“I am going to make the consumer version the best HMD [head-mounted display] that the world has ever seen, and it is better to make sure I can do that than to try and hold to a particular deadline,” Oculus founder Palmer Luckey wrote three years ago, in a Reddit AMA, just after his virtual reality company’s headset, Oculus Rift, received more than $2.4 million in crowd-sourced funding on Kickstarter.
Today, June 11, 2015, Oculus announced that headset, the first consumer version of the Oculus Rift.
The VR headset, available in “early 2016,” is heavily aimed at gamers and developers. Oculus announced partnerships with gaming companies like CCP, Gunfire Games, and Insomniac Games, which each built their own game specifically developed for Oculus’ brand of VR.
But the biggest announcement that came from Oculus today was a partnership with Microsoft—the Oculus Rift will ship with a bundled Xbox One controller, and run natively on Windows 10, according to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe and Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of Xbox.
We still don’t know resolution of the new Oculus Rift, but it will feature built-in (yet removable) headphones for 360 degree sound, and require a physical sensor for positional tracking. Luckey Palmer, the founder of Oculus, also debuted Oculus Touch: two handheld controllers that can track hand positions and gestures, so users can interact naturally in a VR space.
Oculus Rift will also come with its own software, a home screen for VR applications called Oculus Home, which slightly resembles Xbox’s home screen. From there, users can launch and demo games.
The Oculus Rift has seen two developer iterations before this consumer model, the original Oculus Rift Developer Kit and then the DevKit2 in 2014, days before they were bought by Facebook for $2 billion.
Oculus’ original Developer Kit launched with a 1280×800 resolution, which was upgraded to full 1080p (1920×1080) with an OLED panel in DevKit2. DK2 also introduced positional tracking with an included camera, and eliminated the original Developer Kit’s breakout box, a hub that provided power to Oculus and coordinated data output to the computer. Like the DK2, the consumer Oculus Rift will be fully powered via USB and HDMI.
In mid-May, Oculus released their recommended technical specifications for the “full Rift experience.” Recommended specifications are often seen as a baseline for performance, and much to the chagrin of laptop-users, Oculus’ recommendations included one of two high-end graphics cards, (NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290), 8GB+ of RAM, and an Intel i5-4590 processor (or greater).
This announcement comes on the doorstep of E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo), which starts on June 16, where virtual reality is sure to have a huge presence. AMD and NVIDIA have already announced new flagship graphics cards optimized for virtual reality processing, and Oculus’ “growing” list of partnerships with game companies like Square Enix, Harmonix and Climax Studios will be revealed as time goes on.