Ever since Oculus burst onto the crowdfunding scene and played a significant role in pushing VR into the consciousness of the tech community, it's been identified largely through its only product, the Oculus Rift.
Now for the first time, Oculus is truly breaking free and expanding. And it didn't just officially announce the Oculus Go, its $199 standalone VR headset, at its Connect 4 conference this week, it also shed more light on its Oculus Santa Cruz project.
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So, it's laying down some concrete steps about the next step. But what does it mean for both the Facebook-owned company and its VR competitors? Well, my dear readers, let's explore.
Wait there, what's the deal with Oculus' new headsets?
At last year's Oculus Connect conference, the company showed off a very early prototype of its headset, codenamed Santa Cruz. This week, in the same demo scenario, it was a package that looked ready to ship. Essentially, this is high-end VR but without the wires. Complete freedom, no computer required and coming next year.
And the one I can afford?
The Oculus Go is also an intriguing prospect, coming with motion controllers, next-gen optics and spatial audio, despite not being as high powered as its upcoming sibling. And although it's a compromised experience, three not six degrees of freedom positional tracking for instance, its one of the first examples we've seen of a step between mobile VR and the current high-end VR headsets.
What does this mean for the current Rift?
Well, while the Oculus Go will offer VR fans a way to get into the space at a reasonable rate, the current iteration of the Rift has also now received a permanent price drop.
The company flirted with the premise through summer sales, but this is now marked at $399, double the price of the Go. It's currently unclear what this means for the future of the device, but it wouldn't be a surprise if this ended up providing a mid-point between Go and Santa Cruz. Or, you know, perhaps it winds up being scrapped altogether.
Oculus isn't the only company ditching wires, right?
Correct. While Oculus is making waves with its announcements, it's still facing competition. Its main rival in the high-end market, Vive, has already teased the standalone HTC Vive Focus. Plus Valve has developed new custom lenses to improve clarity and sharpness for VR headsets.
And while this could wind up being the same Daydream headset Google and HTC are working on, it could also just as easily be a budget rival to the Oculus Go. Even startups like Pimax are bumping up the specs and providing wireless, while PlayStation VR recently received a design tweak in order to streamline its own wire situation.
And... Windows, what about that stuff?
The only other big-name competition comes from the Windows Mixed Reality range. However, despite even the Samsung Odyssey now joining the likes of Asus, Lenovo and Dell, this is still a platform that brings wires and requires a PC. It's not next-level VR in the way Oculus and Valve/HTC are presenting it, but it should still gain traction.
So, you're saying Oculus is well placed?
Right now, yes. It's the first of the major players to show us something, in Santa Cruz, that could be a truly innovative step from the current generation. Oculus told us back in July that standlone VR needs a few years to catch up to standalone VR.
It's not entirely clear what Valve and HTC are cooking up. A year from now, we could see something that throws Santa Cruz off its perch. Plus, Oculus could really do without any more cringeworthy Zuckerberg stunts - yikes.