Hands on: Oculus Rift review

The consumer Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch prototype will make you fall in love with VR (even more)

What is a hands on review?
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Update May 2015: We have a consumer Rift release date! Sort of.

Oculus revealed it plans to start shipping the Rift to the general public in early 2016. It also teased what Rift will look like when it starts arriving for customers. Pre-orders open up later this year, though we still don't have a price for the VR viewer yet.

Even more details are due in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to this space for more on Oculus Rift.

Oculus Rift

Hands on review continued below ...

Oculus didn't announce a new SDK or final build of the Rift during GDC 2015, but there was a new demo on the show floor that we tried out.

Still focusing on immersive experiences, the Rift took us into a scene from The Hobbit where Bilbo meets the fearsome Smaug for the first time. Except you're Bilbo.

With the dragon still hidden underneath the piles of gold, you can take the opportunity to get closer to the shiny trinkets all around you, like a conveniently placed helmet on a treasure chest nearby. Of course prodding it means you're just crazily poking the air in real life.

Then all of sudden, Smaug starts shifting causing rivulets of gold to fall towards you. At this point, not only are the VR visuals stunning making you want to greedily pocket the goods, but the sound of the clinking coins coming at you with 360 degree audio is starting to make you think twice about sneaking into a dragon's chamber - especially when Benedict Cumberbatch/Smaug starts telling you he can smell you.

The quick demo ends with you getting fried in a fiery inferno of dragon breath. The flames burst up from all directions making you really feel the heat and then the scene goes black. Morbid. But so deliciously fun.

It's not the awesome shoot out we experienced with Move controllers and Sony's Project Morpheus but if watching movies on the Oculus will be anything like this in the future, count us in.

Update CES 2015: We went hands on with the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype during CES 2015, however the demo was the same one revealed during Oculus Connect. The company has also continued to remain mum on the spec details of the latest audio equipped HMD.

Though the audio itself has a few new things under the hood. Specifically, a new Oculus Audio SDK will be part of the CV1 package. This means devs will be able to incorporate 3D positional audio for an even deeper immersive experience. The same SDK will be available for the Samsung Gear VR, another virtual reality venture Oculus is part of.

We've included a few photos of the CES experience and an interview with Oculus's Head of Mobile, Max Cohen where he explains the significance of adding sound to VR.

Oculus Rift Crescent Bay

Oculus Rift Crescent Bay

Oculus Rift Crescent Bay

Update November 12 2014: There has been a recent 0.4.3 release of the Oculus PC SDK, which features Linux support, a number of performance and stability improvements and support for developing Rift content with Unity Free. Another PC update will be released this month, perhaps to coincide with the impending release date of the head mounted display.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.