your ship. It’s just bloody awesome.
In fact, it’s so amazing that I’ve spent many, many hours in the game, doing missions and trading and upgrading my ship. The feeling of immersion and pure presence that the Rift gives makes even mundane tasks like transporting cargo between two outposts a great experience. With the Rift on my face, time just flies.
But even 1920 x 1080 isn’t that high a resolution when the screen is inches from your eyes, and the lenses needed to focus the screen make it look like you’re sitting inches from a TV (as many of us oldies used to do when watching Saturday morning cartoons). The individual pixel elements of the screen are clearly visible in a grid or “screen door” pattern. The image itself is quite smooth as it changes, but the bright dots that make up the image itself don’t move.
I can still see this grid faintly now when I close my eyes, despite having a good night’s sleep. It’s overlaid on the usual retinal sound I get when I close my eyes – or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s a very prominent part of the sound. It is certain fewer more prominent than last night after a five hour gaming session, but it’s still there.
As Gaming Editor Kyle Orland told me, this should only be a temporary problem; the current Rift DK2 is already hopelessly outclassed by newer prototypes from Oculus. The consumer version, when it eventually launches, should look even better, with an ultra-high resolution screen that has no (or very few) noticeable screen doors. But, at least for now, don’t look too hard or too long into the Rift DK2 – it will do weird things to your vision.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. My Cobra Mk III is fueled up and this cargo of superconductors isn’t going to deliver itself.