Facebook’s Oculus division says it will finally be launching the consumer version of its long-awaited Rift virtual reality (VR) headset in the first quarter of 2016. The Rift certainly won’t be the first VR device on the market, but it will be one of the most interesting and exciting products to be available to consumers who want to explore the capabilities of VR and its many possibilities.
Oculus announced the October 2016 coming of the Rift in a May 6 post on the Oculus blog, along with the news that the company will begin to take preorders on the device later this year. No prices have yet been announced.
“The Rift delivers on the dream of consumer VR with compelling content, a full ecosystem, and a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality,” the company said in the post. “It’s a system designed by a team of extremely passionate gamers, developers, and engineers to reimagine what gaming can be.”
More technical details about the hardware, software, input systems and other features surrounding the Rift will be announced in the weeks to come, the company said. The Oculus Rift builds on the presence, immersion, and comfort of the early Crescent Bay prototype with an improved tracking system that supports both seated and standing experiences, as well as a highly refined industrial design, and updated ergonomics for a more natural fit, according to the company.
Even I am intrigued by this news. As a technology journalist, I’ve been hearing from vendors for years that VR would be coming to the enterprise and would be important and useful. So far, I haven’t seen that happen in business computing, but the Oculus could change that.
Back in the summer of 2014, I visited the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where researchers were conducting their own experiments with VR, using a prototype Oculus viewer. It was large, bulky and heavy, but when several researchers asked me if I wanted to give it a try, I jumped at the chance. That’s like asking me if I want to drive a 1975 Porsche Turbo. Who would say no?
I remember being skeptical as I placed the Oculus prototype over my head and quickly became amazed by the VR experience I was immersed in just by wearing the device. I was in a medieval castle and I was “walking” and moving around the stone walkways, “seeing” the features all around me. I knew that I was actually standing in a research lab room on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on a summer day, but the VR images I saw were compelling and realistic. I found it fascinating and only then saw the potential for the technology, for consumers and even in the enterprise.
Now even I can’t wait for the Oculus Rift. What cool things will it allow enterprises to do and explore in the future?