It’s getting late and my dog wants to go for a walk, but she is waiting, because I am in outer space. My
fighter squadron is on an escort mission through enemy territory, and I have to stay alert. Peering out
the window to my left, I see one of capital ships we’ve been assigned to protect —a massive vessel that
fills my entire field of vision. Turning to the right, I see the rest of the fleet, and beyond those ships,
countless stars. I’m admiring the view when the radio blares with the excited voices of allied pilots. I look
up, and an enemy fighter overtakes me from behind, its cannons silhouetted against the stars.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the immersive fantasy created by the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset,
which began shipping on Friday and starts arriving at homes and offices in over 20 countries today. It’s
not so easy to convince other people that even though VR technology has repeatedly been over-hyped
and under-delivered, this time it actually works: VR is one of the ultimate “you have to try it for yourself”
experiences. It’s only when your zero-gravity dogfight is interrupted by the poking nose of an actual dog
that you realize you traveled somewhere else without leaving your living room, and that virtual reality is
I’ve followed Facebook-owned Oculus VR for several years now (read my Forbes cover story about
founder Palmer Luckey here) and I’m convinced that the company is helping usher in a new era for
technology, entertainment, and communications. Until the release of the first consumer version of the
Rift, it wasn’t clear whether that flagship product would be a major milestone, or simply a stepping stone
along the way. But after using it for a week, I see that even if you put aside all the hype and all the
expectations, it’s still a great piece of consumer technology that provides high-quality entertainment.
The Oculus Rift is a spectacular device.
At first glance, The Oculus Rift doesn’t look much different than the VR hardware we’ve seen before. It’s
a pair of goggles with a molded plastic head strap and built-in headphones; you plug it into a computer,
pull it down over your eyes, and peer through lenses at a high-resolution screen. But unlike previous VR
headsets, the Rift looks and feels like high-end consumer electronics, not a science experiment gone
wrong. It’s covered with a fine woven mesh that makes it feel soft and inviting; it’s lightweight while still
seeming substantial; and it adjusts to sit on your head without pressing uncomfortably into your face.
The external tracking camera that plugs into the computer and watches your head movements is stylish,
too; the whole system feels like something you’d be proud to display in a living room, not want to hide
under a desk.
The setup process is equally well-designed. The Rift headset ships in a cleverly designed box with the
tracker, a custom remote control and a Microsoft Xbox game controller; new users are directed to open
up a link in any web browser to download software, and it walks them through installation, fitting and
customization of the system. Even though I’m certain that almost all the initial users of the Rift will be
VR enthusiasts and gadget fiends, this software feels like it was designed to be accessible to anyone.
After watching a short VR movie, users are introduced to an equally easy-to-navigate control interface,
presented as a virtual living room called Oculus Home.