At yesterday’s Oculus Connect Conference the news we have been waiting for finally arrived. The launch date of the much vaunted Oculus Rift headset has been announced, sort of. The firm, which is owned by Facebook, has given a projected Q4 release of the VR headsets that are poised to change the way we view entertainment.
So let’s take a look at the Rift, see what it can do and whether it can create the impact it hopes it will.
Over-hyped or worth the wait?
VR headsets are nothing new. They have been tried and failed before. Even 3D TV in your own living room hasn’t really taken off so why does Oculus think it can be any different? It’s a good question and one that is multi-faceted in its answer.
If we turn back the clock to the 1990s and look at Nintendo and its two failed VR offerings – the Power Glove and the Virtual Boy you can see simply that the world wasn’t yet ready for VR. First of all the technology was simply too weak to have any sort of lasting impact but kudos for trying. Nintendo’s ecosystems were closed meaning that only Nintendo games would play on the systems, and only certain ones at that. There was no internet, graphics were weak and there was nowhere else for the VR technology to go.
Maybe we are looking at Nintendo a little harshly and should be praising them for trying but, quite simply, the 90s was too soon for home entertainment VR technology. Fast forward 20 years and we are in a world where you can literally talk to your TV or your watch and have access to information, entertainment and graphics that are sometimes breathtakingly real.
If we look too at what Facebook brings to the table we see that Oculus really does have what it takes to succeed. With Facebook you have a network of a billion people to advertise to and get excited about Oculus, all across the world. You also have a little thing called legacy. Facebook doesn’t need money first of all so it could afford to allow the Oculus team the time and the resources to get it right. There is a genuine consensus among the big players in the tech industry – your Facebook’s, Google’s and Apple’s that the internet of things is not just a cute coined phrase but a real chance to impact upon society and leave a legacy. Oculus is part of that for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg especially. Going down in history as the founder of Facebook is one thing but going down in history as the guy who was behind physical items which change lives is another entirely.
Yes Oculus Rift is an entertainment platform but its applications are potentially far reaching especially in industries like architectural design or medicine so all of the ingredients point towards Oculus Rift having a very good shot at success.
Good news for Samsung fans
Other news at the event concerned Samsung Galaxy users with the announcement of the November launch of the Samsung Gear VR which has been built by Oculus.
The device, aimed squarely at gamers and mobile users has some good backing with Oculus and Samsung keen to learn from the past mistakes of Nintendo in terms of developer support – arcade firms Namco and Midway plus Sega have already announced their support for the system with new Oculus focused development teams already on hand to create games.
The Gear VR unit was announced at $99 and will launch in time for the big Black Friday shopping event in the US. Expect that to translate to at least a £99 price point when released in the UK as exchange rates rarely come into consideration with tech prices but that still is a pretty decent value for the kit.
The support, price and the buzz may just carry this one to success with analysts projecting an astounding 30 million unit sales by 2020. It remains to be seen just how far off the mark this figure is but the low price and launch timing will at least carry large sales in its initial period.
Announce Like Apple
For the main Oculus Rift device there was equally positive support with the unit expected to sell for around $300, again expect that to translate to around £300 per unit when it launches. Big players in the PC market like Dell have announced their support of the device, and Oculus is already working closely with Microsoft to be able to make Oculus work with its XBox consoles. From a TV perspective Netflix are on board as are film production companies Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox. As the device comes to market expect more announcements of support to follow.
At the event too, a developer friendly device was announced so app developers take note, and the launch of the Rift is set to happen like an Apple product which sees the launch announcement quickly followed by the chance to pre-order and full launch take place within about a month. The user experience has certainly been taken into consideration here.
All in all it was an extremely positive event with journalists, industry insiders and the wider public as a whole all wanting this to work.
We’ll put our name in that hat too and look forward to hearing more about Oculus in the coming weeks and months.