So, the past week has come and gone, and boy, was it a big one for VR. The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) came and went in Las Vegas and left us with quite a few new updates on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PSVR, and even smaller headsets like Razer's OSVR. In addition to official announcements, demos given out at the show have given us a ton of feedback from the press and public alike for all the parties involved, so let's get right down to it.
Firstly, the biggest news of the week for VR was that on Tuesday, Oculus launched pre-orders for the Rift. Priced at 599.99 US Dollars, Oculus is saying that the first Rifts will be shipped out on March 28th, roughly two months from now. In conjunction with the preorder announcement, it was announced that all backers of the original Kickstarter campaign for Oculus who purchased Development Kit 1s through that campaign will receive a free consumer Rift for their support from the beginning. Also, Oculus announced that through their partnership with CCP Games, all Rift pre-orderers will be receiving a free copy of EVE: Valkyrie with their purchase. Since the announcement, Palmer Luckey, the creator of the Rift, and founder of Oculus, has hosted two AMA sessions on Reddit. If you're curious, links will be included at the end of this article!
There was also news out of HTC this week, regarding the Vive. The press embargo on devs finally ended today, and the Vive Development Kit 2, also known as the Vive Pre, was finally revealed. It includes improved optics, head mounting, reduced weight, and a front-facing camera, which is related to the breakthrough that they claimed was the cause for the products delay into April of this year from their original launch date of December 2015. Their breakthrough is twofold: firstly, they claim to have come upon a solution for the 'Mura' effect with VR screens, where high contrast scenes can induce a fabric looking texture to appear on solid blocks of color. In addition, they have vastly improved upon their chaperone feature with the aforementioned camera, giving the user the ability to peer into the real world around them to make sure they aren't accidentally stomping on their cats and dogs, or knocking over potted plants at the edges of their room-scale playspace.
Miscellaneous news in the VR space this week includes HTC's CEO Cher Wang announcing that they have "had to rethink phones as a company; VR is more important". Whether or not this has to do with HTC's plummeting stock value as a phone manufacturer, or an honest change in direction (or both) is yet to be seen. Also, German leader in gaze-tracking technology SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) has announced and demonstrated a working prototype for foveated rendering, where the farther a part of the scene is from the center of your eye, the lower the resolution it is rendered at in order to improve performance at no cost to perceived quality. Finally, OSVR has revealed that their newest prototypes have finally implemented positional tracking, similar to the Rift's DK2, even though the display panels are still running at 1080p and 60Hz.
Overall, it was a pretty big week for the VR sphere, and things are looking to get heated in the next couple of months as the Vive's preorders, final design, specs, and price are announced, and the Rift goes to ship to market. If I missed any big news in the space, be sure to leave a comment below!