Just how good is Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 in comparison to DK1?
Oculus VR has started to ship its second generation development kit to 10,000 of the estimated 35,000 that pre-ordered one. The remaining batch with ship in August, it is believed, perhaps slipping into September, such is the demand.
Interest in the Oculus Rift DK2 is so high that the soon-to-be Facebook-owned Oculus VR suspended its pre-order process soon after accepting them. It has struggled to build them quick enough to meet demand as it is. You can now pre-order headsets again, but you will unlikely receive yours before September.
One company that already had one in advance of the orders being shipped was Sega, which Pocket-lint visited to check out the challenge mode Oculus build of Alien: Isolation - the scariest experience we've had in gaming to date. We've already recounted our experience with the three minute slice of pure terror, but as we played it on the new headset, we thought we'd also give our first impressions of it too.
Having used several generations of the virtual reality headset, from the very first standard definition prototype, through DK1 and now onto DK2 we have seen a gradual improvement with each release. The resolution of the screen, for example, has jumped dramatically between DK1 and 2.
The original development kit had a single 7-inch screen with a pixel resolution of 1280 x 800. That effectively meant that each eye was getting a less-than HD resolution of 640 x 800. The second DevKit 2 has a 1920 x 1080 screen, giving a higher resolution of 960 x 1080 pixels for each eye, and you can really tell. Graphics, especially text, look much sharper and although you can still make out individual pixels - just - it is nowhere near as pronounced as before.
Indeed, with the clarity we experienced in the Alien: Isolation demo, it didn't take long for us to forget that we were looking at a screen at all.
We've also had issues with motion blur on former models, most notably with fast action such as during a dogfight we formerly took part in on Eve: Valkyrie. Thanks to the low persistence (down to 2ms) this time around, motion is much smoother and is therefore less likely to make you feel queasy or disorientated.
The other main feature added to DK2 is the ability to track the player's real world movements through positional tracking. This allows for certain in-game actions to happen based on where the player is standing or sitting. For example, in Alien: Isolation, we mainly had to hide behind crates and barrels to avoid the gaze of the creature hunting us. Using the DevKit 2, we could peek over the crates simply by raising ourselves in the chair, straightening our back. Alternatively, we could peek out from the sides by leaning a touch.
On the previous DevKit and Oculus headsets, those actions would require joypad or jostick control.
The tracking is done with a separate camera unit that looks a bit like a webcam. It uses an infrared CMOS sensor and is accurate enough to be further explored by developers as an alternative control method. It's not Kinect, but then you don't really want to wave your arms about while you've already got a substantial device strapped to your noggin.
Of course, that's probably the only thing about the second-gen development kit that isn't so impressive. It's still like strapping a shoe box to your face and, thanks to the 100 per cent field of view required for immersion, we can't see how that can be improved in any great amount by the time the consumer model is ready.
It is light though, just 440g. That is heavier than the former model, but not enough to feel significant. And as for exterior design, you won't care at all when you're wandering around the interiors of a mining craft or battling pirates who are trying to steal your cargo.
Oculus is finally answering critics who think the Rift will be a gimmick. On this showing, it is far far more than that. The future of gaming? Could be.
The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 is available for pre-order from oculusvr.com. It costs $350 (£205).