Palmer Luckey: ‘I Can’t Use Rift S, and Neither Can You’


For those of you who might not recognize his name, Palmer Luckey is the founder of Oculus and is credited as the original creator of the Oculus Rift. In spite of having left the company in 2017, Luckey is often found talking about the latest Oculus news and, more recently, about the Oculus Rift S, announced during the Game Developers Conference.

To give you some context, the new VR headset has a 2560 x 1440 resolution and features built-in tracking and an improved halo-styled strap that allows the users to have a more comfortable fit than ever before. The headset also allows for pupillary distance to be achieved via a software setting. More info here.

Now, on his blog, Luckey says that the Rift S does not handle interpupillary distance very well, specifically because of the software setting mentioned above. Oculus has had to compromise during the manufacturing process, as many companies do, and chose to remove the mechanical interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment in favor of the software version. The IPD was a great idea because it pretty much covered all bases, as far as users went: “that was an important part of our goal, to be compatible with male and female users from 5th to 95th percentile,” Luckey said.

This doesn’t mean that the Rift S is completely unusable but, according to Luckey’s post, a software-based IPD feature is not capable of dealing with the demands of a larger range of users because the lenses are fixed at an average IPD of 64mm apart. If you’re not one of the lucky ones who happens to fit those measurements, your experience with the headset might not be as pleasant.

Everyone who fits Cinderella’s shoe will get a perfect experience, anyone close will deal with minor eyestrain problems that impact their perception of VR at a mostly subconscious level. Everyone else is screwed, including me,” Luckey explained on his blog.

He went on to explain that “Imagery is hard to fuse, details are blurry, distortion is wrong, mismatched pupil swim screws up VOR, and everything is at the wrong scale. “Software IPD adjustment” can solve that last bit, but not much else – it adjusts a single variable that happens to be related to IPD, but is not comparable in any way to an actual IPD adjustment mechanism. This is the main reason I cannot use my Oculus Go, even after heavy modification on other fronts.”

Luckey also states that companies can avoid this issue in the future via mechanical adjusters, perfect collimation and custom sizing, the latter which he states that will “dominate the VR industry in the long run. Every adjustment on an HMD adds weight, bulk, complexity, cost, and fragility.” He goes on to add that “If the headset is fitted to match the end user from the start, you can minimize and sometimes eliminate the need for adjustments!

Luckey admits he is ‘bitter’ about the Rift S in particular because it is ‘completely tied to the Oculus platform’ and his interest in the headset goes beyond just personal entertainment:

I launch my games through the Oculus UI, and I develop VR applications for the military using the Oculus SDK. I have a lot more interest in Oculus because I want to continue doing all of these things.

The Rift S is the only option available for using the Oculus PC ecosystem, so it will lock out everyone else who can’t use the Rift S, Luckey explains on the blog. It will likely leave people who have invested thousands of dollars into their libraries in limbo.

Luckey ends his post on a positive, hopeful note though: “I love most of you Oculus guys. Keep trying to cut a few more tools for Rift S IPD+ and Rift S IPD-. Fingers crossed for a future version spaced a hair under 70mm, skewed to the right.”

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