What is VR?
Virtual Reality (VR) is difficult to understand until you try it for yourself. It is a technology that makes you feel like you are actually inside a virtual environment- as if you have been transported to a different place. You have a wide field of view compared to a monitor or TV, true 3D (not fake like “3D TV”), the scale of objects is correct, you can look around, and in 6DoF systems (like the Rift) even move around. With VR controllers, you can even interact directly with virtual objects.
This illustration conveys the difference between using traditional screens and VR.
NOTE: There are 2 fundamental types of VR headsets (which are actually very different overall experiences):
- Rotation-only Tracked (3DoF): “Look Around” – these headsets respond to the direction you turn your head, but you cannot lean or move around (eg. smartphone VR, Oculus Go)
- Positionally Tracked (6DoF): “Move Around” – these headsets let you lean, duck, jump, and walk around within the virtual environment (eg. Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, PSVR)
VR controllers are also either 3DoF or 6DoF- some are only rotational laser pointers, while others track the position of your hands allowing you to directly interact with virtual objects.
What is Oculus?
Oculus VR is a company which makes VR systems and runs a digital store which sells VR apps/games for these systems.
They currently sell 2 products
- Rift: a $399 6DoF system for gaming PCs
- Go: a $199 3DoF system which does not use either a PC or a smartphone- it runs itself
They also do the software for Samsung’s Gear VR (a 3DoF system for Galaxy smartphones).
In Spring 2019, they will release Oculus Quest, a $399 system which will be all-in-one like Go but 6DoF like Rift.
What’s the difference between the Oculus systems? Which one should I get?
This infographic highlights the core differences between the Oculus lineup.
If you already own a gaming PC, you should without a doubt get a Rift. Otherwise, you need to decide what you can afford.
What can I do in VR?
- play VR games- video games where you are actually inside the game world
- hang out with friends or strangers as if they’re actually beside you, with social VR apps
- experience something that you cannot or could not in real life in, such as climbing Everest
- watch VR films, which place you inside an environment and tell a story with characters and narrative (like being inside a Pixar film)
- watch or play 2D movies and games on a huge virtual cinema screen
Where can I try VR without buying it?
Oculus has demo booths at retail stores in the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, and France. You can find and schedule a demo on their website.
Will VR make me sick?
The hardware itself does not make you sick. Certain types of VR content has the capability to make you feel sick. Whether it does or not varies from person to person.
On the Oculus Store all apps/games are given a comfort rating that tells you whether it could make you sick or not: ‘Comfortable’, ‘Moderate’, and ‘Intense’.
If you stick to ‘Comfortable’ content, you will not get sick at all.
How can I make Oculus games/apps?
Oculus games/apps are made in standard game engines like Unity and Unreal. Here is a guide for getting started.
Do I need Facebook? Are there adverts?
Using an Oculus system does not require a Facebook account. There is no forced integration with the Facebook social network, nor are there any kind of system-level advertisements.
What is the Oculus Rift?
The Rift is a positionally tracked (6DoF) VR headset that runs off your gaming PC.
What is Oculus Touch?
Touch is a pair of positionally tracked VR controllers included with the Rift that bring your hands into VR- allowing you to grab, hold, move, manipulate and interact with objects in the virtual world, and to use tools like guns and swords.
What PC do I need?
The Rift requires a PC with a dedicated gaming graphics card (GPU) inside it (GTX 960 / R9 290 or above).
The exact requirements are listed on the PC requirements for Rift page of this Wiki.
How much does it all cost?
If you do not already have a powerful enough PC that meets the minimum specifications, you will need to upgrade your PC or buy a VR Ready PC.
Recommended spec PCs start at $799.
Rift+Touch costs $399 / £399 / €449 / C$529. This includes the headset, 2 tracking sensors, and the Touch controllers.
What games are there for it?
There is a wide variety, from high-budget full fledged games made by proper studios, to unique indie games that push the boundaries of the medium. There are not as many AAA games as non-VR gaming yet.
Can I play my current PC games in VR?
VR games have to be made from the ground up for VR, or serious effort has to be put in by the developers to add VR support (and this is only appropriate for certain genres). The exception to this rule is games with a cockpit, such as racing and flight simulators, which are very easy to port to VR.
You can play most of your current games on a virtual screen (even a huge virtual cinema screen!) in VR, but you wouldn’t actually be inside the game.
Can wear glasses in the Rift?
To wear glasses in the Rift, they must have a frame width of 142mm or less, and a frame height of 50mm or less.
Even if your glasses are within specification, wearing them in the Rift is likely to scratch both your glasses and the Rift lenses. Lens protectors are recommended at minimum.
If your glasses are larger than this, you can buy a third party facial interface which will allow for using larger glasses in the Rift.
You can also get prescription VR lenses which means you can use the Rift without glasses.
Note that the Rift does not have a focus adjustment like the Gear VR; while farsighted users can sometimes use a Gear VR without glasses by adjusting this, you will not be able to do this in a Rift.
Can the Rift do “room scale”?
The Rift allows you to move around a room-sized space, however, with the default sensor setup included with the Rift, your Touch controllers will not be tracked when you turn them completely away from the sensors, because your body will be blocking the sensors’ view of them.
For $59/£59/€69, you can buy a 3rd tracking sensor (which includes a long extension cable) to place in the far corner of your room behind you. This third sensor will be able to see your Touch controllers even when your body is blocking the front 2 sensors, and enabling room scale tracking.
How does Rift compare to its competition?
This infographic gives a comparison of the available PC VR systems.
How much space do I need?
Almost all Rift games can be played standing still- as long as you can extend your arms fully in every direction, you have enough space.
If you wish to play “room scale” content, Oculus recommends having a playspace at least 2 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep.
Can I use the Rift on SteamVR?
Yes! SteamVR supports the Rift and Touch controllers- however it requires a little bit of manual configuration to set up.
Do I need a gamepad, steering wheel, or flightstick?
The vast majority of Rift games can be played with the Touch controllers included in the box.
If you want to get into VR sim racing, then you will need a steering wheel, and if you want to get into VR flight simulation, then you will need a flight stick.
I can’t afford a gaming PC! How can I get 6DoF VR?
If you own a PlayStation 4 console, you can get a PlayStation VR headset for $299 and you can get PS Move VR controllers for $99 extra
Alternatively, if you can wait around 6 months, Oculus will be releasing Quest – a $399 6DoF system which requires no phone or PC.
When is Rift 2 coming out? Should I wait?
Oculus have indicated that they will be releasing Rift 2 no earlier than 2020, and that they will be supporting the Rift for many years to come.
If you’re willing to wait 2-4 years, that’s fine, but otherwise, the time to buy is now.