Oculus VR’s New “Crystal Cove” Prototype Is Kind Of Amazing

Oculus VR has been showing off a new version of its virtual reality technology at the Consumer Electronics Show. According to Vice President of Product Nate Mitchell, the “Crystal Cove” prototype features two big improvements — positional tracking and low persistence.

I have to admit that when Mitchell first said this, I started to worry that these were going to be minor changes, only relevant to hardcore gamers and serious virtual reality geeks. Then I tried out the new prototype and, well, it was kind of amazing.

You can see me trying out the prototype in the video above. Ignoring the fact that I look pretty goofy as I swerve around (or, fine, don’t ignore it) — I think it’s pretty clear that I’m having a great time.

The more noticeable change is the positional tracking. Basically, it means that in addition to responding to where you look, the Oculus headset can also track the position of your head — if you lean left or right or forward or backward. So in the first demo, a tower defense game, I could lean in and see the details of the individual figures running around the screen, or I could lean back and see the full scope of the playing field.

The other addition, low persistence, is supposed to eliminate motion blur — so when I shifted my head in the second demo, I could still read the text on the computer screens.

The bottom line is that the experience felt much, much more immersive and real than it was when I tried a much earlier prototype at last year’s CES. Granted, some of that is also because the demo involved more sophisticated and beautiful gameplay, but hey, some of that gameplay was enabled by the new features.

As for when you’ll get to try all of this out, Mitchell said the company isn’t ready to make any specific announcements, but he suggested that Oculus will probably want to ship one more round of kits out for developer testing before releasing a version for consumers. He also said that everything I tried out at CES will be available in the consumer version.

Oculus, by the way, recently raised a $75 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz.