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Oculus Rift 'Crescent Bay' prototype hands-on: A VR alien waved at me and I waved back

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 23, 2014
We don't really like to swear on this site. By and large PCWorld is a family-friendly affair. Which is a shame, because at Oculus Connect on Saturday I got hands-on time with Crescent Bay, the latest internal Oculus Rift prototype and most likely the last stepping stone before the consumer Rift.

We don't really like to swear on this site. By and large PCWorld is a family-friendly affair. Which is a shame, because at Oculus Connect on Saturday I got hands-on time with Crescent Bay, the latest internal Oculus Rift prototype and most likely the last stepping stone before the consumer Rift.

And all I can say is [redacted], it's amazing. [Redacted].

"Presence"

In case you missed the announcement Saturday morning, here's a quick rundown of what Crescent Bay entails. It's not a new development kit. You'll never be able to buy it. Instead, like the Crystal Cove model demoed by Oculus at CES earlier this year it's an internal prototype — a benchmark of what the company is aiming for.

According to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe's keynote, the step from the newly-released DK2 to Crescent Bay is as big as the step between the first-gen (DK1) and second-gen (DK2) developer's kit models. If you've used the DK1 and DK2 you know what an incredible difference that is. If you haven't, imagine the only television set you've used your entire life is a grainy old 70s CRT and then somebody played you a movie in full HD for the first time.

Crescent Bay increases the resolution yet again (rumors say it's probably the 1440p screen used in the Note 4, though Oculus was for some reason hesitant to let me crack open one of their few Crescent Bay models just to look at the screen). Along with the higher resolution you get a higher refresh rate, which should again decrease the amount of judder (and thus your likelihood to get motion sick).

You'll also notice some cosmetic differences — namely, that there are now white dots all over the outside again including the back of the headband and that two tiny headphones hang down from the sides. Crescent Bay features full positional tracking, even from behind, and integrated 3D audio.

The key word for Crescent Bay is "presence." Iribe said it about a dozen times during his keynote and then another dozen times during a behind-closed-doors speech to press. By that, he means forgetting that you're staring at a virtual world. Iribe claims this is the point — this is where VR becomes a real thing.

Reflexes

But that's all marketing speak. What's it actually like?

Like every iteration thus far, Crescent Bay comes with a brand new demo to show off its capabilities. A set of demos, really. In the ten or so minutes that I wore Crescent Bay, I think I saw eight or nine distinct demos, each designed to show off a certain aspect of the unit.

Oh, and big news: You stand. Oculus has been notoriously reticent about standing while using the Rift. John Carmack's keynote during Connect even featured him speaking at length about "Swivel Chair VR" because the company views standing use as a liability. Except, apparently, when it comes to the Crescent Bay demo.

 

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