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First Impressions from the New Oculus Rift DK2 3D VR HMD

September 10th, 2014 · 12 Comments · 3D / AR / VR / HMD


It is time to share some first impressions from the new Oculus Rift development kit after playing with it for a while already, sharing this a bit late due to the arrival of the DK2 coinciding with a planned vacation… a vacation without the Rift in the real world and not in the virtual one. I should note that the following first impressions from the second development kit are from someone that has used the first development kit quite a lot, so there will be a lot of comparing between the two. So let us get started…

Starting with what is new, the new Oculus Rift DK2 comes with a 1080p OLED display, something that was really needed in order to improve the level of detail that the older smaller resolution 1280×800 LCD display provided, especially considering the fact that due to the way that the Rift works you only get half of the resolution per eye and not the pixels of the whole screen are actually being used. The new Oculus Rift DK2 also comes with a new better looking design and a bit more complex setup as it includes an extra infrared only camera used to track the integrated active IR led markers in the headset. The headset weights slightly more as it has the external control box that the previous kit had (essentially the screen controller electronics) built inside in the DK2, but the few ore extra grams don’t seem to be a problem. Another interesting improvement is that the new DK2 comes with only two sets of interchangeable lenses instead of the three that the first dev kit had, the lenses are slightly better in terms of optical performance and seem to be slightly larger, however the total FOV of the new DK2 seems to be about 10% smaller as compared to the 110 degrees available with the first dev kit.


The included web camera is something that we don’t like that much. It seems to essentially be a standard web camera with a filter applied to the lens to block the visible light and pass only infrared light. The idea is to track the specially positioned IR leds inside the front and side parts of the headset and use that extra positional information to add extra sense of realism inside the virtual world. The idea is generally good, however the range that the camera operates in is very limited and if you start moving more you can quickly get out of the range and the extra functionality such as leaning or crouching in the virtual world as you do the same in the real world disappears. Other than that the camera tracking is probably used to also help fighting with the drift that the built in sensors for tracking head movement are prone to. The web camera tracking makes things more complex and limits your movements more than it gives you freedom and the advantages are actually not that much, so Oculus should probably think of alternatives to replace the camera-based tracking. If they want a device like the Oculus Rift to be successful and go mainstream it should be easy to setup and use and not complex to setup and use and limiting the experience of the users.


A few words about the display, it was a bit of a surprise to find the screen from a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 inside the Oculus Rift DK2. But it was probably not very easy for the company to find a good and small enough in size 1080p OLED display that will not cost a fortune and even though Oculus is now owned by Facebook the number of produced development kits is not so high as to get a screen specially developed for them. With that said the OLED display inside the new DK2 is definitely a serious improvement over the previously used LCD panel, though it is still not the perfect screen for the Rift. Resolution wise the new display is definitely a serious improvement, though you can still see the pixels zoomed though the lenses, so an even higher resolution screen is needed for the final consumer version in order to really polish the experience. The higher resolution however also causes some concerns about the need for more processing power from the graphics card of the computer used to power the Oculus Rift, so initially there will most likely be some compromise. If you were hoping the 1080p screen to be enough, then you will be left disappointed it is not enough when zoomed through the lenses and split between the two eyes.

What the new OLED display does pretty well, though not perfectly, is to almost eliminate the annoying and nausea inducing for many people motion blur while panning around. The low persistence OLED display does a great job, though we have noticed that in high contrasting scenes where you have dark objects surrounded by light background you can still see some motion blur. For example the standard Oculus demo the stairs inside the house or the trees outside by the wall – depending on the version of the demo you try. The version of the demo included with the SDK apparently is somewhat darker and in it the motion blur is noticeable when looking around the stairs and on the standalone version of the demo that is apparently brighter the motion blur is noticeable when looking around the trees outside. A bit of a disappointment, but not that bad actually to ruin the overall great experience that the bright and high resolution new OLED display provides.

The new lenses, only two sets, seem to offer better optical quality and somewhat different distortion. While the lenses are bigger the actual FOV you get is slightly reduced, but still more than great. The expectations that the larger lenses would also provide a larger sweet spot for viewing without seeing some chromatic aberrations caused by the distortion of the optics ended up in vain however, maybe this needs some more work on the software side responsible for the distortion of the images displayed that need to compensate for the distortion of the optics. The good side is that the standard lens works pretty well for people that are wearing prescription glasses and are nearsighted as if your glasses are not so strong you will most likely have no problem using them instead of having to wear the glasses. The same lens is for people that don’t have problems with their vision and the second lens is for people with worse eyesight apparently, so it is like Oculus decided to “keep” the B and C lenses from the first dev kit in terms of capabilities.

The new DK2 comes with a new mode that may help greatly in the usability of the device as it can output directly to the display of the Rift the compatible applications without actually having the device as an extended or cloned display like you had to before that. This however will work only with applications compiled with the new versions of the SDK supporting the DK2 and since there are also quite a few other differences the applications designed for the DK1 should be updated to be properly used on the new development kit anyway. You can of course still use the Rift as an additional display available to ensure compatibility with older apps and to allow for more flexibility of the use of the device. The new Direct to Rift mode is a good example of the way Oculus should be moving – making things easier and working problem free from the user and not having to bother him with things like moving primary displays or having issues with Vsync and tearing… just open the application and it will automatically appear where it should be – on the display of the Rift.

With all of the above said the new Oculus Rift DK2 is definitely a nice improvement from the first development kit and if it is the first Rift that you get to try you will be really excited and pleasantly surprised from the experience. If you however have tried and used the first DK1 you may not be as excited from the improvements and changes even though they are not small, they are simply not enough to get the DK2 to the level of the product that should be offered to the end user. There is much more work needed to be done and we may need to get a 3rd version of the dev kit next year that will be closer to what the consumer version might be and expect an end user product probably by the end of next year of things continue to progress well.

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Reaper // Sep 11, 2014 at 16:42

    Hmm… a bit disappointed to read this since I have DK1. It seems that they really do need the 4K displays to eliminate pixelation.

    Isn’t it more efficient to have a greater distance between the screen and eyes and less of optical zoom?

    Also, what about colours and contrast between DK1 and DK2? I mean OLED should blow TN out of the water …?

  • 2 Bloody // Sep 11, 2014 at 21:44

    4K would be really taxing for the GPU, considering that even at the moment the high-end video cards are having trouble keeping up high framerate in a lot of graphically intensive games at 4K resolution.

    The optics, the screen size and resolution and the FOV you have are all very closely related, so it is not very easy to play with them without probably deviating too much from the sweet spot. One of the most annoying things for me personally are the chromatic aberrations that become more apparent near the edges of the lens.

    The 1080p OLED display is really superior in many ways as compared to the LCD screen in DK1, but it it still not the perfect display for the Rift. Aside from the higher resolution the OLED display offers much better contrast and brighter and more vivid colors… maybe even bit too much at times considering there is no other light coming to your eyes besides the one from the screen.

  • 3 Light // Sep 11, 2014 at 22:06

    Very interesting. Still not decided should I wait another year or buy it right now… Because I like 3d vision 2 glasses, but still want to be able to rotate a head in the game.

    How good is a stereo view quality? Is it as good as real world or is it more like nvidia 3d vision? Can you adjust the 3d separation percentage in the software?

  • 4 Light // Sep 11, 2014 at 22:07

    and to adjust convergence too?

  • 5 Bloody // Sep 12, 2014 at 14:44

    Light, Oculus Rift’s stereoscopic 3D support was never meant for anything other than to provide a more believable VR experience it is not intended to create “unrealistic” stereoscopic 3D effect. Thus user control for the convergence and depth like you have in 3D Vision is not directly accessible, on the contrary you create a user profile with personal data that is supposed to create the most realistic experience for the stereo 3D. Though developers should be able to easily manipulate the stereoscopic 3D effect to better suit their application specifics, so you can for example see an application for Oculus Rift that uses hyperstereo just to be able to represent in 3D something that you don’t normally see with a lot of depth information for example.

  • 6 Light // Sep 12, 2014 at 17:40

    Thanks you for answer and information! That’s good if there is already made the best possible stereo effect presets for all Oculus Rift compatible games and demos.

    The only thing that is bothering me, that everyone enjoy different amount of 3d separation. Sometimes I like to set 70% of stereo effect, sometimes 50%, 30%. If someone, who is making profile for own game is setting just 5% 3d separation, it is not enough for me. Because I know many people who doesn’t like too much stereo in games and prefer more 2d look with only minor stereo. That’s why I would like to have hotkeys for adjusting stereo view.

  • 7 lohan // Sep 12, 2014 at 21:17

    The following question is strictly aimed for your PERSONAL Preference Bloody:

    Being someone who is following 3D gaming and especially this awesome blog since 2009 (meaning I am holding your opinion in high regard) I would really like to know which way of gaming you currently prefer? We all know that the DK2 is still not the final product while 3D Vision is an established product since years.

    I have owned and tested every single available way of 3D gaming (3D Monitor, 3DTV, 3D Vision Surround, 3D projector, every version of theSony HMZ (1-3) as well as both Oculus Rift DKs (DK1 & DK2). I have to admit that I am totally torn right now between embracing all the immersion-boosting aspects of the DK2 (scale, head tracking, positional tracking etc.) and the glorious 3D quality that 3D Vision offers. Right now I really can’t decide between those two options. I absolutely enjoy the liefelike immersion of the DK2 but at the same time I am literally suffering under the DK2’s low resolution. You see right now it is not important for me if the final specifications of the Rift will be satisfying I really want to know about your current preference.

    When this question is raised (DK2 vs. 3D Vision) you often get the answer that those two can’t be compared to each other because they are so different. At this point I have to disagree. In the end both products are made for immersive and ultimately enjoyable gaming. So when it comes to the question which option I spent my time with I WILL HAVE A PREFERENCE which is the sum of all Ups and Downs of each of them.

    To cut a long story short: What’s your preference right now, Bloody (3D Vision or DK2 – and I mean DK2 not the final consumer version that will probably get rid of all current shortcomings).

  • 8 Bloody // Sep 13, 2014 at 00:43

    Light, maybe they need to work on some easily accessible controls for the user to also adjust the level of the stereoscopic 3D effect like on 3D Vision, though apparently this is not a priority or very important at all for Oculus… but if users demand such functionality it should be implemented.

    lohan, for stereoscopic 3D immersion I would go for the 3D Vision… the level of 3D effects using the Oculus Rift is nice as a part of the general immersion, but not as impressive as what you can get with 3D Vision after you play with the settings. If I want VR experience with a high level of realism I would go for the Rift, but if what I want is not a realistic experience, but enjoyable and fun stereoscopic 3D “adventure” I would go for 3D Vision.

    In the future we might see even more impressive things done with Oculus Rift and even more impressive hardware, hopefully we will, but the main idea of the product is to provide realistic virtual reality experience and stereo 3D is just a part of that.

    When I’m playing games I usually want not maximum realism in the game, but to experience something different than the real world and 3D Vision helps in getting that (when supported properly in games). There are games where I would prefer to have a more realistic experience and having the game’s virtual world seeming as realistic as possible, however there are actually not that much such titles. So in that regard my preference for gaming is 3D Vision, so I’m not that happy seeing Nvidia literally abandoning it.

    The 3D Vision technology can work great in normal traditional games, but for the Oculus Rift to really shine it needs new games specially designed to take advantage of all of its functions and we are probably going to see some serious such titles, but for now there are a few potential candidates in the form of demos that are showing some impressive stuff that can be achieved with the Rift. This is also a reason why many people, including myself, have a hard time comparing 3D Vision and Oculus Rift – these are different products with different goals, so you cannot just say which one is better in general, you need to go into details and explain what works better where and why.

  • 9 Reaper // Sep 18, 2014 at 21:00

    Bloody, any thoughts on this one?


  • 10 Bloody // Sep 19, 2014 at 11:53

    Reaper, it looks like they’ve fixed or are planning to fix some of the drawbacks that the current Oculus DK2 has, making it a better product if they are able to ship now. However they are almost a year ahead of being able to start shipping (if no delays) and in that time we could see a much better DK3 for example. The only significant advantage is the approach to have the processing done inside the device by hardware and not by software/driver that should theoretically make it compatible with wider range of games and console and mobile devices as well. This however means that it will work with software not optimized or specially designed for VR and that could be a problem for people expecting great VR experience. The good thing is that we are seeing more companies getting into VR and offering better and better products… so in a few years we could have a lot of options available and not just one good VR device like the Rift.

  • 11 Robert Musillo // Sep 22, 2014 at 05:45

    Nice review/impressions. Its getting more and more depressing to me personally the more they realize they need more resolution. It just seems like its “ten years too early.” At the resolutions 1440P@75hz or even 4k…. graphics will need to be so simplistic in order to get performance to drive the devices.
    I once said maybe 1-2 years ago. I am excited about it but I don’t want to take two steps back to take one step forward…. its like ten steps back now.

  • 12 Asiskumar // Feb 27, 2015 at 21:54

    We’ve got a fresh round of updates for Cardboard users, developers, and makers. This would be good for newbies and also the existing developers to port to Material design and so on 

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