Do You Need an Oculus Rift?

The long-awaited VR headset goes on sale today

By The Editors
January 6, 2016 9:00 am

From Tron to Star Trek to The Lawnmower Man, man has been dreaming up versions of virtual reality for decades.

Hell, the Oculus Rift — supposed forerunner in the great VR race — was hacked together all the way back in 2011. But it’s taken until today to get it from prototype to reality.

And we do mean today. The Rift starts taking preorders at 11 a.m. EST.

Will it be a gamechanger? Will it change more than games? Is it actually worth all the hype?

We have answers.

Real ones.

Remind me what “Oculus Rift” is again? An immersive, head-mounted virtual reality headset that allows for 360-degree views and (in some cases) simulated three-dimensionality. Originally no more than a conceptual Kickstarter success story, it was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion before being first unveiled to consumers all the way back in June.

What’s new? It’s a slimmer, less bulky headset from the developer models that have already been in circulation. And it’s wrapped in a more comfortable fabric. Basically, it’s become “more of a gadget and less of a bondage toy.”

What do people look like wearing them? A bit goofy. Just ask musician Ryan Hemsworth, who uses one in his new music video.

When can I order one? Preorders begin today, Wednesday, January 6th, at 11 a.m. EST. Ships March 26, only one per customer. 

What are the specs? Digital Trends did a breakdown: two OLED displays with a combined 2160 x 1200 pixel resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. As for sensors, it includes a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a magnetometer and a constellation array. Plus, integrated headphones. The distance between the eyes is set to 64 mm, though that can be adjusted.

Will VR make me dizzy or sick? Not as much as it used to.

What will it cost? They haven’t gone public with that yet, but expect it to be above the $350 (update: it’s $599) that the developer kit costs. According to Quartz, it will also require a high-end desktop computer with high-definition video game graphics — which start at about $1,000 — along with video game controllers to play games (good news: a wireless Xbox One gamepad comes with every Rift). And original backers of the Rift on Kickstarter will get theirs free.

What’s can I do with it right now? A couple of games, like the first-person space shooter EVE: Valkyrie and the platform game Lucky’s Tale, will be bundled with preorders. A full list of available games can be found here. Plus, you’ll be able to stream games from Xbox One and a computer with Windows 10 programs.

What’s next? A handheld sensor called the Oculus Touch, out sometime later this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lucasfilm is supposedly working on 5-10 minute short VR films for the system. And some cool third-party stuff: A controller for your feet. A treadmill add-on. Its most well-known competitor — Samsung Gear — already announced dedicated apps from Netflix, Hulu and Twitch for their VR system, so expect those companies to ink deals with Oculus as well.

Besides games and movies, what will Rift be used for? It could keep astronauts sane on long journeys. And Mark Zuckerberg says he wants his house to run like Jarvis from Iron Man utilizing Oculus as the source … so expect some home integration at some point. Immersive tours and trailers could be a big thing: HBO already debuted a Rift-friendly tour of Westeros for a Game of Thrones promotion last year. This week at CES, 20th Century Fox is debuting a multimillion-dollar VR experience for The Martian. And PC World postulates that the Rift, and VR in general, could do wonders in the medical world or with skill training (e.g., pilots).

Who are the competitors? HTC has the Vive Pre, expected to launch early this year for preorder (and showcasing at CES). Google Cardboard is kind of a mobile/cheap/DIY way to get VR. Sony also has plans for a VR headset to work with its Playstation 4. And as mentioned, there’s Samsung’s Gear VR, which utilizes a smartphone, costs $99 and is produced, oddly enough, by Oculus.

Do I need one? For now, only if you’re an early adopter. Or an investor. Virtual reality will supposedly generate about $540 million in revenue this year, up 440% from 2015.

Where can I get more info? You can talk to Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey today on Reddit, where he’s hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) at 9 P.M. EST.

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