Oculus has revealed that it's highly anticipated VR headset the Oculus Rift will cost $599 USD and is now available for pre-order.
Alongside the price and release date, Oculus also revealed the hefty PC requirements needed to run the Rift when it is released. So, before you hand over around $850 AUS, make sure you run through the list of requirements to see if your gaming rig needs an upgrade.
The Rift, slated to start shipping in March, is the first release of a string of virtual reality headsets due to hit shelves this year. It will be joined shortly after by the HTC Vive, which is due out in April, and PlayStation's VR sometime later this year.
Despite the confronting price and daunting system requirements, CG Spectrum Houdini FX Mentor Ben Fox believes that virtual reality could become a fantastic feature in gaming and day-to-day communication.
Ben has worked as the lead technical artist on a number of virtual reality experiences varying from a trek through the mountains for Merrell, a guided tour through a Marriott hotel to an exploration of the space station from Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. Make sure you check out his amazing work here.
Ben's first VR project was the Game of Thrones "Ascend the Wall Experience" on the original Oculus, which had no motion tracking technology. This meant that you were basically just along for the predetermined ride with the ability to look around you.
But even this was enough to change the way people would generally react to a similar experience on a traditional display.
"Having a display that allowed you to look around was all your mind needed to be convinced that your were actually in that place. Some people screamed, others laughed. They were all affected in different ways."
Originally beginning as a kickstarter campaign, the Oculus Rift has grown from an idea into what many believe is the best option when it comes to virtual reality headsets. The finished product will boast a combined 2160x1200 resolution OLED display (a 1080x1200 screen for each eye), an incredibly accurate sub-millimeter tracking system, state-of-the-art 3D sound and comes fully integrated with some of the best game engines including Unreal Engine 4, Cryengine and Unity 5.
Game developers are hoping that virtual reality can be another shot in the arm to the video game industry and maybe even usher in a new era of gaming. Developers and animators are also keeping a close eye out for any release details for the Microsoft HoloLens which, using augmented reality technology, looks like it could change the way we create digital assets.
But Ben is still skeptical of the effect both virtual and augmented reality will have on both the entertainment and design industries.
"Right now I think these implementations of VR/AR are nice, and it could work for smaller scale stuff. But all of the major digital content creation packages are far too complicated to benefit from these technologies."
And if you're hoping to start developing games or experiences in virtual reality, Ben recommends a heavy focus on refining the player experience.
"Having a display that allowed you to look around was all your mind needed to be convinced that your were actually in that place."
"So much of it is really trying to lead the viewer through an experience without making it a ride on rails or putting arrows and flashing lights all over.. If there is no sense of presence for the viewer they will be immediately turned off. Clear and smooth controls and movement are crucial for immersion."
2016 is shaping up to be the year of virtual reality. Are you excited to get your hands on this exciting new technology? Or do you think VR is just a passing fad?