Published on September 27th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Oculus Quest, a Fully Wireless VR Headset, Shipping Spring 2019 for $399
Oculus says it finally has the right headset to deliver powerful VR without wires or PC.
SAN JOSE, California—Facebook used its latest virtual reality conference, the fifth annual Oculus Connect, to finally confirm retail plans for its most ambitious standalone VR product yet: the Oculus Quest. Originally known by its prototype name, Oculus Santa Cruz, the Quest will ship in spring 2019 for $399.
In terms of the sales pitch, this is the Oculus holy grail: a wireless, hand-tracked, “six degrees of freedom” VR system with apparently legitimate 3D power and no required PC or phone.
“It needs to be standalone,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced about the future of all Oculus products to come, as an indicator of the “ideal form factor” for VR. “Hand presence” and “six degrees of freedom” were required as well. This new headset ticks all three of Zuckerberg’s boxes.
That $399 price includes two new handheld controllers that largely resemble 2016’s Oculus Touch product. Zuckerberg promises more than 50 games for the Quest when it launches next year, and when describing the upcoming lineup, he mentioned popular VR fare like Robo Recall, The Climb, and Moss. An additional Quest sizzle reel included logos for games like Superhot and companies like Insomniac and Halfbrick. Oculus says the launch lineup will be revealed “next year.”
A three-part cinematic Star Wars “6DOF” experience, centered around Darth Vader and designed as a launch title for Oculus Quest, was confirmed by Lucasarts and ILM representatives at the event. “You’ll be able to step inside the world of Star Wars in the comfort of your living room and, for the first time, truly feel free,” the reps said before unveiling world-premiere footage. The brief snippet of the series, titled Vader Immortal, showed a real-time 3D render of Vader that looked like something from a high-end smartphone.
Oculus Quest will not be natively compatible with Oculus Rift software on the PC, but Zuckerberg talked about getting more popular VR games onto the Quest in the future. Another representative clarified that the reverse scenario, of building Quest-compatible games first and porting to Rift, will be a single-button process “with no code changes.”
Oculus has confirmed that the screens will sport 1600×1440 resolution per eye—superior to Oculus Rift, and wider than the improved Oculus Go panels—and that the $399 model will include 64GB on-board storage. All Oculus Quest models will include built-in speakers, much like Oculus Go, but the company says these speakers are a new version. Unlike Go, the Quest will include adjustable spacing for its lenses.
We’re still waiting to hear the headset’s exact 3D-performance specs, including processing power and memory.
“Oculus Insight [the newly announced name for Quest’s sensor system] uses four ultra-wide-angle sensors and advanced computer vision algorithms to track your position in real time,” an Oculus representative said at the event. This sensor array looks for edges, corners, wall objects, and furniture to build a 3D map of your nearby environs, shown at the event as “a sparse point cloud.” This sensor system, combined with gyroscope and accelerometer input from the headset, estimates your head position every millisecond.
Oculus Connect 5 will include a whopping 4,000-square-foot demo room for a new version of the VR shooter Dead and Buried, played exclusively on Oculus Quest hardware. That massive demo will demonstrate Oculus’ new “multi-room guardian” system, and Oculus says this system will save your environs for future use so you don’t have to re-calibrate on a regular basis.
Journey from Cruz to Quest
Based on our hands-on impressions of the prototype headset over the past year, we already know what the retail package won’t include: exterior sensors (like the Oculus Rift’s required webcams), a bundle of cables, or a required external computer. Oculus Quest is a “standalone” VR headset, which means its computing power and sensors come built into the headset.
In May 2018, Oculus launched a similar-sounding standalone headset, the Oculus Go. But that headset came with a “three degrees of freedom” (3DOF) limitation, so its games and apps only work when keeping your body still (your head can rotate, but you have to stand still or sit). Conversely, Oculus Quest uses four built-in sensors to track your nearby environment—and thus enable accurate VR experiences while moving in all directions.
The new Oculus Quest controllers largely resemble 2016’s Oculus Touch (and are promised to be compatible with Rift PCs), complete with joysticks, menu buttons, a pair of trigger buttons for each hand, and an AB/XY array. The biggest difference is a newly designed plastic “halo” attachment around the hand. It’s currently unclear whether the controller will retain the finger-tracking perk found in Oculus Touch. Still, these controllers are far beyond what you’ll find in Oculus Go, which ships with a single, Wii-like remote.
The controllers’ halo may tie into an important element in the Oculus Quest ecosystem: an RGB sensor, which may be used to translate controller location in virtual space. The Quest’s RGB sensor will double as a webcam that headset users can toggle to see their real-life surroundings. This was confirmed by a brief demo of a grayscale world, as seen through an Oculus representative using the headset in their own living room.
We’ll be going hands-on with Oculus Quest later today. Keep it tuned to Ars Technica for impressions (and, hopefully, some firmer tech specs).
Oculus’ announcement follows HTC’s Vive Wireless Adapter, which we recently tested in a home environment ahead of a wider “late October” retail launch for $300. This adds wireless, full-room capabilities to a standard HTC Vive and Vive Pro system, and it worked quite well in our testing—but that product assumes ownership of a room-tracked VR kit and a fully fledged gaming PC, which means the total sticker price is pretty high.
Listing image by Kyle Orland