The lights are on
Yesterday, we had a chance to go hands-on with Oculus' second developer kit, which is available today for pre-order. The $350 unit incorporates the Crystal Cove motion tracking technology we reported on from CES in January, placing the sensor array behind an LED-permeable piece of plastic. It will ship in July 2014.Before Oculus would allow us to test the new 1080p model, we took a trip down the blurry, high persistence memory lane of the original developer kit. After a few slightly nauseating seconds in the "Tuscany" demo (consisting of a balcony overlooking a beautiful vista), we slipped on the new version.In addition to higher fidelity and drastically lower persistence (making for a smoother image during head movement), "DK2" as the Oculus team calls it allows users to lean down and peek around corners. This experience takes Oculus from simply being a view-filling 2D experience to something with a greater sense of presence.Two additional demos were set up for us to experiment. Couch Knight is a one-on-one melee game, set in a living room. It simulates an augmented reality situation, with the knights interacting with items in the room. Of particular interest is Oculus' first foray into avatars. The two players can see one another, and the mannequins mimic head movement. It's far from natural yet, but it's a step in the direction of bringing players together despite the isolating experience of wearing a headset.The most impressive moment for me was when one of the knights jumped on "my" leg. I obviously couldn't feel it, but I had given myself over to the illusion enough that it was a bit startling. Being able to lean around and look under the table to keep sight of the little warriors was a new experience, and while this is only a tech demo, it shows a new side of VR. The other demo was a mockup of how a tower defense title might work. Elemental Defense allowed me to lean into the table setup to zoom in on the little troops marching around the table. There isn't much game there right now, but as a demonstration of how other genres might work in a virtual setting, it accomplishes the goal.For more check out our interview with Oculus CEO Brendon Iribe and Rift inventor Palmer Luckey. To pre-order a DK2, visit Oculus' website.