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Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Tara!

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SquarePop Plays with the Oculus Rift

Ignoring the three-minute racing demo given at this years’ PAX Prime, my interactions with the Oculus Rift were once limited to “watching others strap a stupid-looking-box to their faces.” Luckily, this past weekend I was given a crash course in the wonders that face-box can create, at The Future of VR Technology event, held in Cambridge, MA. Mainly a networking soirée, the afternoon of presentations nevertheless showcased a wide variety of Oculus Rift demos, games, as well as some neat VR robots. Here are a few things I tried — though I’m excluding my complementary lunch. It too was wondrous.

Rift Chopper – James Walsh


My very first introduction in using a controller with the Oculus Rift, and it’s helicopter controls.

Once I securely fastened the Oculus Rift over my glasses and conquered my initial confusion over the ever-present inverted “Up moves the helicopter down which actually moves it forward” flight controls I was ready for my inaugural flight around a virtual city. Using a 360 controller, the left stick acted as the throttle, determining both altitude and speed, while the right stick pointed and steered the aircraft around the many buildings, clouds, and construction cranes that populated this oceanside city. Once airborne, there were three flight modes to cycle through: helicopter mode, complete with chopper sound effects and a control panel; UAV, with a squared windows to peek out of and slightly smoother acceleration control; and what I dubbed Wizard mode, with no cockpit or any external signs that you were in a vehicle at all.  I looped the city for a bit, moving my head all around to take in my surroundings, maneuvering between skyscrapers or floating high above the buildings. The Oculus Rift took a little bit of time getting used to, and there was a bit of vestibular confusion once I finished the demo, but all-in-all I was really impressed with the immersion. While this wasn’t an actual game, per se, I can definitely imagine adding in objectives and goals to this environment. I was especially impressed when the guy revealed he had started building this demo earlier that week, specifically to have something to present at this event.

Leaves in the Forest demo Mark Stock & James Susinno


This is an earlier, Kinect-version of what I played around with.

After all the excitement of flying– and nearly crashing– my own virtual helicopter, I needed a rest. Something tranquil, peaceful, to refocus and replenish my energy. Luckily, the booth adjacent to Rift Chopper had the perfect demo: a forest at dusk, with leaves gently falling. Using 3D real-time fluid dynamics, the duo of Mark and Jim created this beautiful scene in the middle of the woods. I was told it also works with the Kinect, so one could, in theory, look around with the Oculus, create some crazy swirls of wind with their arms and legs, and watch the resulting patterns without the real-life downsides of scratchy, soggy leaves and allergic sneezing. As there wasn’t enough room to set up the Kinect at this event I didn’t get the full experience, but I could definitely envision spending some quality time in my own personal forest.

oculous pic 2-2This is pretty much what you look like when you’re enjoying the virtual scenery.

AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity – Dejobaan Games


Imagine this barreling straight at your eyeballs.

This game has been out for PC since 2009, so I’m going to assume that you’re already familiar with it. I went in expecting the Oculus to add a layer of nausea to what is an otherwise beloved game, and left completely surprised by the effect the little facehugger peripheral had on the experience. It had the same setup as the normal PC version, with the Oculus acting as backup mouse movement, instead of moving the mouse forward to look up, you could instead, well, just look up. I had a little bit of trouble getting accustomed to using both of those inputs, but after a few minutes of adjustment everything gelled together nicely. The game looked great, played well, and other than making the player look slightly silly with their head tilted downward throughout, I have no complaints.

oculus pic 1-2When asked what he thought of the game, resident small child, Tom, said “It was fun!” Out of the mouths of babes…

Really, that summarizes my impression of the day. Everything I tried performed really well, was a lot of fun,  and left me with nothing disparaging to say. The Oculus Rift is an immersive piece of technology that just works. And with all the excitement I saw in the tinkerers, game developers, coders, and animators who were both sharing and showing off their new ideas, I’m certain we’re going to see some really awesome things in the near future.

Already have an Oculus Rift and want to try these things out? Rift Chopper is available for download here (dropbox link), AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! can be purchased here, or download a demo off the Oculus official share siteOculus VR Share.

 *Special thanks to Will Brierly for the press event invite. Go buy Soda Drinker Pro.*

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About the Author

Resident mad scientist at SquarePop.com, crafting bubbling concoctions out of Boston, MA. When she's not imparting empirical knowledge unto the masses, she's babbling nonsense on the Brain Freeze Podcast. She's also the self-appointed Comma Czar of SquarePop, ensuring all posts pass grammatical muster before publishing.



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