On the eve of E3, Oculus held a livestream to announce some more details of the upcoming Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset. Just about a month ago, they announced that they were targeting a Q1 2016 release, and with that time fast approaching, they have given some more details on the unit itself, as well as what kind of experiences you can expect with it. Oculus has re-affirmed the Q1'16 launch date, and now we finally know the specs for the retail consumer unit.

One of the key points they brought up was that the unit itself needs to be comfortable, and part of that comfort is weight. January seems like a long time ago when I got to try out the Crescent Bay version of the Rift, but at the time I was impressed with how it felt, and I don’t recall the weight at all which I guess is the point. The final, consumer version of the Rift in turn is close to the Crescent Bay version, with further enhancements for both the electronics and the overall fit itself to bring down the weight and make it more comfortable.

Audio is also a big part of the experience, and the included headphones on Crescent Bay were quite good. For the consumer version Oculus is going in a similar direction, but today they have also confirmed that you will be able to wear your own headphones as well if you prefer that. The directional audio is a key piece to the immersion and the Oculus team has done a great job with that aspect.

Another part though is the displays. When we met with Oculus’s CEO Brendan Iribe at CES, one of the interesting things he told us was that they have found that by interleaving a black frame in between each video frame, it can prevent ghosting. In order to do this though, the refresh rate needs to be pretty high with the unit we tested running at 90 Hz. Today they announced a tiny bit about the hardware, and the Oculus Rift will ship with two OLED panels designed for low-persistence. Oculus has previously commented that they're running at a combined 2160x1200, and while they don't list the individual panel size, 1080x1200 is a safe bet. The OLED panels are behind optical lenses which help the user focus on a screen so close to their eye without eye strain, and the inter-pupil distance is important. There will be an adjustment dial that you can tweak to make the Rift work best for you.

Tracking of your head movement is done with the help of an IR LED constellation tracking system, unlike the Hololens which does all of the tracking itself with its own cameras. This makes installation a bit more difficult but should be more precise and reduce the overall weight of the head unit.

For those that wear glasses, the company has improved the design to better allow for glasses, and they also make it easy to replace the foam surrounding the headset.

One thing that was really not known yet was what kind of control mechanism Oculus was going to employ. In the demos I did at CES, there was no interaction, and you were basically a bystander. Oculus announced today that every Rift will be shipping with an Xbox One wireless controller and the just announced wireless adapter for Windows. This is a mutually beneficial agreement to say the least, with Microsoft getting in on the VR action and Oculus getting access to a mature controller design. Oculus even stated that the controller is going to be the best way to play a lot of VR games. However they also announced their own controller for a new genre of VR games to give an even more immersive experience.

Oculus Touch is the name of new controller system that Oculus has come up with. Each controller has a traditional analog thumbstick, two buttons, an analog trigger, and a “hand trigger” input mechanism. The two controllers are mirror images of each other, with one for each hand. They are wireless as well, and use the IR LED tracking system as well in order to be used in space. The controllers will also offer haptic feedback so that they can be used to simulate real world touch experiences. They also detect some finger poses (not full finger tracking) in order to perform whatever task is assigned to that pose. These should be pretty cool and I can’t wait to try them out.

Hardware is certainly part of the story, but software is going to be possibly an even bigger part. The Rift needs to launch with quality games, and it looks like Oculus has some developers on board with EVE: Valkyrie, Chronos, and Edge of Nowhere being some of the featured games.

They also showed off their 2D homescreen which they are projecting into the 3D rift world. There will be easy access to social networks and of course multiplayer gaming in virtual reality.

In addition to the Xbox controller, Oculus has also worked with Microsoft to enable the upcoming Xbox Game Streaming into the Rift, so that you can be fully immersed. This will not magically make Xbox games 3D VR worlds, but instead will project the Xbox game into a big 2D screen inside the Rift and block out all distractions.

I’ve been a bit of a VR skeptic, but my time with the Rift was pretty cool. I can see a lot of applications for this outside of gaming, but of course gaming is going to be a big part of VR and Oculus looks to be lining up a pretty nice looking launch. A big part is going to be quality titles for the Rift and Oculus is working hard on that aspect. The hardware is now pretty polished.

Source: Oculus

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  • Ikefu - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    The Xbox controller was a really smooth move considering how the terrible controller on the Ouya almost deep-sixed that thing by itself. I'm curious to see if something later down the road develops for VR straight from the XBone with DX12. If morpheus can work with the PS4 you'd think something might be able to happen.
  • Impulses - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    What's the point of VR if your control points are identical tho? Wouldn't games just sort of... play the same? Sure it can be more immersive and there's head tracking which certainly can add a dimension to some games, but I think the most innovative stuff would have to revolve around the free held controllers.

    Reminds me of Sword Art Online a little bit (anime series that centers around VR)... Not sure how they could possibly wait until this late stage to reveal the control interface(s) tho.
  • nevcairiel - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    Personally, being a primary PC gamer used to a mouse, I've always found it weird to use the controller to look around, move and somehow "target" things at the same time. If looking around is replaced by head motion tracking, that should already give it a much smoother gameplay.
  • Impulses - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    Ehh, in that sense it could be just as much of a boon for certain PC games/gamers... We're just way too used to FPS conventions where you're always looking and aiming in the same direction, mouse made that way too natural and easy so it suck.

    There's open world or 3rd person games and MMORPGs where if you aren't panning your camera 360 degrees *while* moving in another direction (and possibly doing other things) then you're just getting owned by those that are successfully doing so... And it can be a chore.

    That's always been a challenge mouse or not, I imagine any kinda semi effective head tracking would make that sorta scenario both easier to handle and more immersive. It all goes back to the games for sure... Without some great showcases that actually leverage the tech it might as well be a Nintendo Virtual Boy. :p
  • sabrewings - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    I think it'll become much easier with a VR headset. If the mouse serves to turn you torso left and right for aiming and steer your movement, that's perfect. Being able to look left and right while moving without having to rotate and strafe is a huge boon. It's a huge boost to the immersion factor as well.
  • Murloc - Saturday, June 13, 2015 - link

    yeah right now that's done by moving with WASD and looking around with the mouse but this thing would help a lot, except for the problem that you can't rotate your head 360°.

    I guess you could make it so that a 90° rotation of your head translates to a 180° rotation in-game, but I wonder if that would be barf-inducing or not.
  • Wolfpup - Friday, June 19, 2015 - link

    I'd assume you'd still control things exactly like you do now, but also be able to look around. Like wherever you're pointed "forward" using the right stick, you can look around to the sides and up and down as much as your head can move in real life, but the center point is still controlled with the right stick.

    I THINK that sounds like it would work fine...though without being in one who knows!
  • Brett Howse - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    VR is never going to take off if every single app needs to be specifically VR only. The Xbox controller makes perfect sense since it will allow games to ship with VR as an option.
  • JeffFlanagan - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    VR is not only going to take off, it's going to be huge.

    I have the S6 version of VR gear, which is terribly limited compared to what the PC-based Rift, HTC/Valve, and even PS4 headsets will be, and it's an amazing device, even with the virtual worlds looking like phone games.

    People will be blown away by these devices. They haven't experienced anything like it. There's a reason Zuckerberg put so much money into this project; Feeling like you're present in a space, rather than looking at a screen, makes a huge difference in how we interact with software.

    Some games could easily be made for both screen and VR since the rift extensions for 3D development environments just behave like an in-game camera that follows head-tracking, so I expect that what you're looking for will happen, but it's by no means essential.

    In multiplayer, I expect that people in VR will dominate the people using screens as long as the game has realistic physics. Millions of years of evolution honed our ability to interact with environments. We've only been playing games on screens for about 65 years
  • Wolfpup - Friday, June 19, 2015 - link

    Geez, we've been VR-ing since what, the Genesis? I don't know...I'm holding judgement until I try one. This SEEMS like it could be cool, but I'm not totally convinced it's not another "motion controls" or so-called "3D", both of which were absurd jokes and nothing but marketing (and both LESS immersive).

    Even if it really does work, make things better, and even if 90% first person games start being adapted specifically for it STILL may not take off. You've got an expense, and people are really price conscious. You've got the factor that it arguably looks ridiculous and some people may care about that. It may not be crazy safe either (and for that matter might cause motion sickness).

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