Shacknews stopped by a closed door demo at GDC 2019 to try out the latest virtual reality headset from Oculus. The Facebook subsidiary unveiled the Oculus Quest VR HMD last year, leaving PC enthusiasts feeling a bit left out. PC VR players now have a new headset to look forward to with the announcement of the Oculus Rift S.
Improved technical specifications
Oculus has stepped up the game with their latest VR HMD. The first noticeable change from the first generation Rift is the improved optics. Oculus claims that their “next-generation optics have a sharper display that deliver bright, vivid colors and reduced ‘screen-door’ effect.” Facebook has also changed the interpupillary distance (IPD) settings to be based on software, which definitely will provide more accuracy than the original HMD’s physical solution.
I definitely noticed the improved visual fidelity of the HMD, but it is hard to quantify the improvement from the first model of the Rift. Facebook is not providing many details other than vague statements of Rift S being better, which I can confirm from my time in the headset.
The Rift S also features built-in audio that is similar to the technology in Oculus Quest. This is a great improvement from the original flip down solution. The speakers are located perfectly and are hard to even see on the device.
There are five individuals that have contributed greatly to the title virtual reality including Morton Heilig, Myron Krueger, Ivan Sutherland, Douglas Engelbart, and Jaron Lanier.
Insight inside-out tracking sensors
Oculus Rift S does not require three USB ports like its predecessor. This is accomplished by the addition of five camera sensors placed on the Rift S VR HMD. The tracking experience was great during my demo session, and it definitely felt better than Oculus Quest’s tracking.
The additional sensors and being tethered to the PC do still offer a lot of benefits that VR enthusiasts would enjoy. The Dead and Buried 2 demo at GDC 2019 showcased the best PC inside-out tracking that I have ever experienced. The Rift S only takes up one USB port, which really makes it a lot easier to set up and maintain for PC players.
One also has to wonder if passthrough capabilities will happen down the line for Rift S and Quest, as both HMDs have added great camera sensing technology to achieve solid inside-out tracking experiences. The Oculus Insight tracking system makes the Rift S a very compelling PC VR HMD in an increasingly competitive landscape, and it would be interesting to see if it has any AR features down the road.
The controller experience was solid with the Rift S, and I was able to run around Dead and Buried 2 while dual-wielding weapons. I did not experience any jarring loss of controller tracking that happens sometimes with other Windows MR HMDs that feature less sensors. The Rift S will use the new Oculus Touch controllers with a redesigned menu button that prevents accidental presses that can break immersion. The controllers are another improvement over the original Oculus Rift that really provide an improved overall experience.
The Sci-Fi Prediction of VR – Pygmalion’s Spectacles. Stanley G. Weinbaum, a well-known science fiction writer from the 1930s, had the vision of what Virtual Reality is and what it may become, even before the official term was coined. In his 1930s short story Pygmalion’s Spectacles, he shares the idea that a wearer of a pair of goggles can experience fictional worlds through holographics, touch, smell and taste. This truly made him a visionary in the field of virtual reality.
Vastly improved ergonomics
The Rift S weighs slightly more than its PC predecessor, but the industrial design team at Oculus makes up for that with a number of very intelligent tweaks to the HMD. The padding in the headset is made from a way more comfortable material, and the counterbalancing of the device is similar to Sony's PSVR HMD. There is also a button to pull the front of the headset away from your face which makes operating the Rift S while wearing glasses a breeze.
Oculus has also added a fit wheel on the back of the headstrap that allows easily tightening of the HMD. There are several design cues that Facebook clearly lifted from PSVR, and these additions make the Rift S very comfortable.
Head over to the official Oculus website to find out more about the Rift S. The Oculus Rift S PC VR HMD will ship this Spring and costs $399.Asif Khan
Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.
It Can Take You Places. One of the best experiences of virtual reality is using the technology to travel to places that you haven't been to. The right simulation can allow you to walk around some of the most important places around the world. In addition, virtual reality allows users to watch special documentaries that put them right in the middle of the action. Some of the top film companies are now producing documentaries made specifically for virtual reality headsets.