Today at Oculus Connect 4, the company’s annual developer conference, Oculus revealed the Project Santa Cruz ‘Prototype 2’ standalone VR headset, including 6DOF motion controllers. Though it might not look obviously different at a distance than the original prototype showed off last year, up close it’s clear that it’s actually a big step forward, including new lenses and a new display.

Following the Project Santa Cruz announcements during the keynote, including that dev kits will be in developers hands within the next year, I got whisked away to a behind-closed-doors demo of the latest version of the headset. Though the company announced another standalone headset today, Oculus Go, Project Santa Cruz is a different device entirely; it represents the company’s work on a high-end standalone offering (whereas Oculus Go aims for the low-end, more like Gear VR). And while Oculus Go has already been productized and is set to launch next year for $200, Project Santa Cruz is still in the prototype phase.

Quickly, to clear up any confusion, let’s be clear that Santa Cruz is a standalone headset. That means it doesn’t rely on a PC for anything—it has everything on board that it needs for VR, including power and compute. That’s different than a wireless headset, which would be untethered, but still rely on a host PC to do the rendering and computing. Because Santa Cruz is a standalone headset, the idea is that you can use it anywhere, and the inside-out tracking ought to give you essentially unlimited tracking volumes.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, back to the demo. I wasn’t able to take any videos or pictures, but I got a fairly close look at the device and I can tell you what I saw and experienced.

One more quick note: the headset I tried today had stamped on the front, ‘Santa Cruz Prototype II’, and so I’m going to call it the Santa Cruz P2, whereas I’ll call last year’s prototype the P1.

Hardware Changes From P1 to P2

Image courtesy Oculus

Form Factor

So, while the Santa Cruz P1 was essentially a Rift that was hacked together with a mobile compute/battery module attached to the back, and a new faceplate featuring the inside-out tracking tech on the front, the Santa Cruz P2 has a completely reworked form-factor which builds the compute/battery components directly into the display enclosure. So there’s no big bulge on the back like there was with the P1.

Display & Lenses

In addition to condensing everything into the display enclosure, the headset appears to be using a new, higher resolution display and new Fresnel lenses. Like the Rift, the P2 retains a hardware IPD adjustment slider, but unlike the Rift, it also has volume buttons on the bottom.

Hidden Integrated Audio

The P2 has integrated speakers but they aren’t over-ear like the Rift, instead they are hidden in/near the headstrap; you can’t really see them, but you can hear them (and so can anyone standing nearby). I did notice 3.5mm audio jacks on the left and right of the headset, suggesting you’d be able to plug your own headphones in for a better and more private listening experience. Folks from the Santa Cruz team told me that the audio solution for the P2 isn’t finalized yet, so we could see this change.

Head-mount and Ergonomics

The head-mount on the P2 is also all new. While the P1 was using the same head-mount as the Rift (rigid straps with the triangle in the back), the new straps are rigid at the front but become soft and rubbery as they progress around the back of your head. While the Santa Cruz P2 appeared a little bulkier and felt a bit heavier than the Rift, I’m actually quite surprised at its size and weight considering everything that they’ve had to pack inside the display enclosure.

Controllers

As for the new P2 controllers, Oculus says that the same team that made Touch build the Santa Cruz P2 controllers, and it shows—they feel and work just like you’d expect with Touch, except now there’s a trackpad on the top portion instead of a joystick and buttons.

Experience

Display & Lenses

Upon donning the Santa Cruz P2 I was immediately impressed with the new display and lenses. Although there was plenty of aliasing present (after all, this is a VR experience running on mobile compute hardware), the resolution was a big step up from the Rift. The pixel fill factor also seemed quite good, doing a lot to reduce the screen door effect. Mura correction also seemed very good, further enhancing perceived clarity, though for mura I need to get a look at a wider variety of scenes than I was able to see this time around.

Given how dark the black colors were on the display, I’d be willing to bet we’re looking at an OLED panel, and given the resolution, it seems plausible Santa Cruz P2 could be using the same  1,440 × 1,600 displays found in Samsung’s new Odyssey headset. It can be tough to gauge, but I feel like I could see a faint bit of flicker from the display (some people are more sensitive to flicker than others), which makes me think the refresh rate of the P2 is not as high as the 90Hz that we’re used to on the Rift. More likely (especially given the increased resolution and limited compute resources) the P2’s display is running at 75Hz or possibly lower.

Tracking

Oculus told me that tracking on the P2 had been a major focus since the P1 was shown last year. Using wide angle cameras mounted on the corners of the display enclosure, the headset integrates four independent views for inside-out tracking, and now the same cameras doing the inside-out tracking also track the P2 controllers, similar to the Windows VR headsets.

The cameras enabling inside-out tracking on Santa Cruz are placed a the corners of the front plate | Image courtesy Oculus

The company says they’ve worked to further increase the field of view of the cameras to create the largest tracking area they could in order to reduce the chance that the controllers would exit the tracking volume.

Oculus says the green sphere represents the tracking volume for the Santa Cruz P2 controllers | Image courtesy Oculus

The tracking was quite good, and allowed me to walk confidently around a huge area of roughly 20 × 10 feet (the only thing that was stopping me from going further was the physical walls of the room). I’m so used to being inside of tethered headsets that it felt incredibly freeing to keep walking after several steps, when I would otherwise be approaching the edge of the playspace (or limit of the tether) in most other systems.

Oddly, I did notice a very small but consistent jitter when standing still and looking at nearby static objects. I say “oddly” because I don’t recall seeing the same jitter on the P1 headset last year. I mentioned this to some of the nearby Oculus folks involved with developing Santa Cruz, and they were surprised to hear that I could see any jitter; they encouraged me to return for another demo to take a another look (which I did and found the same visible jitter present).

Generally speaking, major players in the VR space (including Oculus) say that you need sub-millimeter tracking precision in order to avoid any visible jitter. If that’s true, then I’d have to guess that the Santa Cruz P2 prototype isn’t quite that precise. It’s close though, and arguably ‘good enough’ as it’s quite a bit more precise than PSVR (which has had no trouble moving units even with its greater than sub-millimeter tracking precision).

Despite the jitter, I didn’t see a single instance of ‘jumping’ (where the tracking system is briefly confused) in the head tracking which is a good sign. Granted, like last year, the demo room I was in (decorated like the inside of an apartment) didn’t have anything shiny on the walls, like mirrors or windows, which can be particularly challenging for optical tracking systems. So we’ll still have to wait and see how performance holds up in truly real-world conditions.

Controllers

Image courtesy Oculus

Last year at Connect, the Santa Cruz P1 just showed off inside-out headset tracking. This year with the P2 they have thrown 6DOF controllers into the mix. These look a lot like Touch, except with the tracking ring flipped upside down. That’s of course to make the hidden IR LED markers more visible to the on-headset cameras, whereas Touch wants to make them visible to off-headset cameras opposite the user.

The controllers have a comfortable grip that feels very similar to Touch, including the trigger and hand-trigger. The major change other than the placement of the tracking ring is a trackpad on the top of the controller rather than buttons and a joystick (for now the trackpad is not used). And the controllers seem lighter.

Overall, the tracking felt very responsive, and, at least in the demos I played, it felt almost identical to using Touch. However, I did notice that my hand seemed to shift a bit when moving from one camera’s view to the next, similar to how a moving object doesn’t always pass seamlessly through a stitching line in a 360 video.

For the kind of demo I played (Dead and Buried)—mostly casual shooting gameplay—it may not matter that much if the player’s hands tweak their position somewhat as they pass from one camera view to the next. I could however see this being a bother for some situations, like art and design applications, where, for instance, you wouldn’t want your brush stroke to get a kink in it as your hand moves between camera views. So we’ll have to hope this can be smoothed out if Santa Cruz is going to work well for all VR applications.

Audio

The decision to use integrated speakers in the P2, rather than headphones, was probably made with the aim of creating a headset with low weight, high portability/durability, and quick setup. If the P2 used the same on-ear headphones as the Rift, you might be worried about them breaking off if you throw the headset in your backpack. By removing them, they’ve potentially created a more robust product, not to mention reduced the weight, and a quicker fit when you put on the device.

To me the speakers sounded high in treble and without much bass; definitely a worse soundstage than I’m used to with the Rift. It also seemed much harder for me to understand where the spatial audio was coming from within the virtual world. Though, again, I can appreciate the thought behind this approach.

Thankfully, the 3.5mm headphone jacks (yes, plural) should mean that players can their own headphones if they like. There’s a 3.5mm jack on each side of the headset, and presumably they’re both mono jacks which would, together, offer left and right channels. I would hope that each jack could potentially also handle stereo audio output so that users could use their own headphones rather than be stuck with proprietary headphones with separated left and right audio plugs.

Ergonomics

As I mentioned, I was actually pretty impressed with the size of the P2 headset given everything that they’ve crammed into it. That said, it still feels a little bigger and heavier than the Rift, so I hope they can cut that down yet further before launch.

The new stretchy rubber head strap actually seemed quite comfortable to use. Not only was it easy to put on, but the rubber can better conform to the back of your head, whereas the shape of the Rift’s rear rigid head strap (the triangle area) is really only ideally suited for someone with one particular head shape (since it can’t flex).

And whether it is objectively better or not, it feels easier to pull the P2’s rubber strap into the optimal position, whereas with the Rift’s rigid strap I see people mis-fitting it constantly; so if Santa Cruz sticks with the rubber strap route, it could be a net positive to comfort simply by making it easier for more people to figure out the optimal fit. Of course, it really takes more time with a headset to assess true long term comfort.

– – — – –

Feel free to drop a note in the comments below if you’ve got additional questions about my time with the Santa Cruz P2 headset.

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  • dk

    sweet all it need is eye tracking and inputs for hooking up a pc

  • Vyruz

    This seems like such a step up compared to the original Rift.
    Inside-out tracking looks like it adds a lot to ease-of-use of VR headsets and the internal processor lowers the level-of-entry a lot as well.
    Does anyone know if this version can still be connected to a PC and used as a “Regular old Rift”?

    • dk

      most likely they will want to sell 2 different products…..but absolutely nothing is stopping them from adding a pc input to a standalone headset……and it will happen at some point

      • Get Schwifty!

        Hard one to call really. Keeping them separate means they could produce a PC- based version with a lighter design with the balance of money not used for tracking, rendering, etc into the quality of the lenses and screens etc. OTOH, creating a single, unified platform where today’s (unfortunate IMHO) emphasis is on rather weak capability-wise phones, etc. that manufacturers see as what most consumers have available as they won’t have a PC running a 1080ti, and they cant lug it around to the bar or school the way they see those consumers doing.

        • dk

          it should be a headset with in-out
          ….and u plug in it either …..a pc …..or a phone module with battery(gear vr apps) ….or a video receiver with battery(wireless desktop vr)
          ….versatility like that will be incredile
          ……also ….get schwifty

        • MosBen

          From what I’ve read I do not expect a video in or similar connection. This is a standalone product situated between the Go and the Rift. For a premium experience people will go with the Rift (though I expect that the target PC requirements will stay fairly close to what they are). For an introductory VR experience they’ll go with a Go. For an experience that’s better than a Go, but without needing a separate PC, there’s Santa Cruz.

          And I expect that the price structure will be something like $200, $400, $600.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Overall I think so but the tracking of inside out vs. external I still don’t believe will be as flexible in the short term as the outside in. The other thing here is the “jitter” which might be in part due to the lower refresh rate. That has to be fixed. If the upgraded unit can take a PC input then it would be almost ideal as some thing you can use for the premium, PC-based experience vs. times you are willing to settle for a lesser experience on the go.

      • MosBen

        There are two main reasons to go with inside out: 1) ease of use/setup, and 2) cost. Not having to include base stations in each unit makes them cheaper to sell, which allows VR to get into more hands. Making them easier to set up and less intimidating to approach for non-techies does the same. Some slight decrease in tracking quality is likely acceptable from Oculus’ perspective. And really, not having any wires but having a slight jitter might be a trade that I’d make. Still from the article it sounds like something that surprised the Oculus guys, so I don’t imagine that it’ll be a problem by the time Santa Cruz is released.

    • M Rob

      This bit in the article should answer that question.

      “Quickly, to clear up any confusion, let’s be clear that Santa Cruz is a standalone headset. That means it doesn’t rely on a PC for anything—it has everything on board that it needs for VR, including power and compute. That’s different than a wireless headset, which would be untethered, but still rely on a host PC to do the rendering and computing. Because Santa Cruz is a standalone headsed”

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Doesn’t mean there won’t be a way to connect it to a PC.

  • Stefan Küppers

    it will be a fascinating few years:
    in the one corner these kind of mobile all in one headsets and in the other stuff like primaxx 8k+ where will see if gpus can keep up with them.

    i wonder if we get a segregated market where there are benchmarks for mobile devices and benchmarks for tethered devices just like phones, consoles and pc gaming. for me it would be more desirable to have a single vr benchmark that can reder the same scene on all the devices in 90 fps maybe at different resolutions to allow consumers to compare.

    otherwise we will only get “the experience was great” statements comparing AA+ type of games on vive 2.0 against daydream blocks on mobile vr.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Let’s first wait and see if Pimax can actually produce a ‘8K’ headset with decent displays. But they do have the advantage at this moment, but then again, the headset isn’t due out before april 2018.

  • Adam Zawadzki

    All I want is a Rift connect without cable to my pc, more pixels, better fov, best tracking and a controller which can compete with Valve “Knuckles”… I’m a little disappointed by the new controllers from Oculus…

    • Guru Guy

      The current Touch controllers will compete fine with Knuckles. They will both have their pros and cons, just like many prefer the current Vive wands for some applications over the Touch. It’ll be a few years before we get everyone agreed on a common input method that works.

      • Well, the Knux controller has the hard to beat finger sensing for added realism/immersion.

        Thats what makes it waaay better. It’s like an invisible haptics glove.

      • Adam Zawadzki

        I already miss full finger sensing. Because todays Touch Controllers break the immersion.

    • care package

      Is that all?

      • Adam Zawadzki

        No. Release Q2 2018 would be nice.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Well, if it’s no cables, then you’ll be able to pick up a TPCast by the end of the year.

      • Adam Zawadzki

        Yeah I know. Add the new Valve base station without usb cables, add TPCast and new Knuckles controllers. I’m starting to lose fait in Oculus.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          With the TPCast I meant the TPCast for the Oculus Rift which will be available by the end of the year. Also the current vive basestations also don’t require usb cables.

    • MosBen

      It’s important to remember that the Vive and Rift only came out last year. There should be no expectation that either Valve or Oculus would be talking about the next versions of that hardware yet. The Go and Santa Cruz fill different niches in the Oculus lineup. Sometime next year, or possibly CES 2019, I expect Oculus to announce the followup to the Rift.

    • Kyle Morrison

      “All I want…”

    • Shade Smith

      “All I want is…” lol

    • Dave

      Bring back the cable for the Rift 2.0! The last thing I want is a battery low warning flashing up on my screen… Besides I believe you can get better quality with a cable so that means higher resolution and FOV. If they can achieve the same without a cable which lasts for more than 10 hours then maybe a wireless solution could work…

    • Edward Morgan

      All I want is a holodeck. Installed in my underground lair. On my private island. Staffed by a bevy of buxom bikini-clad attendants.
      I am willing to wait until Q4 2018, though.

  • Andreas Zetterström

    Regarding the audio jacks I would guess they are both stereo. Then if Oculus sells external 2-part headphones they can be built so only the left or right channel is connected on each side.

  • Adrian Meredith

    Theres a reason why facebook is abandoning desktop vr and its to do with control. They have no interest in sharing the VR market and only by releasing proprietary standalone devices can they hope to achieve that and shut out Valve, Ms and Google.

    Overall, really disappointed by oculus this year

    • Xron

      I’m a bit dissapointed by their new hmds aswell, but they brough cv1 to 399$ this year, so I can’t say I’m dissapointed in them as a whole.

    • Doctor Bambi

      The standalone category of headsets are going to be a cornerstone to increased adoption. They were coming whether Oculus brought them or not and there will be competitors to Santa Cruz that encourage more open market places. Things are still very raw in this sector of the market, don’t forget Santa Cruz won’t be releasing till likely 2019.

      What Oculus has done here has set the design standard for standalone. We can now reasonably expect 6DOF tracking of head and hands. That’s a pretty huge deal as it’ll push other manufactures to deliver to that standard.

      • Armando Tavares

        6DOF is what MS Mixed VR devices are offering. How did Oculus set the design standard for it? Kudos for the 4 cameras though…

        Inside out tracking IS the future but while is was MS doing it, it was highly criticized (and I’m not saying it was by you personally). Now that Oculus does it, it’s viewed as some visionary next level sh*t….

        I understand Microsoft is the company that everyone loves to hate, but kudos where kudos are due.

        Edit: Btw.. MAJOR kudos to Microsoft (Yes!! Microsoft) for forcing Oculus to drop it’s price to where it is now.

        • Doctor Bambi

          I meant specifically in the standalone category of headsets. Santa Cruz is running on mobile components completely contained within the headset, that’s the impressive part. Until now the closest we’d seen to that was the HTC Focus which had headset 6DOF tracking and one 3DOF motion controller.

          The MS Mixed Reality headsets are impressive in their own right. Their ease of setup and reasonable price point will likely be a big deal for a certain sector of the market. If I didn’t already own a Rift, I’d be seriously considering one myself.

    • MosBen

      There hasn’t been an indication that they’re abandoning desktop VR, at least that I’ve seen. The Go represents an introductory level for VR, affordable, but limited. Santa Cruz represents a significant improvement; more powerful and with a better controller experience, as well as mobile, but a bit more expensive. The Rift, and eventually Rift 2, represent the highest fidelity experience, but is more expensive and requires the use of a PC for processing.

  • Lucidfeuer

    While the strap design is terrible, even unbearable, and audio is a nice idea that seems badly executed, I’m willing to sacrifice user/clients confort if it’s affordable enough that we can travel with 3/4 ready headsets instead of PCs and cases.

    I think the sweet spot would be ~400-500$.

    It’s a shame they’ve abandoned their consumer market ambition, because with slightly higher specs and wireless capabilities this would be the okay minimum for a CV2 headset.

    • MosBen

      Why do you say that they’ve abandoned their consumer market ambition? I think that you’re right that this will come in around $400, and that when they release the Rift 2 it will come in around $600. With the Go that creates three easy tiers of VR experiences for consumers to understand.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Because as I mentioned, most consumer/prosumer either want a VR headset for the power and versatility of a PC, or the double convenience and mobility of a high-end smartphone.

        Standalone headsets that can neither serve as a powerful operational, production or gaming tool, nor as an actual practical smartphone, are however an excellent solution for one thing: events, conventions, client demos etc…

        Which means they are well-aware that virtual/digital events is today’s VR’s main platform, which is both true but also a statement a how laggy/slow the VR market is and will be, and that consumer/prosumer market are not a focus.

  • Jimmy Arias

    Sorry but didn’t find if this prototype works with the Gear VR apps or the Rift apps, I guess based on the size of hardware that it has it is using the Gear Version of Dead and Buried. If that’s correct, there will be no successor for the Rift, at least for now?

    • Doctor Bambi

      Better not to think of this as the successor to anything. It’s the first product in a brand new product line that will more than likely entail it’s own library of software. The Dead and Buried demo was specifically designed for the Santa Cruz headset so it’s neither the GearVR nor Rift version of the game.

    • MosBen

      As Doctor Bambi said, this represents a middle ground between the Rift (top of the line VR) and Go (entry level VR). It will likely use mobile parts, but higher quality parts than the Go, so we can expect better performance, but some of that performance will be eaten up by bigger FOV/higher resolution screen and 6DOF in the controllers. The Rift (or Rift 2 when it comes out) will remain the highest fidelity experience, but this one will be totally portable, which will be nice.

      • Rogue Transfer

        Not the highest fidelity experience – that will be left to others, like Pimax and Varjo. The former will likely be on gen. 3 by 2019, with an even higher spec’d product than their upcoming 200°, 2xUHD ‘Pimax 8K’ in a few months.

        Facebook’s Rift 2 will be for the middle market, with a lower price than first gen. Rift, to reach a bigger market.

  • Zach Mauch

    I like the concept here, but I am a bit concerned with the software side. I’m guessing that this will likely be a walled garden that is only compatible with the Oculus store. It would be nice if they included an option to wirelessly stream games from your PC and/or made got google play running on it so as to make it daydream compatible. I expect it won’t be long before daydream has similar tracking controllers and headsets. If they did both, this could become the defacto headset by basically being compatible with all major software markets.

  • paul

    News from Oculus is kind of sad comparing to what Pimax is doing.

    • Miqa

      Nah, Oculus is interested in making VR last. Pimax will work for the current users, early adopters with cash to spare (on both PC and VR-system). Real consumers will demand more moderate solutions. High quality, but at a fair total price.

      • MosBen

        Seriously. Pimax is making an HMD that doesn’t even run on modern PC graphics cards. Oculus is focusing on bringing interesting VR experiences to price points that people will spend on holiday and birthday presents. That’s how a technology spreads.

        • Heliosurge

          So has google. Just about anyone with a smart phone can experience vr.

        • paul

          The Pimax headset upscales the image. Your pc only puts 2560×1440. My pc (I7 6700 and gtx 1080) can push 200fps in many games doing that. So if I have to turn details down a bit I can live with that.

          • paul

            Throw in foveated rendering and we are done.

          • MosBen

            Isn’t that just for the Pimax 8K? I was referring to the 8K X. They’re not even sure what the requirements for it will be, possibly a 1080Ti, but possibly two of them in SLI, or maybe something from the Volta line.

          • paul

            You are correct as far as we know. I was not thinking of the X model. I will probably order the 5k or 8k after they launch.

          • MosBen

            That’s cool. Personally, I’m intrigued by what Pimax is doing, but I don’t need a bunch of hmds cluttering my house. My Rift (and the 1070 driving it) are good enough for now. Presumably by the time the next Rift or Vive get released a 200 degree FOV will be standard, which will be great.

          • paul

            I am intrigued as well. Especially since I bought my rift used, and the headphones failed. I just want the next generation to come already. I quit golf to do VR instead. And so far, VR costs less. So I have more money to throw at it.

      • Shade Smith

        “Real consumers” = uninformed consumers with less money/time to invest. Everyone is a “real” consumer.

        • Miqa

          Semantics. The point is, 1080’s doesn’t drive mass adoption.

          • Shade Smith

            Mass adoption doesn’t equal to the highest quality products. McDonald’s achieved mass adoption by selling cheap food loaded with salts and sugar. No one would say the food is particularly good or good for you.

            HOWEVER, I am hyped about Oculus’s announcements and the growth of VR based on their mass adoption approach much in the same way I’ll never own a console but am happy they exist to support the health of the gaming market.

          • Shade Smith

            Also, in Oculus’s defense, their “Cliffhouse” VR home app IS EXACTLY what I want; something more akin to a Windows OS in virtual reality rather than yet another wave shooter. So I applaud Oculus for that.

      • Heliosurge

        PiMax is making vr people want. Headsets need to be available to all tiers of consumers. There is room for low end headsets, medium & Truly high end headsets. The 5k/8k min gpu rec 980ti/1070, R9 Nano.

  • Gerald Terveen

    I would be very curious about using two or more of them in the same room for shared experiences. Especially if the controllers confuse other headsets.

  • Facts

    Finally, this is what vr need to take off, only geeks with money can afford high end pc’s to run good vr these days, if the masses going to adopt vr it need to be able to run high graphic games without a pc. It need to be wireless and have better resolution. I was looking forward to pumax but this look even cooler. Now the key is to make price it under 500$

    • MosBen

      I really think that Oculus is going to shoot for $200, $400, $600 for the initial prices of their three tiers of HMDs (low range mobile, high range mobile, top of the line), with the top two dropping to $300 and $500, respectively after a year.

      • Facts

        Most likely it won’t be available until 2019, by that time the technology to develop it will cheaper base on moore’s law, and with Palmer Lucky at the forefront it’s definitely going to be under 500$

  • Duane Aakre

    What about the battery? If it is located in the headset, it must be limited in size. Does it greatly limit the usage time? Also what about the heat from the battery? My Vive quickly gets uncomfortably warm and that’s without an internal heat source like a battery.

    • MosBen

      Yeah, heat is a good question, though presumably since they’re not limited by having all of the hardware housed in a phone they can add some active cooling to keep things running smoothly and comfortable, like in the new Daydream headset.

      • RFC_VR

        new View has passive cooling as in a magnesium alloy heat sink with convection channels

        active would be fan assisted or pumped fluid

        my own View has been modded with a custom front end with copper coldplate thermally coupled to a finned, extruded aluminium alloy heatsink, which provides a surprising reduction in temperature at the SOC surface compared to stock View.

  • MosBen

    I wonder if they’ll integrate bluetooth to Santa Cruz when it becomes a retail product. The open speakers seem cool if you are playing a social game like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, but it’d be nice to pop on some wireless BT cans to go with the wireless headset.

    I’m sure that the decision to reorient the ring on the controllers was technically necessary, but it seems like it would make it impossible to let go of the controller to, for instance, wave like you can with Touch. It’s not a deal breaker, but I’d prefer to see hand inputs becoming more expressive rather than less.

    As for the hardware, it’s hard to get too worked up since this isn’t final, but it’s nice to see progress. I’m keen to know what mobile chip they’re using in this thing. My guess is a Snapdragon 835.

    I’m going to revise my Oculus roadmap based on this stuff. They’ve said that the Go comes out early in 2018. I’m betting that Santa Cruz gets released either late 2018 or early 2019. And then the Rift 2 gets released for Holidays 2019. That gives them three tiers of products with three different price points, four if you count the GearVR at $100.

    The Go will be great for people who don’t have a Samsung phone but want an entry level experience. It will probably use processing hardware that’s a generation or two behind the cutting edge. I’m betting that the Santa Cruz comes in at $300-400 and has whatever the latest mobile chip is, whether that’s a Snapdragon 835 or whatever comes next. Then the Rift 2 will come out at $400-$500. It will be wireless, but not standalone, but will use inside out tracking (saving costs by not needing base stations). The Rift 2 will scale up to enthusiast PCs, but will probably target the equivalent of a GTX 1070. That will give it a leg up over Santa Cruz hardware but will be usable on very mid-range, widely available PCs in late 2019.

    • beestee

      I am hoping for Nvidia Xavier SoC in this thing. I just can’t comprehend a Snapdragon being able to handle full-fat VR experiences.

      …maybe even the Ryzen mobile SoC with Vega graphics.

      • MosBen

        That’s certainly possible, but I think that something that enthusiast fans often don’t consider is how price conscious Facebook/Oculus seems to be about their lineup going forward. It was somewhat inevitable that the rush to get a consumer HMD out the door would mean that the first generation was super expensive both for the HMD itself as well as the PC needed to run it and the accessories to add to it. But I guarantee that that simply won’t ever happen again. A super awesome PC will always provide an awesome experience, but I am extremely confident that the target specs (not the minimum, but the target) for the Rift 2 will be a mid-range PC at the time that it’s release, whether that’s in late 2018 or some time in 2019. And the Rift 2 will be the premium level, both in the quality of the experience and the cost.

        So if Santa Cruz represents a middle ground price point between the Go and the Rift 2, we’re probably looking at $400 at launch with a price drop to $300 a year later. So whatever hardware goes in there will need to fit the price point, not the other way around. I don’t know enough about how much mobile parts cost to know if the Xavier or Ryzen stuff is possible at this price point, but feel free to let me know. It’s also worth considering that Facebook may initially sell these, especially the walled garden Go and Santa Cruz at a loss, with the expectation being that they’ll make it up in software sales from their stores. So it’s all a crap shoot at this point, but if VR is going to go mainstream, and Facebook/Oculus clearly are gearing towards that, it will be the price points that do it.

        • beestee

          If we use $400 for the Snapdragon 835 as reference, from the gut I would think $650+ range for Xavier and $550+ for Ryzen in the final product. I think $400 is very conservative for final price overall.

          • MosBen

            I don’t think that it’s super conservative, or at least more conservative than what Oculus seems to be doing. They want to have three tiers for VR for both price and quality. I also think that they don’t want anything to be as expensive, and therefore as niche, as the original Rift was. I mean, maybe when we reach a point that VR is ubiquitous in society they’ll put out an enthusiast HMD that costs $1,000, but for now I think that a $200, $300-$400 and a$400-$500 price structure seems about right in terms of marketing the products to a large audience. Also keep in mind that a $400-$500 Rift 2 will still require a $500+ computer, so that’s still in a pretty ridiculous price range for most people.

            I’m legitimately curious. Do you have any idea what these chips (Snapdragon 835, Xavier, and Ryzen) cost to an OEM like Oculus?

          • beestee

            Vive standalone with Snapdragon 835 is going to be “mid-hundreds range.” Optimistically, that would be maybe $400, but realistically it likely means $600.

            The only thing I know of to base any OEM chip pricing on is by comparing the retail prices of the products themselves that feature previous generations of those chips.

            Xavier and Ryzen would likely both be more power hungry than the Snapdragon 835 as well, so more investment would be needed in the battery as well.

          • MosBen

            Keep in mind that the Santa Cruz headset won’t release until sometime next year. It’s possible that in that time the cost of building with an 835 will have come down. But, of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Santa Cruz will start atound $500 and come down from there. I just kniw that Facebook is keen to make these products as mass market friendly as possible, and while being sub $1,000 brings you into the consumer realm generally, each hundred dollar price difference makes a big difference.

    • Foreign Devil

      I didn’t here any mention of a Rift 2. . .unfortunately the Santa Cruz thing will probably replace Rift but put a big barrier on performance.

      • MosBen

        They haven’t announced anything about the Rift 2 other than that the Santa Cruz is not a replacement for it. Santa Cruz represents a middle ground between the Go and the Rift. Speculation has also put the lifecycle of the Rift at 2-3 years, so it’s still early for them to be talking about it, especially when they want these new products to have some space and attention.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Bluetooth would be a welcome addition for these headsets. Wireless headphones would be great. Also having the ability to connect your phone and get notifications when calls or texts come in and perhaps be able to respond to them within the headset.

  • Simple controller that does not bring anything new unlike the Knuckles controller. The Knux shall be top of the line. Like an invisible haptics glove. How can touch beat that or compete?

    • MosBen

      The original Vive controllers were much better than the Xbox controller initially used by the Rift. Then the Touch controllers surpassed the original Vive wands. Now it looks like the Knuckle controllers will be another nice jump above Touch (though they aren’t released yet). Santa Cruz won’t be released for another year. It’s certainly possible that there will be continued revisions to improve them between then and now. But even if they don’t, the Touch controllers are pretty good, and certainly a big upgrade over the basic controllers used in Daydream, GearVR, and Oculus Go. And for a product that you can take with you in a backpack, maybe having decent but not the best controllers is ok. And maybe when the Rift 2 comes out it will have it’s own exciting new controllers.

  • Foreign Devil

    I”M skeptical that a device this small could even compete with a regular GTX 1080 video card. Likely we are going to see lower quality, older generation graphics in the games for it.

    • MosBen

      Where in the articles that you’ve read about this thing do you get the impression that they’re suggesting that it will compete with the GTX 1080 in terms of power? Santa Cruz is a middle ground between the Go and the Rift, better than the former, but not as powerful as the latter (at least on a well-equipped PC).

      This will not have bleeding edge graphics, nor will it play games from your PC. It will likely have top of the line mobile parts, but mobile parts none the less. The trade off is that you aren’t tethered with wires to anything and you can take this whole setup to a friend’s house in a backpack.

  • Foreign Devil

    What OS is it running??

  • This thing better be able to play games that are on your PC, not being able to would be an absolute dealbreaker.

    If it becomes a walled garden, there could be a lot less support added to games for it.

    Mostly added to CV1/VIVE.

    • Mike549

      I’m wondering this too. If not, then that implies that they’d eventually release a *third* headset (Oculus Go, Santa Cruz, and Rift CV2?). It would make the most sense by far, and be the most versatile, if it had the ability for completely standalone plus the ability to run Rift and Steam games. Then again, maybe it will be powerful enough completely on its own by the time of its release, though that seems almost impossible.

      • MosBen

        Not to be a dick, guys, but every article talks about how this is a standalone HMD. This does not connect to your PC, so there’s no reason to believe that it can play PC games. There is an implication in some of the statements from Oculus in this reveal that Santa Cruz represents a middle ground price point and price between the Go and the Rift, whatever future incarnations of it are released.

        • That would be stupid as a PC connection make perfect sense like a Dock for the Switch(sort of).

          And also solve the tethered issue for new customers w/ rigs.

          And mod games/use mods n have plenty of VR support for PC games.

          Walled garden is jus stupidity.

          Although, can’t help but wonder what if Sony/MS made their consoles into compact PCs w/ exclusive games to their particular encrypted software on their hardware.

          • MosBen

            I disagree. If you buy the Santa Cruz HMD and then hook it into your PC then you’ve got a bunch of hardware that isn’t being used, but which you have to carry on your face. It’s like the opposite of the Switch. Making distinct units for low end mobile, high end mobile, and PC connected means that each HMD only need the hardware needed to do what it’s designed to do. Right now the single biggest barrier to people adopting VR is cost and complexity. Putting more hardware into Santa Cruz to allow for streaming PC games just makes it more expensive and more confusing to non-tech people.

            I hate walled gardens, but for casual users they’re fine. My parents don’t have a gaming PC, and they never will. They won’t be bothered in the slightest that the small handful of applications that they’d buy would all come from the Oculus store.

          • But heres the thing, extra hardware in the cruz isn’t needed, it needs software to connect it to PC.

            High end mobile…What exactly is high end mobile? Who develops high end mobile?

            I remember there was a Android console. How did that work out?

            Can’t see this high end mobile being a success, mobile games are mostly trash. The experience of mobile vr isnt that great from what I read.

            This thing is better than the Rift, is it not? Then it should not be wasted on trash.

            It can do both.

          • RFC_VR

            VR on Galaxy and Pixel with remote controllers can actually be very good when done well, as the saying goes, “good content is good content”.

            Software optimization on targeted hardware can be very effective, especially when not trying to ape photorealism.

            View with Pixel XL (2560 x 1440, 534ppi, AMOLED) is a treat for the eyes, even powered off the 821 / 530 chipset but running clean Android Oreo

            As examples, ‘Virtual Virtual Reality’ and ‘Eclipse: Edge of Light’ are two standout titles on Daydream.

          • silvaring

            Santa Cruz will be a walled garden first with the possibility of add ons at a later stage to add compatibility with PC or console platforms from Nintendo / Sony but this won’t be announced too early because the market is still a bit immature and unpredictable.

        • Mike549

          I wish the Santa Cruz coukd do augmented reality VR like they talked about during the keynote at OC3. That makes being tethered to a PC, even wirelessly, obsolete. The possibilities of that are incredible. Even if it only had Gear VR level graphics, to be able to use it anywhere and incorporate real world environments into VR is a huge step beyond what we’ve seen so far.
          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rA2NI4NgsV0

      • CV2 is a waste of hardware when Santa can be made to connect to PC.

  • Micro666

    As Santa Cruz II is a stand alone mobile headset, similar to Gear VR, and Oculus Go, would you say in your experience that the graphics performance is similar to Gear or Go, or better?

    Clearly the gfx performance and quality can’t match the high-end PC’s used for Rift, but it would be good to have an idea of how power Santa Cruz II is in it’s current form.

    Thx

    • MosBen

      I can’t speak for the author, but my understanding is that the demos were of Santa Cruz, but people didn’t get a chance to try the Go for comparison. Based on the Go’s price it seems like it probably uses mid-range mobile parts, though it’s weird to me that for a product that’s relatively close to release they haven’t given any information at all about specs.

      I would like to hear how the graphics compare to something like a Pixel 2 or Galaxy 8 in their respective VR housings. The added computing overhead of increased FOV/higher resolution and adding 6DOF might leave it not much more powerful.

    • benz145

      @MosBen:disqus is on track. I will add: Go is probably not using top-notch mobile hardware, except it has some big advantages over Gear VR because it completely eschews the design considerations of a smartphone. All properly designed standalone headsets are much less likely to overheat, and are in fact likely to run at higher clock speeds. That’s because they don’t need to compact all the electronics together into a phone form-factor; they can spread out the hottest components, have room for additional cooling measures, and generally have much more leeway in optimizing the thermal properties of the system for VR usage, whereas a smartphone is optimized for a completely different type of usage.

      Granted, there will probably always remain a large gap between mobile-based VR and desktop-based VR simply because desktop-based will always have a huge advantage when it comes to size/cooling/available power.

  • Mike549

    I’m curious if it will have some type of external camera to sense objects in order to create boundaries in the real world. If it was able to detect physical objects (besides the controllers) then that opens up the possibilities of HUGE areas of play, like taking it outdoors. That would truly be a game changer.

  • So the market that these new headsets target must exist but who is it?

    1. Huge multi room play areas
    2. High end mobile grade graphics

    All the people I know would like wireless for the freedom of having no wires to trip over, not because they have a 20 foot square empty room or a house they like to wander around in blindfolded to real world dangers.

    I was hoping for a Rift v2 announcement but this seems like a stab at creating a market solution for a problem people didn’t know they had.

    • Kyle Morrison

      It is too early for v2.

      • Not for an announcement it isn’t. Even Pimax have pulled the rug from under the big boys.

        • Kyle Morrison

          Pimax doesn’t really make sense yet. By the time it does the next rift will be out.

        • MosBen

          It’s too early for a Rift 2 announcement if they’re not releasing it in the next year. They want to keep selling Rift CV1s until they start the push for the CV2. They don’t want people who would otherwise buy a CV1 to put off their purchase for a year or two while they wait for the next big thing.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Standalone does away with the notion that you need to set aside a space for VR. Now it can adjust and facilitate any space you want and anything you want to do. That’s going to be the magic of standalone.

      It’s hard to say what exactly it’ll end up being used for, but imagine if everyone had a standalone headset. It opens up possibilities to so many different kinds of uses. It would revolutionize classrooms, businesses, airlines, community spaces, all kinds of places where people can come together in new and fantastic ways.

      • Ok, fair point. Classroom and education is a good market to take on. Remote lecturers, business use. So this is Zuckerberg’s way of trying to get mass adoption of VR, which will kick the software industry to really take notice.

        Also, maybe this will transform into the mobile console of the future if they can keep the weight down while upping the battery life. The iPad Pro for example has a 10 hour battery life and can do 4K rendering at 120Hz so the technology is out there, just in a different form factor.

  • jwjaii

    FOVE ???

  • There is a lot of money to be made should standalone mobile headsets stream PC VR games like Riftcat.

    Cheap way into PCVR w/o a particular/expensive phone.

    It’s also wireless. It make perfect sense.

    Why not do it?

    Heck, all thats needed it software.

  • Shade Smith

    I’ll never give Facebook a dime but I’m hyped about all the resources being poured into VR.

  • VRdeluxe

    How did you figure it’s an OLED panel?? They have clearly stated its using a new low persistence LED panel

    • Doctor Bambi

      Oculus Go is using the low persistence LED tech. They did not specify what Santa Cruz was using.

    • benz145

      @doctorbambi:disqus is right that they are different. Oculus Go is using a 2,560 × 1,440 “fast switch” LDC. Santa Cruz is not necessarily using the same display, but usually the depth of the black colors is the dead giveaway. OLED can completely turn off individual pixels, resulting in true black. LCD can’t individually turn off pixels so they are limited to simply turning the brightness all the way down to achieve black; a completely “black” LCD panel looks grey and still emits light see comparison: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/68cb5276adcc46a74f5c665a9a64f16764415a1e3a14b6d974d2730801495ea6.jpg

      On top of that, the PenTile subpixel structure is a good giveaway, it looks a bit different to most LCD subpixels.

  • VRdeluxe
    • Michael

      I agree, at present it is indeed the best HMD on market. Or at least, will be… (heh)

  • brubble

    EEhhhhh…. just another tech demo device, now untethered! Oh boy.

    Wake me up in 5 years.

    • benz145

      Untethered and standalone are pretty different. IMO this is more impressive for being standalone than simply untethered.

      • brubble

        Sure untethered is fine but where is this magical horsepower thats going to compete with todays massive gpus that are necessary to push current vr?

        All I can see is scaled down experiences with the luxury of freedom of movement. Am I missing something?

  • LeyenT

    I can’t wait to see a sigil/gesture-based magic system utilizing the knuckle controllers. I’m thinking one element per extended digit with some basic shapes any one can form out for cantrips – thumb extended to the finger for closed spells like bolts and just the finger for sustained blast spells… Then ambidextrous casting for seriously high-tier spells… God it would be epic. Maybe giving this a bit too much thought, hahah.

  • MasterElwood

    If it has an hardware IPD adjustment – it’s not a single display.

  • Kay Donovan

    I’m mostly interested in what the recent develpments are going to do for online gaming. Recently, big projects like PUBG have been incorporating VR, and with Santa Cruz and Oculus Go it’s getting pretty interesting.

  • Jackie Nguyen

    How is the glaring effects when looking at white letter or object against a dark or black screen?