Oculus shows off final Rift virtual reality headset, partners with Microsoft’s Xbox

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Oculus Rift will have an Oculus Touch pair of hand controllers. Photo: Stuart Dredge for the Guardian.

The virtual reality company, bought by Facebook last year for $2 billion, said Thursday it plans to launch its consumer Rift headset early next year in a partnership with Microsoft that will tie together the Xbox One game console to the Oculus platform.

The final version of the Rift, shown today for the first time, will come with an Xbox Once wireless controller, as well as a standing camera to track your head movements and whether you’re standing and moving around the room or sitting down. Oculus is also working on hand controllers of its own, called Oculus Touch, that resemble small joysticks with looping rings around the base. That hardware is being designed to bring more realistic hand-motions to VR worlds that will let people interact with the environment.

The reveal of its final consumer version is sure to help bolster Oculus’s efforts to grab the attention of consumers, who until now have only seen prototypes and demonstration videos of the headset. Yet the company has declined to say how much the headset will cost, with executives hinting late last month that it may cost around $1,500 when bundled with a PC cheaper costing $1,000 or less.

Consumers won’t have to wait long for new games, however. The partnership with Microsoft will bring the entire catalog of Xbox One games, including the upcoming sci-fi shooter Halo 5: Guardians, to the Rift through streaming technology built into Windows 10, Microsoft’s operating system upgrade due out July 29.

Xbox games will not be optimized for the Rift at launch and will only be playable on a virtual screen akin to sitting in a home theatre. It’s worth noting that Oculus is still very much a device for PC users. The Xbox One partnership is only available to Windows 10 users who presumably will be using the Rift to play games designed for the PC as well, and the Rift is unlikely to be marketed as a device Xbox One owners can use as a substitute for a television.

The promise of VR, and the companies behind it, could be transformative. Put a headset on your head, and suddenly the screen and headphones transport you to a computer generated world, be that an epic space battle, the forest floor while a giant walks overhead or a massive tower filled with mysteries to solve.

“VR allows us to experience anything anywhere. It is that powerful,” said Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe onstage at the event. “With this device, you’ll finally be able to teleport to new worlds … it’s a paradigm change, and it all begins now.”

Right now, Oculus’ focus is on gaming, as creating virtual worlds to inhabit is similar to what game developers do every day. But the company is dabbling in computer-generated films with its in-house production division, Oculus Story Studio, and bringing real-world captured video to the Rift that could transport you to far away places on Earth or even elsewhere in the Solar System.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has said he believes VR has the potential to even change the way we interact with computers, and the way we communicate with one another. “With Oculus we’re making a long-term bet on the future of computing,” he said in a conference call last October.

Article is found on Cnet.

By Nick Statt and Ian Sherr

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