Tech Biz

Oculus Rift VR Headset With Improved Resolution on Show at E3

The virtual reality-focused company has introduced a 1080P version of its groundbreaking hardware.

By J. T. Quigley for

Oculus VR made a splash at the second day of E3, the world’s largest video-gaming expo currently underway at the Los Angeles Convention Center, showing off a higher resolution prototype of its much-hyped Oculus Rift headset. Previously, the Oculus Rift depended on a 1,280 x 800 pixel panel, but the upgraded version sports a 1,080 x 1,920 display.

The Oculus Rift development kit, which has generated nearly $2.5 million from a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign, has been in the hands (or rather, on the heads) of developers since March. Its aim is to bring high quality virtual reality to consumers’ living rooms at a reasonable price. PCWorld’s Alex Wawro explained how the device works:

“There’s a sensor package strapped to the front of the Oculus Rift headset that includes a gyrometer, accelerometer and magnetometer, and just like your phone the headset uses those sensors to measure how your head is moving in three dimensions. That data is piped back into the control board and used to process how your character is moving in 3D space.”

It began with a humble 5.6 inch LCD screen before going HD. Even with the second version’s 720P capability, higher resolution was the biggest request from both developers and users. The more powerful display comes as a very welcome upgrade, but so far Oculus is mum about releasing new development kits that incorporate the 1080P screen.

The current peripheral utilizes the Unreal Engine 4 video game engine, which allows for improved textures and rendering on the more powerful screen. Engadget’s Michael Gorman was able to demo both the old and new versions of the Oculus Rift. He reported:

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“After looking around a snowy mountain stronghold inhabited by a fire lord in low res, we switched to the exact same demo running at 60 fps on the HD prototype device — and the difference was immediately apparent. Surface textures could be seen in much higher fidelity, colors were brighter and less muddied and the general detail of the entire environment was greatly improved.”

The Unreal Engine 4 was created by publisher Epic Games, who in turn invited Oculus VR to its “UE4 Integrated Partners Program.” As a buzz-worthy piece of expensive gaming hardware, the Oculus Rift couldn’t survive without such partnerships with game publishers and developers. The good news for Oculus VR is that even bigger names than Epic are interested in its futuristic headset. Valve, creator of the Half-Life and Portal franchises, announced a Half-Life 2 port for the Oculus Rift. Gaming juggernaut Electronic Arts (EA) has also expressed interest in incorporating its own Frostbite game engine into the headset – which could lead to an epic Battlefield 4 virtual reality experience.

On top of the industry’s big guns, fan-made mods for the extremely popular Minecraft and Skyrim games supporting the Oculus Rift only prove how badly gamers want to see the headset integrated into more platforms. E3’s indie developer area, the IndieCade, will have four titles available for demo that use the head-tracking device.

Through the Kickstarter campaign, anyone who contributed at least $300 was shipped a prototype headset. Unfortunately, there is still no word on a consumer release or price tag.