What We Know About the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset So Far

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What We Know About the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset So Far

By Don Reisinger

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Oculus Is a 3-Year-Old Virtual Reality Startup

Oculus VR was founded in 2012 and showed off the Rift as a prototype at the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) gaming show that year. Soon after, Oculus hosted a Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $2.4 million. As the company continued to develop its VR technology, Facebook decided in 2014 to acquire it for $2 billion. Soon after, Oculus was criticized for selling to Facebook; but Oculus has largely held on to its initial customers and excitement about the device's potential has continued to build.

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A New Design Is Coming (Again)

Oculus has been making modifications to the Rift's design since its inception to boost its visual quality and make it more immersive. In early May, when the company announced it would hold a media briefing, Oculus showed a shadowy image featuring what appears to be a new design for Rift. Chances are the version the company rolls out in June will ultimately be offered to consumers.

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What Is the Difference Between VR and Holographics?

Two technologies are being developed in the visual wearables space, virtual reality and holographics. Devices like the Oculus Rift have VR displays, which means an immersive video is shown to users. Holographics, like technology built into Microsoft's HoloLens smart glasses, are different. With a device like HoloLens, visual elements are overlaid on the real world. Oculus argues that VR will deliver a better experience for consumers and enterprise users.

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For Consumers, It's All About Gaming

Speaking of consumers, it's important to keep in mind that Oculus Rift is a gaming device first. Oculus has shown off several game demos that could work with the Rift, and the company's decision to hold its media conference in June ahead of this year's E3 show suggests that many of its announcements will center on gaming. Look for gamers to be first in line to get their hands on the Rift.

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Oculus Is Building an Application Marketplace

Although some developers already have access to the Rift marketplace, Oculus has been urging more companies to join the market. One of the essential factors for the Rift's success will be strong support from a wide range of developers, including those who cater to both consumers and enterprise customers. So far, Oculus has attracted developers of all kinds, but it needs many more to make the device a real success from a software perspective.

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Rift Needs to Connect to a Powerful PC

To actually use the Rift, users will need to have a fairly powerful PC. According to Oculus, in order to get the full "Rift experience," users will need a higher-end GPU, like the Nvidia GTX 970 or the AMD 290. On the CPU side, the computer connected to Rift will require the Intel Core i5 or greater and 8GB or more of RAM. The Rift also requires Windows 7 or later OSes, two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI 1.3.

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Oculus Keeps an Eye on the Enterprise

Ultimately, the Rift could turn out to be a useful tool for enterprise users. The headset could be used to simulate a lot of environments that a human can't ordinarily reach, like the inside of a machine, or down the dark recesses of an oil well. The possibilities are endless once application developers get their heads together with potential enterprise users.

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Oculus Rift Is a Natural for Training

Speaking of training, Oculus has courted several companies to try out apps designed for the enterprise. Chief among those are programs that provide a virtual environment that simulates a variety of tasks that a person must learn to perform but are better learned in a virtual environment, rather than providing immediate hands-on experience. For instance, VR could teach people how to drive a truck, operate a robotic arm, maintain a complex machine or many other tasks.

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Software Development Will Help Enterprises Experiment

One of the best things about Oculus is that it has offered its software development kit to any and all. This means enterprises will be able to experiment with many kinds of applications for the VR technology. There probably isn't a single industry that can find an innovative way to use Oculus Rift or similar technology.

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Some Key Details Are Still Unknown

Some of the most important details about the Oculus Rift are still unknown. For instance, Oculus has yet to confirm exactly when it will be ready to deliver the headset; company officials say only that it'll be available in the first quarter of 2016. It's also unknown how much the final version will cost and whether it will come with unannounced features that weren't seen in previous prototypes. Expect Oculus officials to disclose at least some of those details at the June media briefing.

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