The biggest news at Facebook’s Oculus Connect event yesterday was Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he wants a billion virtual reality users, and the unveiling of the stand-alone Oculus Go, which is essentially a mobile-quality VR headset without the need for a phone. But Oculus also showed off the latest progress on its high-end standalone headset, code-named Santa Cruz.
I got a demo, and I was very impressed. It looks good, not quite product-ready good, but so much better than the headset with a computer and fan mounted on its back when I got a demo of Santa Cruz at Oculus Connect a year ago. Now, it’s lighter, more streamlined, and there’s no machinery visible.
More important than that, the actual experience was terrific. It felt very much like using an Oculus Rift–full positional tracking, quality wireless handheld controllers that are also positionally tracked, using a four-sensor inside-out tracking system. And really nice movement. Oculus was showing two separate demos, one a first-person shooter, the other a charming little game that lets you play with a mystical creature, pick apples off trees, throw a stick.
In both cases, the experiences very accurately reflected the movements of my body and my hands and gestures. There was a little drop-off here and there, but nothing too noticeable, and in all honesty, the same thing happens with Rift too.
The demos were short, but I walked away feeling like if I hadn’t known it wasn’t a Rift, I wouldn’t have guessed (minus the bit about not tripping over cumbersome wires).
Oculus says they’ll be putting Santa Cruz in developers’ hands within a year. Given the progress they’ve made since a year ago, I’d say that means the consumer version of the headset will be very nice indeed.