Oculus is moving forward with its VR platform, showing off new hardware, software, developer tools, and more at Oculus Connect 4. If you missed the keynote speech, we've put together a list of all the big announcements that are making waves in the VR world.
The first big announcement we saw this morning is a new, standalone VR system, called Oculus Go. The Go is aimed for a "sweet spot" between mobile VR and PC VR, both in technology and price, which is set at $199.
Oculus Go is designed to be as lightweight as possible, and it also sports a new mesh foam interface that ups the comfort level of current hardware. To cut down on weight, there are no visible headphones, like on the Oculus Rift. Instead, a spatial audio experience is built into the headset. If you'd rather go with standard headphones, there is a 3.5mm jack.
This headset will apparently offer the best visual clarity so far seen in VR, thanks to second-generation lenses and a WQHD LCD fast-switch display that offers a higher fill-factor than OLED. That means less screen-door effect and less glare.
A controller made an appearance alongside the headset, and indeed it will work the same way as the current Gear VR controller. Developers creating apps for Gear VR will also be creating apps for Oculus Go (and vice versa), and many of the Gear VR's best apps will be available for the Oculus Go from day one. The Oculus Go controller will use three degrees of freedom (DoF), which the headset will also use. To put that into perspective, the Oculus Rift employs six DoF.
An exact launch date has yet to be set, and we're currently looking at early 2018. As for developer kits, they will start shipping out November 2017.
Project Santa Cruz
Project Santa Cruz, which is Oculus' solution to wireless Rift, has made some interesting progress since last year. We were shown brand new controller with six degrees of freedom that are tracked by four sensors on the front of the Santa Cruz headset.
Most of the features that made Oculus Touch successful have been carried over, but there are some changes. The rings, which hold the infrared LEDs that make tracking possible, are now flipped around so that they point up rather than down. The joystick has also been removed, and a flat touchpad — much like that found on the Vive's wands — is now in place.
Developer kits that include these new controllers will begin shipping sometime next year.
Oculus Rift gets a new permanent price
The previous price for an Oculus Rift and Touch bundle was a respectable $499, but that's about to drop another $100.
That means you can get the head-mounted display, Touch controllers, and two sensors for a total price of $399. That's not bad at all, considering the HTC Vive is still set at $599.
Rift Core 2.0
Oculus is planning a huge software overhaul with Rift Core 2.0, which will be available to all Rift users December 2017. Two major redesigns are happening within Rift Core 2.0, the first of which is called Oculus Dash.
This new UI has been designed from the ground up for Oculus Touch, with a wide scrolling bar at the bottom containing all your apps, as well as windows above for smooth integration. Dash runs as a 3D overlay with whatever it is you're running in your Rift. The example given on stage is that you can pin a music video from YouTube into the corner of your screen while you play Elite: Dangerous with your friends.
You'll be able to quickly switch between apps from the Dash menu, and you can even bring your desktop apps into VR thanks to hardware integration from NVIDIA and AMD. That means you can have as many monitors as you'd like in front of you, and Oculus states that they'd like to one day completely replace physical monitors.
The other big announcement to do with Rift Core 2.0 is a redesigned Oculus Home. You're now going to be able to completely customize your space, with furniture, toys, and even art. Your Touch controllers can be used to move stuff around, and you can even launch VR games by placing old school cartridges into a console.
Home's lighting and shadows have also been improved, giving the world a more natural feel. If you happen to create a particularly beautiful space, it can be shared with friends. You'll be able to visit each other's spaces, and, if your friend isn't around, you can leave a note for the next time they sign in.
Coming early 2018, an update to Oculus Avatars is going to make them much more personal. There will be many more ways to customize hair, face, and clothing; in fact, the update will come with trillions of different permutations. On the dev side, they'll be able to create custom avatar clothing and accessories available for unlocking in-game.
Also coming in 2018 are updates to real-time mouth movement and eye movement, creating a much more lifelike avatar. If that wasn't enough, Oculus Avatars will be able to travel over to other platforms, like SteamVR and Daydream.
The Oculus Store was one of the only places that VR enthusiasts could find new content, but not anymore. Explore, available now, has been added to the Gear VR as a way to find new, exciting apps and experiences. It caters to each individual user's interests, and developers and publishers will be able to send out content to their fans for easy communication. Explore is also coming to Oculus Rift in 2018.
Facebook Spaces, which came out for Rift closer to the start of 2017, was created to allow friends to hang out in VR. Oculus is expanding on Facebook Spaces with a few additions to make your experience that much more fun; they're also soon expanding Facebook Spaces to more platforms. First, they're adding Kits to the mix, which are user-created collections of costume pieces, board-game parts, and pretty much anything else you can find.
Also coming is something called Quillistrations, which enables users to bring their Quill creations right into Facebook Spaces.
Finally, it's not going to much easier for us to share our VR experiences with our friends. You'll soon be able to stream live, 360-degree video straight to Facebook, allowing your friends to be with you no matter where they really are. If you're using Medium or the markers in Facebook Spaces, you can now also post 3D objects to your Facebook feed.
What do you think?
What are your impressions of today's keynote speech? Are you optimistic about the future of Oculus and VR? Let us know in the comments section!
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