It came as quite a shock this week when one of Oculus’ founders, Brendan Iribe, confirmed that he would be leaving his position within Facebook/Oculus after six years. With Palmer Lucky having departed around the same time last year the original group that started this immersive journey has begun to dwindle, but it wasn’t so much Iribe’s departure more so his possible reasoning that caught people’s attention, the cancellation of Oculus Rift 2.
Will there be a Rift 2?
As I’m sure you’re aware by now Iribe announced his leaving via a Facebook post which led to TechCrunch reporting this was partially to do with an internal shake up that’s seen the second generation of Oculus Rift being abandoned.
Well what a furore that created, with Oculus responding with: “we are planning a future version of Rift,” going on to cite Mark Zuckerberg’s comments at Oculus Connect 5 (OC5) which were: “when we release the next version of Rift—which isn’t this year—all of the content that works for Rift will also work on the next version.”
What’s been great to take away from all this is the fact that Oculus have concretely stated a second generation Oculus Rift is in development. This you may say is unsurprising as hardware can take years to develop so of course Oculus would be working on one. However, the leap from experimental to consumer version is massive so for a global company to say that is still very important. Plus there’s the little fact that two new headsets will be released within a year of each other.
For ease of use let’s call it the Oculus Rift 2. Currently Oculus has the Gear VR, Oculus Go, Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest in its stable of hardware. Oculus Go certainly impressed when it launched during F8 2018, going on to see decent sales success as a media device rather than gaming unit. Oculus Quest looks set to be the big driving force for 2019 offering a ‘near Rift experience’ whilst being standalone with Oculus Touch controllers and inside-out tracking.
Oculus Quest’s arrival in Spring next year is likely to kill many Oculus Rift sales as consumers want to go tangle free, no longer shackled to their PC’s – or needing a VR-ready one for that matter. This will obviously see a drop in graphics quality due to the Qualcomm processor inside. So if Oculus Quest can do almost everything its PC-based brother can do where would the sequel venture?
What the second gen needs to succeed
Firstly, Oculus Rift 2 would need to offer greatly improved graphics over the other models, this would require an even beefier PC using the latest graphics cards – possibly NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 as a bare minimum? And how would this get to the headset. The new VirtualLink standard could be one way, but that then leads down a tethered system route which consumers may not want to put up with by then.
Wireless would be the way to go so long as were possible to transmit the increased amount of data whilst keeping factors like form and weight to a minimum.
The new headset would likely feature the latest cutting-edge technologies which we’re already familiar with. Eye-tracking and foveated rendering to make graphical processing easier whilst improving social interaction, and hand tracking to make physical interaction with virtual environments even more lifelike.
What about the experiments we’re only just learning about. Oculus Half Dome for example was a varifocal mechanism showcased during F8 2018 to make it easier for user’s eyes to focus. This also had the added benefit of improve the field of view (FoV) from 110 degrees to 140 degrees. FoV isn’t something Oculus discusses very often yet it’s an important vertical to consider when the likes of Pimax are aiming of 200-degrees.
Oculus Rift 2 is on the cards with a release no earlier than 2020 by the sounds of it. Having that plus Oculus Quest in 2019 would be too much for one year, innovation is great just not too quickly. Oculus Rift found a pricing sweet spot when it finally hit $399. Hopefully its successor will be priced at a similar level, although with all the new tech it needs to include that might be tricky.