Oculus Rift: 9 things to know before you buy Facebook’s now-cheaper VR headset

Oculus Rift is still the poster-boy of VR. It all started in 2012 when company founder and Rift inventor Palmer Luckey put his Rift prototype on Kickstarter. When Facebook acquired the company in 2014, it was clear VR was going places.

Times have changed since then. Samsung, HTC, Google and Sony all joining the race and many Chinese and smaller manufacturers have also jumped aboard. It could also be argued that Oculus’ existence spurred Microsoft to develop its HoloLens technology and many other OEMs to join the mixed-reality bandwagon too.

But the Oculus isn’t getting complacent. At Oculus Connect 2017 the company unveiled Oculus Go – a self-contained $199 VR headset, arriving “early 2018”. It also announced it was moving into the business and enterprise space, much like HTC Vive, and that it was hard at work on the next-generation of wireless VR headsets too. It also helps that Oculus Rift is now permanently £399 – an absolute bargain for anyone looking to enter into the world of VR.

Oculus Rift: Everything you need to know

1. Oculus Rift still won’t be coming to Mac 

Oculus Rift has, thanks to company founder Palmer Luckey, stayed away from Apple’s Mac range of computers. Last year Luckey tweeted his sentiments around offering up Mac support – essentially throwing the blame into Apple’s court for not supporting VR.

The thing is, Apple now does support VR. Announced at its WWDC conference in June, Apple has opened up support for the HTC Vive thanks to improvements to its Metal graphics API. Oculus, however, isn’t ready to accept Mac as a viable platform – most likely because it isn’t the core gaming market it’s aiming for.

“We’re committed to bringing PC VR to as many people as possible, but no news on MacOS support at this time,” a spokesperson told Road to VR.

2. Oculus Rift works on lower-spec machines

Previously you had to have a PC that was certified as being VR compatible. That meant an Intel i5-4590, 8GB RAM, three USB 3 and a USB 2, Windows 7 and an NVidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 GPU. Now though, thanks to an advancement in Oculus’ rendering tech, you can now theoretically run an Oculus Rift on older hardware like the AMD Radeon RX 470 with an FX 4350 (that’s a GTX 960 and an Intel i5-3579K to Intel and Nvidia geeks).

READ ALSO: This is how Sony sees the future of VR

3. Oculus Touch is fantastic

It’s been a long time coming, but Oculus Touch is finally here. Originally poised as Oculus’ answer to the HTC Vive’s trackable wands, Touch is actually a far more advanced proposition. Not only can it be used in seated or standing VR mode, but it’s also capable of being tracked in Oculus’ developer-level room-scale setups.

Touch’s positional tracking works in a similar way to that of the Vive’s controllers but Touch also has depth sensors on its triggers and around the face buttons to help with thumb and index finger recognition. This literally means you can form a fist in-game or poke, prod and press buttons too. It’s impressive and does quite a lot to make it feel like you’re really interacting with your environment.

Touch has also become more palatable to own thanks to a price drop from $199/£190 to just £99 from the Oculus Store or Game, and the inclusion of Epic’s upcoming arcade romp Robo Recall. You can also pick up an Oculus Rift and an Oculus Touch for the same price Rift initially launched at – £598. Not bad at all.

4. Its specs are the same as the HTC Vive, but Vive feels better

Rift and Vive have identical spec sheets. Both have a resolution of 1,200 x 1,080 pixels per eye, a 110-degree field of view and a refresh rate of 90Hz. Rift has built-in headphones, but the Vive comes bundled with some if you don’t already have a pair.

In all honesty, despite the near-identical hardware, Vive just edges ahead of the Rift thanks to its brighter, higher-contrast display and sharper Fresnel lenses.

5. Oculus Rift games can work on HTC Vive

While unofficial, Rift-exclusive games from the Oculus Store will actually run on HTC Vive with little to no tweaking. Granted, the exploit is a tad questionable – especially since Oculus blocked it and then its creator circumvented their countermeasures – but it does open up a wealth of new games for those who opt for a Vive instead of Rift.

6. HTC Vive-like room-scale VR is capable on Oculus Rift

Living up to the promises of room-scale VR, Oculus Rift is finally opening up its seated VR experiences to ones where you stand and walk around. The only caveat is that it’s actually incredibly expensive – more so than simply buying an HTC Vive.

To utilise Oculus’ room-scale experiences you’ll need to buy both the Oculus Touch and an additional floor-standing camera. Oculus Touch comes with one extra camera for hand tracking, so you’ll have three cameras set up around your room to cover you using fully interactive VR.

You can buy an extra sensor for £79 from the Oculus Store, but it seems to be unavailable for purchase from other retailers just yet.

7. Oculus Rift can now come with earphones instead of headphones

The built-in on-ear nonsense that Oculus Rift launched with is finally being done away with thanks to an optional add-on known simply as Earphones.

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe claims these £50 earphones actually sound better than many headsets that cost significantly more. It’s not clear exactly how you change your Rift’s headphones for Earphones, but the process should be simple enough.

8. Oculus games come with “intensity” ratings

One handy feature of the Oculus Store – the place where you buy Oculus Rift-enabled games – is its “intensity” rating for games titles. This isn’t anything to do with how a game plays or its difficulty, but simply how comfortable an experience, it is in VR. Some games have low-intensity ratings because the VR experience is smooth and doesn’t jostle you around too much. Others will have high-intensity ratings because they require you to be more comfortable with VR before you play – after all, nobody wants a device or game to make you sick.

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9. Oculus Project Santa Cruz is a completely wireless version of Rift

Alongside the self-contained Oculus Go, Oculus is hard at work on a completely wireless version of the Rift known as Project Santa Cruz. Unveiled at Oculus Connect in 2016, Facebook CEO and Oculus VR owner Mark Zuckerberg revealed at 2017’s event the introduction of new Santa Cruz wireless controllers.

The entire project is still in its early stages, but this will be Oculus’ next-generation VR product. Unlike the Oculus Go, it’ll be a fully featured wireless VR headset, instead of an upgrade to the Samsung Gear VR.

Here’s a glimpse at the early prototype building with an Oculus Rift as its basis.

And here’s a look at the new controllers coming to Project Santa Cruz too.

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