The opening keynote at the fourth annual Oculus Connect developer conference delivered several new product announcements from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, VP of Virtual Reality Hugo Barra, and others. This included new standalone VR hardware, a new price for the Rift, and many software and game reveals.

Affordable standalone headset ‘Oculus Go’ revealed:

Image courtesy Oculus

At $199, Oculus Go is a low-cost, all-in-one standalone headset launching in early 2018. On stage, Hugo Barra claimed that the headset was designed to deliver the “best visual clarity of any product we’ve ever built”, using a “fast-switch LCD” at 2560×1440 and an “all-new, custom optical design”. The lenses are an evolution of the ‘hybrid’ optics found in the current Rift. Sharing the same controller input set as Gear VR – a single controller and rotational-only tracking – apps will be “binary compatible”, working on both systems. Essentially, Oculus Go is an enhanced, standalone version of Gear VR.

Project Santa Cruz developer kits coming in 2018, we go hands-on:

Image courtesy Oculus

Described as the “first, complete, standalone VR system with full inside-out tracking and hand presence”, Santa Cruz developer kits will be available next year. The company revealed various improvements to the latest prototype, including brand new 6-degrees-of-freedom controllers, similar to Touch. Unlike Oculus Go, Santa Cruz is designed as a high-end, standalone system, with full positional tracking on both headset and controllers, but will be limited by the performance of its on-board mobile PC. Check out our hands-on impressions here.

‘Oculus Dash’ is a total interface overhaul, supports desktop apps:

Nate Mitchell, Head of Rift, described how Oculus has been rebuilding the core software from the ground up over the past year, introducing various improvements to ‘Rift Core 2.0’. Most significantly, Oculus Dash is a total overhaul of the Rift user interface, designed specifically for motion input. It combines the existing functionality of Home and the Universal Menu, while allowing access to traditional desktop apps. Mitchell claims Dash will offer “best in class performance and visual quality,” for PC apps in VR, setting the platform “on a path to replacing real monitors entirely.”

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Oculus Home also completely rebuilt:

The Rift Core 2.0 update also brings a brand new Oculus Home space, with a more realistic visual design, with “state of the art lighting” and “dynamic soft shadows”, powered by Unreal Engine 4. This is customisable with toys, furniture, artwork and achievements, and is designed to be a persistent, social space, with the potential to create shared spaces in the future.

Rift receives permanent price cut:

Photo by Road to VR

Hugo Barra, Vice President of Virtual Reality at Oculus announced a permanent price cut of the Rift and Touch bundle to $399. The package still includes the same hardware bundle of headset, two sensors, two Touch controllers, and “six free apps” – although there are actually several more free apps available on the Store.

Echo Arena FPS Expansion, more Lone Echo coming:

image courtesy Ready at Dawn

Following the success of Ready at Dawn’s sci-fi adventure Lone Echo (2017) and standalone multiplayer mode Echo Arena, the studio has confirmed a new multiplayer, first-person shooter experience coming in 2018 called Echo Combat. In addition, more single player content for Lone Echo is on the way, continuing the adventure of Captain Olivia and Jack.

Respawn Entertainment developing Rift-exclusive VR title:

Oculus’ Head of Content Jason Rubin’s closing announcement was that Respawn Entertainment, ex-Call of Duty developers and creators of Titanfall, are building a major new VR title for Oculus Rift. The game is due to launch in 2019, and Respawn director Peter Hirschmann offered a few details on their blog.

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • Get Schwifty!

    $399 <—- That's a good deal!

    • J.C.

      Yeah, well, they have to compete with the Windows headsets now, and the Samsung one looks surprisingly compelling. Inside out tracking means no need to buy a third camera, and the Samsung’s base resolution is quite a bit higher than either the Vive/Rift.

      It’s all down to how well they perform, really. When they were first announced, I thought the Windows headsets were gonna be horrible and possibly drive people away from VR, but from all previews, they’re 95% of what the Vive/Rift accomplish.

      The Rift still has their exclusive store, again, likely why they dropped the price. Eventually they won’t be able to keep it exclusive and still attract developers.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        But have you also read the review on the Samsung on this site, it doesn’t bode well if they don’t change a few minor details on it. Also no word in the review on the tracking itself. But we’ll have to wait about a month for that.

        • J.C.

          Oh I agree! That’s the first line of the second paragraph. There’s previews, which are controlled, and then there’s real-world. The rift functionality is a known thing at this point.
          I really do hope inside-out tracking works great. Not having to set up external sensors and getting room-scale performance? That’s a big step in the right direction.

  • WutWut

    RIP thumbstick

  • Randy V.

    I feel a bit cheated now paying double for the system, but then again I have had 1 full year of VR. I am glad to see the system come down to a more manageable price. I hope more people jump on and see how awesome it is instead of heckling from the sidelines with the rest of the trolls.

    • Suitch

      That is because we as consumers are completely unused to being given products at so near cost. Consoles sometimes launch at cost, but within a year the hardware costs so much less that the companies actually rake in plenty of profit on new sales. Oculus is dedicated to giving us VR at cost. Oculus isn’t about profit and is expected to operate without profit goals for a very long time. (At least five years) It is very strange because it is operated as a researching company but they are actually creating a mass market product out of the active development.