CES: Oculus Rift Makes Evolutionary Leap with New Motion Tracking (Hands-on)New motion tracking tech and blur reduction makes me a believer.
January 07, 2014
by Scott Lowe
The Oculus Rift is making a big evolutionary leap at this year's CES. Today, the company introduced the latest prototype of the upcoming virtual reality headset, which makes significant improvements to latency and blurring, as well as the addition of new positional tracking. The new tracking capabilities are made possible due to a notable addition to the Rift — an external camera.
While Oculus is still not discussing its plans for launching the Rift and cautions that there's still much work to be done, everything I saw today will be part of the consumer experience, if not substantially improved.
Although the camera adds another piece of required hardware to the system, the resulting experience may make it worth it. In previous iterations, the Rift was only capable of tracking a player's head as it viewed the in-game world, thus limiting the experience to basic head tilting and perspective changes. Now, however, the Rift allows players to lean around objects or bend over and look at action below. It may seem like a minor change, but the added positional tracking opens new doors in terms of gameplay integration. Imagine playing a shooter and being able to physically lean out of a window to return fire or a stealth game where you need to peek around corners.
For my demo, Oculus showed off a new demo using the Unreal 4 engine — a 3D strategy / wave defense game. From a fixed seated position, I was able to lean over and look down and zoom in on the level and the incoming enemies. It also showed the latest version of EVE: Valkyrie, which was announced today as a launch title for the Rift. In the demo, I was able to lean around the cockpit and take a closer look at the various HUD screens, and even read relevant data off of them.
Most importantly, Oculus has significantly reduced the motion blurring effect that has limited the experience up until now. Though not completely eliminated, rapid movements are crisper and clearer and the subsequently, less disorienting. It was an element of the product that previously caused me to feel nauseous, but now I was able to use the product for an extended period comfortable.
Finally, Oculus has now adopted an OLED panel for the in-viewer display, which results in crisper colors, lower latency, and an overall more arresting experience.
Until now, I've been skeptical about the Rift — I had previously found it blissfully immersive, but ultimately too disorienting for practical extended use — but the latest iteration has shown me that Oculus can and is making big strides to improve the experience. The Rift isn't quite there yet, but I'm more confident than ever that it can.