Oculus VR: 5 Facts You Need to Know About Facebook’s Oculus Rift

Oculus VRThe Future of Oculus VR

According to a wide range of industry experts and developers, Facebook-owned Oculus VR and its peers are the future of gaming. Competition is already heating up in the space, but the “Oculus Rift” remains by far the most well-known device and brand.

Computer programmers have been trying and failing to perfect virtual reality (VR) for decades. They all faced the same problem: users would feel seasick after wearing the headset for just a short while. An overpowering sense of nausea is not what you want from an entertainment console.

The whole point of an immersive environment is to be able to swivel your head and look around. The 360-degree visibility is a selling feature, but the pixels weren’t adjusting quickly enough, leading to motion sickness. The time lag was the problem.

Fixing this problem was essential for VR to be a working possibility. No one had managed to come close, so the goal of perfecting VR slid into the background of technology innovation. That is, until Palmer Luckey arrived on the scene.

As the founder of Oculus VR, it’s safe to say that Luckey will be remembered as the father of virtual reality. He found the missing link, solving the time lag.

Within a few years, he opened the invention up to a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform that helped him raise $2.4 million. It was an incredible achievement, but Oculus VR was only getting started. Soon afterward, Luckey raised $75.0 million from venture capitalists. (Source: “Why Facebook’s $2 Billion Bet on Oculus Rift Might One Day Connect Everyone on Earth,” Vanity Fair, October 2015.)

There were several firms that were interested in the Oculus Rift technology, but Facebook was the most eager. It proposed an acquisition. Oculus VR held out for more cash and after Facebook upped the ante, Oculus took the offer.

Luckey now works in the Oculus Rift offices down the hall from Mark Zuckerberg. It is a long way from the two-star motel in which he first launched Oculus VR, but little has changed about his style. He still wears flip-flops and has five roommates.

What’s interesting is that Luckey didn’t come from money or prestige. He grew up in a small house in Long Beach, the son of a car salesman.

He spent his youth buying broken electronics on eBay, fixing them, and then selling them at a profit. It was how he funded the early stages of Oculus VR. Now, he’s worth more than $500 million and is at the forefront of an astonishingly large technology movement.

But enough about the man behind Oculus VR…

Here are five things you may not know about the product itself:

1. Pre-Orders of the Oculus Rift Have Already Shipped

Most people think Oculus VR technology is still a long way down the road, but it’s happening right now. Pre-orders opened in January and they’ve been selling like hotcakes ever since. The only thing missing from the full-scale product is a couple of accessories, like paddles and sensors. Those should be released in the coming months. Until then, the Oculus Rift is selling for about $600.00 by itself or just over $1,000 when sold alongside a computer with the required specs. (Source: “Oculus finally clears backlog of Rift pre-orders, four months later,” Arstechnica, July 12, 2016.)

2. Xbox Partnered with Oculus VR

One of Oculus Rift’s biggest competitors is going to be Sony’s “PlayStation VR.” The device will be unveiled in October, with a supporting console coming out in the following months. Don’t forget that Sony is an established player in the gaming console market; it poses a major threat to the relatively inexperienced staff at Oculus VR. Luckily for them, Microsoft’s “Xbox” division was willing to sign a partnership. “Xbox One” controllers are now shipped out with every Oculus Rift, even though the games are being played via computer. Xbox is only releasing a fully VR-enabled console next year. At present, it goes by the name “Project Scorpio.” (Source: “Scorpio rising: Microsoft’s plans for Xbox One and the future of video games,” The Guardian, July 11, 2016.)

3. Oculus VR Is More Than Just the Oculus Rift

Facebook knows that the Oculus Rift is unaffordable to most people. It is meant for hardcore video gamers who are more than willing to shell out extraordinary amounts of money for the ultimate gaming experience. In order to provide a more affordable option, the company partnered with Samsung. Together, the companies have released a headset called “Samsung Gear VR.” All you have to do is click one of Samsung’s many smartphones into the front panel of the headset and it becomes an Oculus VR device. Click here if you want to buy the Samsung Gear VR.

4. Hardware Is Only the Beginning

As an extension of the previous point, let me just add that virtual reality is a platform, not just a piece of hardware. Once people have the physical devices, there needs to be enough content for them to consume.

Right now, Oculus VR is developing a software platform to assist creators in the development of VR content. Think about the rise of YouTube and how it facilitated a whole new generation of content creators. Oculus VR is trying to achieve a similar range of tools for amateurs and professionals alike. For instance, Facebook is adding 360-degree functionality to its newsfeed. That means Facebook would convert panoramic pictures such that users can pan the camera by dragging your finger across the screen or tilting the phone. If you have a Samsung phone, you can download the “Oculus 360 Photos” app, which makes photos VR-compatible. (Source: “Gear VR Ecosystem Expands to Include Facebook 360 Photos, Over 250 Apps, and New Video Content,” Oculus VR, May 11, 2016.)

5. Powerful Computers Are a Must

VR content doesn’t run on any old computer. The graphics card needs to be powerful, as does the system’s processor. Considering that Oculus VR is the industry’s gold standard, it needs above-average equipment. Here’s a brief list of the required specs:

  • Video card: NVIDIA “GTX 970,” AMD “R9 290,” equivalent or greater
  • CPU: Intel “i5-4590,” equivalent or greater
  • Memory: 8GB+ RAM
  • Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
  • OS: “Windows 7” SP1 64-bit or newer

If you don’t have a computer with these specs, or are unsure of where to get them, here are several bundles for purchase (Oculus VR has already partnered with these manufacturers to make sure the compatibility is flawless):