Cutting Edge Tech: Oculus Rift

Virtual reality gaming systems have been around for a while; that is if you can really call them “virtual reality.” In actuality, the games were limited to a large hood that allowed the player to seek out their enemy and lob missiles at them. The enemy resembled more like blocks rather than tanks and helicopters.

The reason for the poor graphics was simple. Virtual reality systems, which relied on today’s graphic engines, did not refresh fast enough. Therefore, when the player’s head and eyes would move, the image would fail to move at the same speed. This lag made people sick; that is it actually made people vomit. The Oculus Rift, however, is being herald as the first non-nauseating head-mounted virtual reality display.

What is Oculus Rift & How Did It Start?

Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset designed to be an immersive 3D experience that makes the wearer feel as if they’re really in the game or scenario that’s being displayed.

The Rift began as the brainchild of Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus. His initial goal was to create a head-mounted gaming system that would be more effective and less expensive than anything on the market. At the same time John Carmack, the designer behind games like Quake and Doom, was doing his own research into head-mounted VR systems for Doom 3 and came across Luckey’s work. His system soon became John’s favorite. Carmack chose to use the Rift prototype with his own software. This partnership led Carmack to take a CTO position at Oculus. Soon after, Facebook purchased Oculus for $400 million in cash and $1.6 million in Facebook stock. The company kept Luckey and Carmack on board.

How Do You Use Oculus Rift?

The Rift straps to the user’s head like a large set of goggles to replace the wearer’s field of vision with a digital image. Once the wearer is immersed in their virtual environment, a feeling known as “presence” takes place, creating the sensation as if the wearer is in the game/scenario itself.

Originally built for video games, the Rift promises to be very exciting. However, its uses are not limited to entertainment. In fact, once the development kits were made available, other uses for Rift began to come to light:

  • Educators found that they could teach through immersive experiences.
  • It can be used to treat people for anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress.
  • It provides a platform for remote interactions between people.
  • Doctors can use the device to treat patients when an office visit isn’t necessary.
  • Tourists can travel the world without leaving their living room when the Rift is strapped on.

Where Can You Find Rift?

Unfortunately, Oculus only makes a developer kit available at this moment and it sells for $350. The consumer version, slated to hit the market in the first quarter of 2016, is expected to retail around $200. The launch date has been pushed back in the past as the CEO, Brendan Iribe, originally stated he would be disappointed if the release didn’t happen in 2015.

Security & Privacy

With any new technology, security and privacy are a major concern. As people have the capability to share and access more information, there runs a greater risk of private or confidential data that can be compromised. Oculus does collect information from its users and how they handle data is spelled out in their privacy policy rather explicitly. As we have seen in some recent attacks on networking equipment, because the Rift is a hardware device, there is the possibility of attackers compromising the firmware. This creates concerns for people who may be using Rift to work with confidential information or intellectual property.

Oculus Rift does seem to move virtual reality into hands of the consumer rather well. Demos to the public have been well-received, and if the company can keep the price point around $200, it appears that Oculus will be a worthwhile technology for the average consumer and not just the tech geek.

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