The Oculus Rift is perhaps one of the most significant technological advancements of the past decade. First revealed back in 2012, the Rift was the first successful virtual reality headset, offering users a totally immersive way to experience movies and games.
Oculus Rift latest news
15/08/2017: The launcher software that powers the Oculus Rift has become much more versatile, after an update that should make accessing all your VR content much easier.
The updated Oculus launcher software now includes the ability to launch any Oculus-compatible content on your PC, not just games and experiences that have been downloaded through Oculus’ own storefront.
That includes Oculus-compatible games bought through Valve’s digital distribution platform Steam, as well as any other source. Note that the games will have to be specifically compatible with Oculus Rift, rather than VR in general – so titles exclusive to the HTC Vive are still off-limits.
The update also adds a new feature for supporting multiplayer parties, allowing up to four Oculus Rift owners to chat across different apps. This means that you won’t have to be playing the same game as your friends in order to carry on a conversation.
Oculus apps will also feature detailed release notes that can be viewed within the library, as part of the update, with several bug fixes also introduced. The update begins rolling out to users today.
21/07/2017: Oculus exec Jason Rubin has said that lowering the price of the company’s Rift headset is crucial for VR’s success, stating that the company’s ecosystem is now reaching a level of maturity that will help drive mass adoption.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Price matters. Lowering the price point of high-end VR hardware is a win for consumers, a win for developers, and a win for the industry as a whole,” he wrote as part of a blog post.
“As PC and component prices continue to drop, VR will become increasingly affordable, attracting even more people to the highest-end experiences that VR has to offer.”
As part of its ‘Summer of Rift’ sale, Oculus has slashed the price of its Rift and Touch bundle, which also includes six games. The bundle is available for just £399 during the sale.
The platform has been experiencing some success, with multiple titles surpassing $1 million in sales, and players racking up a combined total of 1.3 million hours in the top five Oculus apps.
Rubin highlighted some of the platform’s major recent releases, such as Echo Arena, Lone Echo and Marvel Powers United VR, as well as promising more flagship titles for 2018 which will be unveiled over the course of this year.
“With Summer of Rift bringing more people to the community, we look forward to fuller lobbies and more multiplayer magic,” Rubin said. “VR shines when you’re sharing a virtual space with other people. We now have many titles that are delivering on the social promise, and we’ll continue to invest in that space.”
14/07/2017: Facebook is reportedly developing a budget version of its Oculus Rift headset, in an effort to push the technology into the mass market with a more appealing price point.
The company appears to recognised the current problem with virtual reality technology, namely that the pricing options are far too restrictive. At £400+, headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are expensive products on their own, even before the necessary purchase of a £1,000 PC to run them. Even cheaper products, such as Samsung’s Gear VR, require you own a top of the line Samsung device.
Facebook’s cheaper headset is expected to be priced around $200, but will not need to be hooked up to, or bundled with, a PC or mobile device, significantly cutting down on the overall cost of the tech.
The project, codenamed ‘Pacific’ according to Bloomberg sources, will attempt to produce the same interactive gaming experience of the current Oculus Rift, although the device will be a more compact version. It’s hoped the tech will act as its own media hub, rather than an extended display.
It’s expected to be based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processing chips, with power that’s somewhere between Samsung’s Gear VR, and the high-end Rift. Sources suggest it will feature a similar interface to the Gear VR, with support for a wireless remote.
Facebook expects to begin briefings with video game designers and content creators by October, according to one source, with an expected shipping date of sometime in 2018.
Despite recent price drops, the Oculus Rift has remained an expensive device that has prevented it from gaining mass market appeal. A recent market analysis by tracking firm Superdata put Rift purchases at 383,000, compared with the similarly priced HTC Vive at 667,000 units. However, Samsung’s Gear VR, with its relatively cheap initial buy in, is leading the way with around 22% of the VR market.
10/07/2017: Oculus cuts price of VR set to $399
Oculus is temporarily cutting the price of its hardware to $399 as the industry puzzles over why its technology has not taken off among customers.
Oculus announced in a blog post that it is cutting the price of the Rift headset and Touch controllers to $399 for six weeks, starting today. This matches the price of the PlayStation VR set made by Sony and is cheaper than the HTC Vive at $799.
The post explains that the offer is part of a “Summer of Rift” deals designed to encourage more people to buy Oculus products.
In an interview with Reuters, VP for content Jason Rubin said that the company wanted to cut the price sooner but wanted to wait until there was enough content to keep a broad audience busy, not because it’s a sign of weak product sales.
He said: “We’re now in a space where the mass market can be much happier”.
In March the Faceboo-owned company reduced the price of its headset by $100. Oculus VP of product Nate Mitchell said back then that this year there was a focus on bringing more people into VR. He added that the cheaper price “should let even more folks who’ve been waiting to get into VR to jump in”.
29/06/2017: Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has reportedly donated $2,000 toward the development of a workaround that allows Rift games to be played on the HTC Vive.
Luckey, who left the Facebook-owned Oculus VR back in March, pledged the cash to CrossVR’s Patreon campaign, which is being used to fund the on-going development of ReVive. The hack allows HTC Vive owners to play Rift exclusive titles that otherwise would not appear on the Steam store page.
Jules Blok, creator of the ReVive project, thanked Luckey for his donation in a message on his Patreon page, which almost covers their entire monthly pledge goal after taxes and a website cut is taken. At the time of writing, the project has raised $1,976 of its $2,000 goal.
The donation, which was first spotted by UploadVR, is a little unexpected given that Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014, initially shot down the project back in April 2016, ultimately blocking the software just as ReVive was beginning to gain popularity.
A statement at the time read: “This is a hack, and we don’t condone it. Users should expect that hacked games won’t work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software.”
It’s unclear what this donation is supposed to signify, and there is no sign as to whether this will turn into recurring support. It may simply be that Luckey is choosing to back a technology that he has spent his career trying to pioneer.
He left Facebook after it lost a $500 million lawsuit to ZeniMax, which claims Oculus’s device relied on ZeniMax IP developed by legendary game deveoper John Carmack while at the company (he later moved to Oculus), and after being discovered to have donated to a pro-Donald Trump trolling campaign. Facebook said at the time that Luckey would be “dearly missed”.
Oculus Rift price and release date
The Oculus Rift is now on general sale in the UK, and can be ordered from Amazon, as well as purchased instore at retailers including John Lewis, Harrods, GAME and Currys PC World. The device debuted at £549, including VAT.
To complement the launch, Oculus set up a series of demo areas at various retail locations, in order to sway undecided customers. A strong physical presence is important to the company, according to CEO Brendan Iribe, who told CNBC “you have to see it to really believe it, and we feel like once you see it, you’re gonna want it”.
“Getting it into… broad retail around the world is going to be very important to the success of VR and to the success of Oculus and the Rift”.
Oculus Rift design
The Oculus Rift DK2 was a squat, boxy affair. The consumer model is a much more attractive device, however; it’s had a full-on makeover and is looking sleek and polished.
In place of the elasticated strap, the visor is now secured by a flexible plastic harness. The headset itself now has rounded sides and a flat, but slightly curved front, with a smooth finish on the face and textured plastic on the sides.
In a move that will please the visually-impaired, you can also now wear it with glasses, as well as adjusting the interpupillary distance of the lenses via a slider.
As a head-mounted device, comfort is critical. The DK2 is a bulky beast, weighing in at almost 400g. However, Oculus has trimmed a lot of the Rift’s unnecessary fat for its big reveal, and Oculus is boasting of the Rift’s light and comfortable nature.
Oculus Rift specs
Due to its highly-specialised nature, the Oculus Rift is much more technically capable than many other devices, and has some pretty beefy specs in terms of its visual hardware.
The Rift runs at 2,160×1,200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, which equates to a per-eye resolution of 1080p. It also runs at 90Hz, which, while not quite as impressive as the 120Hz claimed by PlayStation VR, is perfectly acceptable. There’s no noticeable lag or latency, and motion looks smooth and natural.