Oculus Rift release date and price in the UK, plus Oculus Rift specs, and what it is like to use Oculus Rift. We round up and analyse the latest Oculus Rift consumer release rumours. (See also: Shining light on virtual reality: Busting the 5 most inaccurate Oculus Rift myths.)
What is Oculus Rift?
The Oculus Rift is a head-mounted virtual-reality display. An immersive headset that gives the wearer a full 360-degree view of the virtual world they inhabit. The Oculus Rift pairs with headphones to make games, virtual worlds and live events feel 'real'. The Oculus Rift will go head to head with other virtual reality headsets such as Samsung's own Gear VR - itself made by Oculus. (See also: Gear VR vs Oculus Rift.)
It is being developed by Oculus VR, a startup that has raised $16 million of funding. A measure of the buzz generated by Oculus Rift can be gleaned from the fact that Facebook recently purchased Oculus Rift for $2bn. A developer version of Oculus Rift is out now, with a second-gen developer kit shipping this month, but excitement is building for a general launch to the public. (More details: Supercharged second-gen Oculus Rift developer kit revealed, open for preorders.)
Oculus Rift release date
We hope that the consumer version of the Oculus Rift will launch in the middle of 2015. Expect a big launch in time for the Christmas buying season from September to December next year. Speaking at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin in November 2014, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe describe the launch as 'close'. He described the consumer product as all but finished, and said the company would be 'disappointed' if the launch didn't happen next year (meaning 2015). He said that getting the product in to stores was a matter of months rather than years.
Prior that, in early 2014 an Oculus Rift spokesperson revealed that the company expects to launch Oculus Rift to the general public in 2015. Business Insider then reported that the company would be disappointed if the launch drifted to 2016. Despite all of this speculation there has still been no official release date.
If the off the record buzz is correct, however, the date of 'some time in 2015' is unlikely to be true. However it pans out the consumer launch will be somewhat later than had been expected when Oculus Rift first applied for Kickstarter funding. But the delay is not only related to hardware, we understand.
According to reputable sources Oculus Rift could launch within months, if hardware was the only consideration. Instead Oculus VR wants to launch the Rift with sufficient content and games to make it a worthwhile purchase. The second generation SDK (software developers kit) is shipping this month, with 10,000 headsets on their way and expected by 14 July. Then presuming sufficient content is created Oculus Rift itself will launch next year. (See also: Eyes-on with Oculus Rift's 'Crystal Cove' VR prototype and first launch game.)
One other issue is that of the controllers for the Oculus Rift device. At Web Summit Ibe seemed to suggest that the controller elements of Oculus Rift weren't as advanced as the device itself, and that the company wanted to get everything right before putting the Oculus Rift before the public.
Oculus Rift: UK price
You can pick up a developers' version of Oculus Rift for around £400 online right now. The official price is $350. There's no official word on what Oculus Rift will cost when finally it launches, but we'd be surprised if it doesn't cost much less than this, and less than a fourth gen console.
Recently we've heard that the Oculus Rift will sell for around $200 in the US, and £200 in the UK.
We'll update this section as we know more.
Oculus Rift: specs and features
The consumer-oriented version of the Oculus Rift is in development and will feature a greater than 1080p low-persistence-of-vision OLED display. We hope to see wireless connectivity, although there is some debate on this point. Oculus Rift DK2 curently has a 5.7in display with 24-bit colour depth, generating a 1080p display in each eye. The trick to a consumer version will be making the entire product sufficiently lightweight in terms of power and physical size that it can be both affordable and wearable.
As now those displays will use stereoscopic 3D to mimic normal human vision. This means that the left eye sees extra space to the left and the right eye sees more to the right. This gives Oculus Rift a great field of view, echoing that offered by previous VR headsets, but at a consumer price.
The Oculus Rift for developers weighs 379g. It feels quite heavy to use, so this will have to come down for the OR to be a true consumer product. The headset also has a motion-tracking system that uses an external camera which tracks infrared dots located on the headset. The consumer Oculus Rift may include a 1000 Hz Adjacent Reality Tracker. This should reduce to almost nothing the sensation of lag in tracking. Oculus Rift uses a combination of 3-axis gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers.
Expect DVI and HDMI inputs. There's also a USB interface for sending tracking data, and a power adapter to connect the control box to a power outlet. (See also: Hands-on (or eyes-on) with the new and improved Oculus Rift.) According to CNET, Oculus is also developing motion controllers that let you use your hands and body movements to interact with objects in games.
Oculus Rift: what it's like to use
I tried out the developer version of Oculus Rift. Digital Agency SpecialMovers showed us a game-type world that you moved around using an Xbox controller - the Rift can't track real movements. And we also had a go on a rollercoaster ride simulation.
My first impression of the latter was... wow. I am left cold by 3D. If I can see the stereoscopy at all it merely gives me a headache. But the combination or all-round vision, 3D and noise-excluding audio meant that my stomach lurched as the Rift took me over the top on the rollercoaster.
Which is not to say that the experience was an unqualified success. For one thing the headset is not comforable to wear. It's big and heavy - not as heavy as the old school VR headsets, but heavy enough. And it takes some adjusting and tweaking before it feels comfortable. There are a variety of lenses, too, but you may still have to keep on your glasses if you are visually challenged.
To be a commercial success with consumers version 2.0 needs to be more of a gadget and less of a bondage toy.
Another improvement for version 2.0 should be HD. We've mentioned it before, and it will almost certainly rectified next time around, but having a 720p screen right next to your eyes doesn't help with the old disbelief suspending. We're just used to more pixels per inch, these days.
Overall then, my experience of using the Oculus Rift was intriguing, without blowing me away or making me feel like I needed to go back for more. But it did open my mind to the potential of virtual reality.
What is Oculus Rift for?
Here's an idea: think of all those people who pay to go into Wimbledon and then watch the Centre Court action on the big screen on Henman Hill. With an Oculus Rift headset you could virtually place them in a seat in the main stand. Indeed, Sky TV would love to sell you a Rift headset and your choice of seat at the next Super Sunday game, wouldn't they?
Or what about experiences. You may want to visit the Louvre or Tate Modern, but perhaps you live in an exotic far flung place (you know, Scunthorpe or Doncaster). You could explore your desired attraction from the comfort of your own front room.
Oculus Rift has captured the imagination because it offers up the potential for genuine virtual reality, not just in games or far-flung sci-fi worlds. (See also: Knightmare-style VR system combines Oculus Rift with motion capture and We test the Oculus Rift: why virtual reality is back, back, back!)