Connectivity

Oculus Rift Is an Achievement, but There’s a Long Way to Go for Virtual Reality

The arrival of the Rift marks the beginning of the era of high-end consumer VR, but many problems still need to be worked out.

Mar 28, 2016

Oculus started shipping its first consumer virtual-reality headset, Rift, on Monday, capping off several years of anticipation about how it would bring VR to the masses. But in many ways the work is just beginning for the Facebook-owned company.

Oculus is the first of several high-end headsets slated to hit the market this year; HTC’s Vive starts shipping in April and Sony’s PlayStation VR will be out in October. The device is coming out alongside 30 games, a bunch of which I recently got to try (they’re fun, but a little nauseating, too).

As this piece in Wired notes, tons of work went into figuring out how to design the Rift so that it was comfortable, lightweight, approachable-looking, and, of course, usable. 

Yet while the release of the Rift headset marks a major achievement for Oculus—and for the virtual-reality market in general—it’s clear that the technology has a long way to go before it’s commonly found in living rooms.

For one thing, there’s the cost and required equipment. While a Rift headset costs $599, you also need to connect it to a PC with enough computing muscle. Buying the two together will set you back around $1,500. And virtual reality still needs work in order to make it feel totally immersive and comfortable.

These issues and more are covered in reviews of the headset that also came out Monday. Some called it “the best tool for escapism since the television and Internet were born” or “the product you hope your neighbor buys.” A tester for the New York Times had a less fun experience: after saying that it’s “brimming with potential,” he noted, “my eyes felt strained after half an hour and over a week I developed a nervous eye twitch.” Yikes.

If you haven’t already ordered a Rift, don’t expect to get one soon. As the company noted in a blog post, backers of its long-ago Kickstarter fundraising campaign are just starting to get the devices, and it’s going out in a few days to people who pre-ordered a Rift back in January. If you order one online today through Amazon, Best Buy, or the Microsoft Store, it’s not expected to be released until April 23.

(Read more: Wired, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, The Verge, “Fun (and Some Nausea) with the First Games for the Oculus Rift Headset”)