Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oculus Rift in SL

Cross posting on my personal blog:

Yay! First one on my block to use the Oculus Rift in SL. Like most people who got the device, I was waiting for the announcement that LL had their project viewer ready. It's supposed to be ready "late summer", but we all know how that goes. In the meantime David Rowe (Second Life: Strachan Ofarrel ), an independent developer, has announced the release of his alpha CtrlAltStudio Viewer with basic support for Rift.

You've seen the hype, and it is indeed an exciting technology. But before you run out and plunk down your $300US for the Rift beta device, remember it's still in development. (I got mine with the assistance of UWA as a research fellow.) There's very little tech support and it's really intended for people who want to develop software for the device so they'll be ready when the thing actually hits Amazon. I've heard several casual discussions with people finding the experience a bit disorienting. A number of people experiencing motion sickness. And while I'm not normally sensitive to such things, I have to say that after 15 minutes or so I was definitely feeling a bit queasy. I don't know if that will improve with use.
The good, the not so good.

Getting the device to work with my PC was a challenge. I have 3 monitors and my first attempt to plug in the Rift in place of one of the secondary monitors (HDMI) failed. After some fiddling, I managed to get it running from the other secondary port (DVI). There are some funky things about setting the viewer to full screen when it's on a monitor you can't actually see, but I finally got it running. Don't ask me for help. I'm no expert.

So what you really want to know is what it's like, right? Well, it's... different.. lol. Running the Rift demo was fascinating. The hardest thing there was that your arrow keys (oh, don't forget you're still tethered to the keyboard and mouse for navigation) the arrow keys move you in absolute directions. They do not turn you. In the normal SL viewer, you hit the right arrow and the world rotates around your avatar so you're still facing forward. In Rift, if you want to turn, you have to turn your head. If you want to go south, you have to turn in that direction. (An argument for wireless.) So your inner ears are swinging around and moving, not just your eyes. In the CAS viewer for SL. you still turn with your arrows, but you now have the freedom to move your head to look around, which is very cool.
Not sure if there's a 3rd person mode on this. When I tried it, I had no visible body. It is profoundly immersive. You walk up to someone and you're at eye level looking at them in a very natural way. It's even a bit disconcerting. The sense of really being in a 3D space is amazing.

The biggest disappointment for me was resolution. Even in their demo, the details like leaves in the trees had some odd parallax effect that made them appear to shimmer unnaturally. In SL I had all my settings pushed to max. Advanced lighting, antialiasing, etc., which I often do anyway, especially when taking pictures. But there was a lack of smoothness in the image quality that I am accustomed to. Not sure if it was just parallax adjustment. I may need to adjust the width of the screen spacing in the Rift. I'm pretty significantly farsighted, but focus did not seem to be a problem at all for me. I was worried about that. (The device comes with a couple of other sets of lenses for nearsighted people.)

So anyway, I think it's very cool, but at this point I wouldn't call it a game changer. I'll be  very interested when LL comes out with their project viewer. It could be interesting if the UI is available to do building while wearing it. And I plan to try this out on some of the Unity-based games, which I understand are a bit more fully developed.


  1. Rift... Glass... so much interesting new technology entering our view! Thanks so much for this early review!