Oculus reveals new headsets, price drop at Connect conference
12 October 2017 | 0
Facebook-owned Oculus had plenty to show off at the Connect developer conference in San Jose yesterday.
In his keynote address, Mark Zuckerberg laid out his goal to have 1 bilion VR users, though he didn’t specify when or how that would be achieved.
Central to any kind of mass adoption is a significant price cut for the emerging technology, and there were not one but two announcements on that front. Firstly, the current iteration of the Rift is to drop to $400 – half its launch price. Second, there was the introduction of the Oculus Go, a budget wireless headset in the mould of Samsung’s Gear VR. At $199 it’s about $100 more expensive than the Gear VR, but it will include build-in audio and connects to your PC instead of a smartphone.
The Go’s display is a bit better than the Rift, coming in at 2560×1440 compared to 2160×1200, but this is still mobile VR at heart. Oculus even rammed that point home, announcing that Gear VR apps will be compatible with Go, using the same control schemes.
Then there’s Santa Cruz, which Oculus has deemed “the future” of Rift. Santa Cruz is the promised land, essentially – a standalone headset with the power of the Rift (or at least the Rift tethered to a low-end PC) and inside-out position tracking. It’s sort of like a blend of the Rift, Gear VR, and Microsoft’s upcoming slate of Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
First, some bookkeeping: Santa Cruz is still very much in the prototype phase, with dev kits sets to go out sometime next year. Expect a full launch in late 2018 or even 2019 at the earliest.
Aside from being wire-free, Santa Cruz does make some improvements over similar systems – particularly Microsoft’s headsets, where hand tracking can be unreliable. By using only two cameras, Microsoft’s headsets lose track of your hands any time they’re out of your immediate central vision.
Santa Cruz uses four cameras and places them around the perimeter of the headset. Tracking is still concentrated in front of you, so this is certainly not as seamless as a base station system used by the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Santa Cruz does track your hands when you reach up above your head though, for instance, as well as out to the sides a bit.
Oculus also redesigned its Touch controllers to work with Santa Cruz. The large ring that used to go over your knuckles now protrudes above the thumb, presumably to aid tracking as you move your hands out to the sides or down to your waist. The new controllers also add a touchpad, like HTC’s Vive VR system.
Other announcements on the day included a UI refresh in a new universal menu called Dash and a revitalised Home, where you can customise your interface with gadgets and decorations.
Following on from Zuckerberg’s much-criticised virtual tour of a ruined Puerto Rico, we have Facbook Venues – a 360-degree arena for watching concerts and TV shows. You’ll also be able to check your Facebook feed in 3D and watch live video in Spaces. As with Oculus Home, you’ll be able to customse your Facebook Spaces with ‘kits’ – decorations or games you can share with friends.
As with Facebook Messenger, you’ll be able to see when your friends go online using VR so you can have 2D video chats or use a ‘room’ for 3D interactions.
A range of ‘experiences’ and games are expected to hit the Oculus store over the coming months with some interesting content partners. Pixar will release it’s first Oculus experience with the movie tie-in Coco. Netflix’s Stranger Things will launch on Halloween with a virtual tour of ‘The Upside Down’ and next week sees the launch of the second of three experiences linked to Blade Runner 2049.
In games, Marvel: Powers United has been scheduled for a 2018 release along with an as-yet-unrevealed title from Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment to arrive in 2019.
TechCentral Reporters & IDG News Service