Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
Oculus' Crescent Bay demonstrator.
Enlarge / Oculus’ Crescent Bay demonstrator.

Lee Hutchinson

Ars Senior Gaming Editor Kyle Orland was the first member of the Ars staff to try out the updated Crescent Bay display on Oculus’ head back in September, and since then the technology demonstrator from the Facebook-owned VR company has learned a new trick. : The integrated headphones can output high-precision positional audio.

This may not seem like a big deal at first, but Oculus wants its Rift headsets to provide a sense of total immersion, and audio sources that sound like they’re really coming from a consistent location even as the wearer turns their head around are crucial to that immersion. Oculus guided us through a neatly updated demo loop where we stood on the edge of a skyscraper, like Batman, running from giant T-rexes, and watching two large robotic arms zip around and do a wand duel, and get as close as we could say , the sound remained firmly anchored where it should be, even as we wandered and moved our heads in and out of the scene.

In fact, the positioning and tracking of the audio was so good that I didn’t really notice it until the Oculus folks pointed it out to me. That’s some of the highest praise you can give to immersive technology like this: when it’s working right, you don’t notice a smashing new bit of magic happening. It is normal happens and you accept it as part of the environment. Developers who want to take advantage of this capability can do so with a new audio SDK, which is not yet available.

As noted by Kyle when he wore the device back in September, Crescent Bay visually looks miles ahead of the Development Kit 2 on our desk at home. The “screen door effect” – the visible grid pattern of pixels that appear before the wearer’s eyes – is drastically reduced (although it’s not completely absent). Oculus hasn’t announced Crescent Bay’s resolution or refresh rate, but we estimate the display is at least 1440p (probably a 2650 x 1440 pixel panel, with 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye). As someone who uses a Rift Development Kit 2 for several hours a week, the extra resolution was hugely noticeable, as was the vastly reduced weight of the Crescent Bay headset over the dragging, heavy DK2.

We also got a chance to spend about 15 minutes with the Oculus Gear VR, and I came away agreeing with Kyle’s opinion: I was much more impressed than I thought I would be. While it’s tempting to think of the Samsung-powered Gear VR as a gimmick, it was actually quite fun to sit down and play the part tech demo, part game. Hero bound watching my avatar bashing skeletons and zombies in 3D from an elevated perspective for a few minutes. While the Gear VR necessarily lacks the Rift’s positional tracking, it uses both the connected Samsung Galaxy Note 4 sensors and some extra sensors in the body of the device to provide what felt like a lag-free head-tracking experience.

Sadly, no matter how much I begged and threatened, none of the Oculus folks had any information about the release version of the Rift, other than that it would probably still come out in 2015 – at least that’s the plan for now. While the Crescent Bay devices are much better than the DK2s in developer hands, Oculus has no plans to release them – we’ll just have to wait for the highly anticipated consumer version.

By akfire1

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