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Facebook has unveiled the Oculus Rift S, a new virtual reality headset for the PC that represents a major upgrade to its 2016 product, the Oculus Rift.
Nate Mitchell, the head of virtual reality products and cofounder of Facebook’s Oculus division, said in an interview with GamesBeat at the Game Developers Conference 2019 that the company will launch the Rift S soon for $400.
In the meantime, the company is on track to launch its Oculus Quest wireless VR headset this spring.
Both products are appealing, and Oculus showed off a bunch of VR games for both systems. Each system has the improved Oculus Insight, or inside-out tracking, which gets rid of the external sensors and instead mounts camera sensors on the headset itself.
This new form of tracking led Oculus to create new Touch controllers with different shapes to reflect the new sensors. And both have high-quality controllers with six degrees of freedom (6DoF), compared to 3DoF for the lower-priced Oculus Go, which has a little remote control as its main control mechanism.
The Oculus Quest is more casual, with sports games like Sports Scramble, where you can play tennis with wacky rackets. It is wireless, and its computing is contained within the headset, based on a Qualcomm 835 Snapdragon chip. The Quest will have 50 titles at launch, while the Oculus Rift S will be able to run more than 1,000 titles available on the Rift.
The Oculus Rift S is more of a heavy-hitter. It connects via a single wire to the PC, and it can tap the computing power of your computer. It has higher resolution, with better lenses, and a redesigned, more ergonomic head strap created in partnership with Lenovo, Mitchell said.
The Rift S has more accurate tracking, with five cameras on the headset that detect where your body and hands are. Gone are the sensors that had to be set up in a room to track your movements. It has a higher resolution, redesigned controllers, improved lenses, better ergonomics, and an easier setup process with “passthrough” vision, which lets you see the environment around you without requiring you to take off a headset.
“Three years ago, we prepared to launch the Rift, and VR has come a long way since then,” Mitchell said. “We believe the Quest will be an inflection point for the Rift. But the PC is a critical ecosystem and it is an incredibly successful platform. The Oculus Rift S builds on what we learned from the Rift.”
The Rift S will have a higher resolution of 1280 x 1440 per eye, and it has less of a screen-door effect, or the grid-like lines that appear to be like you are looking at something through a screen door. It has 360-degree tracking of the Touch controllers.
It also has passthrough vision, which means you can see the outside world through the camera lenses while still wearing the headset. You can use this passthrough vision to draw lines that will set the borders of your movement with the Rift. That makes for a much easier setup routine as you move the Rift S from one room to another. You look through the passthrough mode and use the controller to draw lines that you can’t cross, lest you hit your furniture.
“There is a lot of exciting stuff here we have been working on for a long time,” Mitchell said.
“The first one had a lot of plugs and wires, and it was not very convenient,” said Jason Rubin, vice president of AR/VR partnerships and content at Facebook, in a press briefing. “Standalone was great with the Oculus Go, but 3DoF is not what gamers want. They want 6DoF.”
(Rubin will be speaking at our GamesBeat Summit 2019 event in Los Angeles on April 23-24).
Players will be able to cross play titles on the Rift S and the Quest. If you also bought a title for the Rift, it will run on the Rift S.
Rubin showed a number of titles for the Rift S and Quest, including Journey of the Gods from Turtle Rock, Sports Scramble, Dead & Buried II, Beat Saber, Vacation Simulator, Stormland, Shadow Point, and Asgard’s Wrath.
“Our goal is to grow the ecosystem,” Rubin said. “These products are imminent.”
Rubin said that Facebook experimented with making a wireless Rift, but it concluded that the technology wasn’t ready yet. As for the name of the system, the Oculus team decided not to call the new system the Oculus Rift 2 because it didn’t think that it made enough of a leap in terms of the upgraded tech.
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