It may feel like the Oculus Rift has been around for ages, and in some form it has; it first launched as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. Four years (and an acquisition by Facebook) later, an actual product is finally on sale. And it’ll cost you.
The Oculus Rift costs $600 on its own, and that’s before you get into the computer power you’ll need to run it. It’s only compatible with not just PCs, but PCs that cost at least a grand. Which means that, all in, you’re looking at $1,600 before tax.
If you’re still undeterred, here’s what that gets you: a standalone headset (no phone required) that delivers an experience that comes very close to making you forget where you are. Short films, games, a simulation of floating in space; all of these already exist for Rift in just the first few months of its existence. Plenty more is on the way.
Most of all, the Rift is exponentially more immersive than anything else on this list. The virtual environment responds when you lean in or out, or turn. The perspective shifts as though these things are actually in front of you. That might not sound like a lot, but to revisit an earlier analogy, it’s the difference between a burger and a prime steak.
Oculus Rift isn’t the only high-end virtual-reality system; the HTC Vive looks mighty impressive as well. The Vive demands a more complicated set-up, though, is more expensive, and involves walking around your room instead of standing mostly still, which might be more immersive, but will also result in more bruised shins.
Here’s the catch, though! In a few years, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will both look like the original Atari by the time Xbox came out. These aren’t just brand-new products, they’re a brand-new product category. That means there’s not much you can do with them yet, and the experiences are fun but unrefined. Unless you’re among the earliest of adopters, you’ll save yourself so much money and probably a few literal headaches by waiting a year or two before you invest heavily in VR.
And until then? There’s always Cardboard.