The Hangover: 3D

The Uniter’s tech reviewer tries a virtual reality headset while hungover

I woke up in my Seattle hotel room and made my way towards the bathroom. I swerved back and forth which told me that I had come out of my comatose state too early. I was still drunk, but it was wearing off fast and I had a mission.

It was the last day of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) – August 30 to September 2 at the Washington State Convention Centre – a convention built around video games, tabletop games, and anything else that falls into the nerd culture category.

There was no shortage of things to play with, but the one toy that everyone should ask Santa for this year is the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

If you existed in the ’90s, you probably recall that virtual reality was promised to be the next big thing. But, just like hoverboards, it never became a reality. Until now.

The line to try the Rift was consistently packed. I spent the two hour wait thinking about getting motion sickness as a child, wondering if I would be on YouTube as the first man to projectile vomit while exploring virtual reality.

When I was finally directed to my seat, I had already decided I was going to die that day. I would at least feel validated that it would be while wearing the coolest toy ever made. Would they let me wear it in my casket? My head pulsed with pain as I pondered such things.

The Rift is surprisingly light and doesn’t weigh your head down. A longer play session would have been good to test neck strain, but it felt like I could wear it for at least an hour.

With my eyes so close to the screen, I could see spaces in-between the pixels which had the effect of looking through a screen door. Hopefully the final version will have that smoothed out.

The two-minute demo was the game iRacing. I wasn’t able to drive in the demo, just sit as a passenger. This was for the best as I was in no condition to drive. I would’ve plowed through a virtual roadblock before bursting into polygonal flames.

The headset tracked my head movement with no distinguishable lag. I could see out the sides of the car and behind me without feeling like the Rift needed to catch up.

There was one moment, where I looked at my virtual arm and felt as though I should’ve been able to move it. Despite the shortness of the demo, I quickly became unaware of the real people standing around waiting for me to take the helmet off my greasy head and give them a turn.

Right now developers can pre-order the Oculus Rift prototype for $300 USD at OculusVR.com. There are no official dates or prices for the consumer version.

Published in Volume 68, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 11, 2013)

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