Oculus Rift VR headset adds options for those with glasses, Half-Life 2 support coming from fans

Oculus Rift VR headset adds options for those with glasses, Half-Life 2 support coming from fans

The incredibly cool Oculus Rift VR headset has made us believers, but the hardware was delayed until March to deal with a few updates in design and a shortage of the original displays used in the headset. The team at Oculus has been busy, however, and the first 40 units have been created and the rest of the Kickstarter-backed developer kits should be ready for March delivery.

A few changes to the hardware design will also make the Rift friendlier to those of us who wear glasses.

What has been done

“The Oculus Rift developer kit now comes with three pairs of removable eyecups, instead of a single, permanent set,” the latest update stated. “The different eyecups allow you to switch the focal distance of the developer kit between three predefined settings. This means that if you’re nearsighted and your vision isn’t too bad, you may be able to use the developer kit without glasses or contacts.”

Users who don’t use corrective lenses will use the first set of eyecups, as will farsighted users. The Rift’s optics are focused at infinity, so your eyes act as if they are looking at far away objects. “If you’re nearsighted, the additional eyecups, B and C, allow you to see inside the Rift as if you were wearing glasses,” the update explains. “Again, this is because the lens cups change the focal distance. If you’re moderately nearsighted, you’ll use set B. If you’re very nearsighted, you’ll use set C.”

This isn’t a perfect solution, as we all have different prescriptions and will react to the lenses slightly differently, but it’s a large step in the right direction. The company also warns that these additional eyecups may not help if you have vision problems such as astigmatism, although in the past id Software’s John Carmack has stated that many vision issues can be solved by adjusting the software that runs the games. “Astigmatism I could correct for with a fragment program,” he told the Report.

By distorting the image in very specific ways, your eyes will actually be able to fix the image instead of distorting it. The concept is a little hard to wrap your head around, but the basic idea is to break the image itself in a way that’s the reverse of the defects in your eyesight, causing your own eyes to work as corrective lenses.

They’ve also added a gear mechanism that can bring the assembly closer to your eyes, or farther away. “You can extend the assembly to provide extra clearance for glasses or a larger brow,” the company stated. “If you’re using either of the shorter eyecups, the lenses will be further away from your eyes. By retracting the assembly, you can bring the lenses closer to your eyes, significantly increasing your field of view.” They also promise better solutions for the final retail product, so this should be a solved problem by the time the hardware is in stores.

Other options

Oculus’ Palmer Luckey once told me that one potential solution is to order an inexpensive pair of glasses online, remove the lenses, and affix them to the inside of the Rift hardware. With a little bit of modding, you too can have a VR headset that works with your prescription. Of course, that involves a little bit of destruction and some way to keep the lenses from moving, so tread carefully and use at your own risk.

Just in case you’re not excited yet, people are already hard at work on the Source engine to make it ready for the release of the Rift. “I’ve added full head tracking and weapon tracking to Half-Life 2 in preparation for the Oculus Rift dev kit launch,” the mod’s creator stated. “Once the official Rift APIs are available I’ll integrate them, giving people ~70 hours of content (this also works for Episode 1 & 2, The Lost Coast and tons of user generated maps, etc) that they can use to test out their Rift.”

This mod should pave the way for other Source Engine games such as the Left 4 Dead series, and Portal to be playable in VR. We’ve already ordered our developer kit, so we’ll be able to give you a full report when the hardware goes out in March.