3. How The Rift Works

The Oculus Rift package consists of the headset, positional tracker, xbox one controller, and audio remote.  The Oculus Touch controllers will be available towards the end of the year 2016.


The headset features a combined resolution of 2160 x 1200, a refresh rate of 90hz, and a field of view of 110 degrees through two screens.  There is a screen for each eye that has a resolution of 1080 x 1200.  A high refresh rate while maintaining a high screen resolution at a reasonable cost was an important challenge that needed to be overcome.  Without the proper specs, the immersion aspect is lost and the user could be susceptible to motion sickness after just a few minutes.


The positional tracker is used to track the headset in a 360 degree rotation.    The purpose of this is to further help the user believe they are apart of the virtual world.  When used the person turns their head and the focal point in the software turns as well in a 1:1 movement.  The point is take make the user feel as if they are not wearing a headset at all and to make looking around in the software feel natural.  It achieves this through a series of infrared LED’s in the headset that are monitored by the wireless sensor in the Constellation Tracking System.The most important part of head movement tracking is low latency.  This was another large obstacle to over come.  This would not have been possible without the help of advanced mobile phone technology that was used in the sensors.


There are two ways of navigating the world within the Oculus Rift.  By default the package comes with an Xbox One controller.  This can be used as a traditional method of navigating and interacting with the world through analog sticks and push buttons.  In the near future they will be releasing the Oculus Touch controllers.  There will be one for each hand to offer more of an intuitive and natural way of interacting with the software.  For some the only downside is that the Oculus Rift is more of a side down experience.  Some of the competition like the HTC Vive actually have methods of allowing the user to walk around in the software simulated environment without bumping into the walls of their house.  But for others this may suit them just fine as they may not have enough space to allow for such a setup in the first place.


On the audio side, the headset has built in headphones that provide 360 degree surround sound made to precisely match the video.  It achieves this by using Head Related Transfer Function technology.  This gets combined with the 3d head tracker to create a sense of true 3d audio.  If you hear a sound behind you, you can turn your head to look at what is making that sound and as your head turns, the audio is rotating as well.  There is also a small remote control to adjust the audio easily.  Although you may want to remember where you put it before putting your headset on.


Now all of that technical innovation wouldn’t matter much without the software to show it off.  On the software side, Oculus Rift has its own built in interface called Oculus Home.  When you power up the headset you are taken here.  This allows you to navigate to the content you wish to view or play while also serving as a store to purchase new content as well.  The Rift launched with 30 games, and it also allows you to play normal games and watch movies in a virtual theater environment as well.