Oculus VR confirm: consumer headset to ship Q1 2016

On Wednesday, May 6th, Oculus VR confirmed the consumer version of their headset will commencing shipping in the first quarter of 2016, with pre-ordering due to start later in 2015.

  The news broke via a press release from Oculus VR, and Tweets from Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey, and the company’s Vice President of Product  Nate Mitchell (shown on the right).

The announcement ends months of speculation on when the consumer version of the headset might be available, with many originally predicting it would be ready for Christmas 2014 and then Christmas 2015. Despite such speculation, Oculus VR has always carefully avoided mentioning any approximate idea release dates. As I reported in these pages, even as recently as November 2014, Oculus VR Brendan Iribe was playing down any idea of any (then) near-term release of the headset:

We want to get it right. We really do. We’ve gone out there and we’ve set this bar and said, “we are going to get it right, and we’re not going to ship until we get it right” … We’re getting very close … We want it to be a beautiful product; there’s no reason it can’t be a beautiful product … so we still have a way to go, and we’re still working on a number of things, but we’re getting much closer. We like to say it’s months, not necessarily years, away [but] it’s many months, not a few months.

Click for full size

That something might be afoot by way of announcements was initially hinted at in a May 5th Tweet in which Palmer Luckey commented I love it when a plan comes together!

This brought an inevitable run of replies, many seeing it as a hint about the Oculus CV1 (as the consumer version of the headset has sometimes been referred to), including the humorous response seen on the right regarding the headset’s form factor.

Details of the headset are rather scant in the announcement and the images a little on the dark side (I’ve lightened the contrast on them below), with the release merely stating:

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 a highly refined industrial design, and updated ergonomics for a more natural fit.

No details on pricing or quite when in 2015 people will be able to start pre-ordering the headset, and there are certainly no details on the technical aspects of the headset. However, one potentially interesting aspect of the announcement has already sparked some speculation, as it refers to the upcoming release as, “a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality”. This has prompted Techcrunch to comment:

There’s no mention of a third-party computer necessary to power the Rift, which previous Oculus developer kits required. That means the Rift might ship with a game console-esque device to handle computing for the headset. An all-in-one box could make virtual reality much more accessible to consumers, especially those who don’t own a high-grade gaming PC.

A front view of the Oculus consumer version (courtesy of Oculus VR)
A front view of the Oculus consumer version (courtesy of Oculus VR)

In terms of specification, the announcement was equally enigmatic, stating, “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”, with the last part of this statement leading Techcrunch to also speculate whether Oculus VR might also announce a line of in-house developed games to go with the launch.

Given the backgrounds of many of those involved in the company, such an idea might not be wild speculation. As it is, it is already known that Oculus VR is helping to develop immersive movie experiences. Furthermore, in February 2015 it was confirmed that Facebook is developing VR apps, with Chief Product Officer Chris Cox saying that experiences as varied as flying a fighter jet to sitting in a Mongolian yurt would serve as inspiration, and describing the technology as “sending a fuller picture … You’ll do it, Beyoncé will do it”. Ergo, Oculus VR-branded games are not beyond the realm of possibly.

What the announcement does more-or-less mean is that unless something unexpected happens, the Oculus Rift will definitely be available after HTC / Valve have started shipping their own Vive headset, which looks set to hit the market around the same time as Samsung’s  (Oculus-enabled) Gear VR2, towards the end of 2015.

A view from under the Oculus consumer version (courtesy of Oculus VR)
A view from under the Oculus consumer version (courtesy of Oculus VR)

While there has been a lot of hype about the possible demand for what is effectively a first generation headset from Oculus VR, there have also been some notes of caution sounded in some quarters. As gamesindustry.biz notes, Ben Schachter, a Macquarie Research analyst wrote to Facebook investors, stating:

While there is not yet any info on pricing or available units, we expect relatively small number of units and think that the initial device will be supply constrained. We think that the early versions of the device will be more about showing what is possible from gaming and other entertainment genres, and build demand for later versions of the device.

Mr. Schachter isn’t alone. While price may no longer be a limiting factor in obtaining a headset, Jacki Morie, herself a VR pioneer (and whose work has been featured in this blog a number of times) recently warned that care should be taken in how the potential for VR is promoted, in particular pointing to things like an Oculus VR sponsored art contest as a means to send out completely the wrong message about VR to a wider mass market audience and potentially damaging the technology’s credibility as a useful tool.

I actually doubt the wheels will seriously come off the cart with VR this time around, bad marketing campaigns and the like notwithstanding, although Jacki clearly has a point about getting the right message out there in the first place. However, I do tend to think that Mr. Schachter’s comment about the build-up of demand is well put. VR will profoundly alter many ways of doing things for all of us in time; but the the speculation and hype that will not follow Oculus VR’s announcement aside, it’s still going to be a few years or so before we see VR as being as ubiquitous a piece of technology in our daily lives as we do the mobile ‘phone today.

Advertisements

Witnessing Molly’s Brain-Gasm

Brain-Gasm
Brain-Gasm (click any image for full size)

Now open at The Living Room, the art and music space curated and managed by Owl Dragonash and Daallee, is the latest exhibition of Molly Bloom’s remarkable 3D art.

Created  entirely within Second Life, with minimal additional post-processing, Molly’s work  is beautifully intriguing because with it, she plays with our perception of depth. For Brain-Gasm, The Living Room’s gallery space has been dressed as a schoolroom, which Molly uses to frame an invitation for people to share in her special moments of creation.

“Brain-gasms come from everywhere, a visual, a smell, the sound of a song or an emotion.   Sometimes the effect is fleeting, and sometimes you find yourself with the overwhelming need to express,” Molly notes in discussing the exhibit. “Creativity flows, and not just in the traditional arts, but maybe cooking an extraordinary meal, creating an astounding business deal, or the perfect computer program.   If you are lucky to have a fulfilling outlet, your expression becomes tangible.

“Often an artist expresses themselves in a much deeper raw form than the onlooker can even understand, drawing you into their ‘gasm’,” she continues, “trying to turn you on as much as they were.  Each and every gasm is not only a personal learning experience but also invites onlookers to learn about the artist.”

Brain-Gasm
Brain-Gasm

The pieces represent a mix of individual and paired works (Molly often creates duet and triple pieces); and I was delighted to see Cops and Robbers among those selected for this exhibition. This captivated me when I first saw it in 2014, and it was the springboard for my appreciation of her work.  Also at Brain-Gasm, I was strongly drawn to Political Prisoner (below, left), and the deeply compelling The Survivor (seen in the image at the top of this piece).

As I’ve said in the past, and will doubtless say so again in the future, Molly Bloom is one of the most engaging and engrossing artists working in the photographic medium in Second Life. If you’ve not seen her work before, Brain-Gasm offers you the chance for an introduction, and shouldn’t be missed.

Brain-Gasm
Brain-Gasm

Other events occurring at The Living Room this month are (all times SLT):

  • Thursday, May 14th – music with:
    • 17:00 – Bat Masters
    • 18:00 – Blindboink Parham
  • Tuesday, May 26th – Molly Bloom exhibit closes, with music by Bronze

Related Links

Meandering through Miyagi

Miyagi; Inara Pey, May 2015, on Flickr Miyagi (General) May 2015 (Flickr) – click any image for full size

It’s Honour’s fault. But then it always is, isn’t it? 😉 .

She recently posted about an oriental region called Miyagi. As regulars here know, anything involving an oriental feel tends to pique my interest. Then Honour mentioned something about racing cars as well, and as I’m currently having Formula 1 withdrawals (hey, three weeks between races this time!), so I had to go take a look…

Miyagi is truly a place with two different faces to present to the world – and with a few secrets waiting to be found as well, making it the ideal place for gentle (in an adrenalin-fuelled way) explorations.

The first face Miyagi offers the world, for those unfamiliar with it at least, is that of a rural Japanese setting with paved footpaths mixing with shrines, little houses, bamboo walks, a castle and even its own Yumedono (hall of dreams). Away from the arrival point with its modern commercial premises and teleport board (which reveals some of Miyagi’s other face), this is an almost tranquil setting. You can wander the footpaths, visits the shrines, wander over bridges crossing the waterways which divide the land and find plenty of opportunities for taking photos.  make your way across the region, beyond the castle, and you can climb torii-spanned steps leading up to a mountain-top shrine.

Miyagi; Inara Pey, May 2015, on Flickr Miyagi (General), May 2015 (Flickr)

In fact, so picturesque is the the place, it’s easy to forget there’s more here than meets the eye. As noted above, the teleport board gives some of it away – you can use it to reach a number of skyborne raceways – rezzing is permitted, so you can try them for yourself. Or you can test your skills at simball (that’s a kind of full contact football played on hoverboards, for want of a better description), although you will need at least one other player for this to work. The teleport board will also give you access to the local nightclub, Gao (after all every racing driver likes to let-off steam).

But this is far from all Miyagi has to offer. Explore carefully enough, and you might find your way to the river boat tour which will take singles and couples on a ride around and through the region, revealing things you might otherwise miss. Further afield lies a path leading up to an onsen sitting over a lava flow – bringing a whole new meaning to the term hot springs. Higher still, on another peak, sits the hang gliding and bungee jumping platforms (the latter with some delightful animations”) – although you may need a little time to find the elevator up to them! Even the castle offers a rope slide of its own, while closer to the arrival point, there are opportunities to fly a hot air balloon or a wooden helicopter!

Miyagi; Inara Pey, May 2015, on Flickr Miyagi (General), May 2015 (Flickr)

And the secrets of Miyagi? Well, not everything at ground level is at it seems. Take the little shrines scattered around the place, for example, or the kago you’ll find at the start of the path leading to the Miku shrine. Are they all that they seem? Perhaps you might want to open the doors and find out.

Should you feel particularly daring, look for the trap door in the floor of castle. it’ll reveal a rope ladder leading downwards to a subterranean maze, complete with several traps, hidden passages and more. Just be aware that there’s only one way out (teleporting doesn’t count 🙂 ), and you’ll need the code from a certain nice young lady stuck down there if you’re to get past the final barrier. Then you can take the train car back to safety – well, assuming you find the ladders back up to ground level! And if you find the ladders before going to the castle, do remember that without the code mentioned above, your journey underground will be kept a little short.

Miyagi is a place that manages to cram a lot into itself without feeling the slightest bit overcrowded. With places to wander, rides to enjoy, opportunities to sit and contemplate and the chance for some sporting fun all mixed with a little underground adventure, there is enough on offer to keep almost anyone happy during a visit. Keep an eye out, as well, for the Show Pub Puppet theatre (shows Saturdays / Sundays?) on neighbouring NonStop, where a music store can also be found.

Miyagi; Inara Pey, May 2015, on Flickr Miyagi (General), May 2015 (Flickr)