It finally happened, WIRED have published details on the new Oculus Rift prototype, codenamed ‘Crystal Cove’ with positional tracking and a brand new AMOLED panel.

The Real Next Gen

After what seems like forever spent speculating on just when the next version of the Oculus Rift would look like and what features it would carry, Wired.com were the lucky ones to get their hands on Oculus VR’s next generation HMD. Recently Road to VR spotted what we now know as ‘Crystal Cove’ hiding in an image used in an article by Wired based around a recent visit to Oculus VR HQ. Seems we were reasonably accurate as today, WIRED released details confirming our findings.

So, what is Crystal Cove and how does it improve upon previous prototypes?

First up is that positional tracking we and the community agonised over recently. As suspected, the system uses multiple LEDs and an IR tracking camera to gauge the translational position of the headset in 3D space. Up to now of course, you’ve only had orientation based tracking. The new system is hoped to help enormously with one of the Development Kits major drawbacks, nausea caused by the disconnect between what you saw in the game and your head movements. This is of course should allow the player to feel much more like they occupy a virtual space rather than a spectator in it. Actions such as leaning around corners, crouching etc. should now be possible.

The system Oculus have opted for bears some resemblance to a concept featured on Road to VR a little while back. The PosiTTron optical tracking system which was designed by Jordi Batallé. See the original demonstration video for this below:

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Finally, Crystal Cove includes a low latency AMOLED panel in place of the old LCD panel which was plagued by motion blur and another contributor towards motion blur. This is one of the weapons in Oculus VR’s war on latency, the enemy of immersion. By reducing the latency of another component in the pipeline they’re edging the experience ever closer to the feeling of ‘being there’ and their target of < 20ms responsiveness (even less if Palmer and Carmack get their way).

WIRED also reports news of a new demo from EPIC based on the Unreal Engine 4 engine, similar to that which Oculus has used in demos for its previous 1080p based prototypes units seen at game and trade shows over the last 12 months. It’s presumed (by us) that the demo includes support for translation / positional tracking in order to show of the new prototype’s capabilities.

As to how closely the new prototype matches the capabilities of the long awaited commercial edition of the Oculus Rift (aka CK1) is anyone’s guess, but it does seem plausible that we’ll see both technologies in the final headset come Q3 this year.

We’re meeting with Oculus on Thursday and are very much crossing our fingers that Crystal Cove will be on hand to try. We’ll of course update you with our findings as soon as we can.

UPDATE: Seems hands-on impressions are flooding in from all over the web as Oculus VR kicks off with demos today. An image on Gizmodo’s website does a nice job of summarising the capabilities of the new tracking system.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • RoTaToR

    Awesome! – But first question, that comes in my mind: What is if i am in a Treadmill (Omni or Virualizer) and im doing a 180 turn, so the camera is in my back? Does the Positional tracking then still work?

    • Chris Given

      I have a solution for that… Put the whole thing inside a Darth Vader Mask with LEDs all the way around!! Then the force will be truly with us!! Vader with Bling!!

    • Kemic

      I second this question. Fixed point viewing for gathering orientation and movement details is great, if you’re sitting at a desk and facing in a fixed direction. What about the slew of OMNI backers and enthusiasts that want to get up and move around?

      Mind you, I think this will work great for those holodeck guys, since they use multiple cameras and a move controller anyways. Now they don’t need the move!

      Personally, I’d still rather stay in one spot and feel like I’m moving everywhere, as there are less constricting boundaries and no worries of walking into a wall that way,

  • Chris Given

    I wonder if having a tracking camera will all those LEDs is going to spike the price above the $300 mark they are trying to stay close to if not hit!?

  • Kemic

    Hmm, I think I would prefer Sixense STEM integration for tracking than this. I’ve never been a fan of technology that relies on a camera to distinguish position (Kinect, Move, and in some ways the wiimote) when there are so many other technologies out there that have found other ways of doing it which don’t rely on one fixed point viewing the user from one fixed angle.
    PrioVR did it, Sixense did it, not sure of the accuracy measures at close range, but GPS does it too.

    Just for the heck of it, let’s ring in the tinfoil hats and start on theories about how hackers or the government can hack into the camera on your desk and spy on you. (*note: this last bit was mostly sarcasm and is not to be taken all too seriously)

  • kevin williams

    Interesting – now we are in the final stretch and the compromises start to appear. All those Kickstarters that will have to revise their offering as the OVR hardware starts to change and the inter-connect-ability is compromised. Least we know that Sony’s system will come in three flavors!

  • eyeandeye

    Man lean forward, guy spin ’round
    Man lean forward, guy spin ’round
    Man lean forward, guy spin ’round


    It’s nice to see and hear about a new prototype. I was really hoping for more concrete details about CK1 (the VR headset. Not the cologne).

    I think I read somewhere that Oculus has more announcements to make in the near future. I hope so. Months of silence at a time gets frustrating.

  • Curtrock

    Well, yesterday I posted that I found it rather unlikely that Oculus would force us to be tied to the proximity of an external camera. Oops! In my defence, however, this is still a prototype, not the final consumer version. With technology like the STEM available, I find it surprising that this is where Oculus is at. Maybe camera tracking gives a superior result, compared to magnetic tracking like Sixense is using. Either way, whatever works best…

  • PsychShaman

    I don’t know, frankly this feels like a step backwards, not forwards. Maybe this is the lowest latency solution, but this can’t be the best solution. Agreed with others, what about about when you turn 180 degrees? I would like to use my Omni with my Rift.

    Isn’t castAR using a gyro + accelerometer + magnetometer? That seems like a better solution than an external camera, and I think those would be lower latency?

    • PsychShaman

      Looking around, it sounds like this is just a stopgap, I can’t see this being released to consumers.

  • Chris Given

    Another solution might be to have two cameras… One in front and one behind you… It seems like it works pretty good from side to side so if you turn all the way around a second camera would pick up the LED’s and do the work… This would add cost though so I think if this is an issue they will put LED’s into the head band as well… Maybe the one camera can still track you well enough from the back that way. At any rate this is just one step towards awesome VR… Trust me… When you buy the 3rd or 5th generation Rift you will look back and say wow we thought that was awesome and it was for the day but now… Holy Shit Son!!