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Old 09-05-12, 12:40 PM   #1
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Post Virtual reality's time to shine: Hands-on with the Oculus Rift

The duct tape aesthetic doesn't do the prototype any favors, but that doesn't hurt its performance one bit.
Kyle Orland


After decades of virtual reality headsets that failed to live up to their somewhat sci-fi promise, it wouldn't have been a shock if developers and gamers cast a jaded eye towardthe Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign. Sure, the Rift boasted of crucial improvements to optics, head-tracking, and design issues that have held back previous similar headsets, but it was still an unproven prototype in a sector that has seen its fair share of failure. Now that the campaign has brought in nearly $2.5 million by selling development kits to nearly 10,000 game developers around the world, though, it seems that the time for a truly mass-market VR headset might finally be at hand.

Much of that Kickstarter success is due to the early support of Doom and Quake creator John Carmack. He had been mulling over his own ideas for a VR headset earlier this year when he stumbled across details of an early prototype of the Rift on an obscure stereo 3D and headset forum. When Carmack approached creator (and VR headset collector) Palmer Luckey about buying a prototype, Luckey instead insisted he have one to try for free. Days later, Carmack was showing off that early Rift prototype to journalists and other interested parties at E3, and touting it as the best virtual reality headset he's ever used.

Carmack's support was key to getting Oculus Rift CEO (and former Autodesk, Scaleform, and Gaikai executive) Brenden Iribe to take a second look at the Oculus when the startup approached him earlier this year. "If somebody called and said, 'You need to meet with this young guy. He's making a VR headset,' you might say 'Ehh.'" In fact, even with Carmack's backing, Iribe said he was still skeptical when he first heard about the device. "I figured, 'Oh, what's Carmack up to now? Is this going to be really practical or not?' But then I thought, 'Carmack is practical, though,'" Iribe said. "He did 2D practically and figured out how to make Commander Keen work, and figured out how to do 3D and Doom and Quake so if he is this excited about VR, he must have figured out how to make it feel really good. Then you click it on and you're like, 'Oh ****, this is amazing.'"

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