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My First Impressions from the Oculus Rift Development Kit

April 6th, 2013 · 21 Comments · 3D / AR / VR / HMD


After I’ve had a day to test out and play with my Oculus Rift dev kit I’m ready to share some of the first impressions I’ve got from the device by trying out some of the still very few demos available as well as the first game that supports it – Team Fortress 2. Since I do wear prescription glasses as I’m a bit nearsighted, with -1.25 diopters what seemed to work best with the Rift was the middle B set of lenses as the A set produces a blurry image for me and the C set is a bit too much. I’ve also tested trying to fit my prescription glasses inside the Rift as they are pretty compact in size (the do fit inside), the effect I get with them inside using the A set is pretty much the same as when using the B set without the glasses. I prefer to use the B set of lenses as it is more comfortable than to try to wear my glasses inside the rift and if you wear larger prescription glasses you may have trouble fitting them inside. You should have in mind that wearing glasses when using the Rift or using the B and C sets of lenses does lead to a slight reduction in the FOV you get. So people with normal vision or if wearing contact lenses with the A set will probably get the best experience in terms of largest FOV achievable, though the difference in the FOV with the B/C sets visually is not that much noticeable.

So after setting up the dev kit with the right lenses it was time to try it out. Obviously the first thing to do when you get your development kit is to register at the Oculus Developer Center (if you still haven’t) and to download the Oculus Tuscany Demo to try out the Rift and this is exactly what I did. As soon as I put on the Rift and started the demo the WOW effect was there, the large FOV you get and the image covering your vision well enough surely makes it feel great. The immersion is very good and the responsiveness of the headtracker makes the head movements result in very natural movement of the image on the screen. A few seconds after that however you may start to notice the not so good things, such as the low resolution (roughly about 580×580 pixels per eye used in TF2 for example) – looking at the Oculus Rift LCD display without the lenses it looks great in terms of detail, but since the lenses zoom it you can clearly see the pixels. So a higher resolution display is indeed a must have for the consumer version of the device, though if you stop paying too much attention to the pixels you can still enjoy what you get. For me personally the lower resolution wasn’t actually the biggest issue, what bothers me more is the motion blur around objects while I move my head around (probably due to slower pixel response time), the blur is not so apparent when looking around with the mouse or moving with the keyboard. This means that it could be possible to improve the situation with just a software update by further improving the translation of the head tracker movements to the image being rendered on the display. Some people may not notice the motion blur that much or it may not bother them as much, but for me it is a bit of a problem, and it probably results in me getting a slight nausea when moving with the keyboard and moving my head looking around. Strangely enough I get nausea fairly quickly only in the Oculus Tuscany Demo and not in any other of the demos I’ve tried or in TF2 (or at least not as fast as in the Tuscany Demo), though I do notice the motion blur in them as well.

The other demos that I’ve tried and that you may want to try out if you still haven’t include the: Space Station Explorer that looks quite well, though not very “playable” yet, the Ogre Oculus that is Ok, even though it does not work very well and is not very complete yet, but the most impressive demo for the moment seems to be the Museum of the Microstar – Oculus Rift Edition. These demos can give you an idea on what to expect and allow you to explore various “virtual worlds” to give you an idea what is possible with the Rift, but you’d want to give Team Fortress 2 a try, it is a free to play game and is currently the only game available to actually feature support for the Rift. The Doom 3 BFG Edition or the Hawken that have Rift support announced are still not yet available to be played with the final version of the Rift dev kits. There is a detailed guide for TF2 on how to enable VR mode in the game. I’ve had a weird problem at first getting an error that the tracker is not being detected, even though it was running fine in the other demos – moving the USB cable from the USB 3.0 port it was connected to to another USB 2.0 has resolved the issue and the game ran fine after that. Playing TF2 with the Rift feels a bit strange at first and requires a bit of getting used to as unlike with the demos here you need to shoot at the enemies. The game works quite well after you get the hang of controlling it, though using the developer console and reading some texts is a it problematic due to the lower image resolution. I still haven’t played with most of the advanced options available in the game, but even the default setup works quite well for me.

I’m sure that many of you are also interested in the stereoscopic 3D experience that the Rift provides. The focus of the stereoscopic 3D support with the Rift is making things seem realistic, that is why by default the settings for the stereoscopic 3D rendering are intended to make virtual objects seem realistic in proportions. And while this works quite well in the demos, they may seem a bit flat for people sued to playing games in stereoscopic 3D mode with a lot of depth – not intended to provide realistic proportions, but just to have a lot of depth. So if realism is your goal, it works quite well even now, though the lower resolution is a bit of a drawback here as well, but virtual reality does not need to always be true to real things, it can be used to provide “unreal” experiences as well. I suppose it can take some time for developers to pick up on stereoscopic 3D support for the Rift to be able to use it as best as possible and also to give adequate user control over the depth levels. From the currently available supported software I cannot say I’m impressed by the stereoscopic 3D support as much as by the VR experience, though both work well together.

Another thing to note, not so bothering, but still a bit of an issue are the color aberrations around objects that can be seen closer to the edges of the lenses, and further improvement to the lenses and the image distortion algorithm could also help in reducing these. By default the display is set to pretty low Brightness of 0 and Contrast setting of 50 and you may want to bring the Contrast even a bit lower as the image can still be quite bright at times, no point in bringing it higher. What you should also be careful about is to keep the lenses clean and not to allow dust to enter inside and fall on the screen as it looks like large dead pixels on the display when you put on the Rift and these are hard to clean. I’ve had a few times the lenses fogging up after some time of use (I guess my face got sweaty). The weight of the unit is Ok and you quickly can get used to wearing it without being bothered at all, though the side straps needed a bit of adjusting in order not to cover my ears so I can use headphones, also the cable between the control unit and the display could be made more flexible.

After trying all of the above demos and TF2 I can say I’m quite pleased with the results and how well the Rift works in overall, lets not forget that this is still a developer kit and it is intended to help developers get to know how to work on VR applications supporting the device and be ready to have them running great with a further improved consumer version. The Rift shows a great potential, even though there are areas that need improvement in order to provide even better user experience, the headtracking is good, but we still need improvement in the display as well as further tweaking the software and improving the support. The Oculus Rift is much better in terms of immersion as compared to all other HDM devices that I’ve tried so far, mostly due to the larger FOV it provides and with a bit more improvement and refining it can really lead to bringing affordable virtual reality experiences to everyone. For now however, unless you are a software developer or an enthusiast interested in researching or programming VR applications you’d probably want to wait for the consumer version of the Rift. If you are a normal consumer and have the chance of trying out the Oculus Rift developer kit you should give it a try, but probably it will not be a good idea to order a kit yourself, better wait for the improved consumer version and for more content supporting the Rift to become available.

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21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Oren // Apr 7, 2013 at 01:32

    Thank you for this very detailed review of the Oculus Rift. I also hope that they’ll have a larger resolution in the consumer version.

  • 2 eqzitara // Apr 7, 2013 at 06:44

    Very nice first impression, I didn’t think the developer kit would be taking over standard 3D displays. The hype kept growing though and I started to buy into it though. I am still excited about my developer kit though.

    You are very tech inclined and I can see the average user falling to pieces on setting up. Not to mention that even you as someone who deals with 3D on high basis felt nausea. The consumer version might be the necessary push but I still think 3D vision will be my primary focus till then.

    “From the currently available supported software I cannot say I’m impressed by the stereoscopic 3D support as much as by the VR experience”
    That scares me, not sure if its a limitation to reduce nausea or what. Till I heard that I wasn’t concerned about nausea, I was perfectly happy being stationary and maximizing on wide fov and great S3D when consumer version came around…. but that line scares me.

  • 3 eqzitara // Apr 7, 2013 at 07:07

    One last mention, I partly blame the hype for this.
    Third Party support
    When they are more readily available talk about third party support. Whether it being Virerio/ Vorpx, unless you feel its putting people on the spot. My concern is S3D rendering issues. I was kinda of skeevy about it in general because as 3D vision users we know little things can both us.
    Sky at wrong depth, depth of field, water at wrong depth, broken effects, etc. Now when we combine head movement and games not built around it how do we deal with it or will it be as said before reduction of settings.
    This is the main reason I was excited about Vorpx. He got some grift when he first announced depth buffer, but issues are minimal using it. Its probably the only way I’d imagine a wide range of support working but I’ve never actually seen content. Would love to hear your thoughts since Im probably due in Summer… or next year.

  • 4 Ben | Wanderlusters // Apr 7, 2013 at 10:27

    Hi bloody,

    Great first impressions. If I’m being honest it is making me consider cancelling my kickstarter backing before dispatch.

    One question I do have is have you calibrated your inter-pupillary distance in TF2 (type “vr_calibration” in console)?

    Another review I watched on YouTube seemed to indicate that made quite a lot of difference to the 3D stereoscopic effect.

    Cheers, Ben

  • 5 Ben | Wanderlusters // Apr 7, 2013 at 10:29

    Link for setting IPD in TF2:


  • 6 pipper // Apr 7, 2013 at 11:22

    After seeing all the hype, I had big hopes for the rift. Bit after reading your review I’m back on planet Earth. Still looking forward to receive my devkit though. Maybe other people are more happy with the rift because for them S3D is new.

    However, great review!

  • 7 Bloody // Apr 7, 2013 at 12:20

    Don’t get me wrong, the Rift is great and provides a really nice VR experience – I like it, but there are still things that need to be improved before it is ready for general use by consumers. It will be a very helpful tool for developers to get up to speed with VR programming and hopefully help in forming a community to find out what are the best practices and what to avoid when programming VR games and applications. Enthusiasts like me would probably love playing with the Rift, but for consumers it might be a bit disappointing – due to all the hype and having very high expectations, especially considering the general lack of readily available content to support it at the moment.

    I’ve played with IPD adjustment but that did not bring much of a difference as my IPD is 64mm as measured when checking my eyes the last time. The stereo effect is there and it works well, I’m saying it might be a bit disappointment for people that are used to playing with 3D Vision for example and cranking up the depth level to the maximum.

    There is more information available on what causes nausea and motion sickness in general here – https://developer.oculusvr.com/wiki/Motion_Sickness

    I suppose that after a bit of getting used to the Rift I’ll have less of a problem with unnatural combined movements or visual effects leading to nausea, just like you need some time when you are new to stereoscopic 3D to get adjusted and be able to play with higher depth levels comfortably.

    As for converting normal games with no Rift support built-in to support the device with drivers such as the Vireio or the VorpX (still need to see something working here) things may not be as easy and as good as you might expect. Getting objects or effects rendered at wrong depth or only in one of the eyes can turn out to be a serious issue due to the large FOV that the Rift provides – it could be like trying to stick a needle in your eye.

    The above are just my first objective impressions, putting aside all the hype surrounding the Rift dev kits so that you can see what you should really expect. I’m sure that very soon we are going to have many people getting the dev kits bringing various mods and a lot of improvements both to further improve the experience. There are still a lot of things that need to be discovered by trial and error and need to be shared and considered, for example things regarding what is causing motion sickness and how to avoid it in the applications you make.

  • 8 pipper // Apr 7, 2013 at 14:56

    Well, at least my expectations are now at a more realistic level. I bought the devkit just to get my fist VR experience and because I could play Doom 3 with it. Unfortunately that’s not the case. And the fact that there is no official comment on this matter worries me.

  • 9 BF3 // Apr 7, 2013 at 16:26

    I’m wondering if you can just use this thing as a large 3d monitor? Take out the head tracking etc and just use it as a huge 3d monitor where you can adjust convergence and depth.

  • 10 pipper // Apr 7, 2013 at 19:11


    I don’t think you can. Besides, since it so low resolution, what’s the point of having a huge screen in such a low resolution?

    If you want wide FOV, and great 3D i’d recommend 3D vision Surround, it awesome, yet really expensive.

  • 11 eqzitara // Apr 7, 2013 at 19:53

    Thanks, thats what I thought as well. Hopefully Vorpx is real or someone else will work out depth buffer because its only realistic way I see for 3rd party renderer.
    I preordered rift as an an enthusiast who plans to play a game every once in a while on it. Its still the same, my expectations are alot more realistic now.

  • 12 BL1NDS1DE13 // Apr 8, 2013 at 05:19

    I would also have to say that all of my initial thoughts seem to have been confirmed by Bloody….

    -have never used any head tracking that truly works for true pov control or accurate for aiming.
    -there is no way resolution that low could be anything but disappointing.
    -having to take the thing apart to clean dust off the lens or screen more than once equals fail. ( had not really considered the fogging up issue, so I can add that to my list )
    -I know Bloody said it is not too uncomfortable, so I believe him, but wearing anything strapped to my head that weighs much more than my sunglasses for more than about 10 minutes … well, It makes my neck hurt just thinking about it.

    On the plus side it looks like this will be a relatively inexpensive device. Other than that I can not see it being much more than a novelty device. Just think how cheap these will be used on ebay after the consumer model has been out for a few months.

  • 13 RAZOR11 // Apr 10, 2013 at 01:00

    Thanks for the Review!
    Maybe the consumer version then, i just saved $300!

  • 14 Ryan // Apr 10, 2013 at 01:25

    Thanks for the review. I made the Space Station Explorer experience BTW. It only took a few hours with zero experience. I look forward to continue building my own worlds. I’ve had mine for a week and love it more as I use it more. The UDK demos are really the best. Check the developer forum. I’d like to see you update this review in a week. Rift Rush is also cool, back on Kickstarter to get the alpha.

  • 15 eqzitara // Apr 10, 2013 at 04:38

    Bloody, out of curious are you worried about the future of the device as far as a 3D user? I kind of am tbh, everyone is basically feeding off of praise and its generally by VR community and people have not tried it out yet. The 3D community has taken it to be a 3D device because of its 3D design.
    My concern is even if it starts off as two camera viewpoint S3D device. How is it going to last, I have been to the MTBS forums and the specs of peoples computers are very poor. To the point I even doubt that they can maintain 1280X800 in 3D. They will quickly learn that high frame rate will be necessary to improve motion/ less nausea. We got into 3D as enthusiasts knowing upgrading computers constantly is needed.
    This was at one point I saw it as an enthusiast device. Now there is kickstarters for games and the general public wants one. Now even if 1280×800 in 3D is viable for most. When this device goes consumer at high res. Do you fear it will turn into a depth buffer/simulated 3D/ or just 2D?

    This is an excerpt from The gallery kickstarter…
    It’s too early to say at this stage. Keeping latency down and frame rates up becomes a tougher challenge the further you move into graphic realism. Rendering in 3D is twice as much work for your GPU, so it’s always a challenge to optimize. Abstracted games won’t put nearly the strain on systems that our game will. That being said, optimization is a big part of where we’ll be investing our time when designing levels. Hopefully, mid-range systems will be easily able to cope with things.

  • 16 VRGuy // Apr 10, 2013 at 19:33

    Nice review. Thank you for posting.
    The resolution of the goggles – across both eyes – is 1280×800 pixels, which means each eye gets 640×800 pixels. However, because of the warping done to compensate for the optical distortion, it seems that a reasonably large portion of the display is black in the edges and that the actual image takes much fewer than 640×800 pixels. Can you estimate what percentage of the display is actually being used for the image and what portion is left black?

  • 17 Bloody // Apr 11, 2013 at 11:08

    eqzitara, I’m very optimistic about the Rift, after a year more work with a further optimized and improved consumer version it can turn out to be a great VR device with 3D support being there as a part of the experience, not the sole focus. But I don’t see the Rift being a serious alternative for traditional stereoscopic 3D gaming and competing with 3D Vision for example at least for now. The good thins is it might help game developers to bring better stereoscopic 3D support or at least integrate such in their applications if they don’t focus on only the Rift, but want to provide support for the device. The Rift will work best with games especially optimized or written for it, I don’t so even with additional software to add support for already existing games to run on the Rift I don’t expect the experience to be as good as if the game is specially developed for the device.

    If we get the Rift supported by 3D Vision or TriDef 3D for example this might help a lot in bringing compatibility with a lot of games, but chances of that happening are very slim. I’m also interested in seeing how good the Rift can work out for playing 3D movies and more importantly if 3D movies will be causing nausea when you get them with the “in your face” experience.

    VRGuy, I’ve mentioned that above – roughly about 580×580 pixels per eye are being used in TF2 for example. Furthermore if you use the lenses for nearsighted people you get a bit more of screen estate actually not seen by the user.

  • 18 Mat // Apr 11, 2013 at 20:35

    According to Abrash from Valve, motion blur is less noticable while using a mouse because we tend to look straight ahead (just like when looking @ at computer screen), whereas when you’re in the game and turn your head, your eyes involuntarily follow the object/item you’re focusing on. So it’s not really a software issue (unfortunately)

  • 19 steve // Apr 12, 2013 at 00:59

    I wonder if the optics will show much higher resolution as a benefit. I assume straight on it will be good, but if the lens bends light like crazy on the edges, it may be so distorted in the corners that its not going to completely matter what resolution you go up to. If a boost in res really will help significantly, then we have nothing to worry about given that all these small phones are now coming out with 1920×1080 screens. This dev kit looks like its on the right track where all the other ones have not been.

  • 20 Bloody // Apr 13, 2013 at 14:07

    The UDK demos are definitely more impressive than the Unity ones, more and finer details in objects does also help for better stereoscopic 3D experience… also using 8x MSAA does help in making things look better even with the low resolution. With the UDK demos the motion blur from looking around using the headtracker seems a bit less apparent and I did not have any issues with motion sickness, though maybe I’m just getting more used to it. Maybe we should develop a VR training course for the Rift just like astronauts do get training ;)

    steve, this is actually quite easy to check. Just put on a lens from the Rift on an iPhone 4/4S display or another high pixel density screen to see, I specifically did that on a 4S, because it has a 3.5-inch screen with 326 ppi, a pixel density that can be retained if you scale the screen to 7-inch with Full HD resolution and it looks great. The lenses used in the Rift are very good and I don’t expect them to have issues with higher resolution screens.

  • 21 Anthony // Apr 22, 2013 at 09:27

    I just got my developers kit and IT BLEW ME AWAY! This is the start of something great! You feel like you are actually IN the game. It is amazing! That being said the resolution is a little low and will be upgraded in the future, however, the more time I spend with it the less I notice the low res. The Matrix is HERE!

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