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VR Is Better Than Ever With Oculus' New Crystal Cove Prototype

We gave Oculus' newest VR headset a spin during a demo at CES and left impressed with the number of fixes the new prototype brought to the table.

Oculus' Rift development kits have been out in designer's hands for some time, and while that unit shows a lot of the potential of VR, it isn't perfect. Oculus recognizes the flaws, and has been hard at work fixing those blemishes in order to create a more immersive virtual experience. 

One of the obvious flaws of the early kits were the low resolution displays, which created a somewhat blurry, disoriented experience. Oculus has fixed this by putting a full HD display into the Crystal Cove kit. This makes VR experiences look a lot more lifelike. Oculus has also cut down the persistence of vision, which is just a fancy way of saying that objects look far less blurry when you move your head around. 

The other important change is the addition of positional tracking. Old Oculus kits let you turn your head and look around an environment, but if you leaned forward the display moved with you, breaking the illusion that you were actually in the environment. Crystal Cove uses a camera to track users' head movements, helping recreate the natural head jitters, leans, and turns, which goes a long way to making you feel like you are in the virtual world you're looking at. 

I tested these new features using a tech demo of Epic's Unreal 4 engine. The demo showed a fire elemental, which sat across from me at a large table. The table itself was filled with miniature trolls who wandered across an obstacle course of dangerous traps. With Crystal Cove's positional tracking I was able to lean forward and bend down to examine the trolls up close. I could also lean around to change my perspective and watch them walk into traps around corners. I did all this without a controller in my hands. 

The second demo I played was EVE: Valkyrie, a space combat game from a team at CCP Games. During an intense dogfight was able to fly loops around my opponents while moving my head around the cockpit to track and lock onto targets. The demo was a lot of fun and I can wait to play the final game on finished hardware.

As I took off the headset, I noticed that I experienced very little disorientation. VR sickness has been a common problem with Oculus' previous kits and it seems that Crystal Cove's improvements are helping cut down on the disorientation problems older kits create.

Unfortunately, Oculus still hasn't announced when we can expect to see final hardware on store shelves, but after my CES demo, I'm confident that we're getting closer to a must-buy piece of tech.

For more, read our previous story which features the thoughts of some of the heads of the Oculus Rift project.

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