CES 2016: Oculus Price Announced and Pre-Orders Open

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, CES, CES 2016

Oculus has finally announced that the Rift will launch on March 28th for $599 USD. If you were an original backer on Kickstarter, then this kit will be given to you for free. DK2 purchasers do not receive this gift, but I guess the company was relatively established by that point. Pre-orders have now opened, although the kit will be available (albeit at “limited locations”) through typical retail channels in April. Finally, making good on their “$1500” announcement earlier this year, systems that meet the minimum requirements, and bundle the Oculus Rift, will be available for pre-order that start at $1499.

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Okay, so let's unpack this.

The elephant in the room is the price. It's steep. If you are even moderately patient, you can pick up a GeForce 980 Ti for the same amount. (As I write this, I'm looking at a Gigabyte 980 Ti with a custom cooler for $599.99 on Amazon.) For that price, you get the headset (with its two 1080x1200 OLED screens, microphone, and headphones), an Xbox One controller, a sensor, and a newly-announced Oculus Remote. You cannot purchase the Oculus Rift without an Xbox One controller, which is unfortunate for current owners of Xbox One controllers.

Who has two thumbs and bought an Xbox One Elite controller? This guy.

The benefit of including a (regular) Xbox One controller is that Oculus Rift developers can rely on each customer having access to a solid PC gamepad. Without it, some percentage of users might (and when you deal with large sample spaces, probability increasingly becomes a distribution) have just a mouse and keyboard. I'd also expect that Microsoft would provide them a bit of a discount for at least the volume, with the ties between Microsoft and Facebook possibly coming into play, too.

Unlike the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift will not ship with its motion controller (called the “Oculus Touch”). That will be delayed until later in the year, which also means that some fraction of the user base will never have it. This is a concern for cross-compatibility between the Rift and the Vive, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if Oculus didn't have any motion control option at all. Developers would be looking at a “release on both Wii and PS2” situation, only with a (likely) much smaller install base.

And a final point: What about the other uses of Oculus?

oculus-2016-remote.jpg

The Oculus Remote controls the interface and media.

This announcement is gaming-centric, to say the very least. Oculus has said that the Rift is “primarily a gaming device” and, apparently, Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, strongly believes in gaming for the device. In my opinion though, it could be very useful, especially in professional applications. If the OLED screens have sufficient color and resolution, then desktop space becomes infinite. You don't need an additional monitor to map additional virtual space to your environment. While that's probably not something that Facebook could do alone, they could encourage the parties who influence these decisions with tech demos, peripherals, and so forth.

They still don't seem to be. This could be a concern since their primary competitors, Microsoft and even Valve/HTC, already have non-zero amounts of progress in that space. I'd be curious to hear whether they have any plans at all moving forward, even if those plans are to be reactionary.

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Source: Oculus

Meanwhile, Oculus Touch Won't Arrive Until 2H16

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, vive vr

Valve and Oculus are targeting roughly the same window to release the consumer editions of their respective VR equipment. While technical information will likely wait until next week, we are hearing about delays ahead of CES. In the Vive's case, they couldn't afford to wait until the show, because it was supposed to launch in Holiday 2015. That has been revised to April.

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But this is about Oculus. Their headset is still expected to arrive on time, which is enough for many experiences. The Xbox One controller is supposedly the default for this platform. This puts them out of the running for motion-control software, as seen on the Vive, though. Oculus is developing their own, called the Oculus Touch. They said they were launching without it and that it is optional. We now know that this will be in the second half of the year, which could be as early as the “few months after the Rift” as we were told, or as late as a year from now.

We're already hearing concerns about incompatibility between the two systems, since it will lead to some level of platform-exclusivity. Lead time could help a platform gain ground, unless consumers outright refuse to buy in to any of them in case it ends up being the Betamax or HD-DVD. I'm not sure what we, as consumers, can do to prevent any of these negative outcomes, but it's something we need to be mindful of, especially throughout 2016.

Source: Oculus

Gameworks VR, NVIDIA's Direct Driver Mode for the Oculus Rift

Subject: General Tech, Displays | August 13, 2015 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, oculus rift, gameworks vr

The news that Oculus SDK 0.7

would incorporate Direct Driver Mode after the August 20th update is not very old and now NVIDA has announced the availability of the beta version of their GameWorks VR.  As mentioned on this podcast, until now your GPU has treated the Oculus as a secondary monitor but with this update your graphics driver will directly talk to the Oculus as a separate device, which should help greatly with latency and development of the tricks and treats yet to be discovered when programming for this type of interface.

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NVIDIA's Gameworks VR, as well as AMD's LiquidVR will provide a platform for developers to program for the Oculus Rift as well as the competeing products from other companies.  The new beta SDK from NVIDIA has been updated to support VR SLI and is compatible with the new 350.60 Game Ready drivers.  Programmers working with the Maxwell architecture will benefit from Multi-Res Shading which should increase the performance of your current programs.  Follow the links if you are interested in developing for Oculus, otherwise wait patiently for the day you can pre-order them.

Source: NVIDIA

Can it Run VR? Crytek and Basemark Join Forces to Create Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: Basemark, crytek, oculus rift

With the release of Oculus Rift and various other head mounted displays you may be wondering if your current machine is powerful enough for you to use one of these devices or if you need to upgrade before you will enjoy the experience. 

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Basemark and Crytek have joined forces to create a new benchmark to test how your system will fare.  The benchmark will give you information on latency, verify your if hardware is able to run at 60, 75, 90 or 120fps with varying levels of graphics detail and even verify if your audio source can properly provide spacial audio cues.

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Helsinki (Finland) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) August 6th, 2015 – Basemark and Crytek today announced a new partnership to help create a definitive PC system test for virtual reality gaming.

The new VR benchmark will enable gamers and PC hardware companies to easily assess the level of experience they can expect when running virtual reality content, and will be the first service available that gives users recognizable, real-world metrics to describe their system’s VR readiness with various HMDs out there.

Developed using Crytek’s CRYENGINE technology, the benchmark will provide detailed feedback in areas such as the best graphical settings to use with a variety of VR headsets. Basemark’s expertise in measuring performance standards will be key as they formulate an objective test that evaluates everything from frame rate capabilities to memory consumption, latency issues, 3D audio performance and much more.

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Crytek’s Creative Director for CRYENGINE, Frank Vitz, said: “Basemark is already helping to measure technology standards in other areas of gaming, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them as we work to establish a user-friendly yardstick for VR performance. We believe CRYENGINE can become a go-to tool for developers looking to create compelling VR experiences, and this partnership means players can also count on CRYENGINE as they evaluate whether their PC is ready for the most advanced, cutting-edge VR content available.”

“We wanted to make a real-world VR gaming benchmark as opposed to a theoretical one and hence we’re very excited to announce this partnership with Crytek, the leading game engine company”, said Tero Sarkkinen, founder and CEO of Basemark, “By using CRYENGINE as the base and vetting the test workloads under our rigorous development process involving all the key technology players, we will forge the definitive benchmark for all PC VR gamers.”

Source: Basemark

Hacking an Oculus Rift for AR assisted repairs

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, linux, edison, AirOS

What do you get when you cross some bright young minds, Linux, an Oculus Rift, Leap Motion's gesture controller, a camera, as well as an Intel Edison board with an Arduino breakout board and Grove sensor?  You get second place in a NASA hackathon and an device which uses AR to help technicians locate a piece of equipment in need of repair and project instructions on how to do the repairs over top of their line of site, leaving hands free to actually perform the repair.  The usage scenarios seem similar to Epson's 3D glasses which we discussed a few weeks ago, though this team envisions another ability that their use of the Grove sensor provides.   The sensor can resolve light down to the 760-1100 nm range, meaning that with proper tools and interface a technician could perform extremely delicate repairs visually.  Check out more at Linux.com.

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"At the NASA Space App Challenge hackathon in April, Team AirOS won second place at the San Francisco event with an augmented reality (AR) headgear system that included a Linux-driven Intel Edison module hooked to an Oculus Rift."

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Source: Linux.com

The Oculus Rift is coming in early 2016, preorders before the end of the year

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2015 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, Oculus, crescent bay

Finally we have a release date for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, some time in Q1 of 2016.  The 2012 Kickstarter lead to the first and second Developers kits which have been out for a while now but not generally available. The most recent news was back in September when John Carmack and others showed off the prototype Crescent Bay model.  The Dev Kit 2 model was provided for a cost of $350 to those who qualified which gives a rough benchmark of the cost of the consumer model when it goes on sale.  At this point Oculus has not provided much in the way of technical specifications but those will be coming in the very near future.  You can see quite a bit of information on the Oculus page about the current version, if you want to tease yourself before news about the consumer package is officially released.

rift_1.jpg

"The Oculus Rift builds on the presence, immersion, and comfort of the Crescent Bay prototype with an improved tracking system that supports both seated and standing experiences, as well as updated ergonomics for a more natural fit, and a highly refined industrial design. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be revealing the details around hardware, software, input, and many of our unannounced made-for-VR games and experiences coming to the Rift. Next week, we’ll share more of the technical specifications here on the Oculus blog"

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Source: Oculus

Browse the web with your Oculus and MozVR

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, oculus rift, MozVR

You have been able to browse the web on your Oculus Rift since the first dev kit, but not with a UI designed specifically for the VR device.  MozVR is in development along with a specific version of Firefox or Chromium to allow Oculus users to browse the web in a new way.  It will work with both Mac and Windows, though as of yet there is no mention of Linux support which should change in the near future.  You need to get your hands on an Oculus to try out the new browser, it simply is not going to translate to the desktop.  The software is open sourced and available on Github so you can contribute to the overall design of the new way to surf the web as well as optimizing your own site for VR.  Check out more on MozVR and Oculus over at The Inquirer.

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"MOZILLA IS CONTINUING its 10th birthday celebrations with the launch of a virtual reality (VR) website."

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Source: The Inquirer

Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 is starting to arrive, more pixels and less screen door

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2014 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, DK2, oled, kick ass

The two top improvements in the second Oculus rift are aimed to reduce the screen door effect by changing the display to a full 1080p OLED screen and the inclusion of Valve's low persistence of vision feature to reduce the image smearing that DK1 users reported.  There is a brand new way of tracking your heads position in 3D with the DK2, a camera tracks the motion of hidden onboard IR LEDs to track translational movement in addition to the rotational tracking existent on the DK1.  You will need 2 free USB ports and it connects to an HDMI or DVI port on your GPU, wireless video streaming is still a hurdle for many applications let alone the Oculus Rift.  Check out the comments on Slashdot and follow the link for a full preview.

DSC_0415.jpeg

"The hotly anticipated Oculus Rift DK2 has begun arriving at doorsteps. The DK2s enhancements include optical positional tracking and a higher resolution panel, up from 1280×800 to 1920×1080 (1080p) and moved to a pentile-matrix OLED panel for display duties. This means higher levels of resolvable detail and a much reduced screen door effect."

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Source: Slashdot

Oculus Rift Shipments Suspended to China

Subject: General Tech, Displays | July 5, 2014 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: oculus vr, oculus rift, Oculus

The popular VR headset development kit, Oculus Rift DK2, is no longer available for order in China. The reason, according to their subreddit, is due to "extreme reseller purchases". In other words, because too many were purchased with the intention of selling them at a markup. They, then, ask enthusiasts to wait for the consumer version. These are for developers to develop.

oculus-dk2-product.jpg

Reselling product happens frequently. You see it at big sales, when a retailer sells product near (or under) cost to lure people into their stores. Unless they have a quantity-per-purchase limit, that is enforced, you will see the occasional person buying obscene amounts. Some will even tell the cashier that they intend on reselling it elsewhere.

Oculus is "looking into alternative ways to make sure that our development kits are getting into legitimate developer hands in China". Also, they claim to have not canceled all orders in China., because, "that would be messed up".

Yes, Oculus, that would be.

The Oculus Rift DK2 is still available in the other regions.

Fly like an eagle

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2014 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: gaming, oculus rift, Birdly

Creative geniuses have found another way to combine the Oculus Rift with other hardware to create something new, in this case it is a bird simulator.  Strap yourself in to the device and use your arms to flap the wings of your bird body and lean to try your skills at aerial manoeuvring. The Oculus provides your birds eye view of the ground and there is even a fan placed in front of you to give even more immersion.  Hack a Day also mentions an olfactory component, it will be interesting to see how that was pulled off.

birdly.jpg

"Have you ever dreamed of being able to fly like a bird? Sadly, we’re just too heavy with our solid bones and fatty tissues – but now there’s a simulator called Birdly which will give you the experience you crave."

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Source: Hack a Day