When news broke last week that Oculus cofounder Brendan Iribe was departing the company, the Facebook-owned VR headset maker was quick to claim that his departure hadn’t affected plans for a “future version of Rift,” its PC VR platform. Now that the dust has settled, the situation appears to be clear: The company is reportedly planning to release a modest followup to Rift known as “Rift S,” focused on simplifying rather than multiplying the prior Rift experience.
According to a TechCrunch report, Facebook chose to pass on Iribe’s completely redesigned Rift 2 concept “Caspar” in favor of a design that could have the Rift S name, mimicking Apple’s use of the “S” designation for an iterative rather than wholesale iPhone update. In addition to making Rift “more accessible” for PC users and not demanding the very latest PC hardware, the Rift S is expected to include “minor upgrades” to Rift’s display resolution and eliminate its external tracking in favor of the integrated camera-based “inside-out” tracking system developed for Oculus Quest.
Switching to an inside-out camera system will likely reduce the precision of Rift S’s tracking compared with Rift, but increase mobility. The change would enable Rift S to work with backpack PCs, rather than being tethered to and dependent upon the fixed external sensors used in the current Rift’s Constellation system. It would also explain part of Iribe’s reported angst over Oculus’ direction, which was claimed to be focusing on lowest common denominator solutions rather than higher-end technologies to push VR forward.
Oculus has publicly shown a number of potential improvements to Rift that might have made it into a Rift 2 headset, including a dramatically wider field of view, a new lens system with varifocal focusing abilities, and numerous software innovations. It’s unclear whether any of these features will appear in Rift S, which is now expected to launch as early as 2019.