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CES 2015: What We Learned About the Consumer Oculus Rift

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA always ensures that the technology industry starts off the year in style. For one week the biggest names in the scene as well as just about everyone else gather under one roof to discuss what’s new in tech. Virtual reality (VR) has had a big presence at both the 2014 and 2015 editions of the event with Oculus VR bringing prototypes of its Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) to each. With 2015 looking to be a big year for VR in general, some fans had hoped that details of the first consumer version (CV1) of the Oculus Rift would finally surface.

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That didn’t quite happen. Oculus VR remains tight-lipped about its anticipated product, although the attitude of the various founders, executives and staff at the show did certainly portray an eagerness to start talking about the kit. In fact by piecing together quotes from various interviews held throughout CES there was some important information revealed about CV1 this week that fans should keep in mind.

VR Audio Will Be Significant Improved for CV1 Release

Oculus VR’s focus at CES was on its advances in audio. That’s not necessarily to do with its hardware so much as its software. The company will soon release a new audio software development kit (SDK) including Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) technology. Simply put, this addition will allow developers to create realistic positional audio for their VR experiences. With luck it will be released with plenty of time for those working on titles for the CV1 launch to implement it.

CV1 Will Be Much Lighter than DK2

One interview with Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe was able to gain a little information on CV1’s form factor. “So internally we are starting to lock in on certain components whether it’s the screen technology, the optics, the weight; it’s much lighter which is something that was a huge improvement from Oculus Rift DK2, which kind of unfortunately got very heavier,” Iribe said. “Now we feel like it’s really at a weight that consumers can enjoy for long periods of time. People aren’t going to be living in these things but you should be able to enjoy it for a while and not get fatigued based on the weight.”

Crescent Bay’s Screen Could Be Used in CV1

Oculus VR is starting to finalise the components for CV1. Fans should expect every element of the device to reach, at the very least, the same level of quality as seen in Crescent Bay. In fact, VP of Product Nate Mitchell even thinks Crescent Bay’s screen is ‘good enough’ for CV1. “I, personally, think that that resolution is high enough to be a consumer product for the beginning of the Oculus Rift,” Mitchell explained in an interview. “And, one thing we’ve said often, is anytime we show a feature prototype, it’s gonna be that good if not better. For me, I do think that’s good enough for the V1 of the Rift.” Crescent Bay’s screen resolution hasn’t been specified, but the OLED display certainly beats DK2’s 1080p one.

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CV1 Might Not Come with Oculus’ VR Input

While Oculus VR is starting to open up about CV1, it’s still keeping quiet about a potential input solution for VR experiences. In the past it’s reasoned that this is simply because it’s not ready to showcase anything yet. While that showcase may be coming ‘sometime soon’, CV1 may not include it in the box. That’s according to Iribe: “We won’t release a version with bad input. It’s something that we feel like breaks the experience. We’d rather have a very simplified input or a gamepad input. We haven’t made that decision yet, but we’d rather have something very dependable that is clearly not trying to be the perfect VR input than something that’s half-baked. And what we’ve seen out there in the community… nothing’s really hit that mark yet. It’s really important to the whole Oculus team to get VR input right in the beginning and not deliver something that misses the mark.”

Oculus Won’t Commit to 2015 But…

When asked directly about the launch of CV1 in 2015 Oculus VR has pretty consistently shot down any speculation. That said there have been some roundabout examples of the company suggesting that 2015 is the year. Head of Studios Jason Rubin, for example, told a panel that the biggest story of 2015 is the ‘Oculus launch’. It would certainly seem as if 2015 finally the year for VR’s consumer offensive, then.