Palmer Luckey built his first virtual-reality (VR) headset for a simple reason: Every attempt he’d seen, including his own collection of 46 pairs of goggles, failed in one way or another—too heavy, too slow, too limited a field of view. So he set out to invent the perfect pair himself. Three years after the first mockup, the company Luckey founded, Oculus, is launching a developer version of the Rift, the first consumer VR system to create a truly immersive experience.
A player connects the Rift to a PC via USB and HDMI, and the PC’s graphics processor renders side-by-side 3-D images. The 11-ounce goggles contain a seven-inch LCD that displays both images. A pair of aspherical lenses separate them to create a 3-D effect with a field of view that’s 90 degrees wide and shifts with a player’s head movements. A sensor containing a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and microcontroller tracks the pitch, yaw, and roll of the player’s head. The sensor registers movement every millisecond (off-the-shelf sensors take up to four), so the image can refresh within two milliseconds.
More than 9,000 developers currently have Rifts. Oculus expects them to use the goggles to create new, complex 3-D games, just as they would for a new PlayStation or Xbox. Once that happens, probably within a few years, Oculus will release a consumer Rift and make getting lost in a game a (virtual) reality.
OCULUS RIFT (DEVELOPERS)
Weight: 11.2 ounces
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.