If there’s one guy who knows how to make a virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) then it’s Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus and original creator of the Oculus Rift. Having left the company in 2017, Luckey has regularly given his opinion on Oculus news and updates, most recently this weekend discussing the new Oculus Rift S device announced at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019 last week. Mostly positive about the new design, his one major query relates to the lack of mechanical IPD adjustment.
Via his blog, Luckey starts by saying “Rift S is very cool,” “it is going to be a great HMD.” But like any design compromises have had to be made during the creation process, and one that has got both consumers and Palmer riled is the removal of Oculus Rift’s mechanical interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment – the distance between a users eyes – for a software version.
The reason mechanical IPD was used in the Oculus Rift CV1 was that it covered a wide section of users: “that was an important part of our goal to be compatible with male and female users from 5th to 95th percentile,” says Luckey. A software-based IPD solution, on the other hand, can’t cover the same broad range of users, even with new lenses that widen the sweet spot. The reason for doing this is weight and fragility, without the mechanism engineers can remove parts that add weight and the possibility of those pieces breaking.
Because the lenses are now fixed to the average IPD of 64mm apart if you happen to be at the wider or narrower end of the scale then problems are going to arise. “Everyone who fits Cinderella’s shoe will get a perfect experience, anyone close will deal with minor eyestrain problems that impact their perception of VR at a mostly subconscious level. Everyone else is screwed, including me,” explains Luckey.
The knock on effect to this is being unable to Oculus’ ecosystem. “I am completely tied to the Oculus platform. I buy my games from the Oculus Store, I launch my games through the Oculus UI,” Luckey goes on to say. “Rift S is the only way to use the Oculus PC ecosystem. It is the singular option, a full replacement for the now-discontinued CV1. Anyone who can’t use Rift S is going to be effectively locked out of the ecosystem, including people who have invested thousands of dollars into their content library.”
The Oculus Rift S is due to launch this Spring for $399 USD. Is it the true successor to the CV1 or will it cause new problems? To find out more keep reading VRFocus.