After a long and anxious development process for the young company Oculus, they’ve finally set a solid shipping date for their groundbreaking virtual reality head mounted display, The Rift. Previously, they had estimated shipping The Rift by December 2012 but according to their latest Kickstarter newsletter, shipping for Kickstarter backers starts March of 2013. People who bought an Oculus Rift after the Kickstarter will get theirs some time in April. With almost 10,000 backers (which raised almost 2.5 million dollars), Oculus needs to deliver about 7,500 developer kits. With the manufacturing process getting finalized between parts and factories, Palmer Luckey, the owner of Oculus, says he’s excited about shipping The Rift.
A few changes have been made along the way, primarily the LCD screen inside the The Rift is now bigger & better, growing from a 5.6″ low resolution LCD to a 7″ 1280×800 LCD. The new display brings forward various improvements in response time, switching time, contrast, and color quality. These improvements also fix some of the issues that a few people had with the prototype display a few months ago, primarily motion blur. Oculus noted that the one downside to the large screen is the 30 gram increase in weight, which, in our opinion, is a really minor increase. They’ve also managed to engineer their own motion sensor which will offer a lot more tracking and accuracy in comparison to the prototype. Oculus also showed of some snapshots of the nearly finalized hardware. A sleek black casing encases the optics and sensors, with a custom Oculus headband to keep it on you while you play. One issue with the prototype was cabling, as there were multiple and they kind of got in the way during gameplay. Now there is just 1 thin cable about 6 feet in length.
So far we’ve only talked about hardware advancements, Oculus is also working closely with developers on various game engine support. Most recently is their extensive work with Epic Games and the Unreal 3 engine. They’ve got it fully working with Unreal Tournament 3 as their first test game with the engine. You can see an example video below…
They’re also hard at work with the Unity game engine and integrating support for it within The Rift’s SDK. Another new thing they announced is how they will be supporting the Rift SDK. It will be through a service called Oculus Developer Center which will provide the latest Oculus SDK, engine integrations, official forums, support system, and a hardware/software feedback system. Oculus promises more details soon. They’re also planning ahead for a consumer version of their virtual reality headset.