Oculus Rift - from the cockpit of Virtual Thunderbird 6

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Virtual Thunderbird
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Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI

Oculus Rift - from the cockpit of Virtual Thunderbird 6

Post by Teej » Fri May 20, 2016 5:53 pm

After a couple of test flights and fiddling with graphic settings (mostly for naught, apparently - resolution at least is hard-coded for DCS / Rift) I jumped in with the team to fly our “high show” demo. Worst things first - I’m looking forward to better resolution / clarity someday. Looking around my cockpit, I can see where the needles are and such but reading details takes some effort / leaning in. Fortunately the Rift and DCS handle that quite well. I currently have the Rift’s sensor/camera positioned to the right of my flight seat, rather than in front of me. I can actually lean over, across the canopy rail and look down and read “Opposing Solo” painted on the left side of my jet. TrackIR never worked that well due to using a total of 3 reference points to determine both position and orientation. Rift on the other hand uses the camera for position only - orientation is sensed by gyros on the Rift itself.

We taxied out and did “lightning takeoffs” (each jet sequentially rather than the 4-1-and-1 launch) and formed up in delta afterwards. Doing this without the rift, I usually used padlock to help pick out the jets in the distance as we merged into Delta, however padlock is not available with the rift. And that’s about the end of the negatives as far as I’m concerned. Can you wear it with glasses? I can; I was doing so on this flight. The rift’s field of view was larger than my glasses. It’s about like putting my nose 6 or so inches from a 24 inch monitor. Comfort was not a problem.

As I approached the formation, I was treated to the spectacle of 5 F-16s in glorious 3D. The sightseeing was shortlived - before long…..’Blue out ready now!” and Panther and I departed the diamond, heading out behind the show line. Moments later “….let’s hack now!”. Here we go. One of my biggest concerns with the Rift was spotting 5 from ~ 3 miles away down the show line in order to line up the ‘hit’. “….8,000 SMOKE!” Ahhh, there you are. :D Bam. Solid opposing knife edge hit, just a little show right. Essentially the same story on the opposing inverted.

Knife edge and 8 point passes are irrelevant regarding the Rift, but set up the next challenge and opportunity for the Rift to shine or shrivel for my purposes. Peeling off from the 8 point, I spin my head around to the left, looking over my shoulder, tracking 5’s smoke trail for the aileron rolls. Take a few glances back forward monitoring my flight parameters. SA with the Rift is nothing short of amazing. Rejoin is almost effortless as we set up for the Calypso. In the past I’ve usually flown Calypso using padlock. Not an option with the Rift and I don’t miss it a bit. This is much better. It doesn’t take long to realize just how messed up your proprioception gets when you’re using padlock or trackIR, having your real eyes facing forwards and your game eyes are looking 90 left…and (using TIR without padlock) your head is turned somewhere in between.

We exit the Calypso and line up for the crossover break. Once again, the larger “visually accurate / 1:1” field of view is a big plus. Hard to put into words just how different it feels when you’re not looking at the world through a monitor-sized window 2 feet or so in front of you.

Opposing split-S…more awesomeness. Pull up into the climb, making the initial hit/cross…hit target numbers and roll inverted. Coming down through the vertical as 5 makes her line call, I crane my head back and acquire the pointy end of 5’s smoke trail…”6, visual!” Not that spotting 5 was ever that difficult with TrackIR - this is just SO much more natural and intuitive. I know 5 ought to be straight out from the top of my head….that’s where I look and that’s where 5 is. Perfect.

I make my turnaround for the high alpha, having entirely too much fun looking around watching 5’s sneak pass, then sightseeing down the line as I look back to watch the high-low hit unfold. Then it’s a tour of the countryside while they fly the 5-card loop….do my VR and MTHC and meet up with 5 en route to catching the diamond for the delta series. Grinning a mile wide as we split up heading for outer wing positions. Oops. Overcook the rejoin and now I’m looking back at my 5:30 position reaching for leverage on a handhold that isn’t there. :D Walk it back in, getting there in time for a loose delta BUP. Spend the rest of the delta series enjoying my view of the formation and adjusting to holding position the way it was meant to be done. Relieved when we get to the delta burst. Come around and follow the diamond in for the High Bomb Burst. Over the top and I aim at the dirt to intercept 5 for the reflection pass and…I’m blind. Despite knowing where 5 should be, I’ve always relied on padlock to pick the jet out among the ground clutter from nearly 3 miles up, usually acquiring tally before she started popping smoke. Now I’m gonna need that smoke…

And that’s that. Is it perfect? No. I suspect what I want (the visual quality we can get in a good monitor today) is at least another 5-10 years out. Gonna need several times the GPU throughput and higher spec displays to match. That said, the resolution is adequate (especially since it’s pushing the upper crust of today’s GPUs) and the package as a whole is staggeringly good. I don’t know how much of that credit goes to the ED / DCS team, but I’m sure it’s more than a little - THANK you - this is some awesome work!

How far we’ve come from my first flight sim. :D


Yeah. I’m old.
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