Oculus is at CES 2015, giving a larger set of people a chance to experience virtual reality with its latest prototype, the Crescent Bay version of the Oculus Rift. The Crescent Bay edition of the VR hardware originally broke cover back in September of 2014, but only a small handful of folks have tested it out thus far. After our demo, I became one of the slightly expanded group that can claim to have used it, and while I was already fairly impressed by what Oculus has been doing, Crescent Bay is genuinely a whole different class of experience.
As Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe explains in our interview above, Crescent Bay is the first VR experience from the company that left him without the lingering feelings of nausea that can accompany this category of gadget. He counts himself among the most sensitive to the queasy feelings that can sometime result from a sense of imperfect immersion with VR, and he says that Crescent Bay is the best devices yet from the company in terms of delivering a true sense of presence without any of those negative side-effects. Crescent Bay is, in fact, the first version of Oculus Rift that he feels confidently meets the minimum standards required for a consumer launch, at least in terms of the AV portion of the equation.
Using it feels like an almost religious experience all over again, to echo a claim many made about even the original Rift prototype. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t tried it just what it’s like to use Crescent Bay, but compared to previous versions, you feel far more like you’re actually in the virtual worlds generated by the Oculus software. It was impossible not to shift around to avoid debris thrown by explosions, and virtual bullets whizzing past. Proximity to a virtual dinosaur left me half-expecting to feel the moisture of its exhalation on my face. Standing on a skyscraper ledge prompted a stomach flip, especially given my fear of heights. The new immersive audio tech definitely helps with a sense of immersion, too, and changing the angle and orientation of your head really does change the soundscape in pretty much exactly the way you’d expect.
Oculus isn’t saying specifically that Crescent Bay is exactly the experience that we’ll get with the first consumer version of Rift, but it isn’t not saying that either. If it is, based on my brief demo, VR fans have a lot to be excited about.