Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr. Anthony Betrus
FCE Staff 

The Oculus Rift: Immersive Virtual Reality First Impressions

Game Connoisseur


Last updated 9/1/2016 at 4:25pm | View PDF

Virtual Reality currently stands poised to dramatically change the way humans interact. One of the most anticipated technologies in the current lineup of VR devices is the Oculus Rift, and we just got our hands on our first pair of goggles yesterday (June 21, 2016). This was pre-ordered in February, and in the meantime we had to put together a computer that could handle the high frame rates required by the Oculus. Coincidentally, the Oculus arrived during my Teaching and Learning with Simulations and Games course, just after we finished our discussion of Ready Player One, a book by Ernest Cline that depicts a future with a Virtual Reality Oasis that people spend most of their time in. After about 3 hours of setup (no plug and play here I'm afraid), we managed to get each of the free demos up and running. I asked some of my students to share their first impressions, and have included the below:

"Jay" I thought it was a weird experience but not a new one, I was reminded of being on a roller coaster. When I entered the VR world I immediately felt off balance, I think that was due to the fact that I was standing up instead of sitting down. I felt that at any moment I would tip over and fall when I was standing up. I personally feel that when entering VR I have to be sitting down, otherwise it's going to be a whole different situation. The experience being in VR can be compared to the sensation of having butterflies in one's stomach. After I had a chance to adjust to the new equilibrium I really enjoyed being in that environment. I felt really nauseous when I had to move around VR, at times I felt things were happening way too fast. I especially felt that way during the intro part to Oculus VR, when viewing the elephants and such. However, I do have say that might be because I am a very skittish person, and having things coming at me while in VR made me a little bit anxious. I think after visiting VR a few more times, all of the negatives I mentioned above will be minimized.

"Charles": I feel slightly less nauseated than I expected to be. I usually get motion sickness from these types of activities, but the render quality and motion tracking kept me from feeling too ill. After I left VR I immediately felt a little nausea roll over me, but I managed to quickly get my bearings back and the feeling melted away. With some conditioning I am sure that I could prevent myself from getting sick. The experience almost felt surreal, being submerged in that level of virtual reality you can let your actual reality drop away and fully immerse yourself in this world. I think this is the main reason why I was able to enjoy it so much and also helped me be less motion sick. The deeper the immersion level, the better I feel. I think this is because my mind can believe that the experience I was feeling was actual reality and it didn't reject the experience outright. Overall: 9/10, can't wait until I get my own!

"Shayne": Right off the bat I was sort of unimpressed. The Universe I stood in the center of was slightly meh. However, as it jumped around to the other locations in the tutorial I grew much more impressed. The dinosaur was amazing. As a dweeb who has for years been ostracized by the greater world at large for my knowledge of dinosaurs and other giants, monsters, and lizards; this opens up an amazing/horrifying pandora's box of possibilities. This could work with bloody Godzilla. If that day ever comes I probably will never leave virtual reality. Another aspect that I really enjoyed was the ability to visit other cultures. The learning possibilities are nearly endless. I go into everything with a skeptical attitude, which you may have grasped from my first sentence, but this really won me over. The possibilities are absolutely amazing. As far as actually playing games over VR was also a great, if physically odd, experience. I played a very mediocre platformer with strange Lovecraftian overtones. After a brief adjustment period playing the game was a pretty easy prospect, even if my legs desperately wanted me to bend over backwards. Overall it was a fun and ridiculous experience that leaves me with only one question: what else can this thing do?


I've seen plenty of Youtuber's play VR games, but when you watch them play it just looks like a flat version of what they're seeing. They have your headset on and the video of the game playing in the background. It doesn't really feel any different than any other game. When I actually put the headset on and got into the world myself, it was a totally different experience. In my first VR experience I was plopped down in a dark forested area where it looked and sounded like a CGI movie. As the video played through I watched large fireflies buzz around, was smelled by a giant robot hand that acted like a dog, and was approached by a MASSIVE robot. The robot was easily taller than all of the trees in the woods. As it walked toward me I had to looks straight up to see it. This was the coolest/scariest/most real feeling part of the whole experience. As the robot moved, tree branches fell down. The feeling of reality was so strong that when I looked up and saw branches falling down just above me, I felt like I needed to dodge them, even though I also knew that I was standing safely inside an office at SUNY Potsdam.

After I finished with that VR experience, I was able to play an interactive game on the system. This game involved getting gold coins and hitting bad guys. It was a very simple game, which is good because I'm not the most experienced gamer. This shows that, even though VR is mostly used by hardcore gamers and computer geeks, it can be enjoyed by even the most incapable videogame players. The only critique that I could think of is that it can give a slight feeling of vertigo after you take the headset off. Overall, super cool encounter with the new technology and I think that we've only scratched the surface of the uses for this technology.

Like the students, my first impression was also "I can't wait to see what developers will come up with next." For my part, I look forward to creating educational content with a virtual reality camera, and taking the concept of a flipped classroom to a new level. Without a doubt, the best is yet to come.


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