Kicking off a new era in virtual reality, expected to be a $30 billion market by 2020, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey hand-delivered the first consumer-ready unit of the Rift to software developer Ross Martin in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday.
After watching a short movie, playing a video game and exploring a virtual environment that includes an up-close encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Martin was quite pleased with the experience, also noting the sub-par resolution and recurrent nausea.
The first units of the headset will be sent to early Kickstarter backers, followed by those who ordered one in January for $600, or at least $1.500 with a high-end personal computer included.
So far, only two developer versions of the Rift had been shipped out for early previews and online commentary.
It’s not yet clear how many units Oculus had made for the first round and whether there will be much demand for the device beyond gamers and technology geeks, but judging by the backlog of orders, people are clearly interested, if somewhat reserved.
Considering the early reviews by journalists, the Rift – at least in its current incarnation – is a bit of a mixed bag, best summarized by Time’s Lisa Eadicicco, who had this to say about it: “It’s brilliant. It’s fascinating. It’s not perfect, but it’s only getting started”.
Many reviewers were impressed by the immersiveness and were generally positive in their appraisals, but complained about Rift’s hefty price tag, lack of dual controllers and games (only 30 being available at the time of writing), as well as persistent or intermittent nausea during use.
“When I pushed myself to play “Valkyrie” for as long as 45 minutes nonstop, I took aspirin to fight off a headache,” said Nathan Olivarez-Giles of the Wall Street Journal.
Following Rift in April will be the $800 HTC Vive, which was created in partnership with the gaming company Valve. Beyond that, Sony will launch its $400 PlayStation 4 virtual reality device PlayStation VR in October.
If you place an order for the Rift now, you should get one shipped by July of this year.