It seems that the guys at Oculus are already working hard on the consumer version of the Rift that will probably feature a Full HD display and the good news is that the first HD prototypes of the HMD device are being demonstrated at the E3 expo, so if you are visiting you might ant to check them out. Have in mind that this is just a prototype with a better resolution display and not a what the consumer version of the device might be like, but apparently the upgrade of the screen from 1280×800 to 1920×1080 (split in two for each eye) does make a difference.
Above you can see a screenshot of Epic Citadel (Unreal Engine 3) in the 720p development kit (left) and in the 1080p prototype (right) as a reference released by Oculus, even though the image is low res you should be able to see that the higher resolution HD prototype provides more detail and sharper image. The lower resolution of the Development kit of the Rift is one of the most noted disadvantages by people that have tried the device, so going for the higher resolution 1080p display should really make a lot of difference even though that each eye will get 960×1080 resolution.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been playing mostly with the Oculus Rift Dev Kit since I’ve got my unit and the good thing is that even though so far only about 2K development kits were shipped the community is very active and there are new development around the Rift all the time. Now, since the Rift covers your vision completely and when you put on headphones for the sound you kind of get completely cut off from the “real world”, and though that this has advantages it also brings some disadvantages. Like having a hard time finding the keyboard or the mouse on your desk without taking off the Rift, so I’ve decided to see what can we do to easily get around this problem. The solution is actually quite simple – add a webcam with a wide angle lens so that when you are wearing the Rift you can switch to the camera and see your desk or what is happening around you. I’ve had a suitable webcam around and by replacing the standard lens with a wider angle one I got this simple and easy to use solution working almost perfectly.
I’ve mounted the camera with Velcro in the center of the Rift and then fired up the Stereoscopic Player with Live Video mode on and the monoscopic camera input set to output using the Oculus Rift viewing method. The web camera is with 640×480 resolution and 30 fps and that seems to work quite well, it also has a set of LEDs for use in dark environments (including a set of IR LEDs) and plugs via USB, it also has a microphone, though I was not able to make it work under Stereoscopic Player. Now, you can easily extend this solution by adding two web cameras f the same model on your Rift to get a stereoscopic 3D video input with the help of the Stereoscopic Multiplexer dual-camera capture solution developers by Peter Wimmer, the author of the Stereoscopic Player. You need to run the Stereoscopic Player in full-screen mode and you can switch between it and the currently running Oculus Rift-compatible game or application by the key combination ALT + TAB. The only drawback here is that you need to be able to hit the key combination, but you can thing of something more creative to be mapped to that combination to make it easier two switch between the two. It works surprisingly well and is a modification that everyone should be able to easily make, even with two cameras for stereo 3D video input (placed at the right distance based on your IPD), the key thing is to use a wider angle lenses instead of the standard ones that would probably be with a narrower angle.
If we get integrated stereo camera solution with an easy to activate overlay or switch between the camera input and application input or combining them both in a future version the Oculus Rift it would also be able to become a device capable not only of VR with stereo 3D support, but for AR applications as well. Meanwhile, the next thing to try out for me is to get rid of all the cables and make the Oculus Rift completely mobile and wirelessly connected to the PC – the display and the headtracker, along with suitable wireless controllers and wireless headphones as well powered by a battery and all inside a backapack on the user’s back. This however would probably take some more time to complete…
Even though the main focus of the Oculus Rift is virtual reality experiences, many users would also want to be able to use this HMD device for other simpler things like playback of 2D and 3D video as well. The good news is that the latest version 2.0.5 of the Stereoscopic Player released earlier this month brought support for 2D and 3D video playback on the Rift, of course there is no support for the head tracker, but you don’t need it for video playback anyway. To enable the right viewing mode just select Oculus Rift in the Settings under the Playback Options panel and the videos you open either in 2D (monoscopic) or in 3D mode (stereoscopic) will be rendered with the correct optical distortion required by the Rift.
The playback of both 2D and stereo 3D videos with the Stereoscopic Player on the Rift works quite well with 3D videos obviously being more impressive than the flat 2D ones that just show the same image for each eye. A stereo 3D video with more depth can look quite impressive when viewed with the Oculus Rift. The only drawback however is that when viewing 1080p 3D videos they need to be scaled down and there is quite a lot of vertical screen space left unused because of the wide aspect. As a result you may be able to notice the top and bottom edges of the video frame when watching the video with the Rift, so have that in mind.