CES 2013: Hands On With The Oculus VR Rift, The Great Virtual Reality Hope

I don’t know if I’ve seen the future of virtual reality, but I do know I’ve seen its best chance in decades of amounting to anything. This renewed hope comes from the Oculus Rift from Oculus VR, and my short time playing with it has convinced me that it can make first-person games immersive to an unforeseen extent.

Virtual reality has long seemed like a dead concept. The idea of putting on bulky goggles and virtually exploring places was huge in the 90s, but has since given way to augmented reality and using your smartphone’s camera to feed you information. As a child, I was a devout follower of VR, and I dreamed of some day putting on a ridiculous helmet and exploring virtual worlds like someone from VR.5. Incidentally, this probably marks the first time in approximately 15 years anyone has ever mentioned VR.5, a thirteen-episode show from 1995 that arguably started Anthony Head’s American television career.

Cut to 2013, and a suite in the Venetian at which Oculus VR had two prototype Oculus Rift devices set up. The Oculus Rift looks like a callback to 90s-era VR displays, with a giant visor that straps to your head and blocks out all outside light. Even the prototype development version, built of molded plastic instead of a foamcore shell, looks almost hilariously bulky. These aren’t video glasses you can put on during a flight to watch a movie. These are virtual reality goggles, the likes of which I’ve dreamt of using to play video games since I was a kid.

My guides from Oculus VR strapped the goggles to my head and put an Xbox 360 controller in my hand so I could try the "citadel" demo, a look at how the game Infinity Blade can work on the Oculus VR. As soon as the Oculus Rift was fitted securely to my head, I found myself standing in a small medieval village. Guards in armor and carrying large weapons walked by, seemingly ignoring me as snow fell from the sky.