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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.

I was brought into a small cubicle with a grey mat on the ground and told I could walk, crawl, whatever on the gray mat, but would be stopped from leaving the mat with the headset on. The Rift was placed over my head, the hanging headphones adjusted onto my ears, and we were off.

The first demo was fairly rote. The Rift turned on and I found myself standing in a beautifully rendered but empty corridor, all industrial steel and green lighting. It was clear that the resolution has gone up since the DK2, though you can still see individual pixels if you try. And I tried, especially because I was just standing in this boring green room.

Still, I walked around a bit, looked at some gauges. The position tracking worked, even when I turned fully around.

I then loaded (to the best of my memory) into a dark room with a raptor, which roared at me, and then into a cartoonish, flat-shaded scene on a beach. There was a small campfire, a moose, and a fox. Again, I kind of just looked around, walked a bit. Walking is harder with the Rift than you might expect — even when you know there are no obstacles to trip over, it's still hard to convince your brain to just walk like a normal human.

"Okay, so this is Crescent Bay," I thought. And then the scene shifted...

...And I was standing on the edge of a skyscraper, traffic passing miles below. A zeppelin floated above, next to an Oculus-branded skyscraper. There was a bridge off to the side.

It took me a bit to realize all of this, because I was too busy looking down. Had somebody turned on a fan at that moment I might have yelled — for a brief moment Iribe's "presence" marketing crap was a real thing. I honestly believed I was on a ledge.

Not consciously, of course. Your brain's not dumb. It knows you're standing in a room in a hotel in Los Angeles, wearing a goofy-looking headset. Hell, you're all-too-aware of the iconic "I'm wearing a Rift and my forehead is slightly sweaty" feeling.

But on a different level it didn't matter. I was on that ledge.

Two other demos sparked this feeling in me:

In one, you're standing on a barren, rocky planet as an expertly-rendered alien talks to you in an unfamiliar language, occasionally yelling at you or smiling. And then the alien raised up a hand and waved. Before I really understood what I was doing, I'd already raised my own hand reflexively.

Let me say that again: I waved at a virtual alien.

 

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