When Oculus revealed its newest PC headset, Rift S, at GDC last month, it was a surprise to see the ‘Lenovo’ logo on the side. Oculus explained that Facebook tapped the company to help in both the design and manufacture of the headset. In an interview with Road to VR, Facebook’s Jason Rubin offered some details on the extent of the partnership, and what the Rift S design does (or doesn’t) mean compared to Quest’s quite different approach.

Jason Rubin has been a key spokesman for Oculus since he joined the company in 2014. While he now more broadly oversees AR and VR content & partnerships at Facebook, he’s still closely involved with Oculus.

Rubin sat down with Road to VR for a wide-ranging interview at GDC 2019 last month, during which he spoke to the fact that Oculus opted to work with Lenovo in the design and manufacture of the Rift S.

“We’ve often used partners. Gear VR was a Samsung partnership—a lot of decisions were made by Samsung. Oculus Go was a Xiaomi partnership—a lot of decisions were made by Xiaomi. Rift was mostly designed internally. Quest was mostly designed internally,” he explained. “Rift S is designed in partnership with Lenovo. […] I don’t think there’s really that much to be gleaned from understanding that we partnered with Lenovo on one device and not another.”

Rubin added that Lenovo was quite involved in the design of the headset, and not merely a manufacturing partner.

“This is a device that Lenovo really helped us design and did work on. […] We found Lenovo to be a fantastic partner. We found them to be incredibly talented.”

Photo by Road to VR

Indeed, the Rift S does share some striking similarities to Lenovo’s two other VR headsets: the Lenovo Explorer (Windows VR) and the Mirage Solo (Daydream standalone).

Like those headsets, Rift S features a ‘halo’ style strap which is a departure from the Rift, Go, and Gear VR (all of which use a three-point strap that goes around and over the head). While the Solo had some of the worst ergonomics I’ve ever encountered on a major VR headset, luckily we’ve found the Rift S so far to be quite comfortable, very likely helped by the fact that (unlike most halo-strap headsets) it also retains a top strap to better align the lenses with the user’s eyes.

Photo by Road to VR

Asked about the notable differences between Quest and Rift S (like the differing straps, number of displays, and IPD adjustment), and whether or not the designs represent a shift in design thinking, Rubin said that the differences reflect the decisions of two different teams and the products themselves, and not anything more significant.

“You can think of [Rift S and Quest] as two very different visions from two very different teams, albeit based on the premise that ‘getting in and out of VR as quickly as possible’ was one of the key things that VR needed to go forward,” he said.” “So the fact that one has a halo strap and the other doesn’t have a halo strap probably comes down more to the fact that one team thought that the halo strap was the right answer (including Lenovo who would have been working in entirely separate offices) and the other thought that the other type of strap would be better. […] So I think it would be wrong to assume that any major decisions about the future are being determined by which one of these was announced first […] I think you’re just looking at two groups going through the tradeoffs and determining what they could get in a price point that they thought was the right price point for the consumer.”

SEE ALSO
Everything We Know (Officially) About the FOV and IPD of Rift S & Quest

For much more on Quest, Rift S, and the direction of Oculus, see our full interview with Rubin.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Jistuce

    That’s a whole lot of words to say nothing at all.

    • FireAndTheVoid

      I think what it says is that they cared about mobile enough to make the Quest in-house and that they cared so little about PC VR that they let another company design their product for them.

      • Thunk

        Well, Rift S isn’t the Rift 2. We can at least assume that 2 will be designed internally. And you say they don’t care about PC VR, but the Rift is the best headset for using your desktop in VR, thanks to Oculus Dash. You can tell their software engineers care a great deal about PC VR, just by using Dash; feels a lot less thrown together, like using your desktop in the Vive.

        • FireAndTheVoid

          I don’t doubt the commitment, dedication, and skill of the engineers. When I say “they cared so little”, I’m referring to Facebook management.

          • Thunk

            Possibly, but so far, Facebook seems to be letting Oculus run their business as they want to, and they aren’t intervening too much or trying to push their services down Oculus user’s throats, like people assume they do.

            If anything, it’s Oculus who are internally making the decisions for the Rift, such as moving away from Outside-in sensors, etc, to make VR more mainstream and less of a hassle to set up, etc.

            And based on early previews of the Quest and Rift S, Rift S actually seems to track hands much better than the Quest, so goes to show that they are continuing to evolve upon Inside-out tracking, and it will only get better in time, to the point we don’t need external sensors any more.

          • Hivemind9000

            You really think that? After Iribe left due to differences in vision with management? Oculus are firmly an extension of Facebook and are part of Zuckerberg’s master plan – as a platform for their future products (he has said as much). There’s absolutely no way they are as independent as you say.

          • Thunk

            Lol, “Zuckerberg’s master plan”. People love to make delusional tin-foil hat conspiracy theories to suit their narratives or biases. That reminds me of how a lot of people were saying that the Epic Store is a Chinese spyware, and naively believe Steam is angelic to the core.

          • HybridEnergy

            Kind of like you make all the excuses trying to make Oculus seem angelic to the core.

          • Hivemind9000

            Maybe you should read up about him and some of his announcements. Who do you think the visionary for Facebook is? He’s made open statements about his vision for VR at the center of Facebook’s future. Numerous founders of businesses Facebook have purchased have left due to conflicts with Zuckerburg. It has nothing to do with conspiracy theories.

          • Thunk

            While some of the criticisms levied at Facebook certainly are true, we know it’s something the company is continuing to work on and be more transparent about. However, there’s still a lot of Facebook conspiracy theories that are just that; and they continue to be circulated and propagated by mainstream news, and normie culture, who don’t understand how the Internet works: who typically have black and white views on everything: e.g. reporting / propagating only the negative sides of Donald Trump’s presidency to fit their mainstream narrative, etc.

            It’s always funny to me when I see gamer types blindly agree with mainstream news outlets on stuff like Facebook, when these are the same outlets that propagate the message that games are violent and sexist, etc. It’s like, ‘oh you’ll believe their narrative when it aligns with your bias right now, but not when it doesn’t’,.

            But to your point, until the day it actually happens, it remains nothing but speculation and conjecture, not backed up by objective proof, only past precedences, that have nothing to do with the context of how Oculus are allowed to run things right now.

            If you were a genuine Oculus owner and you had these concerns, I’d take your word a lot more to heart, but if you really are just a Vive/ other headset owner, I’ve got to assume you’re only making these anti-Facebook/Oculus comments, due to a bias and to vindicate your purchasing decisions / troll people for theirs, which is an incredibly petty and futile use of your time.

          • Hivemind9000

            Well you could be right. But equally you could be wrong as you are also making a lot of assumptions about what is going on in Oculus and how their decisions are made. This thread (between you and I) started with you making an assertion that Oculus are completely independent from Facebook – something you could not possibly know or verify.

            My response is based on having raised capital for a tech startup in silicon valley, and knowing that with tech investors the buck stops at the CEO – who is responsible for the performance of the entire business, no matter who they delegate to. There may be some autonomy within Oculus, but make no mistake – they are part of Facebook and would need to fit within an overarching strategy. If they didn’t, Facebook would be selling them off. This is just business as usual in silicon valley – not some conspiracy theory conjured up by the media.

            I’m not a brand biased person by nature, and have not said anything anti-Oculus in this thread, only speculating that their products will be aligned with their social media strategy – more mass market, than bleeding edge. Nothing wrong with that.

          • Did Iride say it cause all I saw was rumors that was his reason I have yet to read it in his own words. and from what I see there has been no slow down in oculus timeline. just because value, htc, etc are all releasing higher spec hmd doesn’t mean they care more. out-side of spec I see the rest playing caught up to oculus. everyone else just got asw while oculus has already moved on to asw 2.0. if u going to say thing start posting links. find Iride saying that in his own words not some guy writing a story telling us that what he think is the reason. “Oculus are firmly an extension of Facebook and are part of Zuckerberg’s master plan – as a platform for their future products (he has said as much)” this is a bad thing how?

        • @Serventine

          Dash and the games coming out for Rift this year were green lit before the Quest was even conceived as a product, you can expect the Quest line to be their primary focus now and in the future.

      • Buddydudeguy

        That’s a stretch. No clue where you got that from. did you read; “Gear VR was a Samsung partnership—a lot of decisions were made by Samsung. Oculus Go was a Xiaomi partnership—a lot of decisions were made by Xiaomi”? You don’t really think headsets are all designed internally do you? Ya, lets jump on the anti-Oculus wagon.

        • it’s getting old all the oculus hate out there. first it was about how much better vive is and then it was about what a mistake oculus made with their store only allowing hmd using the oculus runtime to get game on it but in the end oculus has become the number one PCVR hmd. it’s almost like they know what they r doing over there at oculus. I trust them with the rift s and plan to buy one. until oculus lose my trust they will get my money.

          • HybridEnergy

            “oculus has become the number one PCVR hmd”

            #1 my ass. Stuck in 2k HMD era of 2016 still more like it giving RIFT away for $350 just to try and score brownie points on steam surveys . lol

      • this is total bs. I fail to see how the design of the rift s shows they care more about the quest. the fact that the quest isn’t supposed to have any games the rift doesn’t while the rift will have games the quest doesn’t shows the pcvr is very important to them. just cause u don’t like their decisions won’t change that fact. most of their content money is being spent on the pcvr side. so I ask once again show me signs that oculus or fb doesn’t care and pcvr.

        • FireAndTheVoid

          I’m making an observation that Oculus has clearly made a big investment in mobile VR with the Quest and, after 3 years, has made a half-hearted attempt at improving the PC VR experience with the Rift S. There hasn’t even been an announcement for when we can expect a Rift 2.

          As for your claim that they still care about PC VR – they probably do, just not as much as mobile. The fact that there are more games for the Rift is only because it’s been out for longer with more developers developing for it and it’s easier to develop for.

          You say “just cause u don’t like their decisions won’t change that fact” – I really don’t care what their decisions are. There are plenty of other headsets to chose from and I have 3 of them.

    • I think you summarized it well

    • Farguns

      Welcome to modern day “journalism”.

  • gothicvillas

    Rift S pre orders tanked

    • TwinFire

      really?

      • ritual veality

        I wonder how wel the Rift S is going to sell with the Valve index comming and such.. I am not saying it is a bad headset but the more fanatic consumer will hold on to his wallet till at least may 1st..

        • GunnyNinja

          And when the Index price comes out, even longer…

    • Adderstone VR

      Where can you pre order a Rift S?
      How could pre orders tank if they aren’t open yet?

    • Adderstone VR

      Besides the fact that orders aren’t even open yet – Oculus has never released ANY sales figures, you are spreading rumors from zero data

      • HybridEnergy

        What if I told you that sale figures make no difference to you as a consumer? would that blow your mind? No need to be that defensive about it. I bet some really shit cars outsell ferraris and lambos all the time.

        • Adderstone VR

          What if I told you that you are a flat earther and the point is the ISS?
          Would that blow your mind?

          • HybridEnergy

            Probably, because I’m not a flat earther. :/

    • Dragonbait

      No Figures yet, but I don’t expect the Rift S to sell well.
      Oculus has decided to take the budget route providing a range of HMD’s with a very low price limit and all the compromises that brings.

      I just don’t think the Rift S has much of a market!

      If people are on a tight budget they probably don’t have a VR capable PC so will buy the Quest.
      People with plenty of spare cash are not going to buy a headset with a low resolution display by todays standards (lower than the quest!), and with no other bells and whistles.
      People who have Vives will likely buy HMD’s that use the lighthouse tracking because it’s full 360 and they don’t have to buy lighthouses or controllers.
      People with Rift’s are unlikely to upgrade when they lose more than they gain (gain resolution, lose refresh rate, lose OLED, lose 360 tracking, lose physical IPD adjustments, lose on ear headphones)

      I’m just not sure who that leaves, especially with so many new innovative systems coming out all with cool features.

  • Tesla

    Lenovo is a good company and it has great products. It is Oculus who screwed the product. Silly people complain that it has Lenovo written on it. Oculus is not producing anything, because it does not have factories. Better Lenovo WMR produced 2 years ago, than Oculus coming with outdated product in 2019.

  • Rogue Transfer

    The author uses “Oculus” like a separate entity, a few times and yet, mentions that Jason Rubin is now representing Facebook. We know that the former company Oculus L.L.C. was ended last year and has become part of Facebook Tech and Facebook VR/AR. Plus, before that, Oculus Research became Facebook Realitiies Labs. There seems little left to separate.

    There seems some ambiguity about what exactly is “Oculus” now, apart from a brand name(most of the original Oculus team prior to FB acquisition is gone, AFAIK, only a couple Oculus people are left). It seems misleading to talk about “Oculus explained”, when has been no separate “Oculus” company for some time and the spokesperson is now a Facebook company person involved with the Facebook AR/VR division and Facebook Tech. We wouldn’t say “Playstation explained” or “Xbox explained”, but would say the company name explained, rather than brand name explained.

    It would make an interesting article to clear up this ambiguity and clear up any public misunderstandings of who’s running the show, that continue to be spread. It’s also fairer to Facebook, that they gain the credit they are due for upcoming VR devices, when they are the management and driving force now behind them.

    • theUglyTruth

      But facebook is an anti-consumer company, can’t be mentioning that if you want to get views.

      • Jistuce

        If it is just for the views, then they should have mentioned Beat Saber somewhere.

        • johann jensson

          I’ll never get that Beat Saber thing. So boring.
          Now if they’d mention Witcher 3 VR, i’d be all over it. Click after click. :)

          • Jistuce

            I quite enjoy Beat Saber, personally. But… coverage was just the tiniest bit thick for a while.

    • GunnyNinja

      Oculus is still the name of the brand with product names for that brand. PlayStation and Xbox are not brands, they are products…

      • Caven

        No, they are brands. PlayStation is associated with four generations of consoles, and Xbox is associated with three. Specific consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One are products. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Sony has to say about the PlayStation name taken directly from the PlayStation website.

        “Recognized as a global leader in interactive and digital entertainment, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is responsible for the PlayStation brand and family of products.”

        • GunnyNinja

          Fair enough, doesn’t negate what I said about Oculus, nor help the other’s guy’s argument in any way. That would be the least relevant part of this discussion.

    • IanTH

      I think it would be more confusing in an article like this to say “Facebook says that the Rift” than continuing to use Oculus. In your console example, you hear “Sony PlayStation” as one thing sometimes. You’ll hear Microsoft’s XBOX. You do not hear Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Adding a company in like that invites more confusion than clarification, in my estimation. What is it that you think this specific nomenclature would improve?

    • Malkmus

      Semantics. Would it help to say “the Oculus team”? Doesn’t make much difference. We all know facebook calls the shots and Oculus is a subsidiary.

  • οκ

    Every single product from Lenovo that i know is crap. Lets hope their involvement in Rift S doesn’t go beyond the halo strap.

    • GunnyNinja

      Let’s hope we don’t have to rely on what YOU know…

    • MOT

      The lenovo explorer is actually a nice hmd. Good screen with very little sde and much superior to the orignal rift as are all the wmr screens. Its also very light and comfortable. If rift s is like the explorer with improved tracking it will be a decent hmd. Only problem with rift s is its just a very average spec.

    • MeowMix

      It probably doesn’t the HMD part looks like an Oculus GO.
      I’m guessing Lenovo was in charge of the ergonomics of the halo/headstrap, and Oculus was in charge of the actual VR part (HMD [optics, display lenses], Tracking, controllers, etc..)

  • Jistuce

    I have two of them.

    • gothicvillas

      Oh.. and what do they say? Rift S flying off the shelves?

      • Jistuce

        They mostly just say I need to wear looser pants.

  • Adderstone VR

    More like a bag of FUD

  • Aekero

    I mean, I get the “two teams came up with two solutions”…but it doesn’t make sense. One is going to be better than the other, the two types of VR are not different enough, I feel like one was more cost effective and they just went with that and shoehorned in that excu- er, reasoning. Be consistent, unless these are options for each headset it looks kind of disjointed.

    • brandon9271

      The Quest should’ve been designed to also tether with a PC and then the Rift S shouldn’t have been made at all. I think Oculus is just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

      • Aekero

        The s does feel like an afterthought, a tetherable hmd that can be separated ala the switch or GPU docks would be ideal, but they probably don’t want to get into a situation where many of the best games require to be tethered. at least this way if you buy a quest you know everything *should* run on it. Maybe next gen will offer this solution, but it’d be nice if the mobile platform could just stand on it’s own and play everything. :P

        • u guys on here treat it like it’s a pass thru. they would have to account for the sensors right now those sensors r tired to the cpu of the quest so it would have to be a software work around to get the info coming from the sensors to the cpu in the pc. in doing so would add latency. docking like a switch you said but a switch doesn’t have a second cpu or gpu to work around like what would be going on if u could tether it to a pc

      • FireAndTheVoid

        Although I agree with you, they did mention that they specifically considered that and decided against it in order to hit their hard $399 price point.

    • Mark Lapasa

      I don’t think one is better than the other in absolute sense. Quest is better if you don’t want to spend the money on a PC that can run a Rift S. Rift S is better if you don’t want to have last gen console graphics.

      • Dragonbait

        That’s partially true, except the Rift S is lower resolution than the quest, so it is a trade off. Oculus have basically decided to go down the budget route and keep their headsets to a price point even if it means compromises.

      • Aekero

        I mean one strap type :p

  • Jasper Ball-Baggins

    So, both teams thought getting rid of the built in headphones was a good idea. Dopes!

    • Pablo C

      They break after some time anyways

      • brandon9271

        Had both a CV1 and Samsung odyssey since launch. Both have built in headphone and both still work fine. I’ve used WMR headsets with separate headphones and its a HUGE pain. Headphones weren’t designed to fit over your head AND a giant HMD with a halo strap.

        • MeowMix

          Regardless, the right ribbon fault is a major issue on CV1. I don’t agree with Oculus getting rid of the headphones, but don’t dismiss the obvious design flaw (thanks Palmer !)

        • Pablo C

          My CV1 audio system broke after daily use for a year. Since then I´m using bluetooth headphones, which are not at all uncomfortable, except for the eventual signal loss. It would be perfect if I could have a simple audio plug in the headset. I have never try a Halo strap though, I guess it´s much worse than the classic CV1 config according to what you say.

      • gothicvillas

        My Vive 2yrs and counting. Headphones as new :)

      • HybridEnergy

        Yea, I’m with the people who said that they don’t know what you are talking about. I had a RIFT, Vive with audio strap, Vive Pro, all built headphones worked and continue to work.

        • Pablo C

          How much do you use them? If you google around, you´ll see that everyone that uses the Rift a lot (i.e. everyday for a year), has audio issues. May be the reason why this has not happen to you it´s because you have so many headsets, you don´t stress much any of them?

          • HybridEnergy

            Well fair enough, the Rift got the least amount of love out of all of them and I sold it a few weeks back. Though the OG audio strap and Vive Pro are used every day.

  • care package

    So you’re just a big fat liar then. Wow.

    • gothicvillas

      Chill bro

  • The new Lenovo WMR headset!

  • HybridEnergy

    The Oculus Lenovo I can’t afford a Valve Index or Vive Pro edition.

  • This sounds like sweet talking around the burning bush of internal chaos. Lenovo???? Seriously? With their logo on the thing? Has anyone ever actually tried to use one of their laptops?

    You can use them to hammer nails. That’s about it.

    Two teams with totally different ideas on how to build a headset?

    Fire one team.

    Keep things simple.

  • HybridEnergy

    lmao, well at least it’s good to see someone else having some humor fun with the uptight as hell VR community.