How the Oculus Rift Works

Opening the Rift

Luckey began working on what would become the Oculus Rift while he was in college studying journalism. He created the prototype in 2012, when he was only 19 years old. He had an idea to do a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of VR headset kits for maybe a few dozen devoted VR hobbyists, and he was communicating with lots of people online about it, including John Carmack, the game developer famous for creating "Doom" and "Quake" and founder of Id Software. Carmack was working on a VR project and requested a prototype. He used the Rift prototype with his own firmware to demonstrate his VR game "Doom 3 BFG" at E3 2012, and that started the hype for the Oculus Rift.

Luckey founded the company Oculus VR and enlisted the help of several industry insiders, including Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov, cofounders of gaming UI provider Scaleform. The Kickstarter campaign commenced with a funding goal of $250,000, a goal it hit within the first day. By the end, it reached nearly 10 times that amount in pledges -- $2,437,429 total [sources: Kickstarter, Eurogamer].

The company has since gotten millions more from investors and has swelled with employees. It has partnered with Valve, Epic Games and Unity, among others, to bring high-quality and low-cost VR gaming to fruition.

As of early 2014, the Oculus Rift is currently out in a developer's kit version with the aim of encouraging the creation of content for the device before an improved consumer version goes to market. The consumer version is still in the works, and Facebook announced it was acquiring Oculus VR for $2 billion in March 2014.

The device is a lightweight virtual reality headset that blocks your view of your surroundings and fully immerses you in a virtual world. The Rift lets you step into a game, look around in any direction and see the game environment all around you rather than on a flat screen surrounded by your living room decor. And you see it in 3D. Not quite the holodeck or the matrix, but a good step in that direction.