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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.

Then there's the Showdown demo, which closed out our time with Crescent Bay. Showdown was designed by Epic, and features a battle between a group of soldiers and a massive robot. The camera moves inexorably down the street towards the robot while the action progresses around you in slow motion — bullets ripple towards the robot in trademark Matrix fashion, a car explodes and flips over your head, and rubble flies through the air. It was the last category that got me: As rubble flew towards my face, I jerked backwards expecting to feel concrete hit me in the face.

While "Presence" and this sense of realism is incredible, some of the other demos were just as impressive for entirely different reasons. One brief section had me standing over a neon orange map, beacons shining into the sky from the heart of each city. I could easily see playing a real-time or turn-based strategy game from this viewpoint — the art style made me think of DEFCON, but any God-view game would work.

And finally, one demo I was merely floating in space next to a small model town, as if someone had built a model railroad and left it there for me. This scene was the best demonstration of Oculus's new audio focus, with sound fading in and out seamlessly as I leaned around the town. Positional audio isn't exactly a new idea, but it's amazing how much it can help improve the "reality" part of VR.

The catch — literally

The biggest downside with Crescent Bay, and presumably the final consumer Rift model? That damn cord. Moving around the room with a cable attached to your head is an enormous distraction, and multiple times I got really into the scene only to be jarred out of it by a tugging feeling on the side of my head. Obviously it also makes spinning around in a circle a disaster.

There's also the question of setting everything up. In the demo room, the positional camera was mounted on the wall. That's even less portable than the DK2's "mount this on top of your monitor" camera, and I'm curious whether standing is a use case Oculus is actually fully promoting or whether it was simply for demo purposes.

As for the headphones, I'm currently ambivalent. I didn't get a great look at the headphones and the Oculus staffer in my room refused to answer any questions or let me see the unit closer, but they appear to swivel out of the way when you want to wear real headphones. In other words, I don't think they detach completely. The audio quality was fine for demo purposes, but that's about the most I can say — a crowded convention isn't the best place to test audio fidelity.

 

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