Oculus Rift

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Sergey Orlovskiy using the first version of the Oculus Rift Development Kit
Type Head-mounted display
Release date Q1 2016[1]
Inventor(s) Palmer Luckey (founder)[2]
Manufacturer Oculus VR
Display Technology OLED
Resolution 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye)[3]
Refresh Rate 90 Hz[3]
FOV (Nominal) 110 degrees or greater[4]
Head Tracking 6DOF (3-axis rotational tracking + 3-axis positional tracking)
Weight Consumer Version: TBA (Lighter than 380g)
Platforms Microsoft Windows[3]
Connection 1x HDMI 1.3 and 2x USB 3.0[3]
Website Official website

The Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted display developed by Oculus VR. It was initially proposed in a Kickstarter campaign, during which Oculus VR (at the time an independent company) raised US$2.4 million for the development of the product.[5]

The Rift will be released in Q1 2016, making it one of the first consumer-targeted virtual reality headsets. Oculus has described it as "the first really professional PC-based VR headset".[4] It has a resolution of 1080x1200 per eye, a 90 HZ refresh rate, and a wide field of view.[3] It has integrated headphones which provide spatialised audio. The Rift has full 6 degree of freedom rotational and positional tracking. The positional tracking is performed by a separate tracking unit, which is included with each Rift and normally sits on the user's desk. This system allows for using the Rift while sitting, standing, or walking around the same room.[6]

The Rift has gone through many prototype versions in the years since the Kickstarter campaign, around 5 of which were demoed to the public. Two of these prototypes were sold publicly as 'development kits', DK1 in late 2012 and DK2 in mid 2014, to give developers a chance to develop content in time for the Rift's release. However, both were also bought by a large number of enthusiasts who wished to get an early preview of the technology. These development kits have also been used in a public context by companies as a marketing tool as well as shown on popular talk shows, and even used by militaries.[7][8]


Through Meant to be Seen (MTBS)'s 3D discussion forums,[9] Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, developed the idea of creating a new head-mounted display that was both more effective than what was then on the market, and inexpensive for gamers.

Coincidentally, John Carmack had been doing his own research and happened upon Luckey's developments. After sampling an early unit, Carmack favored Luckey's prototype and just before the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Id Software announced that their future updated version of Doom 3, which would be known as BFG Edition, would be compatible with head-mounted display units.[10] During the convention, Carmack introduced a duct taped head-mounted display based on Luckey's Oculus Rift prototype, which ran Carmack's own software. The unit featured a high speed IMU and a 5.6-inch (14 cm) LCD display, visible via dual lenses, that were positioned over the eyes to provide a 90 degrees horizontal and 110 degrees vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective.[11][12]

On March 25, 2014, Facebook announced that it had agreed to buy Oculus VR for $400 million in cash, $1.6 billion in Facebook stock, and an additional $300 million subject to Oculus VR meeting certain financial targets in a transaction that closed in the second quarter of 2014.[13][14][15]

Developer versions[edit]

The Oculus developer kit was an initial version financed by a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, which sought to get the initial Oculus Rift into the hands of developers to begin integration of the device into their games.[16] Since then, four different iterations of the hardware have been revealed to the public.

Developer kit[edit]

In August 2012, Oculus announced that the "dev kit" version of the Oculus Rift would be given as a reward to backers who pledged $300 or more on Kickstarter.[17] There was also a limited run of 100 unassembled Rift prototype kits for pledges over $275 that would ship a month earlier.[18]

Developer kit pre-orders were made available for $300 on their website starting on September 26, 2012. These kits sold at a rate of 4–5 per minute for the first day, before slowing down throughout the week.[19] As of March 12, 2014, the Rift DK1 kit was no longer available to order from Oculus.[20]

While the first prototypes of the device used a 5.6-inch (14 cm) screen, the Rift developer kit uses a different 7-inch (18 cm) screen. The panel's pixel switching time is also significantly lower, reducing latency and motion blur when turning one's head quickly. The pixel fill is also better, reducing the screen door effect and making individual pixels less noticeable. The LCD is brighter and the color depth is 24 bits per pixel.

The 7-inch screen also makes the stereoscopic 3D no longer 100% overlapping, the left eye seeing extra area to the left and the right eye seeing extra area to the right. The field of view (FOV) is more than 90 degrees horizontal (110 degrees diagonal), which is more than double the FOV of most competing devices, and is the primary strength of the device. The resolution is 1280×800 (16:10 aspect ratio), which leads to an effective of 640×800 per eye (4:5 aspect ratio). However, since the Rift does not feature a 100% overlap between the eyes, the combined horizontal resolution is effectively greater than 640. The image for each eye is shown in the panel as a barrel distorted image that is then corrected by pincushion effect created by lenses in the headset, generating a spherical-mapped image for each eye.

Initial prototypes used a Hillcrest Labs 3DoF head tracker that is normally 125 Hz, with a special firmware that John Carmack requested which makes it run at 250 Hz, tracker latency being vital due to the dependency of virtual reality's realism on response time. The latest version includes Oculus' new 1000 Hz Adjacent Reality Tracker that will allow for much lower latency tracking than almost any other tracker. It uses a combination of 3-axis gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers, which make it capable of absolute (relative to Earth) head orientation tracking without drift.[21][22]

The weight of the headset is approximately 379 g (13.4 oz),[23] which is an increase of about 90 g (3.2 oz) in weight due to the increased screen size, and it does not include headphones.

A dial on each side of the headset allows adjusting each display to be moved closer or further away from the eyes. The development kit also includes interchangeable lenses that will allow for simple dioptric correction.

In June 2013, a 1080p version of the Rift was shown at Electronic Entertainment Expo.[24]

The entire source for the Rift DK1 was released to the public in September 2014, including the firmware, schematics, and mechanicals for the device. The firmware is released under a simplified BSD license, while the schematics and mechanicals are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.[25]

Crystal Cove[edit]

In January 2014, an updated prototype codenamed "Crystal Cove" was unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show, which used a special low-persistence of vision OLED display as well as a new motion tracking system that utilized an external camera to track infrared dots located on the headset. The new motion tracking system would allow the system to detect actions such as leaning or crouching, which was claimed to help alleviate sickness experienced by users when the software did not respond to these actions.[26]

Developer kit 2[edit]

The Development Kit 2

In March 2014 at GDC, Oculus announced the upcoming Development Kit 2 (DK2) which began shipping in July 2014.[27][28] It features several improvements over the first development kit, such as having a higher-resolution (960×1080 per eye) low-persistence pentile AMOLED display, higher refresh rate, head positional tracking, a detachable cable, and the omission of the need for the external control box.[29]

A teardown of DK2 revealed that it incorporates exactly the same screen as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, including the front panel from the device itself.[30]

In February 2015, Oculus announced that over 100,000 DK2 units had been shipped up until that point.[31]

Crescent Bay[edit]

In September 2014, during the Oculus Connect conference in Los Angeles, Oculus once again presented an updated version of the Rift, codenamed Crescent Bay. This version has a greater resolution than the DK2, a lower weight, built-in audio, and 360-degree tracking thanks to the presence of tracking LEDs in the back of the headset.[32] Oculus has also licensed software library RealSpace3D, which is expected to provide the Rift with HRTF and reverb algorithms.[32] During a panel at SXSW 2015, titled "Explore the Future of VR", it was publicly announced for the first time that the prototype uses two screens instead of one as previously thought.[33]

Consumer version[edit]

A consumer-oriented version of the Rift is in development, which will be aimed at a general market and feature improved components. Improved head tracking, positional tracking, higher resolution,[34] and wireless operation are some of the features under consideration for the consumer Rift.[35] The consumer version of the Rift will have integrated audio. The headphones will use HRTF audio so that sounds can be better located in a three-dimensional space.[36]

On May 6, 2015 Oculus VR announced that the consumer version will ship in Q1 2016 with pre-orders starting in late 2015.[37]


The Rift[edit]

The Rift uses an OLED panel for each eye, each having a resolution of 1080x1200. These panels have a refresh rate of 90 HZ and globally refresh, rather than scanning out in lines. The displays also use low persistence, meaning that they only light the pixels for 2 milliseconds of each frame. This combination of the high refresh rate, global refresh and low persistence means that the user experiences none of the motion blurring or judder that is experienced on a regular monitor.[38]

It uses high quality lenses to allow for a wide field of view.[3] The separation of the lenses is adjustable by a dial on the bottom of the device, in order to accommodate a wide range of interpupillary distances. The same pair of lenses are used for all users, however there are multiple facial interfaces so that the user's eyes can be positioned at a different distance. This also allows for users wearing glasses to use the Rift, as well as users with widely varying facial shapes.

Headphones are integrated, which provide real time spatialised binaural audio. This was developed from technology licenced from RealSpace 3D Audio, by Visisonics.[39]

The Rift has full 6 degree of freedom rotational and positional tracking. This tracking is precise, low-latency, and sub-milimeter accurate.[6]

In order to work, the Rift has to be connected by a cable to a PC that will run the software. This computer should preferably be equipped with a GPU equivalent to NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 or greater, and a CPU equivalent to Intel i5-4590 or greater.[40]


The position of the user's head is tracked with a system called "Constellation",[41] consisting of an external infrared camera.

The Rift, or any other device being tracked by the system, is fitted with a series of precisely positioned infrared LEDs, set to blink in a certain pattern. By knowing the position of the LEDs on the objects and their pattern, the system can determine the precise position of the object, down to sub-millimeter accuracy.[41]

While one tracking camera will be included with the Rift, users will be able to purchase more cameras separately and use them to gain a higher tracking volume, or to prevent occlusion of the one tracking camera.[42]

Oculus Touch[edit]

Oculus are also releasing a pair of controllers intended to be used with the Rift, called Oculus Touch. The controllers are sold together, and are mirrors of each other- one for each hand. They are lightweight, wireless, handheld motion controllers featuring a joystick, buttons, and two triggers- one for grabbing and one for shooting. The controllers are fully tracked in 3D space by the Constellation system, so that the user sees them in virtual reality responding to their real world counterpart, giving the user the sensation of their hands being present in the virtual space.[43]

Oculus Touch also features a completely new system for detecting finger gestures made when holding the devices. This allows the user to perform actions like giving the thumbs up or pointing in to another user in virtual reality.[44]

Oculus Touch will not be included with the Rift, and will instead be sold separately, released a few months after the Rift.[45]


Paramount for the immersion into virtual reality are a high frame rate (at least 75 FPS) and a low latency. Furthermore a pixel persistence lower than 3 ms is required to avoid nausea when moving the head around.

Oculus has produced a software development kit (SDK) to assist developers with integrating the Oculus Rift with their games. The SDK includes code, samples and documentation. Since its introduction, many developers have been working on integration.[46]

Team Fortress 2 was the first game to add support for the Oculus Rift, and is currently available to play with the Oculus Rift dev kit by use of a command line option. The second title to support the Oculus Rift was the Oculus-only version of Museum of the Microstar which was released in April 2013. Half-Life 2 was the third, and Hawken is the fourth game to support the Rift; it was prominently featured in the Kickstarter, and Oculus used it to demo the Rift at the GDC.

Several titles are playable on the Rift via the free and open source Vireio Perception VR drivers[47] or the commercial VorpX. Games currently featuring full or partial support via these third-party solutions include Left 4 Dead, Hawken, Skyrim, Portal 2, Half-Life 2, BioShock,[48] Star Citizen, War Thunder, and Elite: Dangerous.[49]

Many existing games do not translate well to VR due to using features such as HUD, cutscenes, menus, third person sections, fast movement speeds, not being able to see one's own body, etc.

Also, non-game software supports Oculus Rift, for instance the FreeCAD CAD software.[50]

See also[edit]


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  50. ^ Release notes 015 "FreeCAD now supports the VR Occulus Rift device." on freecadweb.com (April 8, 2015)

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