Oculus Rift Launch Makes A Splash. Will It Lead A Wave Of VR Tech? : All Tech Considered After four years of hype, the Oculus Rift hits the market Monday. It's just one of several virtual reality systems — but not all the VR gadgets are up to snuff.
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Oculus Rift Launch Makes A Splash. Will It Lead A Wave Of VR Tech?

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Oculus Rift Launch Makes A Splash. Will It Lead A Wave Of VR Tech?

Oculus Rift Launch Makes A Splash. Will It Lead A Wave Of VR Tech?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/472176250/472176253" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Today the Oculus Rift hits the market. It's the first of several high-end virtual-reality headsets that will be available to consumers this year. That's the focus of this week's All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: In a few minutes, we'll hear from Palmer Luckey, the man who invented Oculus Rift. But first, NPR's Laura Sydell has a review of some of the latest offerings.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Virtual reality is kind of trippy. You put on these heavy goggles, and suddenly your eyes are telling you you're in a different place. It's filled with life-size, 3-D images. Glenn Snyder is from the VR studio Master of Shapes.

GLENN SNYDER: We worked on Orange Sunshine VR. It's the supplemental piece to a film that's coming out this week about the first real group of hippies in Southern California.

SYDELL: And not surprisingly, these hippies thought that LSD could bring about spiritual transformation. Snyder had me sit down on some pillows in a screened-off area at the South by Southwest conference in Austin recently. And I put on a pair of VR goggles called Vive, made by HTC which is also putting out a headset this year.

I'm sitting in some kind of a den around the table. Oh, wow. There's like - suddenly, it looks like there's fire and the table is melting.

I sound like I'm tripping, but I wasn't. It only lasted three minutes. At South by Southwest, it seemed like every kind of experience could be had in the virtual world - travel, games, music, even hanging by the pool.

I know consciously that I am in a room at the Hilton Hotel in Austin, Texas, but I have no sense of that. I really do feel like I'm walking around by a pool and that I'm holding a glass in my hand because when I look down, I see a champagne glass. Cheers. I'm clinking glasses with somebody.

This experience by Japanese company KDDI is designed so that friends can call in and join me in this space. Perhaps one of the more enjoyable experiences I had was with music.

STEVE SHAW: That's called GrooVR. It's a music-driven virtual reality.

SYDELL: Steve Shaw is with Presence Labs which makes VR experiences.

SHAW: This is the convergence of VR in music. So hopefully it ends up being a thing to some extent, and you're seeing the first version. This is 1.0.

SYDELL: The app is connected to Spotify, and as I listen to electronic dance music, a series of beautiful 3-D images swim around me.

Now I'm in an experience where I'm like a small being floating around in a world of large, colorful flowers and green plants, and I'm listening to music. And it's really chill.

But as much as this and other experiences were fun, none of them made me want to spend money on a VR headset.

MICHAEL PACHTER: Games are the lead application, and they're the easiest and most logical applications.

SYDELL: Michael Pachter is an analyst with Wedbush Securities. Pachter thinks gamers will drive the adoption of VR but not the Oculus Rift which costs 599 and needs a high-powered computer that adds another 900 bucks. Pachter thinks Sony VR will dominate.

PACHTER: So you're going to get a lot of people popping for 399 for PlayStation VR who already have a PlayStation. And that number's about 40 million right now and will be 60 million a year from now.

SYDELL: And that will depend on high-quality experiences. Pachter thinks most VR content is still pretty early days. And on that front after trying dozens of experiences, I would have to agree. Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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