Oculus Rift release date, price and system requirements: Oculus overtakes HTC in key market

Steam Hardware Survey indicates that the Rift has surpassed the Vive

Previous news

30/10/2017: Virtual reality headsets could pose significant health risks to users, particularly children, unless changes are made to the way the technology is developed.

That's according to new research from Leeds University scientists, who have carried out what is considered to be one of the first investigations into the long-term health impact of virtual reality headsets.

"The problems come when the normal relationship between the perceptual information and the corresponding action is disrupted," said Mark Mon-Williams, professor of cognitive psychology at Leeds University, in a blog post.

"One way of thinking about such disruption is that a mismatch between perception and action causes 'surprise'. It turns out that surprise is really important for human learning and the human brain appears to be engineered to minimise surprise."

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He added that if there is a mismatch between the visual information and the hand movements within a VR experience, this 'surprise' occurs, forcing the brain to adapt.

"The issue is that the process of adaptation may cause difficulties - and these difficulties might be particularly problematic for children as their brains are not fully developed," added Mon-Williams.

The study, which was first reported by the Guardian, monitored 20 children aged between eight and 12 as they played a game using a virtual reality headset. While no children were found to have had eyesight deterioration, there were two examples of reduced stereo-acuity, or their ability to judge the distances of objects, and one example of a child having drastically reduced balance after removing the headset.

The research comes at a time when technology companies are looking to bring virtual reality to the mass market, outside of its use within gaming.

Google, Microsoft and Samsung have already developed their own VR technologies, and social media companies are pushing for interactive video content, while filmmakers are using VR to create 360-degree movie experiences.

However, the study warns that technology companies need to understand the long-term health impact of prolonged VR use and work to counter issues such as nausea or headaches as a priority.

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"It may turn out that the human brain can adapt to these unnatural pressures without any long-term problems," said Mon-Williams. "But it's also possible that these pressures may cause long-term difficulties. These issues are of particular concern in young children who may be more susceptible to disruptive pressures owing to their developing brains."

12/10/2017: Oculus unveils VR business bundle

Businesses can now step into the world of VR with an Oculus Rift package for $900.

The Oculus for Business bundle is the first time that the Rift will be sold specifically for commercial use and is intended to make it easy for companies to use VR by providing them with all the necessary tools.

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The business bundle, which costs $900, will include the headset, touch controllers, three sensors, a remote and three Rift Fits. Along with the hardware, Oculus is also including a commercial warranty, a commercial licence, and "preferential customer service" in the business bundle to help make the transition into VR even easier.

The company website highlights key features of the device such as its easy setup and the fact it's comfortable to wear, saying it could be used for training and education.

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"VR enhances everything from training and education to marketing, product development, and data visualisation helping you strengthen relationships, tell stories more effectively, and foster business growth," the company said.  

The bundle is available for order through the Oculus website.

15/08/2017:  Oculus launcher now supports Steam VR games

The launcher software that powers the Oculus Rift has become much more versatile, after an update that should make accessing all your VR content much easier.

The updated Oculus launcher software now includes the ability to launch any Oculus-compatible content on your PC, not just games and experiences that have been downloaded through Oculus' own storefront.

That includes Oculus-compatible games bought through Valve's digital distribution platform Steam, as well as any other source. Note that the games will have to be specifically compatible with Oculus Rift, rather than VR in general - so titles exclusive to the HTC Vive are still off-limits.

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The update also adds a new feature for supporting multiplayer parties, allowing up to four Oculus Rift owners to chat across different apps. This means that you won't have to be playing the same game as your friends in order to carry on a conversation.

Oculus apps will also feature detailed release notes that can be viewed within the library, as part of the update, with several bug fixes also introduced. The update begins rolling out to users today.

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21/07/2017: Oculus exec Jason Rubin has said that lowering the price of the company's Rift headset is crucial for VR's success, stating that the company's ecosystem is now reaching a level of maturity that will help drive mass adoption.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Price matters. Lowering the price point of high-end VR hardware is a win for consumers, a win for developers, and a win for the industry as a whole," he wrote as part of a blog post.

"As PC and component prices continue to drop, VR will become increasingly affordable, attracting even more people to the highest-end experiences that VR has to offer."

As part of its 'Summer of Rift' sale, Oculus has slashed the price of its Rift and Touch bundle, which also includes six games. The bundle is available for just 399 during the sale.

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The platform has been experiencing some success, with multiple titles surpassing $1 million in sales, and players racking up a combined total of 1.3 million hours in the top five Oculus apps.

Rubin highlighted some of the platform's major recent releases, such as Echo Arena, Lone Echo and Marvel Powers United VR, as well as promising more flagship titles for 2018 which will be unveiled over the course of this year.

"With Summer of Rift bringing more people to the community, we look forward to fuller lobbies and more multiplayer magic," Rubin said. "VR shines when you're sharing a virtual space with other people. We now have many titles that are delivering on the social promise, and we'll continue to invest in that space."

14/07/2017: Facebook is reportedly developing a budget version of its Oculus Rift headset, in an effort to push the technology into the mass market with a more appealing price point.

The company appears to recognise the current problem with virtual reality technology, namely that the pricing options are far too restrictive. At 400+, headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are expensive products on their own, even before the necessary purchase of a 1,000 PC to run them. Even cheaper products, such as Samsung's Gear VR, require you own a top of the line Samsung device.

Facebook's cheaper headset is expected to be priced around $200, but will not need to be hooked up to, or bundled with, a PC or mobile device, significantly cutting down on the overall cost of the tech.

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The project, codenamed 'Pacific' according to Bloomberg sources, will attempt to produce the same interactive gaming experience of the current Oculus Rift, although the device will be a more compact version. It's hoped the tech will act as its own media hub, rather than an extended display.

It's expected to be based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processing chips, with power that's somewhere between Samsung's Gear VR, and the high-end Rift. Sources suggest it will feature a similar interface to the Gear VR, with support for a wireless remote.

Facebook expects to begin briefings with video game designers and content creators by October, according to one source, with an expected shipping date of sometime in 2018.

Despite recent price drops, the Oculus Rift has remained an expensive device that has prevented it from gaining mass market appeal. A recent market analysis by tracking firm Superdata put Rift purchases at 383,000, compared with the similarly priced HTC Vive at 667,000 units. However, Samsung's Gear VR, with its relatively cheap initial buy in, is leading the way with around 22% of the VR market.

10/07/2017: Oculus cuts price of VR set to $399

Oculus is temporarily cutting the price of its hardware to $399 as the industry puzzles over why its technology has not taken off among customers.

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Oculus announced in a blog post that it is cutting the price of the Rift headset and Touch controllers to $399 for six weeks, starting today. This matches the price of the PlayStation VR set made by Sony and is cheaper than the HTC Vive at $799.

The post explains that the offer is part of a "Summer of Rift" deals designed to encourage more people to buy Oculus products.

In an interview with Reuters, VP for content Jason Rubin said that the company wanted to cut the price sooner but wanted to wait until there was enough content to keep a broad audience busy, not because it's a sign of weak product sales.

He said: "We're now in a space where the mass market can be much happier".

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In March the Facebook-owned company reduced the price of its headset by $100. Oculus VP of product Nate Mitchell said back then that this year there was a focus on bringing more people into VR. He added that the cheaper price "should let even more folks who've been waiting to get into VR to jump in".

29/06/2017: Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has reportedly donated $2,000 toward the development of a workaround that allows Rift games to be played on the HTC Vive.

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Luckey, who left the Facebook-owned Oculus VR back in March, pledged the cash to CrossVR's Patreon campaign, which is being used to fund the on-going development of ReVive. The hack allows HTC Vive owners to play Rift exclusive titles that otherwise would not appear on the Steam store page.

Jules Blok, creator of the ReVive project, thanked Luckey for his donation in a message on his Patreon page, which almost covers their entire monthly pledge goal after taxes and a website cut is taken. At the time of writing, the project has raised $1,976 of its $2,000 goal.

The donation, which was first spotted by UploadVR, is a little unexpected given that Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014, initially shot down the project back in April 2016, ultimately blocking the software just as ReVive was beginning to gain popularity.

A statement at the time read: "This is a hack, and we don't condone it. Users should expect that hacked games won't work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software."

It's unclear what this donation is supposed to signify, and there is no sign as to whether this will turn into recurring support. It may simply be that Luckey is choosing to back a technology that he has spent his career trying to pioneer.

He left Facebook after it lost a $500 million lawsuit to ZeniMax, which claims Oculus's device relied on ZeniMax IP developed by legendary game deveoper John Carmack while at the company (he later moved to Oculus), and after being discovered to have donated to a pro-Donald Trump trolling campaign. Facebook said at the time that Luckey would be "dearly missed".

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25/05/2017: Oculus's first employee just quit

Oculus' first ever employee has announced he's leaving the company, saying he's been presented with a unique opportunity at a startup - which is something he really wants to do.

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Chris Dycus started as an engineer at Oculus in 2012, when his friend and co-founder of the company Palmer Luckey decided it needed to bring onboard staff. He was instrumental in the development of the Oculus VR headset and helped the company sell to Facebook for $2 billion back in 2016, just four years after it launched.

"Chris Dycus, employee number 1, out," Dycus wrote in his parting statement in a Facebook post. "I am a little disappointed I won't make it to my 5 year Oculus anniversary only 2.5 months away! Oh well."

Dycus' new role will be based in Southern California (SoCal), but he wouldn't say which particular company he would be joining, nor what his role will be.

There are still lots of Oculus' original staff at the company, including Nate Mitchell, Michael Antonov, and Brendan Iribe, suggesting it can't be all that bad working for Facebook rather than Oculus. Luckey left last year amid political controversy around the US election.

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17/05/2017: ZeniMax, the game publisher that successfully sued Facebook Oculus for $500 million, has now turned its sights on Samsung's Gear VR.

The move is unsurprising, given that Samsung's virtual reality headset was built using Oculus software - it now appears that ZeniMax has come to collect.

The filing below, made to a court in Texas last Friday and initially reported by Polygon, is an extension of the original lawsuit against Oculus and repeatedly cites that initial victory, in which "the resulting verdict established that the Oculus VR software is tainted by Oculus's violations".

It also argues that "Samsung knows, or reasonably should know, that the Samsung Gear VR is based upon ZeniMax's intellectual property", and that as a result is in breach of those same non-disclosure agreements.

Given that there was no indication of any wrong doing at the time of development, it stands to reason that Samsung did not obtain any licensing agreements from ZeniMax, however the filing argues that the "ongoing use of ZeniMax's intellectual property amounts to a knowing and continuing misappropriation".

ZeniMax is now seeking damages, as well as lost profits from the sale of Gear VR units and cover for lawyer and court fees.

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In the initial case against Oculus, a jury determined that Oculus used ZeniMax codes to launch the Rift VR headset, obtained by former ZeniMax employee and Oculus CTO John Carmack. As a result the company was forced to pay $500 million of the original $2 billion demanded by ZeniMax.

Carmack is currently counter suing over the sale of his company id Software to ZeniMax in 2009, in which claims that he is still owed $22.5 million.

Zenimax v Samsung by Brian Crecente on Scribd

Next up is The Unspoken, a game by legendary developer Insomniac Games which involves "an urban magic fight club". Use the Oculus Touch controllers to fling fireballs at foes, summon mystical allies, and more.

Lastly, there's point-and-click adventure Wilson's Heart. This stylish noir tale features the vocal talents of luminaries such as Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina and Michael B. Jordan, tasking the player with solving an unsettling mystery in an abandoned hospital.

At face value, the three games are worth more than 70 in total, making this bundle an excellent deal for anyone who was already thinking about investing in a new GPU and a Rift.

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