Hands-on: Oculus VR Crystal Cove prototype

Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that immerses you into video games like you'll have never experienced before. We've been watching the company's progression for a number of years now, trying out each iteration of the headset, all before it becomes commercially available.

The latest prototype being demoed by the company is the Oculus VR Crystal Cove Prototype, which adds a number of new features on top of the ones that we've previously seen.

At CES in Las Vegas, Pocket-lint was invited behind closed doors to have a play with two demos that help show off the new features that the makers hope to add to the final consumer available version.

Improvements

Although specific technical specs aren't being shared, Oculus VR has now added an OLED display with a higher resolution, vastly improving the experience over previous versions. The crystal clear view now totally encompasses your vision regardless of where you move your head and that makes you believe that you are in whatever world you are virtually in.

In the case of our two demos, that's a spaceship game made by the same people behind EVE Online and a table top game playing against a demon made by Epic Games.

The big change however is the introduction of something called low persistence that solves one of the biggest problems experienced by users of the headset already. It's rather technical to explain, but Oculus VR has worked out how do drastically reduce lag and motion blur in the game by improving refresh rates and how the information is displayed on the screen.

Motion Tracking

The other new feature being demoed as part of the Oculus VR Crystal Cove prototype is motion tracking. You now move closer to something to inspect it the world stays where it is and it becomes clearer - before it would continue to move away from you.

In our demos this meant leaning in to reveal a clearer view of the spaceship's controls (we could read the writing for example) and in the table top game a real chance to inspect the characters walking around the board. It's very clever and very real.

Using a camera mounted in the room and small white dots placed all over the actual mask you wear, the software can now determine more specifically where and how you are moving your head. It's not the same, but similar to how Hollywood movies track actors before overlaying graphics on them (think Planet of the Apes) and it works a treat here.

Move you head in the virtual world you are in and there is virtually no lag. In fact while we were demoing the games and being talked to by spokesmen of the company, it was more off putting that turning to see them, they weren't in our field of view because they weren't in the game.

EVE Valkyrie

Having played this before at E3, it was good to get a second go on the new hardware. It's incredibly visual because you are playing a space dogfight shooting down enemy ships and trying to move your head to look for them.

Imagine any of the aircraft scenes in Top Gun and you get the idea. That dazzlingly immersiveness did make us feel dizzy at one point as we barrel rolled and looked up trying to lock on to an opponent. Amazing.

Magma Lord tablet top game

Much more sedate is the table top game also used to show off the capabilities of what the headset can do. The game involved a number of dwarfs following a set path and you having the chance to shoot, burn, or simply blow them up at the press of a button. While the gameplay is by the by, it's the ability to look at the characters closely that is the exciting thing here. The world is just as immersive and it blows away anything seen on the Xbox One or the PS4.

First impressions

Although there is no confirmed launch date, and a final features list hasn't been confirmed yet, the latest Oculus VR demo is more impressive than all the Rift demos that we've seen before. The two virtual worlds we inhabited for around 15 minutes where mind-bogglingly impressive.

There is still plenty of work to be done though and Oculus VR are happy to admit that, which is why it's not available yet. But what we've seen makes us want one even more.