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Oculus Rift makes you Columbus, discovering a brave new world loaded with lots of fun things to blow up


OCULUS RIFT, the device that kicked off the current rush on virtual reality, was invented in 2011, when 18-year-old Palmer Luckey, working in his parents’ garage, made a prototype. It’s been five years since then, plenty of time to develop consumer-friendly VR software like video games, let competition churn up tweaks and watch the hype build and build.

Last summer, Luckey was on the cover of Time magazine, barefoot and floating, tethered to the earth only by the umbilical cord of his Oculus. It was an evocative image for a technology yet to be birthed. But now it’s here. Oculus came to homes on March 28, chased just days later, on April 5, by the HTC Vive, another consumer VR device. And then there’s Sony’s VR headset, which will work with the PlayStation and is expected to arrive in October.

After playing half a dozen games built for the Oculus at the Game Developers Conference last month in San Francisco, I can report that the technology is stunning, and there is no question that hardcore gamers — the type who spend thousands of dollars on their PC setups and worry about things like frame rates — are going to be wowed (9,500 of them have already shelled out for Oculus’s Kickstarter). But what about the hoi polloi? Will the casual gamers and the console users bite? Is the gameplay on the new VR sets good enough to create a gaming revolution as big as the original Nintendo or the DVD player?

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