Oculus Rift cv1 First Thoughts

Oculus Rift cv1 First Thoughts

At CES this year, I stumbled into getting an Oculus Rift cv1 (Consumer Version 1) demo.  I had heard that the quickest way to turn a VR skeptic into a VR believer is a demo.  Turns out I was no different.

The Demo

Two things that carried the demo:

  • Presence – The device really tricks your brain into thinking you are in the virtual environment.  I think that this is a combination of the fluid movement when turning your head left or right, the sound in the headphones being oriented towards your environment, and the stereoscopic view allowing the perception of depth.
  • touch controllersOculus Touch – Your hands are a tool you’ve been using your whole life, and being able to use them in VR really dials down the learning curve a notch or two.

I demoed two apps:

  1. mediumMedium, 3d sculpting app — This app allowed you to use the Touch controllers to create a sculpture in 3d.  After your piece was created, you could color it, resize it, paint it, rotate it about an orientation axis, etc.  Prettymuch photoshop in 3d.  I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, and I walked away from this one with a “This is neat but I wouldn’t use it” feeling.
  2. bullet-train2Bullet Train, shoot em up app — The 2nd app I tried oriented you in a moving train.  You can pick up weapons in your environment by moving the Touch controllers to the item and pressing a button.
    1. aim, fire – Once you’ve got the gun in hand, you can shoot your opponents by aiming the Touch controller and via a button on the back of the controller.  I’m not into shoot em up games, but that could change if the Touch controllers take off.
    2. teleportation – One of the limitations of the Oculus VR is that you cannot use your feet.  ( I would later learn that this is called “standing VR” as opposed to “rooms scale VR”).  Oculus is designed to be a standing-only experience.  As a means of compensating for this, you can “teleport” between points in an environment by aiming your Touch controller at a white orb and pressing a button.
    3. time shifting – One of the coolest parts of the demo was the ability to slow down time .  When a button on your left hand Touch controller was pressed, time would slow down  by a couple orders of magnitude, and you could evade bullets or even use the touch controllers to catch them and throw them back at your opponents.  I thought the time shifting dynamic was completely paradigm-shifting.  You really have to experience it to fully appreciate it, so I’ll just sum it up by saying it was super compelling.

I walked out of that CES demo with my mind blown and preordered a Rift on my iPhone 10 minutes later.  I should add that I’m not big on buying first-generation hardware as there are usually some kinks to be ironed out, but there are certain products (in the past: iPad, Macbook Air) that are so category-defining that fall into a category where I make an exception.

Unboxing & Setup

unboxingMy cv1 (Consumer Version 1) Rift arrived this Tuesday.  The hardware is delivered in a truly Apple-inspired packaging.  The aesthetic was minimalistic, product-centric, and imbued with a sort of “new car smell”.   Here’s what came with the device:

  • Oculus Rift headset with built-in headphones and mic
  • Sensor (detects your headsets orientation in a room)
  • Remote (for controlling 3d video)
  • Xbox One Wireless Controller

I spent a half hour getting the Rift unbundled and attached to my PC.   On to installing the software.  The Rift comes with an Oculus app that is used as a sort of “app store for VR”.  This was a painfully error-prone setup.  After and running downloading the Oculus Setup app, I got an error message:

Sorry, we encountered an error during installation. Please restart your computer and try running Oculus Setup again. If you still experience issues, contact Oculus Support.

Turns out I am not the only one. With some googling and a few messages back and forth with Oculus support got me past the issue, but the process was unavoidably slow — Every-time you re-attempt the install you must download a 800 MB installer package.  No caching!  This of course made the debugging cycle time much longer than it needed to be and pretty much ruined my sentiment towards the unboxing process.  Isn’t this supposed to be the Consumer Version?

Anyway, c’est la Vie — Frustratingly opaque error messages are a part of life. Here is what Oculus support said to me.  Hopefully it helps someone else out there avoid the 3 hours I spent trying to solve the problem.

I understand you’ve been trying to install OculusHome on your computer but you are stuck in an endless rebooting cycle.

Can you please take the following steps to ensure this is not cause of the issue:

  1. Uninstall all previous Runtimes
  2. Ensure there is no Anti-Virus software interfering with the install (see this support article for further instructions, if needed)
  3. Try this “Unofficial Workaround” (please skip back to page 1)

The following threads might also help:

VR Apps

Ok, So now everything is setup and I’ve got the “Oculus” and “SteamVR” apps launched and am browsing titles on them.  Here are some of the apps I’ve tried so far

Oculus Home

  • oculus-dreamdeck-screenshots-5Oculus Dreamdeck – Demo app designed to show off some sample environments.  The most compelling of these was a hallway where a T-rex is running towards you.  It’s hard not to physically feel in-danger because the experience seems so real.  Does a good job of showing what VR could be, but once the novelty wears off is kind of “meh”.  I’ll be using this to show VR to first-timers.
  • invasionInvasion – A cutesy 3d movie in which you follow a rabbit around a small outdoor environment and encounter some aliens.   Neat for showing off VR, but once the novelty wears off, less than compelling.
  • luckys saleLuckys Tale — 3d platformer where the player is a disembodied viewer above the main character.  Think Super Mario 64 in 3d.  This was fun game in itself, but would have been just as fun outside of VR.
  • evevalkyrieEve: Valkyrie — Fighter game where the player is on a virtual body inside of a fighter jet in space (like an X-Wing).  This is pretty neat and an app where the VR headset adds a lot of value.  It really does trick your brain into thinking you’re in space, but can be a little intense after a barrel roll or two.
  • inmindvrInMind VR — Demo app where you take a journey through the brain of a patient with depression and “shoot” the depressive cells via a hold-and-wait interface.  Kind of neat.

Closing Thoughts

“Closing Thoughts” is maybe a misnomer but they are really just my thoughts after 3 days with the Rift.   I expect VR to have a long and fruitful life in several niches — including gaming, surgical training, military training, entertainment off the top of my head .  So let’s just call this my closing first impressions of the cv1.

Bottom line: The Oculus Rift cv1 shows a lot of promise, but the installation process is clunky, there’s a lack of breadth of non-novelty content, and the lack of the Touch controllers hampers what otherwise would would be a 10/10, generation-defining, product.

Traditional gamepads are not a good virtual reality input device” ~ Palmer Luckey, Oculus Founder

Of course, none of these concerns are immutable, and I expect that all 3 will improve over time.  Especially as competition between the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and presumably Sony Playstation VR, heats up this year.

My First "VR Selfie"
My First “VR Selfie”

I’m going to be using my VR headset to experiment with building some VR experiences, likely using Unity, over the next several months.  Perhaps next I’ll write a little bit about what it’s like to develop for the Rift.

I’ll be at Boulder Startup Week with this Oculus Rig doing VR demos.    Hit me up on twitter if you’d like one.

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