A video game fan tries on an Oculus Rift at the International Games Week trade fair in Berlin. A video game fan tries on an Oculus Rift at the International Games Week trade fair in Berlin. A video game fan tries on an Oculus Rift at the International Games Week trade fair in Berlin. (Photo: Axel Schmidt / Getty Images)

Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles can be yours soon

Revolutionary device will be available to consumers in the first quarter of 2016.

The era of virtual reality came into sharp focus on Thursday when Oculus Rift, the company behind a user-friendly pair of virtual reality goggles, revealed detailed information about their innovative device. And consumers will finally be able to buy their own pair in the first quarter of 2016.

At an event held in San Francisco, the team behind the invention showed off the finished product, a result of years of work. “Some people try to compare the Rift’s VR experience to a 3D movie,” says Dov Katz, an alumnus of Israel's Tel Aviv University. He helped develop the headset. “While there are elements of 3D involved, the effect and experience are far different, because in the movies, the effect is external – meaning that you are just watching it – while with VR you are totally immersed in what is going on.”

Facebook purchased Oculus Rift last year. and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he views virtual reality as the next major computing platform. "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home," Zuckerberg says.

But it's more than just a doctor's visit. The immersive experience promised by Oculus Rift has been of keen interest to healthcare professionals, who have been working with a prototype of the device for all manner of things including helping train surgeons. Dr. Hunter Hoffman, a virtual reality researcher at the University of Washington Seattle, has used the device to ease severe pain of burn victims by placing them in a virtual world filled with snow. Professor Jeremy Bailenson runs the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University where he studies, among other things, how the Oculus Rift can help people cope with certain psychological issues.

A glimpse of what it feels like to play a goalie in a hockey-themed game on the Oculus Rift.A glimpse of what it feels like to play a goalie in a hockey-themed game on the Oculus Rift. (Photo: YouTube)

Jennifer Patterson, an engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh, conducted research on how an Oculus Rift can help treat people with PTSD. Donning the goggles helps the patients relive certain traumatic moments in a safer environment. "It was an extremely awesome topic to write a paper on," the sophomore told From The Grapevine.

Patterson says she's very excited that the device will now be available to the public. "This is so cool that we're moving in this direction, and it's very much in line of what I want to do. My lifelong dream is to work for Walt Disney Animation Studios or Pixar."

Animators and video gamers are one sector that was excited to hear all the intricate details from Thursday's announcement, as virtual reality goggles will envelop video gamers in an entirely new way. Edge of Nowhere, produced by California-based Insomniac Games, got particular attention at the event for its Arctic-themed video game:

"You'll finally be able to teleport to new worlds," says Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. "It's going to deliver the magic of presence, the feeling of actually being there. You're instantly teleported."

Or as Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Oculus, put it: "I actually think that VR is maybe the most transformative technology of my lifetime."

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