Like any prototype technology, the best things about Oculus’ Rift development kits are how rubbish and unfinished they are. How is that a good thing? Because it encourages developers, modders, hackers and inventors to make them better by adding all sorts of crazy tech to the existing units. Add to this the open-source nature of the Rift and you’ve got a platform that’s ripe for tinkering.
In turn this makes the Rift better, as Oculus can see what people are doing, integrate it into the production units, and so on and so forth until you get a Rift worth purchasing. In 2027.
Crescent Bay in-depth: How Oculus Rift works
Here you’ll find the standout projects that have taken the Rift’s base unit and turned it into something more interesting, useful or just downright weird.
Oculus Rift takes off
Swedish aerial photography company Intuitive Aerial put the Oculus Rift to great use by combining it with the live feed from an airborne drone. While there’s, unsurprisingly, a little more latency than you’d find in your normal Rift applications, the potential here is astounding.
Imagine being able to pretend you’re a normal person in the real world who grows into a giant, and then your head comes off and floats away and gets picked up by a gust of wind and lands in the North Sea, never to be seen again. Imagine that.
The holy grail of the Rift has to be completely wireless operation, but this seems to be a low priority for Oculus until it gets the basics right. In the meantime a number of people have managed to sortof get the Rift running wirelessly.
This thread shows how it’s done, while WorldViz PPT has demonstrated the Rift working wirelessly by someone who looks like Lawrence of Arabia wearing the world’s clunkiest Batbelt.
Essential reading: Best games for Oculus Rift
Stereo cameras on the Rift
At first glance adding a pair of cameras to the front of the Rift makes about as much sense as making driving gloves for snakes. But the potential of the idea is pretty cool, as you can augment reality in ways that simply aren’t possible with headsets such as Google Glass.
Spaceships could fly over your head, buildings could collapse in front of your eyes, and a vaguely attractive member of the opposite sex could make eye contact with you. The possibilities are endless. Read more about it here.
Eye tracking for better reality
While we’re on the subject, a researcher at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark plonked an infrared eye-tracking camera inside the Rift’s housing, and then used it to precisely track movements and gaze. It’s another thing that sounds a bit pointless, but foveated imaging - which sharpens whatever you’re looking at while blurring the background - is one of the big things that will make virtual reality feel more real.
It should also mean that CG characters (potentially even player-controlled ones) would be able to make eye contact with you.
Ever wanted to play Assassin’s Creed for real? A team of Polish developers from mepi.pl have turned the Oculus Rift into a third person camera using an Arduino kit, a pair of GoPros and, um, some poles. The result is a view that levitates behind the user, third-person videogame style.
The important thing the team have cracked here is head tracking, which in turn changes the angle of the stereo cameras.
Oculus Rift v Project Morpheus: What is the best VR gaming headset?
Yes, this is an advert for a Swedish broadband provider, but it counts as a hack nonetheless. The company used a Rift in conjunction with a Raspberry Pi to provide a video feed from a GoPro attached to the headset.
The twist is that they added a delay to the feed, beginning with a third of a second, before moving up to three seconds. The results are hilarious, ranging from a drunken Zumba class to an incredibly dangerous attempt to make pancakes.