While the prospect of the Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) headset on PlayStation 4 is indeed exciting, nobody can deny that it’s Oculus VR that’s leading the charge with the technology with its Oculus Rift VR headset. Founded in 2012, Palmer Luckey and a seemingly ever-growing list of high profile engineers and developers have been somewhat heroically carrying the torch for the revival of the technology. What started with Luckey piecing together a concept for an affordable VR headset has evolved into one of the fastest-growing companies in the world, which was of course made possible with Facebook’s $2 billion USD buyout of Oculus VR earlier in 2014 and completed this week.
With the Oculus Rift’s second development kit (DK2) finally starting to ship out to the very first pre-order customers and the announcement of the Oculus Connect developer event in Hollywood, California in September 2014, it’s undoubtedly a crucial time for Oculus VR right now. That said, the company still remains tight-lipped on the coveted consumer version of its headset, with hopes of seeing the device in late 2014 now seemingly out of the question and even the suggestion that the company itself isn’t sure that it will hit a 2015 release.
Questions such as these mean that the Oculus Rift still has an air of uncertainty surrounding it. It might seem like the company now has a bottomless wallet based on the sheer amount of hires and acquisitions it has recently made, but we’re now approaching the two year mark since the company completed its historic Kickstarter campaign on 1st September 2012. Despite the release of the first and second development kits, it doesn’t feel like we’re that much closer to the consumer release. Fans have been exceedingly patient, especially this month as the four-month wait for the release of the DK2, announced in March, resulted in most orders being withheld until either August or September.
But that patience might soon start to wear thin. It’s not just fans that can’t wait for the release of the Oculus Rift, it’s developers too. nDreams is placing all of its bets on its VR exclusive title The Assembly, which can’t launch until either this headset of Project Morpheus is finally out of the door, and other VR developers such as Untold Games with Loading Human are even anticipating releasing their titles before the consumer headset is available.
Of course, one has to appreciate Oculus VR’s sheer dedication to making sure it delivers the best possible VR experience before it starts to build up anticipation of the full release. The company made a gigantic leap from DK1 to DK2 with the inclusion of a 1080p OLED screen and positional tracking, but has stressed that even its latest device will see an overhaul before the full release. Then there’s the input conundrum, with a definitive control method for VR yet to be decided upon, and Oculus VR itself working on its own potential solutions. Rushing the Oculus Rift is simply not an option for the company, which demands a certain level of respect.
That respect doesn’t quell the ‘when?’ question, though, and the chances of hearing such news in 2014 are starting to run out. August sees Oculus VR head to Gamescom in Germany, though the event is likely too close to the release of DK2 for the company to even start hinting about the consumer version. While the Oculus Connect developer event in September promises news on ‘the latest Oculus hardware’, it doesn’t specify headset. Past those two dates, we might be left waiting until the events circuit starts again with the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next January.
It’s certainly something of a frustrating situation, being left without even a hint as to when the consumer Oculus Rift might launch. As much as the VR industry has grown with the headset, there’s a limit to how far it can go without a consumer product on the market. Countless Kickstarters for new controllers and alternatives are all well and good, but this industry won’t kick off until Oculus VR says it does. So continue to weather the information drought and keep fingers crossed that the consumer Oculus Rift is closer than 2016.
‘VR vs’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes an issue currently challenging the VR industry and discusses how to fix it. Looking at everything from the videogames in development to the strength of the technology, we highlight the problems and try to come up with the best solutions.