The future of VR is definitely wireless.
Today, Oculus declared that its standalone VR headset model, the Santa Cruz, will be accessible to developers in the next year. The company did not provide further details of when specifically that would be, but they were giving demonstrations of its latest prototype at the Oculus Connect conference and I could take the latest version for a spin and rewrite.
I was impressed using the demo I had last year of the earlier prototype, even though it was a pretty restricted proof-of-concept more than anything else. So I was capable to see that Facebook has made significant improvement in the last year.
The head-set I demoed last year felt just like a work in progress: its cpus and fans were attached to the rear side and there were many noticeable wires. I wasn’t allowed to picture the version I saw today, however it felt much more like a finished item â? all of the wires, cameras, plus components were contained in the headset.
The form factor is comparable to the Rift, though it’s significantly bulkier, which isn’t surprising great deal of thought needs to house an array of sensors, digital cameras, and processors needed for its positional tracking.
I was able to try out the headset out while actively playing two different games, which was an enormous step up from the experiences available last year. Â
The first was Dead and Buried, a first-person player with the dice that pits you against zombies in the Wild West-style environment. The game play itself is about what you’d anticipate from that style of game: your own goal is to take out the the walking dead, using a variety of guns and other weaponry before they get you. Â
It utilizes touch controllers that look and feel much like Oculus’ Touch Controllers for Rift: there’s a touchpad and a trigger key, but no joystick. Still, these people just as intuitive as what you needed use with the Rift, and the hands tracking was also surprisingly good, even though I noticed a couple small stutters inside my demos.
The contact controllers aren’t the reason why you’ll want the particular Santa Cruz, though. You’ll want the particular headset because it offers a truly wifi, untethered VR experience. I had written last year that it’s difficult to overstate exactly how freeing it is to be able to move around totally untethered while in VR. The difference is definitely even greater now that you can do so whilst actually playing a game.
The headset is equipped with cameras that are able to identify what’s in your environment and in-game “guides” appear in your field associated with view to subtly let you know whenever you get close to a wall or even piece of furniture. Â
My demo is at a windowless room with thoroughly arranged furniture, and the guides made an appearance reliably enough so that I in no way bumped into anything. But is actually still not perfect. During a 2nd demo, I bent down to choose something up off the floor plus quickly realized that the headset was not detecting what was beneath me whenever my hand brushed against the floor. Â
The Santa Cruz’s cameras explain from the front of the headset, therefore maybe that’s not all that surprising, however it was a bit jarring when the monitoring has been so flawless up to that time. Â
There’s also the matter showing how the tracking will work once this leaves the tightly-controlled spaces organized by Oculus and gets into real offices and homes of true people.
So, yes, there is still a lot of work to be carried out. But it’s obvious that Santa claus Cruz â? with its expert room-tracking abilities and no cords or computer systems required â? is the VR upcoming that’s seemed out of reach for such a long time. Â