The Virtual Genius of Oculus Rift

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from TIME Magazine,

An early prototype for the Oculus Rift

On March 26, Facebook announced that it was purchasing Oculus VR, the company Palmer Luckey started in 2012, in a deal worth $2 billion. The social-networking giant is getting top-flight engineering expertise as well as the technology behind the company’s flagship and only product, a virtual-reality headset. “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” Zuckerberg said in a press conference. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

Palmer Luckey—the name suits him—grew up in Long Beach, Calif., the son of a housewife and a car salesman. He was a natural-born tinkerer. “Self-taught!” is how he describes himself.

the Oculus Rift—the dorky name is a point of nerd pride—still doesn’t look particularly futuristic. It looks like a pair of chunky ski goggles with opaque black plastic where the lenses should be. Time will tell whether it’s a gateway to a new virtual frontier, but one thing is clear already: you look weird wearing it.

But put it on anyway—it embraces your head slightly more forcefully than would be ideally comfortable—because you’ll get the rare sensation of experiencing a technology that is genuinely new.

The first time I tried the Rift (which seems to be winning out over Oculus as the shorthand of choice) it showed a simulation of a craggy, rocky mountainside. I turned my head experimentally, and the view changed, with no discernible lag, just as it would have in reality. Instinctively my brain started looking for the edge of the image—but it didn’t come. I kept turning until I was looking all the way behind me. There was nothing but mountain back there.

Then I looked up and watched snowflakes sift down out of a gray sky straight into my face. That’s when my brain admitted defeat. It surrendered to the illusion that it was in another world.

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