Obviously one of the big items around CES 2016 was the Oculus Rift; especially since it went up for pre-order and all of the new details cropped up just at the beginning of the show. That of course led to a whole lot of debate on if the Oculus Rift was going to be worth the $600 price tag out the door or if it was going to be another overpriced gizmo with a lot of buyer's remorse. This led me to take over the job of checking out the hardware of the Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch controllers to see if the price point made sense for where the system is now or if, like I said, it was something that could be left behind.
One of the first things I need to mention here for the Oculus Rift is that one of the hard factors to work in here is the way that software will be crafted for the system. Most of what I was able to experience was through other developers using the Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers but those are only as good as the outside sources can be and not anything towards the hardware in general. That is why I am going to focus more on the Toy Box demo that was presented with the Oculus Rift/Touch at CES as that was the true showing of what could be done in the virtual world.
While the Oculus Touch controllers do look a bit odd and not as wieldy for what they are used for it worked out perfectly well. In fact it reminded me of the original design that the Dual Shock 4 was looking at to remove the PS Move controllers. Plain and simple it was like holding a normal gaming controller in hand only there was no limitation on the space between the two. All of the buttons, triggers, and sticks felt perfect when held in the "normal" gaming position. The only jarring part of it all was getting to move my hands/controllers apart to add in the extra level of virtual movement.
After getting all calibrated and a bit used to the controls for the Oculus Touch and Oculus Rift again I was dropped into the demo setting of the Toy Box world. It was bland and generic as most loading areas but that wasn't the point of this demo. The point was being able to see how well you could interact and play around with the controls. That is where things began to shine as once I had a handle on the new form of controls I truly felt like I had my real hands floating the virtual space and not just a few floating indicators on where my virtual avatar could interact with things. I was quickly picking up and throwing things around as I would in the real world.
This is when things took a bit of a turn as a second virtual being popped into the world. Most would see this as the guide to show you around but the huge difference here was that it was another human, one of the people from Oculus, who was there to help show off even more and also play around in the virtual world with me. Try and take that in for a moment. I had the feeling of physically being in the virtual world and now I had another person to interact with in the virtual world. All of which felt as natural as if we were in the same room; which we were not.
In this case it was only a difference of about ten feet in the convention floor booth but with the Oculus Rift/Touch it created the illusion so well that distance didn't matter. We shot at each other, gave fist bumps, and played a few rounds of tether-ball with the illusion holding up based on just the tech and the lowest level of game design mixed in. No matter what else I played this was the true showing of what the Oculus is going to be capable of as we wait for developers and third parties to create the content to be used. I have yet to experience this with any other form of VR until now and that promise was enough to soothe all of the gripes about price and requirements.
As soon as my demo for the Oculus Rift & Touch concluded here I was introduced to the human who was guiding me through the virtual space and that is when the second amazing bit of this technology kicked in for me; even though we met in the virtual space I had the connection made carry over into the physical space. I've yet to experience that in any form of gaming in my life as it always felt like an avatar until you physically met the person. The illusion crafted here with the hardware was so accurate and perfected that it was hard to ignore that fact. If that isn't another great point for the Oculus then I don't know what is.