Santa Cruz – Common Capabilities Between Mobile and Tethered VR
Oculus is working on what might be considered the first high-end standalone mobile VR headset, because it will be the first to offer high quality positional tracking for head and hands, which makes it much more similar to tethered headsets from a game design and feature standpoint than a headset like Oculus Go, which only offers a seated experience with limited tracking.
This is important because—just like we talked about in the Knuckles section above—input capabilities are inextricably linked to content design. When you have headsets like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Go (which have very different capabilities) trying to design one application to fit both means designing for the lowest common denominator.
At this point, the abilities of mobile VR compared to tethered VR are so different that most developers don’t even try to design their games for both categories because the design scope would be unreasonably wide.
Headsets like Santa Cruz, which will bring the defining elements of tethered VR (positionally tracked head and hands) to the mobile VR space, makes VR game design significantly more portable between mobile and tethered headsets.
Great games like Beat Saber—which would need significant design alterations to be ported to a headset like Oculus Go—could be perfectly viable on Santa Cruz with little more than changes to the game’s graphics (to account for the limited processing power of mobile headsets).
As the capabilities of mobile VR headsets come more in line with tethered headsets, it becomes easier for developers to create great games that work in both places—allowing them to offer their work to a wider audience—rather than needing to design substantially different titles between mobile VR and tethered VR.
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You’ll note a common theme from the above: all point toward a maturing VR ecosystem that’s both more structured and yet more flexible—you could say that the framework that underpins the VR ecosystem is better defined than ever before, while the walls of that framework are getting lower and lower, making it easier for new players to join the fray. The next generation of VR will be easier to build and design for (in both hardware and software), while fostering healthy competition.