I have been a big proponent of the Oculus Rift and its move into the world of consumer-ready VR (virtual reality) technology. I saw it for the first time at Quakecon 2012 where Palmer Luckey and John Carmack sat on stage and addressed the new direction. Since then we saw it at CES and finally got in our own developer kit last month for some extended hands-on.
While I have definitely been impressed with the Rift in nearly every way while using it, the first thing anyone says when putting on the headset for the first time is about the graphics – the resolution of the unit was just too low and it creates a "screen door" effect because of it. As I wrote in my first preview:
I will say that the low resolution is definitely a barrier for me. Each eye is only seeing a 640×800 resolution in this version of the kit and that close up you can definitely see each pixel. Even worse, this creates a screen door effect that is basically like looking through a window with a screen installed. It's not great but you could get used to it if you had to; I am just hoping the higher resolution version of this kit is closer.
At E3 2013 the team at Oculus was able to put together a very early prototype of an HD version of the screen. By using a new 1920×1080 display each eye is able to see 960×1080; roughly twice the pixel density of the initial developer kit.
I got to spend some time with the higher resolution model today and I have to say that the difference is striking – and instantly noticeable. Gone was the obvious screen door effect and I was able to focus purely on the content. The content itself was new as well – Oculus and Epic were showing the Unreal Engine 4 integration with a custom version of the Elemental demo. The colors were crisp, the effects were amazing and only in a couple of rare instances of solid white color did we notice the black lines that plagued the first version.
As of now Oculus doesn't have plans to offer an updated developer kit with the 1080p screen installed but you just never know. They are still looking at several different phone screens and haven't made any final decisions on which direction to go but they are definitely close.
When I inquired about improvements on head tracking latency and accuracy to aid in motion sickness concerns (like I seem to have) Oculus was hesitant to say there was any single fix. Instead, a combination of lower latency, better hardware and even better thought out content were key to reducing these effects in gamers.