I had the opportunity to see the Oculus Rift in action today. It's not the first time I've seen it in person, but it was the first time I actually got to wear it for a few minutes and experience the short demonstration of riding on a roller coaster. I've always been fascinated by the prospect of a virtual reality headset applied to gaming applications, but I've been equally reluctant about the side effects too. I think it's important to know that ahead of time so you understand where I'm coming from. If I were to summarize my feelings towards this unique little device, perhaps "optimistically skeptical" might be an appropriate description.

First of all, the device is surprisingly light and comfortable to wear. I was expecting it to be heavier and somewhat cumbersome. It was not. Although I only wore it but a few minutes, I think a gamer could wear it comfortably for a period of time without feeling burdened by it. Obviously I am speaking from the physical impact of wearing the device.

Once you have the headset on and see the image displayed before you, it is a truly amazing sight to behold. The three dimensional effect is quite convincing. I was riding in a cart on a roller coaster track and was ascending up a fairly steep incline. The view had depth and the refresh rate was such that you could turn your head left and right and up and down and the view seemed natural.

The cart reached the top before spiraling downward with the apparent feel of gaining speed. I don't know if it was the motion of what my eyes were seeing or that my body convinced me I was actually riding on this roller coaster, but when I "hit the bottom" I actually felt my stomach lurch a bit...like you would expect on a real roller coaster. As my head twisted and turned to follow the speeding cart along the track, I'm sure it was quite a spectacle for my co-workers standing there next to me, watching my head bob and knees shake. It literally caused a physical reaction and a degree of unbalance. I was standing up, so perhaps this affect would not have been as dramatic if I were sitting.

I was self-conscious of what I might look like while wearing this device and riding the cart around the track (only because I had laughed at some of my co-workers who had a turn before me). It reminded me of a blog I wrote ages ago that discussed gamers who are quite physical with their hand motions when they play. You know the ones, when they jump in a platformer, they actually jerk the controller (and sometimes their whole body) as they jump, as if that motion will somehow make them jump further or higher. Well, the Oculus Rift only amplifies these body movements - at least for some.

The view was truly amazing. As I mentioned above, you really have a sense of depth but also of distance. You can look down at the track when you're at the highest point, and you feel like you are hundreds of feet off the ground; you can look off into the distance and it seems like you can see for miles. Very believable. I imagined how some of my favorite games might look while wearing such a device.

The experience only lasted a few minutes but I could already feel the headache coming and that eye strain feeling I get...like when I watch a 3D movie with the stereoscopic glasses. I went and sat back down at my desk - happy I got to experience something so neat that is abuzz all over the industry but a bit nauseous from the effects of the goggles. I suppose the good news is, others around me didn't experience any adverse side effects. But a few did. I do wear glasses, hate roller coasters but don't really get motion sickness. I love 3D movies but usually by the end of them I do have a headache. I expected this result from the Oculus Rift, and didn't really blame the device as much as I do my own physiology.

I think it is a powerful device full of potential and possibly the next big game changer in the world of gaming. Revolutionary gains in 3D graphics advancements have completely changed how we view our video games and devices like the Oculus Rift will further these advances exponentially. I'm not sure all of us will be able to enjoy these benefits without suffering the onset of eye strain and headaches - it might require ample doses of Dramamine (at least to combat the motion sickness, if that helps, I don't know)...but for a truly amazing gaming experience, that might be small price to pay. Welcome to the future.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!