Things seem to be looking good for Palmer Luckey. He's the designer behind the Oculus RIFT device, a prototype Head-Mounted Display that caught the eye of id Software legend John Carmack. It's his tech that Carmack has been publicly toying with and demonstrating since around April, and will likely end up in a special edition of Doom 3 BFG Edition for the PC later on this year.
The headset essentially features a 1280 x 800 screen that's divided in half, offering a 640 x 800 display for each eye. The resolution is seemingly low, but RIFT's 90-degree field-of-view makes up for that thanks to a gyroscope and accelerometers that tracks the user's every movement. Carmack's big contribution to VR in general has been improving the refresh rate and overall latency, but he's also designed optimized algorithms specifically for RIFT.
"This is by far the most immersive HMD of the five I have [tested] here," Carmack said just before the announcement of Doom 3 BFG Edition. "If Palmer comes close to his price target, it will also be the cheapest. I will be including full support for this in the next new PC title we release."
With Carmack's support, Palmer Luckey planned to fund the project using Kickstarter by June 1, but he later moved the date up to June 14 pending negotiations with Carmack and Hillcrest Labs, the company which will likely produce head tracking hardware featured in at least one version of RIFT. This is the same company that supplied Carmack with custom firmware that doubled the refresh rate, based on data he generated from experimenting with gyroscopes.
Now Luckey reports that the Kickstarter project has been pushed back to around July 19 so that it coincides with Gamescom and QuakeCon. "That way, we can ride the huge amount of publicity that those events can bring to VR. I hate delays too, but it only makes sense in the long run, and the good news is that none of these delays are due to technical issues!" Luckey said in a recent update.
In addition to talking with id Software, Zenimax and Bethesda, he admitted that he's currently in talks with Valve Software, Epic Games, Crytek, Unity, and several other development companies. The extent of their relationships with Oculus varies, but he could safely guarantee at least a few partnerships.
"Oculus is going forward in a big way, but a way that still lets me focus on the community first, and not sell out to a large company," he reports. "I am working with hardware engineers who have designed some extremely well known gaming peripherals, software developers with very extensive middleware integration and partnership experience, and a small amount of funding from people who really, really want VR to happen. I should be able to order the parts for the kits before the Kickstarter even starts because of this! The kit is going to be even cheaper than before, and after the kit is out, development of a higher res, well polished consumer head mount is going to go forward at a lightning pace."
So what should gamers expect from the final Oculus RIFT product? "Imagine an HMD with a massive field of view and more pixels than 1080p per eye, wireless PC link, built in absolute head and hand/weapon/wand positioning, and native integration with some (if not all) of the major game engines, all for less than $1,000 USD. That can happen in 2013!"
The Kickstarter drive is expected to offer Oculus RIFT backers the promise of a kit version for around $500 USD. This kit will be targeted for enthusiasts and developers, and not for the general consumer. Carmack said last month that Doom 3 BFG Edition with the added HMD would sell for around the same price in limited quantities, and he is hoping to have a large number of kits available by the time QuakeCon arrives in August.