Oculus Rift started as a breakout Kickstarter success, little more than an incredible demo involving sparks flying in a spaceship. But it evolved into something much more: Oculus VR became the face of the future of virtual reality. The company's eponymous headset has undergone a handful of revisions as it has simultaneously courted users and developers, promising an entirely new way to play games, watch movies, and ultimately interact with people both near and far. Yes, it involves strapping a huge object to your face that shields out the world around you, but it promised to be the true future of social interaction. We've seen the future of virtual reality with our own eyes.Though Oculus has yet to release a true consumer product, it's already found a willing buyer in Facebook, which acquired the company in March of 2014 for $2 billion. This, Mark Zuckerberg said, might be the future — and not just the future of video games.Facebook to acquire Oculus VR for $2 billion: 90 Seconds on The Verge
Below, you'll find the entire story of Oculus Rift, from its first public appearance through all of its development so far.
Jul 14Guess what I found in the Oculus VR lobby a decade ago?
The other day, Vjeran discovered we still have the original Oculus Rift dev kit I brought back from Oculus HQ ten years ago. It made me nostalgic, so I decided to spruce up my story about touring their early offices to fix a little linkrot.
Then, an old photo suddenly caught my eye.
No idea how long this was on display, but it had a seat of honor at the front desk. Oculus sold to Facebook one year later.
May 2, 2016
The Oculus Rift is coming to retail stores this weekend, and things just got a little more complicated for preorder customers. On May 7th, 48 Best Buy locations across the US will start offering demos of Oculus' virtual reality headset. The chains will also have an "extremely limited" supply of Rifts available for purchase, marking the headsets' first appearance in brick-and-mortar stores. For anyone who can't make it to Best Buy, a small number will also be going on sale online through Amazon and the Microsoft Store, starting at 12PM ET on May 6th.Read Article >
For the large number of people still waiting on their Rift preorders, there's at least a little hope of getting one right away: if they manage to grab one of the rare Rift retail units, they can contact Oculus and get their preorders canceled without losing any attendant benefits. This means they'll still get a free copy of space shooter EVE: Valkyrie, and they'll keep their place in line for Oculus' Touch motion controllers, which should go on sale later this year.
Apr 12, 2016
Oculus sent emails to Rift buyers in early April, informing them that filling orders was taking more time than expected and promising new estimates soon. Unsurprisingly, early adopters aren't happy. While there have been attempts to methodically reverse-engineer details that could reveal Oculus' shipping plans, there's not an obvious pattern to how long a given Rift is delayed. Some people have reported getting bumped from March to early May or even June, while others have reported getting May orders delayed only until June — which would make sense if Oculus is planning to have ramped up production by early summer. (For reference, I ordered a Rift about 20 minutes after preorders opened, got an April ship date, and have a new estimate of May 16th to 26th.) If you order a Rift right now, Oculus estimates an August arrival.Read Article >
We reached out to Oculus for details about the average delay that Rift customers can expect. We also asked how this affects people who bought Oculus Rift PC bundles, which opened for preorders separately. While a spokesperson didn't specifically comment on these questions, she offered an apology from Oculus.
Apr 2, 2016
Oculus won itself the distinction of launching its virtual reality headset first, but it hasn't been all smooth sailing. Even though Rift headsets officially started shipping on March 28th, many customers who preordered the $599 device have yet to receive any shipment updates. Today, Oculus admitted it's having issues getting Rifts out the door on time, with CEO Brendan Iribe posting on Twitter that the first batch was "going out slower than we orig[inally] estimated." In an email to customers, the company elaborated that "an unexpected component shortage" was to blame:Read Article >
To make up for the issues, Oculus said that it will be covering shipping and handling charges for all orders placed to-date. The company does note, however, that many have received their headsets without issue and on time.
Mar 30, 2016
The most defining moment in EVE: Valkyrie — and by extension the Oculus Rift itself — happens just before I play my first round. Strapped in and waiting to enter the fight, I calmly look around and appreciate every detail of my craft: disarmingly small and very utilitarian, built with a clear purpose in mind and every other expense spared. Then the track beneath me lights up, and I feel a real sense of speed as I shoot like a bullet into the vastness of space. Instantaneously, the micro becomes the macro, and I can’t help but feel a sense of insignificance to whatever towering structure is floating in front of me, and whatever nearby planet is obscuring the stars.Read Article >
It’s a powerful moment for virtual reality, one that repeats itself after every death as I respawn onto the battlefield. It’s a feeling that has yet to lose its luster, thankfully, because I find myself dying quite a lot. You will, too, probably.
The wait is over. This week, the first consumer Oculus Rift headsets are shipping. But having a VR headset is one thing; knowing what to do with it is another. At launch, Oculus’ store has more than three dozen games, shorts, and experiments, with prices ranging from about $5 to $60.Read Article >
Some games are brand new; some are flatscreen experiences that have been ported to VR. Buying everything would cost as much as the Rift itself, and frankly, not everything is worth your time. Here are some of our favorite Oculus experiences so far:
Mar 28, 2016Read Article >
For a long time, the hopes and dreams of many virtual reality fans could be summed up with two words: Oculus Rift. Helped by the rise of cheap smartphone displays, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey took a technology that most people considered a retro curiosity and convinced them that it could change the world. The Rift let you skydive without a parachute. It helped artists show the world through another person’s eyes. It simulated beheading. It put you in fictional settings that ranged from kaiju-fighting robots to Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.
Mar 16, 2016
Two weeks before Oculus launches its Rift virtual reality headset, we're learning what games people will be able to play on it, and how much they can expect to pay for the experience. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the company released the names and prices of 30 launch titles, one of them bundled with every order, that range from adapted Gear VR puzzle games to super-realistic simulators. It's possible that developers will submit more projects to the store before the Rift starts shipping on March 28th, Oculus head of studios Jason Rubin says, but below is a rough picture of what anyone who preorders the headset will have waiting for them.Read Article >
So far, there's no real "standard" price for an Oculus Rift game. The most expensive ones cost about the same as a big-budget non-VR game: Rift space flight games EVE: Valkyrie and Elite Dangerous will both sell for $59. Chronos, a role-playing game that Oculus has featured prominently, will cost $49, and so will a VR version of driving simulator Project CARS. Toward the middle of the scale, space exploration game Adrift is $19, and Escher-esque racing game Radial G costs about $25.
Feb 9, 2016
The Oculus Rift still isn't coming until the end of March, but Oculus has announced a preorder date for bundles that will include the company's VR headset and a PC that's certified to run it. On February 16th at 11AM ET, Amazon, the Microsoft Store, and Best Buy will all start accepting orders for "Oculus Ready" PC bundles from Asus, Dell, and gaming-focused Dell subsidiary Alienware. The bundles will start at $1,499 for "a limited time," with prices topping out at over $3,000.Read Article >
Jan 5, 2016
Oculus will be shipping a consumer version of its Rift VR headset to people who backed the original Kickstarter project in 2012. In a post this morning, the company announced a "Kickstarter Edition" of the Rift for any of the 9,522 original supporters who pledged enough for a development kit — by our count, around 7,500. Backers will get a survey from Kickstarter before February 1st; if their country isn't one of the 20 where the Rift is officially launching, Oculus is "working on an alternative." While the headsets won't look any different from normal Rifts, they'll be "among the first" to ship, and the box will be marked as a Kickstarter Edition. Like normal preorders, they'll come bundled with the games EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale.Read Article >
Correction: The Kickstarter Edition will ship to backers who pledged enough for a Rift, not all backers.
Jan 4, 2016
Oculus still hasn't announced a launch date for its Rift virtual reality headset, but now we know when preorders are opening: this Wednesday, January 6th, at 11AM ET. The news appeared in a blog post this morning, and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will answer more questions in a Reddit AMA on Wednesday at 9PM ET. Unfortunately, we also have no idea how much the Rift will cost — this is, effectively, an announcement of an announcement. An Oculus spokesperson has confirmed that pricing and ship date will be shared when preorders open.Read Article >
The consumer Rift headset's release window was first confirmed in mid-2015, when we learned it would ship in the first quarter of 2016. Luckey said a few weeks ago that preorders would open "soon after [the] new year." A motion controller called the Oculus Touch was originally supposed to follow the Rift in the first half of 2016, but that was recently delayed in order to focus on improving its ergonomics and tracking accuracy. At launch, the Rift will ship with an Xbox One controller.
Dec 10, 2015
Back in the very, very early days of the Oculus Rift headset, Oculus promised backers a bundled VR copy of Doom 3 BFG Edition — which at the time sounded like one of the single most awesome things to play in virtual reality. This did not pan out for a variety of reasons, including a fight between Oculus and the Doom franchise's owners and the fact that fast-moving shooters are possibly the single worst genre for VR. Over two years later, though, it's found a replacement: CCP's space dogfighting game EVE: Valkyrie, which will ship with all preorders of the Oculus Rift.Read Article >
To be clear, we still don't know when preorders will open. Or when precisely the Rift will be shipped, except that it'll be the first quarter of next year. Or how much the Rift will cost. Or how much VR games like Valkyrie will cost on their own. We also aren't totally sure what Valkyrie's full release plans are. The game was originally announced as an Oculus Rift exclusive (with an adorably optimistic 2014 release date), then expanded to Sony's Project Morpheus, now PlayStation VR; we haven't yet seen it on the HTC Vive. As of today, a statement says the game is "premiering on the Oculus platform," which suggests a timed exclusive — although the point is really moot, since the Rift is set to be the only major VR platform at launch.
Jul 16, 2015
As its virtual reality headset nears release, Oculus has acquired yet another company. This time around, it's Pebbles Interfaces, a five-year-old Israeli company working on high-definition hand-tracking technology. "Pebbles Interfaces will be joining the hardware engineering and computer vision teams at Oculus to help advance virtual reality, tracking, and human-computer interactions," says Oculus in a blog post. It's not confirming any further terms of the deal, but a spokesperson said that the group would be moving to Oculus' main campus in Menlo Park, California.Read Article >
On a very basic level, Pebbles' hardware is similar to the Leap Motion controller. In a Geektime interview from May, the company's marketing manager suggested that it improved on Leap by creating an actual model of a user's hand, not just mapping the motion onto an avatar. It can also provide details about the environment using its depth sensor. Oculus embedded a Pebbles video from May that shows off the technology:
Jun 11, 2015
We got a couple of press shots of the finished Oculus Rift earlier this year, and some leaked images earlier this week. But now, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe is showing off a real, physical version. This is the version of the Rift that will ship next year, which will work with an external camera that sits on your desk. "The same tracking system can be used for other real-world objects," Iribe said somewhat enigmatically — actually, it's probably a reference to Touch, Oculus' prototype motion controller. Some early leaks showed a camera (possibly for hand tracking) at the bottom of the headset, but that's now confirmed to be absent. Instead, the Rift will ship with an Xbox One gamepad as part of a partnership with Microsoft. Oculus has released a video with some more visual detail, seen below.Read Article >
Oculus has previously confirmed several elements of the Rift. This version is a lot like the Crescent Bay headset that was unveiled last year and tweaked at CES. This means it has two separate screens, one for each eye, and built-in headphones that can be swapped out for the wearer's own. We're promised a "wide" field of view, although we don't know whether it's wider than earlier prototypes. We also don't know the resolution, but it's supposed to be crisp, although Iribe admits it's "maybe not quite as high-resolution as you one day want."
May 15, 2015
Oculus just published the recommended PC specs for its consumer headset, which minimizes lag and, by extension, motion sickness and disorientation. And the full Rift experience turns out to be a bit of an exclusive one. It doesn't just take a gaming PC, it takes a desktop with some of the latest and most expensive parts on the market; the graphics card alone costs around $350, and the whole thing prices out to around $1,000 at minimum. While this isn't the upper limit of gaming PCs, that's partly because it's hard to tell where the upper limit even is — if you're so inclined, you can start with a $1,000 graphics card and go up from there. And these costs only apply if you're building the PC yourself. A pre-built machine comes at an even greater premium.Read Article >
May 6, 2015
It's finally happened: Oculus has announced a date for the finished version of its Rift virtual reality headset. The Oculus Rift consumer edition is going to be shipping in the first quarter of 2016, with pre-orders opening later this year.Read Article >
The Oculus Rift has gone through several iterations since it was launched on Kickstarter in the summer of 2012. It's seen two development kits and multiple prototypes, most recently the "Crescent Bay" design that appeared last year. Crescent Bay uses two small displays, an external tracking camera, and carefully designed software to create the illusion of 3D space. Especially since its acquisition by Facebook in early 2014, Oculus has de-emphasized hard technical detail, but a company blog post says that some specifics for the consumer Rift are coming next week. The final design is above.
Feb 17, 2015Read Article >
Last week, Samsung announced more details about how its partnership with the NBA is bringing the courtside experience to the Gear VR, starting with this past weekend’s All-Star festivities at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. It's the first sport to embrace VR in this way, and if the hardware actually starts making it into users’ hands — and that's a big 'if' — this kind of partnership could be the start of a new way to experience sports. Since the game was right here in New York City, I headed to the arena on the night of the three-point and dunk contests to learn more about how and why the NBA is embracing this new technology — and doing it so quickly.
Jan 26, 2015
Called Lost, the project is a real-time computer generated VR experience for the Crescent Bay prototype, and is directed by Saschka Unseld, a former Pixar animator who created the 2013 short The Blue Umbrella. Lost runs roughly five minutes in length, but in what Unseld touts as one of the project’s innovations, it changes the pace of its storytelling based on the action taken by the viewer. "It could be three-and-a-half minutes and it could be 10," he says. "It all depends on you."Read Article >
The Story Studio initiative started because Oculus was showing off the Rift to Hollywood filmmakers who got excited about the potential of VR and wanted to make something — but the company didn’t know how to move forward. "We didn’t have an answer for them," says Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. "We knew how to get started with games, but we didn’t know how to get started with film, with Hollywood, with cinema." With interactive storytelling holding obvious potential for VR, and other projects already making it out into the marketplace, Oculus wanted to get out ahead by tackling not just the logistical questions around creating VR narrative experiences, but the conceptual ones as well.
Dec 31, 2014
Virtual reality is a difficult thing to review. It’s hard not to be impressed when you look into a screen and see a world, magnified to surround you and responding to the motion of your head. It’s even harder when the basic technology is so simple: almost every VR headset on the market is a mobile phone screen with some gyroscopic sensors and a pair of lenses. But when something like Samsung and Oculus’ Gear VR comes out, you can’t simply judge and recommend it like a phone or laptop. It’s a $200 toy, plus an extra $700-800 for the phone it fits around, that promises to contain the embryo of a revolutionary new medium. So the real question isn’t just whether you should buy it right now (because you shouldn’t). It’s whether there’s a future in the ideas behind it.Read Article >
It might be an early experiment, but the Gear VR successfully turns virtual reality into a plug-and-play affair, albeit one that involves a lot of hardware. The headset comes with a microSD card full of Oculus content that you’re supposed to pop into the back of your Galaxy Note 4, the only phone that’s compatible with the headset. Once that’s done, you slide the Note onto a Micro USB connector that’s set in a hinge on the headset, locking it into place. There’s a transparent plastic screen that fits on top of it, but it seems purely aesthetic, and I usually ended up leaving the phone bare.
Dec 12, 2014
Oculus VR says it's acquired two more companies today, one that specializes in tracking hands and another that recreates highly-accurate 3D models from real world objects. The first, Nimble VR, started two years ago as a way to track what your hands are doing, something Oculus says "has the potential to be part of a great VR user experience." The project had raised $135,511 on Kickstarter, more than double its goal, before cancelling it today in light of the acquisition.Read Article >
The other company, 13th Lab, specializes in tracking both 2D and 3D movement, as well as the creation of 3D objects and spaces using cameras. "The ability to acquire accurate 3D models of the real-world can enable all sorts of new applications and experiences, like visiting a one-to-one 3D model of the pyramids in Egypt or the Roman Colosseum in VR," Oculus said in a blog post.
Samsung's Gear VR is out today, putting virtual reality on the mass market in a way we haven't seen since the Virtual Boy — although hopefully, this time, with more staying power. The Gear VR fits around a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, magnifying the Note's screen to create the illusion of presence. Carefully marketed as an "Innovator Edition," it's technically a beta product with no final version announced. Even so, it's probably the most user-friendly headset available, and Samsung virtual reality VP Nick DiCarlo succinctly sums up the marketing pitch: "We're very carefully trying to avoid overhyping this, but we think it's going to be amazing."Read Article >
The Gear VR was built in partnership with Oculus, which has sold over 100,000 of its own Rift VR headset prototypes and describes its relationship with Samsung as symbiotic. The second generation of the Rift uses the same screen as Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, and the Gear VR incorporates a tracking sensor from the first Rift development kit, as well as an Oculus-designed user interface that will well serve as a testing ground for future Rift software. The Gear VR's catalog draws partially from existing Oculus Rift experiences — among other things, at launch, you'll be able to explore the solar system with Titans of Space and play cyberpunk hacking game Darknet. "There's a couple people that work primarily on mobile, and a couple that work primarily on PC, but a lot of what we're doing applies to both platforms," says Oculus mobile head Max Cohen. "These are two projects which are more similar than different."
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The Gear VR, Samsung's virtual reality headset, is now on sale through AT&T and Samsung's US sites. The $199 headset fits around a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, turning it into a mobile VR display. It was originally announced in September, but it's so far only been slated for a vague early December launch, though it's been available to try at a handful of malls around the country. The Gear VR was built in partnership with Oculus, and it incorporates a tracking sensor from the first Oculus Rift development kit, as well as a custom "Oculus Home" interface app. Unlike the Rift, though, it's wireless and fairly light, and if you've already got a Note 4, it's somewhat cheaper (if you don't, you'll have to add an extra $800 to the price above.) While it's more polished than the current version of the Oculus Rift, however, it's still an "Innovator Edition," so be warned that you're still essentially participating in a mass beta test of virtual reality.
Dec 4, 2014
Pop, pop pop pop… the bullets explode into the Chilean prisoners as I’m thrust into the line of fire. My body recoils, but I continue pushing forward until I’m just inches from their fractured faces, frozen with terror. I can't hide. I’m helpless. The feeling is real, even though the scene I’m witnessing is not.Read Article >
This isn't a game, it's virtual reality storytelling at its best: the Oculus Rift disappears and becomes the medium through which the artist communicates an experience. At its worst, VR is a gimmick, a parlor trick that usurps the story being told. I saw examples of both at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
Nov 4, 2014
The consumer version of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is where it's been since at least 2013: "months, not years" away. According to The Next Web, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told a crowd at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin that a consumer headset was getting closer to production, saying that the company had roughly figured out the features it wanted with the Crescent Bay prototype that was announced in September. "We're all hungry for it to happen," Iribe said. "We're getting very close. It's months, not years away, but many months."Read Article >
This is not, on its own, a notable statement. Not only did Oculus say something similar around the release of Crescent Bay, an astute Reddit user pointed to an interview from August of 2013 in which product VP Nate Mitchell uses the same phrase. But it indicates that Oculus is still shying away from any real timeframe, at least in the short term. It's previously refused to confirm that 2015 will see a consumer release, and anything short of late 2016 is still "not years" away. "We've gone out there and set this bar and said, ‘We want to get it right,'" Iribe is also quoted as saying. "We don't want it to be four or five years. We're eager for this to happen." He and others at Oculus have been clear about seeing VR as a long-term project, in which even the consumer version of the Rift would be only a first step.
Oct 29, 2014
I've kind of had Oculus Rift fatigue lately. I know that's a silly thing to say about a product that isn't even out yet, and that my line of work puts me in contact with the Facebook-acquired VR headset far more than most people. It's just that, well, without much in the way of actual games to play on the thing, there are only so many tech demos you can sit through and marvel at the accurate head tracking.Read Article >
Thank God for J-pop, then. Kumi Koda, a singer I haven't thought about since she caused controversy some years ago by urging women to have kids by the age of 35 lest their amniotic fluid rot away, has a music video for her new song, "Dance in the Rain," that's filmed in 360 degrees and viewable in VR. I saw it at Tokyo Designers Week today, and it reminded me why I found the Oculus Rift so cool the first time I used it nearly two years ago.