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id's Carmack unveils $500 VR headset prototype
id's Carmack unveils $500 VR headset prototype
June 8, 2012 | By Mike Rose

June 8, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, E3

id Software co-founder and lead programmer John Carmack showed off a prototype virtual reality headset at E3, and said development kits will release for it soon priced at $500 each.

The industry veteran gave PC Gamer a demonstration of the device, which acts as goggles that block out all light and show the on-screen action via small screens in the headset.

As part of a Doom 3 demo, players could use a controller to walk around and shoot enemies, and then look around the environment via a head-tracker.

The head-mounted display, dubbed "Rift," was built by tech enthusiast Palmer Luckey, who plans to launch a Kickstart project to produce and distribute the open-source kit for other developers to tinker with soon.

The headset follows work from Valve's Michael Abrash, who is currently researching "wearable computing" prototypes. Abrash said that the virtual reality gear will be "the most valuable thing I could do at Valve," with computer-generated graphics that are seamlessly overlaid in your view.

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Benjamin Quintero
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I am hopeful that they partner with a hardware manufacture to build slicker versions, or license their technology to them at least. I'm not particularly interested in building my own HMD but if they can mass produce it, that could bring the price down and look better inside of a molded casing.

HMD has always been one of those cool things that never realized over time. Maybe this could finally jump start something better and cheaper.

Doug Poston
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If I understand this correctly (and I'm just going on the information in this article and what I know of Carmack's philosophy), it sounds like they're developing the plans for an open-source HMD platform, not getting into the manufacturing business.

If so, it means that anybody can use their designs to create their own HMDs (just like anybody can use Linux to create their own distro).

I hope I'm right. ;)

Mike Rentas
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Anyone working on a Virtual Boy emulator for this?

Kevin Patterson
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Seriously though, if they can partner with a manufacturer as Benjamin mentioned above, for the price id consider it.

Martijn Zandvliet
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Carmack isn't actually building the HMD, he is using a prototype version of a device created by 'PalmerTech'. He is using this model because of the significantly increased field of view and low latency.

A kickstarter for the HMD is expected to launch soon. More details in this forum thread (in which Carmack participates):

Dustin Chertoff
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From the videos, it seems that Carmack just put together his own low res HMD. Many of the things he is talking about as making a "good" VR demo have more to do with software issues than the hardware. From a hardware perspective, there are much crisper, higher resolution HMDs already on sale (they are just crazy expensive). Software is left up to researchers to develop, and they are more concerned with restricting user capabilities in order to study a particular aspect of the VR experience. In other words, Carmack has discovered the world of VR from 10 years ago, which works well given he's currently working on rehashing a game from the same time period. Not impressive from a hardware perspective, but he can probably generate popular interest in immersive VR gaming, which would drive further technical advances faster than currently.

Maarten Brouwer
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He noted in an other article that the current commercial high res HMDs have a much higher latency and significant lower field of view.

Roger Tober
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It sounds like it's going to be a one trick pony where it runs Doom and that's about it for decent game playing with it, as he had to do a lot of software work. Plus, the resolution is pretty low and it's going to look really stupid. A few techies might buy it.

Joe McGinn
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So cool seeing a smart mind like this trying to make the dream a reality. Obviously he's just plain inspired by this and good for him!

Anthony Velasco
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I think that a HMD that worked well would make the gaming experience immersible 10 fold.