OCULUS RIFT SYSTEM $1,500
Technology is cool, content not so hot yet
Oculus Rift, with a headset, camera and game controller that come bundled with a powerful computer, is a well-built hardware system brimming with potential. But the first wave of apps and games available for it narrows the device's likely users to hard-core gamers. It is also rougher to set up and get accustomed to than products like smartphones and tablets.
The Rift works with technology that some might find anachronistic: a Windows PC, monitor, keyboard and mouse.
On first use, the Rift felt sturdy and well made (although it left lines under the eyes). The adjustable straps made it easy to fit on the head, and the built-in headphones create deep, high-quality sound.
Getting started with the device took about an hour. The biggest holdup was finding and downloading content through the Oculus app store. Many games are large downloads of more than 6 gigabytes, so a game took up to half an hour to download (and you can't run one game and download another simultaneously).
Oculus recommends Dreamdeck as an introduction to virtual reality. The app — like an incoherent dream where you're crowding around a campfire with a fox and a deer one moment, perched atop a skyscraper the next — is symbolic of the state of content for the Rift. The first batch of apps and games added up to a confusing, disjointed virtual reality landscape.
Rift's most prominent game, EVE: Valkyrie, seemed to be aimed at hard-core gamers. Adventure Time, based on the children's cartoon of the same name, was cute and fun, but could easily be played on a television set. A better use of the virtual reality headgear was Farlands, a game that involved visiting foreign planets to gather information about alien creatures and plants by taking photos of them.
Oculus recommends easing into the headset, using it a few minutes at a time and always taking breaks every half-hour, which is needed. Twenty-minute sessions were mentally draining.
The Rift's graphics, sound and head tracking do feel like something out of science fiction. While the system's setup is somewhat complex, the smoothness of the graphics and the high-quality design of the headgear make virtual reality feel ready for prime time.
Yet, it may be wise to wait to buy until the other new systems are out — and until the content for the Rift catches up to the technology.
THE NEW YORK TIMES