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Oculus launches Kickstarter campaign for virtual reality gaming headset

Technology company Oculus wants to bring virtual reality to video games, and it’s turning to crowdfunding website Kickstarter for help.

Founded by veterans of Guitar Hero developer RedOctane, interface software developer Scaleform, and cloud gaming company Gaikai, Oculus today launched a campaign to raise money for its first product — a virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. The company claims the stereoscopic 3D headset has a huge field of vision — 110 degrees diagonally — and will overcome the latency problems that plagued previous VR gaming peripherals.

“All of us at Oculus are excited to bring the Rift to people who love video games like we do,” says company founder Palmer Luckey. “As a technology for games, virtual reality has been an unrealized dream. We think the Rift is a game changer that will make VR the standard for gameplay in the very near future.”

Luckey tells GamesBeat via email the Rift headset is designed to work with any PC. It apparently also works on a number of other platforms, including Mac, iOS, and Android, according to the Kickstarter page. However, Luckey says his company isn’t ready to announce all of its existing partners.

“But we will soon,” he says.

Luckey also tells GamesBeat his team has spent a lot of time researching virtual reality, trying to figure out what games work best. While first-person shooters seem a natural fit, he says other genres could work as well. “For obvious reasons, first-person perspectives provide the most immersive experiences for virtual reality, but third person titles — when executed correctly — can also provide equally immersive experiences when using the Rift.”

Some well-known names in the gaming industry are already showing their support, including video game engine developers Epic Games, Unity, and Valve. Oculus hopes to bring game creators on board to help with the development process. Donors who contribute $300 or more on Kickstarter will receive a Rift-compatible copy of Doom 3 BFG, along with a development kit and access to the software development kit (SDK), giving devs the ability to integrate the Rift with new and existing games on PC and mobile. Console integration will come at a later date.

“I think this will be the coolest way to experience games in the future,” says Unity CEO David Helgason. “It will simply be that big.”

“I’m a believer,” adds Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski. “We’re extremely excited here at Epic Games to get the Unreal Engine integrated with Oculus!”

Oculus has already exceeded its original fundraising goal of $250,000; it raised over $300,000 in the first couple of hours. Luckey says he is blown away by the positive reaction the Rift has received from the community. “To be able to reach our goal within hours is very humbling,” he says. “Thank you all!”

The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will launch in 2013.


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