The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset display is still without a release date, but early versions have already blown us away with the device’s ability to immerse wearers in virtual worlds.
But there’s still a big question facing the team at Oculus: What is virtual reality input?
Right now, you can play games while wearing the Oculus headset while seated in front of your keyboard and mouse, or while holding a controller. But when your display gives you the ability to look up, down and all around you with lifelike head tracking, will we want a more immersive, realistic type of input as well?
Teddy Lipowitz, a developer from Australia, has put together a demo of the sort of thing we might play in the near future. Lipowitz, 32, posted a demo on the Oculus Rift forums of a cover-based first-person shooter that uses motion controllers.
The simplistic demo pits a single player with a gun against an battalion of alien soldiers. Physically ducking with your body lets you hide behind crates to dodge their blasts, and Lipowitz’s setup allows for precise control of the gun.
The demo is so realistic, he says, that some players get a little too immersed.
“Please be careful when playing this demo,” Lipowitz wrote on the forums. “Lots of people try to support themselves on the crates when they try to stand up or when leaning up against a column, but find there is nothing there!”
The motion controllers aren’t just for gun control; Lipowitz’ demo uses them to track the movement of the player’s torso. The Oculus Rift tracks your head, not your body.
The demo makes use of Razer’s Hydra motion controllers, two Wii-style wands that are sold as a bundle.
By strapping one of the wands to his chest and using another as a gun, Lipowitz tracks his head, torso and arm movements. He can look around while walking in a straight line, and the Rift headset and Hydra communicate so things don’t get out of sync.
“Once I had that part figured out,” Lipowitz told WIRED in an email, “the rest was pretty easy. 3-D games are really built for this kind of thing!”
Lipowitz says that he’s tweaked things at a software level about as well as he ever could, and that new hardware will have to be developed to properly fix some of the remaining issues, like the jittery gun controls.
“Cables are the biggest problem at the moment,” he says. “You’re limited to a pretty small play space, and if you turn around too many times you’ll get tangled. I’ve built my levels so you’re mostly facing towards your desk, which makes the layout quite linear.”
Lipowitz’s demo is available for free download, and he has no plans on selling his code, saying he’s just “very excited about the reincarnation of Virtual Reality.”
While the consumer version of the Oculus Rift is not yet on shelves, the development kit version is available for $300 from Oculus, with new orders slated to ship in September