The mainstream arrival of virtual reality has been hypothesized, fantasized, exercised, and trivialized in every medium of popular culture for decades. Now a long-awaited key device in the space, the Oculus Rift, inches ever closer to being in consumer hands.
Virtual reality stands to reinvent a number of gaming, entertainment, content, and lifestyle applications. There have, of course, been minor breakthroughs here in the past (remember Nintendo's failed Virtual Boy?), but nothing has drawn as much attention or gained as much momentum as the Oculus Rift headset. What began as a Kickstarter project less than four years ago, which made its goal in under 24 hours and eventually gained $2.4 million in support from more than 9,500 backers, grew into a valuable tech company that sold to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014. After extensive, nearly exhaustive, fine-tuning since then, Oculus will be available for $600 at pre-order starting January 6, and will ship March 28.
The Oculus Rift headset was a darling of last year's CES, offering a VR experience that had never quite been so seamless and low impact. The 1080p monitor occupies your complete field of vision, and its motion-tracking sensors precisely calculate how much you move your head, showing the corresponding perspective inside of a virtual world. When you wear an Oculus Rift headset, you occupy another world entirely.
NASA uses it to create virtual tours of Mars. Manufacturers use it to visualize objects that don't exist yet. Minecraft players with an Oculus Rift can simulate walking around inside of their block-based worlds. It even has applications for education, military training, and treating post-traumatic stress disorder. As of now, very few details are known beyond the pre-order date. Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey will be on hand to conduct a Reddit AMA on January 6, and then it's just a matter of time until this purportedly game-changing technology is unleashed upon the consumer public.
"This is just the beginning," the Oculus team posted on the brand's blog Wednesday. "We can’t wait to share more about the incredible games and experiences coming to Rift this year… Thank you for being part of this landmark moment in VR. We’ll see you in Rift."