Although Oculus has sold more than 175,000 development kits, the vast majority of the world has still never had the opportunity to try the Rift VR headset, let alone any virtual reality headset. For a technology that frequently inspires notions of ‘you have to see it to understand it’, being able to try-before-you-buy will be a major hurdle for consumer adoption. In an effort to educate the public on what VR is all about, Oculus plans to put Rift demo stations in retail locations.

When the consumer version of the Oculus Rift goes on sale in Q1 2016, the company plans to sell the VR headset both online and in brick and mortar stores. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey tells us that in-store Rift demo stations will accompany units on the shelves so that the masses can take VR for a spin.

“Yes, we will be in retail. And we will have demos in retail so that people are able to try [the Oculus Rift],” Luckey said in our Oculus E3 2015 interview. “Because one way to show people VR is to show them at a trade show or a gaming show, another way is for them to try their friend’s unit, and the other way is for them to be able to try it out someplace else, and we want to make sure that they have that ‘someplace else’.”

Road to VR’s Paul James tests the Oculus Rift CV1 at E3 2015

Luckey also told us that the company’s VR headset would ship internationally, though he couldn’t say whether or not all regions would see a simultaneous Oculus Rift release date.

I remember back in the day before the advent of downloadable demos, the in-store demo station was a veritable Shangri-La of theretofore untested gaming goodness. As demos eventually migrated to discs (oh the joy brought forth by the monthly delivery of Official Xbox Magazine and its demo disc…) and then to direct download, the in-store demo station had lost much of its lust. But you can’t download a VR headset can’t download a VR headset without a 3D printer, a prime opportunity for the in-store demo station to make a comeback.

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Oculus has extensive experience with trade show activations, but the company has always had assistants on hand to walk newbies through their first-time VR experience, helping with the finer details like ensuring a proper fit, launching the experience, and wiping down the lenses between each user.

Some of Samsung’s in-store Gear VR demos encased the headset in a metal cage to attach to the security cable. Not exactly ideal for a product that should be light and comfortable on the head and encourages users to look around.

Presumably Oculus won’t be staffing in-store demo stations, but that leaves a big challenge for ensuring a positive experience for each user; even something as simple as a smudged lens can make VR uncomfortable. I can only wonder how they’ll handle the typical stiff security cable that’s almost always attached to expensive demo devices.

The company that’s had the most VR retail experience thus far in the modern VR era is Samsung who launched their mobile Gear VR headset in the U.S. in late 2014 and gradually made the unit available internationally. The headset was created in conjunction with Oculus, who may have benefitted from some of Samsung’s retail leanings, though the headset went through the latter’s retail channels, according to Luckey.

Gear VR is the first serious VR headset to see demo stations available in big box stores. Back in March, the company said that the headset would be available for purchase and demo in more than 100 Best Buy stores, one of the United States’ largest consumer electronics retailers. Samsung has also set up various demo activations, including one in America’s largest mall alongside to the headset’s launch.

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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."
  • an4rchos

    I hope they will be do it worldwide. I want at least 1 demo station for Budapest!

  • didz13

    Same here for Tokyo!

  • crim3

    If all goes fine I’ll demo it so myself at my own home :D

  • Darshan Gayake

    I still remember early days of PS3 when it was out in 2007 i use to go to mall specially to tray out Prince of Persia and KillZone , there use to be kiosk and display and console studded in glass enclosure leaving controllers out side, Demo guy use to manage the crowd.

    It was only then i understood real mojo of playing PS3.

    At super malls RIFT KIOSK is must at-least for first 6 months of release. With small tech demo limited to 5 to 10 min game play offered at stretch depending on crowd. Its best way and sure shot for malls to be heavily crowded, advice for them to keep counter for food near by and cola and fast-food sale will boom ……

    • Darshan Gayake

      Ps3 came to my country in March 2007, Sorry word is Try out not Tray out…but cant correct here no edit option….

      Oculus Can of-course train small group of selected mall security who are going to handle RIFT kiosk ….(of course offer them to some benefit above what mall pay them as perks).On how to curate demo piece and maintain best operatablity.. All they got to do is just surprise check by their staff at place make sure all goes well…..

  • lawrencem49

    Just spotted shops in Akihabara Japan doing the same.

  • Blablablablablablabla7

    I think occultist rift would be better off having an 800 dollar price tag with a computer to go with it. Let all software and hardware be for the Vr so the pc doesn’t have to cost so much. Also it could be smaller without a screen that could be put on your back for independent movement.

    • Blablablablablablabla7

      You are such a genius Oculist VR should hire you.

      • Blablablablablablabla7

        But I don’t know how to build it.

        • Blablablablablablabla7

          Still you have better ideas than they do at Oculist VR!

          • Bailey Bakerson

            What if you have a PC that can easily handle the requirements for the VR? Plus how are you going to fit it in the head set and if not then where does this box on the ground go and why make it an even more difficult process for the graphics in a compatibility aspect? That is a more simple reason why it is simply a head set and the processing is given to the PC to handle. Plus these goggles are already overly priced why give a reason to make it high and even more accessible with the actual value required to put the headset together being quite low in comparison to the retail price.

            Maybe in the future graphics card will be substantially more powerful and decreased in size, as well as having wireless power and quick wireless data transition. Till that day this beauty is what you get. (:

          • Blablablablablablabla7

            Most people don’t have computers like that and it should be about what most people have. Overall my idea is more economical. Plus my idea has mobility.

          • cchausman

            What most people have will make you puke. Literally, the hardware can’t handle the system specs necessary to reduce perceptible latency, consistent fast rates, and high resolutions.

            These headsets are for those that have the systems that can handle them now; as the technology matures, the hardware necessary to run the devices will come down in cost and will become the new norm.

          • prime89

            You literally just responded to yourself. This maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.