The man who designed the Oculus Rift headset believes it could change the way we play video games in the very near future. And now his company has started a fundraising campaign to help bring the virtual reality eyewear to game developers and, eventually, to the public at large.
Oculus — the California-based tech company behind the head-mounted display — calls the device "the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games." And on Wednesday it launched a campaign via crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise $250,000 over the course of 30 days to pay for efforts to get development kits out to game developers as quickly as possible.
The Rift blew past that goal in a matter of hours. As of this writing, the project has raised $275,000 from more than 1,000 backers.
So what's all the excitement about? As company founder and Oculus Rift designer Palmer Luckey explains in his Kickstarter pitch, he's been a longtime game enthusiast and is also fascinated by stereoscopic displays.
"The problem was, there was nothing that gave me the experience that I wanted — The Matrix — where I could plug in and actually be in the game. I set out to change that with the Oculus Rift," he says.
The magic behind the Oculus Rift? Three things: Immersive stereoscopic 3-D rendering, "a massive field of view" (110 degrees diagonally) and "ultra low-latency head tracking."
The other important factor: affordability. Luckey points out that there are other VR glasses out there ... but they cost thousands of dollars. Oculus plans to make The Rift affordable for "the average gamer."
Just how affordable has not yet been determined. And as the Kickstarter page explains, "the consumer version of the Rift is still a ways down the road." The launch is estimated for sometime in 2013.
But ultimately Luckey believes the Rift will change the way we play. "Virtual reality has been the long sought after Holy Grail, which most people only ever dreamed of ... until now," he says. "The Rift is a true game changer that will help make VR the standard for gameplay in the very near future."
And some big gaming names seem to agree with him.
Famed game developer John Carmack first began showing off an early version the head-mounted display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this year. His reissued "Doom BFG" game will be the first Oculus-ready game to arrive. In-Game editor Todd Kenreck got a look at the goggles then and was blown away by what he saw (check out his video below).
Cliff Bleszinski, the developer behind the Gears of War franchise, has also thrown his weight behind the gadget and says Epic Games plans to integrate the Unreal Engine with the goggles.
Valve CEO Gabe Newell joined the Kickstarter fundraising effort as well, calling the device "incredibly exciting."
How exciting? Michael Abrash, a developer at Valve, put the possiblities this way: "It could be the beginning of a whole new industry that leads us eventually to having true augmentation all the time every place."
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.