On Thursday, Oculus, the Facebook-owned VR pioneer, held a widely publicized press conference prior to pitching its tent at E3 in LA next week.
There has been a constant drip-feed of information about the consumer-ready version of Rift’s headset over the past several months – required PC specs (high), likely release date (1Q16), acquisitions, hires, etc. This event shed more light on the actual headset design, the game titles in development, a partnership with Microsoft to bundle an Xbox One controller and adapter with the headset, and, most intriguingly, a new pair of hand “worn” VR controllers called Oculus Touch.
Still missing from this picture, however, are concrete details of exactly when the devices will ship, to which markets, and at what price. We’ll probably know a lot more about both Rift and the rival VR platforms by the end of June.
The VR hardware market is evolving in two distinct directions:
Mobile VR headsets. These are low-end, self-contained, smartphone-based headsets (Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, etc.) that will cost between $25–200 plus a compatible phone. They will excel at VR video and other applications that don’t require true freedom of movement or extensive frame-rates or rendering. They are already on the market (along with dozens of Kickstarter-funded VR smartphone mounts) and doing OK.
Tethered high-end VR headsets. This includes high-end PC / console powered headsets like Rift, the Vive headset, or Sony’s Morpheus. These look as though they will largely come out in 1Q16 and focus on the more complex worlds of gaming first (in addition to coping easily with the video apps from the low-end VR devices).
Because of the gaming focus of the second group of headsets, expect major players to announce plans, game titles, and (maybe) pricing during the course of E3 next week. We may even get more details from Oculus if Sony or HTC start quoting prices and shipping dates.
And that’s just focusing on the hardware vendors, a large number of firms (that have been playing with Rift development kits for some time) will also be at E3 pitching their games for high-end and maybe even low-end VR systems.
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