As things that are overlooked on a standard PC monitor, such as real-time performance and latency, become very important on the Rift, the rendering techniques employed and quality matter the most.
The PC specifications are dictated by the need for a comfortable, believable virtual reality experience that can draw in the audience. A good stereo VR experience, although very immersive and able to fool our perceptual system in a way that a desktop monitor cannot , poses some challenges.
First of all there is the rendering cost of the Rift. Because the display, which is a 2160×1200 pixel panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, is sitting so close to the eyes, the rendering requirements are about three times higher than the GPU power required to drive a 1080p screen.
Secondly, there is the FPS count which for traditional screens is fine as long as it stays above 30FPS. For the Rift it is a different story and each missed frame is very noticeable and makes the viewing experience nauseating and the image jittery. That is why it is very important that the hardware requirements allow for headroom to cancel the negative impact of hardware or software hiccups.
Finally, the most pressing matter is the need to reduce latency as much as possible and find a balance, because the lower latency means a decrease in GPU performance as well.
All these facts have helped the Rift developers set the recommended hardware specifications, and although they are not necessarily the same as the minimum requirements, using lesser configurations will surely impact the VR experience in a negative way.
This is what is needed for a immersive 3D VR experience:
CPU – Intel i5-4590 or AMD equivalent, or better;
GPU – nVidia 970 or AMD 290, or better;
RAM – a minimum of 8GB;
OS and connectivity – Windows 7 with SP1, 2 USB 3.0 ports and HDMI 1.3 with a 297 MHz frequency for video output.
The good news is that these requirements will remain constant throughout the lifetime of the Oculus Rift, so as the prices for the hardware go down in time, along with the costs for manufacturing the VR headset itself, more and more users will afford the VR experience.
The bad news is that Rift will not be supported by laptop GPUs for a while, partly because of their low performance, partly because on many machines the swapping between the discrete and the integrated graphics processors is done by software which is incompatible with Rift yet.
The Windows users will be the first to taste the VR experience, as the development for Linux and Mac OS X has been put on hold to allow the focus on Microsoft’s OS.
Image Source: Oculus