Lauren Goode

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Oculus Rift Shakes Up Gaming With Virtual-Reality Headset

27895429_tXdXqbTo say the videogame industry is in a transition phase is putting it gently. Physical videogame sales have been on a continual decline, while console makers are approaching a new device cycle just as everything’s shifting to “the cloud.”

So a gadget like Oculus Rift might be just the thing that’s needed to keep game hardware feeling fresh.

Shown off today at the D: Dive Into Media conference in Dana Point, Calif., the Oculus Rift is a virtual-reality headset that immerses the wearer in the videogame world playing around them.

Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe joined AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka to demo the headset, which was connected to a large computer monitor for audience viewing. Peter good-naturedly agreed to wear the Rift headset, showing a reaction comparable to the one he had during this erotic e-book demo last year at D: Dive Into Media 2012.

Iribe explained that the Rift could work with games ranging from shooting games to “my little pet games.” Right now, the company is working to get thousands of kits into the hands of developers.

The CEO said the Oculus headset represents the first time gamers can be fully immersed in a 360-degree videogame environment. He expects play time will increase gradually over time: “We’ll see when it gets to getting lost in the Holodeck.”

SoCal-based Oculus, which was created by Palmer Luckey, first launched back in August as a Kickstarter project. Oculus’ initial goal was to raise $250,000. It raised $2.4 million instead.

27895429_tXdXqb-1As explained when we first saw the Oculus Rift at CES, the Rift isn’t a computing device itself, and the games aren’t streaming inside the headset, so it needs to be attached to a computer to work.

Unlike past attempts at virtual reality (like, most notoriously, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy), the Oculus Rift works because “the hardware’s finally ready,” Iribe said.

The current asking price for the Rift is $300, but Iribe is hesitant to say when it will become available to consumers.

So, what did Peter think? “I’m a little queasy, but it’s awesome,” he said.

“You definitely don’t want to be drinking too much,” Iribe responded.

With reporting by Eric Johnson.