The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset originally funded on Kickstarter. The current version available is an early prototype aimed at developers. Oculus VR’s idea is that this first version will become ubiquitous among developers so that the next generation of games will all have Oculus support built in from the ground up and when the consumer version launches in 2014 they will mesh perfectly.

The Kickstarter ran in August 2012 and began shipping in March-April this year to backers. A commercial version is not available yet and neither a release date or price has been announced. That does not mean it isn’t something to get excited about now.

At Rezzed last weekend several developers had brought along their Oculus Rifts and had them running with their games. I was able to get a few minutes playing Surgical Simulator using the Oculus rift and Razor’s Hydra as a controller. So how was it?

If they can fix a few issues these may be the future. It was immersive and it really looked like I was looking at a cut open body. The screen splitting technology worked perfectly and was able to fool my eyes into thinking I was looking at a 3D environment. The screen resolution was high enough that I was not consciously seeing pixelation and it looked realistic.

What problems were there? As a very short sighted glasses wearer I had to either wear my glasses under the headset which put a lot of pressure on my face and was not optically ideal or wear it without the glasses which was somewhat blurry. I have been considering contact lenses for a while because of Google Glass and this would probably fix the problem. I have also had it pointed out to me that it is possible to change the internal lenses for the shortsighted which should help. The screens are still not quite high definition enough to be totally immersive and the total weight would be an issue for long play sessions. Also, I would not recommend it for anyone with significant issues with simulation and motion sickness.

The version of the Rift I was able to use is still very clearly an initial dev version but you can see the potential there. The consumer version will be higher resolution and should be smaller and lighter and if Rift VR can get a high enough number of devs to support it and the price is right the Oculus Rift will be a winner – I’ll certainly be buying one.

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