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Rift First Impressions

Level 2
I guess a lot of stuff has been said already on many of these subjects, but since I just got my rift headset yesterday, I felt perhaps I should share my first impressions of using it.

Now, obviously, this is all my personal opinion. Those of others may vary. XD

To begin with, I was really impressed with the field of view and the sense of scale. Everything in the tuscany demo looked about right in terms of size, but compared to seeing it on a monitor, I was struck by just how huge some of the things in the environment (especially the trees) were.

Given all the comments about it, (even by one of my friends who tried mine...), I expected the low resolution to be a serious issue. But to my surprise, although you could see pixels, and there was some obvious aliasing (especially looking off into the distance and tilting my head), it was a lot less severe than I expected. - I was expecting late 80's/early 90's kind of effects, given the implied pixel densities, yet there was plenty of detail visible, and eve text was clearly legible as long as it wasn't too far into the peripheral vision. - I did note the effects of the newer SDK release and the chromatic aberration correction. - Although not immediately obvious in isolation, you can really see the impact of turning it on or off.

Head tracking worked great in some ways, especially with the newer SDK. Lack of positional tracking wasn't that obvious, except when I felt inclined to do something that would specifically require it. - However I do think it contributes to nausea. - Losing tracking altogether made me feel ill pretty quickly. - However, all the demos clearly showed how obvious the lag can be. - It can take a very noticeable amount of time for your vision to catch up with your head movement.

There was a real sense of 'reality' to the environment, even in the context of the tuscany demo which is hardly state of the art in a graphical sense. - Although the images didn't look like reality, the objects in the environment did feel like they were actually there - Which... Led me once early on to try and grab a tree. Only to find of course that I didn't have arms... And then becoming more aware of the complete lack of body. - I then tried the razer hydra demo.
This worked well enough, but having a pair of detached hands, which, quite honestly were at about shoulder height or above nearly all the time (and thus well above where I naturally have my hands most of the time) proved more disconcerting than I expected. - Although there doesn't seem to be a reason why the tech couldn't allow much more natural arm movement.

The big problem with the rift for me turned out to be Nausea. Given the reactions of my friends, it seems I may be especially sensitive, but so far I've been able to tolerate using the rift for at most about 10-15 minutes. Some demos with particularly high latency (Such as Museum of the Microstar) caused nausea much more quickly than that. And running the hydra tuscany demo when I'd accidentally unplugged the rift's USB cord (and thus the head tracking didn't work), made me incredibly ill within less than a minute. - While it wasn't to the point that I wanted to vomit, or anything like that, I basically had to go lie down for about 10-20 minutes afterward, which is a pretty severe issue all things considered. It's obviously not entirely straight-forward working out what the most important causes of nausea are (but head tracking seems like a big one, considering the effects of it not working), At least one of the people I got to try it felt sick after a while too. (and the other probably just hadn't used it as long)

Finally, there were the eyecups - Although it's bearable, to get the full effect the lenses do end up uncomfortably close to my eyes. - Almost to the point where it feels like if they were any closer they'd physically touch my eyeballs.
While not critical, it would be a lot more comfortable if they were far enough away to avoid brushing my eyelashes. (Also, I wear mascara a lot, and getting that on the lenses seems like a bad idea. XD). - Obviously I can adjust the distance, but I'm rather reluctant to do anything which cuts down the field of view.

Another point was that the headset is just heavy enough that I've seen red marks on my nose suggesting a lot of weight is resting on my nose. - The headset doesn't feel heavy, but I have found it hurts my nose after a while, and the straps don't always feel like they're fully able to support the weight of it.

So just to summarise, here's what I see as being the main issues with the headset:

- Nausea. This is by far the biggest problem. Every other issue seems like an acceptable compromise for what the headset does do well. But the nausea can get so bad, so quickly, that it makes the rest of it a bit of a moot point. It may not be possible to do much about without fixing some other issues as well, but it's a very important concern, because it's really off-putting.
- Latency. Palmer & Co have been going on about this since the rift was first mentioned. And it's not hard to see why. While not bad enough to be something you can't learn to live with, it can be very obvious at times how much the headset lags. Part of this is clearly a software design issue, because some demos are much worse about it than others, but clearly, any improvements that lowers latency would be a good thing
- Positional tracking. While not being able to move my head wasn't as big a loss as I thought it would be, given the effects total loss of rotational tracking had on me, I'm guessing this may be a major cause of nausea. - it would also just generally be nice to be able to look around a bit more.

You might notice I haven't mentioned resolution in the summary. That's because, to me, it's not a critical issue. The resolution feels OK to me. Then again I've never been one to care that much about it. Obviously, more is better, but it just doesn't feel like an important point to me after actually having experienced the headset for myself. - Yes, pixels are visible, and 640x800 for each eye seems quite low. - But it just doesn't feel like a big deal to me. The consequences I was expecting just don't seem to be there in practice. (At least, not enough for me to really care.)
Higher resolution might look good on paper, but it doesn't seem like such a big problem in practice compared to the other issues.

Anyway, these are obviously just my personal opinions based on using the headset over the last few days. Make of that what you will. - But I'm going to be trying to implement positional tracking and working on low-latency rendering as a result of this. I'd really like to work out the main reasons that I feel sick so quickly though. But that's a more challenging thing to test for.

Level 2
Thanks for the lengthy review! 😄 I haven't gotten my headset yet (should be here late this month or mid next), but I keep browsing the forums and working with unreal engine so I can fill that hole in my heart until it gets here.

I'm glad to hear that the resolution doesn't seem to be as bad as the mixed reviews are saying. I keep getting ups and downs when ever I see a complaint on it.

As for the nausea, most people say that you get more tolerant over time with it. I can imagine that the lack of positional tracking would add to it because the brain is expecting the minimal movement that happens when your body moves around, but just keep at it and your brain should adapt (its rather good at that, so it would seem.) 🙂

Thanks again!

Level 2
What are your computer specs? It sounds like you are getting varying frame rates. If you aren't getting a consistent 50_60 fps on all games that would explain a lot of your problems.

Level 3
Most people that have issues with their nose getting crushed don't have the top strap adjusted correctly, so maybe look into that? (I don't remember whether it's too lose or too tight though)

Level 2
excellent review KuraIthys very much enjoyed reading it

Level 2
"enigma642" wrote:
What are your computer specs? It sounds like you are getting varying frame rates. If you aren't getting a consistent 50_60 fps on all games that would explain a lot of your problems.

That may be true for some specific demos, but I doubt it's the main cause. I have been keeping an eye on things like that after all... XD

The tuscany demo caused a lot of nausea, even though the framerate never dropped below 90 fps at any point.
I found turning off Aero compositing did reduce lag a bit, but it had no effect whatsoever on the framerates (90-110 fps).

(There was also visible tearing at some points, which doesn't happen when framerates are below the refresh rate of the screen.)

Lag and framerate are not quite the same thing after all.

Now, I could put your theory to the test by running the same demo on my laptop, which gets 15-20 fps instead... And no doubt that would be bad, but I doubt it's the main cause given what I've been testing so far.

There are other possible things that I might be able to improve to deal with many of these issues of course, but that doesn't mean they're not important... (The more fiddly something is to get right, the more you'll find people get put off by it... )

In any event, it feels like i'm particularly sensitive to nausea. The other issues aren't really that bad in isolation, (even the head tracking latency is tolerable visually), but due to the nausea I have concerns about what contributes most to it, and anecdotal evidence suggests the head tracking plays a big part in it.

Nausea does reduce over time by all accounts, but even then, considering how bad it's effects can get it's not to be taken lightly.

Edit: I suppose I might as well give you the system specs of the computer I was testing this on, since you asked:
CPU: Core i5 - 750 (4 cores at 2.66 ghz, up to 2.8 ghz with less cores active)
RAM: 6 GB DDR3 at 1,333 mhz. (yes, I know it's slow. XD)
GPU: Ati 5770, with 1 gb of gddr 5 ram. Core clock 860 mhz, memory clock 1200 mhz, memory bandwidth 76.8 gbytes/sec
Hard drive: 1 TB Western Digital ...
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit.
Benchmarks: (If you care about such things. XD)
-Windows experience index (Processor 7.3, RAM, 7.3, Graphics, 7.4, Gaming graphics 7.4, Hard disk 5.9) overall 5.9
- 3dMark O6 (SM2.0: 5155, SM3.0: 6475, CPU: 3899) overall: 13540
- 3dmark 11 (performance) (Graphics: 2365, Physics: 4196, combined: 2358) Overall: P2529

I could list a lot more, but you should be able to get a sense of what I'm working with. It's not state of the art, high-end equipment, but it's not slow by any means. And certainly not for most of the demos that exist so far for the rift.

Level 4
Would you mind posting your computer specs? I too have heard that a steady 60 frames can make a world of difference.
“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.” (~I really gotta remember this shiz~) ― Yogi Bhajan

Level 2
"RubberCircus" wrote:
I'm glad to hear that the resolution doesn't seem to be as bad as the mixed reviews are saying. I keep getting ups and downs when ever I see a complaint on it.

I was worried about the low resolution when my unit arrived a couple of weeks back. Yes, you will notice the pixels, but as this review states, it doesn't seem to affect the sense of reality. I've explained it to others by asking them to imagine what the world would look like if they spread a light coating of Vaseline over their glasses (not the Rift...normal eyeglasses). The world wouldn't appear as crisp, but it wouldn't all-of-the-sudden lose its "reality" either.

Would higher resolution be better? Absolutely! To extend my thought experiment a little more, it'd be like getting a better prescription for your eyeglass lenses.

Level 2
"HappyHimitsu" wrote:
Would you mind posting your computer specs? I too have heard that a steady 60 frames can make a world of difference.

I have framerates above that by a reasonable margin. (90+ fps minimum) and still have bad effects. - I don't know what it'd be like at lower framerates of course...
But, since you all seem interested, I've updated my reply to enigma642 (above) with my actual computer specs.

Trust me. Low framerates are not part of the issues I'm having. XD

Level 2
If you're getting over 60 FPS, that indicates to me that you are forgetting to turn on V-sync.