Riffing off the Rift

At first glance, the Oculus Rift is an ingenious invention – not something you can look at and go “Hey, how come I didn’t think of that?” By letting its users ‘step inside the game’, the Rift holds enormous potential not only to herald the proverbial revolution due a disruptive bit of technology in gaming but to change what gaming itself means. Building on many studies and discussions over the years about what gaming truly represents – a proof-of-work based rewards system that leaves players emotionally fulfilled – with the Rift, they’re for the first time truly equipped to explore more complex gaming constructs involving even more sophisticated rewards systems, including incorporating them into training programs and simulations. That’s just at first glance. At second glance, however, what’s even more remarkable is that the Rift involves nothing new – at least nothing that’s disruptively new – apart from the particular way it’s been assembled.

The device is a melange of components working in sync: motion sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, a processor, a pair of stereoscopic lenses, specially designed set of goggles and, necessarily, a game. Essentially, using the Rift is like playing an FPS in a theater with 3D glasses on. The game, built on the versatile Unity game engine, is rendered by the processor on the display device – a stripped down tablet will do – mounted on the front of the goggles that’re then strapped onto your head. These goggles are fit with the stereoscopic lenses that give the illusion of depth necessary to stepping inside the game. Next, with the gaming controller in your hand, you navigate the game you’re seeing play out in front of your eyes. A camera in front of you tracks your head movements and relays it to the processor, which uses the positional information to move your head inside the game. Suddenly, you’re thinking “Hey, how come I didn’t think of that?” A story by a colleague and me for The Hindu on how different developers have decided to take the Rift forward.