The tech world is buzzing following the official launch of virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, on Monday, March 28. The Rift is a large headset that uses customized optics designed for virtual reality along with a constellation tracking system to make the user feel like he is actually there. It is this sense of presence that makes the Rift groundbreaking technology.

Facebook purchased Oculus in March 2014 for $2 billion. Upon purchase, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together.”  Mirroring that optimism, the Oculus Rift calls itself “next-generation virtual reality.” But is this technology truly revolutionary? Some are skeptical.

First, there are multiple issues with the product itself. The Rift, which costs $599 on its own, can cost up to $1500 when bundled with the equipment required to put the Rift in use. The Rift requires a Windows PC, monitor, keyboard and mouse, equipment that many in this tablet-dominated world no longer have. Even if consumers can overcome the high price tag is not, they must be patient enough to sit through the installation process. The initial installation can take up to one hour, which is normal for comparable technology, but it currently takes up to half an hour just to download a single game. Because the Rift does not allow users to download one game while playing another, it could take multiple hours to download a collection of games.

New York Times writer, Brian Chen, tested the Oculus Rift and cited additional complaints. First, he noticed that there was space at the bottom of the headset, by the nose, that let in light. He found this space to be distracting to the virtual reality experience. After taping a piece of paper over the light, he tested various games. In his review he wrote: “I felt mentally drained after 20-minute sessions. My eyes felt strained after half an hour, and over a week I developed a nervous eye twitch.” Although Oculus encourages users to take multiple breaks, the likelihood that most users heed such instructions are slim.

Some final complications surround the product launch itself. Even though the product officially launched on Monday, most consumers who order the Rift now should not expect to receive it until July at the earliest. Additionally, the preorder process was apparently a complete mess. Many people who pre-ordered the Rift were unable to make Oculus IDs because the system was down. Those individuals, therefore, have no way to track their orders and do not know when to expect the arrivals of such orders.

So is the Oculus Rift worth all the hassle? Maybe, but it wont be the only big player in the virtual reality field for long. HTC plans to ship the final version of its Vive VR headset the first week of April 2016 and the PlayStation VR will ship in October 2016. One thing that is for sure, virtual reality is no longer just an idea it’s a reality.


— Sara Hunter

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