The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has been in the news a lot this past year, from a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to the recent purchase by Facebook. It’s definitely put “virtual reality” back in the zeitgeist in a way it hasn’t been since the early ’90s when clunky headsets were popping up in arcades, only to soon be shoved aside when they failed to match our holodeck expectations. Now that the technology has advanced considerably, there’s all sorts of interesting potential in the Oculus Rift…and not just freaking yourself out with a decapitation simulator. For instance, you could board the starship Voyager, as shown in the above demo.
It’s a little disorienting watching the video without an Oculus Rift, since you’re watching everything doubled. The demo lets the user wander around the bridge of the Voyager, but sadly it doesn’t look like it’ll let you alter the course or fire the photon torpedoes, although you are free to run in circles without Janeway chastising you. The demo does include audio from the familiar Voyager crew, but since it’s only audio, you’re left with the impression that you’ve been shunted into a different vibrational reality from the rest of the crew, or some other Star Trek technobabble explanation.
The demo was created using the Unreal Engine 4, apparently the first Oculus Rift demo to make use of UE4. The Rift ships “out of the box” with support for the cutting-edge Unreal 4, which is being used extensively by designers for next-gen game development. The “Starship Bridge Demo” was created by Thomas Kadlec, who told the Road to VR website that “I’m a huge Oculus Rift fan, Star Trek fan and Unreal Engine 4 fan. So I just figured I’d mix those all together!” He continued:
I almost have the sensation of being a ‘movie director’ when working with Unreal Engine 4. I can come up with an idea and in a matter of minutes you can come up with an implementation that looks really amazing.
For example, I was showing my progress to my girlfriend. At the time I had a static view of a planet on the main view screen. I was just going to leave it at that. She said something along the lines of, ‘I can’t wait to see it moving with the stars going by!’ It was one of those moments of thinking, ‘crap she’s right I can’t just have a static view screen. This is going to take a lot of work and probably not going to look good.’
Yet seemingly in no time I created a particle system that emits stretched white particles in down the x-axis, placed a camera that renders to a texture facing the emitter and voila, put that texture in a material and the material on the view screen geometry. I got exactly the effect I wanted, one I feel mimics the look of the original TV series.
You can actually download the Starship Bridge Demo here. Maybe some of the more technically proficient GFR readers out there can fiddle with the thing and add in some actual crew members to populate the ship. I have a feeling somebody’s already hard at work on a digital version of Seven-of-Nine…
Meanwhile, here’s an Oculus Rift version of Star Wars‘ infamous Death Star trench run: