palmer_heavyI had heard about virtual reality as early as 1989. The headsets were horribly low resolution and used little glass CRT’s in a headset that was so heavy it required a counterweight in the back to keep the thing from snapping your neck like a twig.  My first experience with them was a virtual reality platform at a night club in Detroit, Michigan in 1990.  It was a player versus player two person shooter.  The graphics were terrible, the movement was floaty and strange, and you didn’t run so much as glide.  Yet, your gun aimed where you pointed, you saw your virtual arm with its weapon in your hand, and you could duck down behind barriers to avoid getting shot by your opponent.

The idea has been around a long time – the first head mounted display, though, was built in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland with the help of his student Bob Sproull.  It was primitive as you can imagine, and was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling.  You didn’t wear it so much as stick your head into it from underneath.  The graphics were simple wireframe models.

Time and Moore’s Law have chipped away at the problem though.  And so have the people at Oculus VR.  With the help of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, they’ve created an HMD that is actually light enough to be worn and used for gaming.  And it’s not vaporwear.  Developer’s copies of the device are now shipping.

But it gets even better – the developers at Valve have announced that Team Fortress 2 will feature an Oculus Rift compatibility mode.

Yeah.  That happened.

Valve is also giving Oculus Rift developer kit hats to the Kickstarter campaign backers.  If you backed the Oculus Rift at any level, or if you pre-ordered a Rift development kit from our website before April 1, 2013, (and haven’t refunded/canceled your pledge/order) you’ll receive a code to redeem your very own TF2 Oculus dev kit hat.

Frankly, Valve isn’t completely sure if VR is actually going to be The Next Big Thing or not.  Many people can’t adapt to it, or experience motion sickness or other odd effects – so they’re taking this relationship with Oculus VR slowly, starting with Team Fortress 2 and watching to see what the public does and how it all unfolds.

I may sign up as a developer to see exactly what I can make this thing do.  It’s a new display device, and it’s almost certainly going to inspire new forms of entertainment (think holodeck, or you-are-there-in-the-middle-of-it television.) I, for one, welcome our new virtual reality overlords.

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