This is it: the final consumer version of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. It’s coming Q1 2016, and it looks just like the version that leaked two days ago! We went to see Oculus’s announcement live in San Francisco. Here’s the scoop.
We’re not getting raw specs or a price point today, but Oculus is letting us know just how much the headset has improved. It looks and feels like a consumer product now, with higher quality plastics and fabrics, and it’s light enough to heft with a single hand. You’ll finally be able to wear it with glasses (!) and it’ll come with a pair of detachable headphones that mount right onto its adjustable side rails.
The headset still isn’t wireless, unfortunately—you’ll need to drape a cable over your shoulder, and Oculus still recommends you enjoy virtual reality while seated instead of walking around. And in case you didn’t hear, the Oculus Rift will require you to plug that cable into a reasonably powerful gaming PC, too.
Since not everyone has eyes that are the same distance apart, the final Oculus Rift will let you adjust the IPD (interpupillary distance) of the optics. There’s a little slider underneath the headset that lets you control the distance between the lenses.
Inside, there are a pair of low persistence OLED screens, one for each eye. “There’s no motion blur, no judder, no pixels,” says Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. “It feels just like you’ve put on a pair of glasses.” The entire optics display is removable, too—allowing you to install a pair of lesnes that better fit your face (I have an enormous nose, for instance) or have more room for a pair of spectacles. Neat!
So that’s how Oculus will get your eyes and ears into virtual reality. There’s a camera you’ll mount on a surface to track your head, too. What about your hands? Well, there’s no word on the leaked “Simple Input Device” that leaked a couple of days ago—instead, every Oculus Rift will come with an Xbox One gamepad.
Yes, that’s right, a normal game console controller, with standard analog sticks and buttons, and a wireless adapter to connect it to your PC. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer came out on stage to announce that you’ll even be able to stream Xbox One games like Halo, Forza and Sunset Overdrive to the Rift... but it’s not what you’d think. You won’t be playing those games in virtual reality—you won’t feel like you’re driving a Forza car—but rather just sitting in a VR room playing them on a big-screen TV. Fun, but lame.
Oh, but get this: Oculus is indeed working on its own motion controller too: Oculus Touch. It’s a pair of controllers that wrap around each of your hands, wireless, each with their own analog stick, two triggers (one for your finger and one to use a “grip” motion), and two face buttons.
The Oculus Rift can track them in a virtual environment with its camera and the controller’s built-in inertial sensors, but that’s not all they can do: Oculus founder Palmer Luckey says they can actually recognize gestures you make with your hands, like waving or giving a thumbs-up. They’ll be coming in the first half of 2016, probably after the Rift itself, though you’ll be able to preorder them at the same time. No word on how much they’ll cost.
Here’s a quick look at the interface you’ll see inside the Oculus Rift: there’s a store, of course, a friends list which shows you recent activities, and some status indicators up in the upper-left corner. Weirdly, these particular indicators include wifi and battery life... despite the fact that the headset isn’t wireless. “Infer from that what you will,” teased Palmer when we asked him. Oculus’ Nate Mitchell says they could just indicate what you see if you plugged into a laptop—so you can tell if your notebook’s battery is dying, for instance, without ripping off the headset.
So what will you actually experience on the Oculus Rift? Oculus wants you to know that real, purpose-built VR games are coming.
There’s EVE Valkyrie, of course, the incredible space dogfighting experience that’s also coming to the Sony Morpheus VR headset as well:
And Insomniac Games, which makes the excellent Ratchet & Clank and Resistance games, announced a over-the-shoulder VR adventure game called Edge of Nowhere, too.
Gunfire Games is also contributing Chronos, another third-person adventure where you explore an ancient labyrinth.
If the name wasn’t a hint, Chronos is a game about time: as your character ages, you have to approach the dungeon differently. As a young man you’re nimble and brash. In middle age you’re stronger and a bit more experienced. As an old man you’re weak and frail, and must rely on magics and knowledge of the old tomb in order to survive.
Other games coming to the Rift include a game called Damaged Core, VR Sports Challenge (which will include VR football, basketball, and hockey), Esper (you get telekinetic powers), a VR version of AirMech, and the Mario-like platformer Lucky’s Tale. All of these initial games will be available on the Rift next year, says Oculus.