Brantlew opens one of the first Oculus units
Oculus employee and VR enthusiast Brant Lewis (aka Brantlew) opens his Kickstarter Dev Kit

Oculus Rift developer kits will soon be leaving the Chinese factory and making their way into the hands of eager developers. What’s happened since our last news bits update? Oculus says that shipping is going according to schedule. They’ve also confirmed that pilot run units were recently send out to top developers. Oculus has made it into the New York Times, and famed developer Chris Roberts swung by Oculus HQ.

Latest Official Oculus Rift Update

The core theme of the company’s latest update was latency — something that, along with FoV, has been a primary target for Palmer Luckey and the Oculus team during their journey to bring the Oculus Rift to the masses.  The update contained both an affirmation that Oculus are dead serious in tackling this issue and a little surprise project which they’d been working hard on, that of the Oculus Latency Tester. It’s an embodiment of both how passionate the team are to make the virtual reality experience a great one but also their desire to make developing for the HMD as hassle-free as possible. You can read more about the gizmo and find out where you can pre-order one here.

Elsewhere, they also revealed something that had already (albeit inadvertently) been let out of the bag by development team Mojang a couple of weeks ago: Those developers deemed worthy have received Oculus Rift dev kits taken from the company’s recent manufacturing pilot run. A total of 40 units were produced, but it is unclear how many were sent to top developers. Whilst no names were mentioned, it’s fairly safe to assume that joining the team at Mojang will be public supporters of the project — namely Epic Games (developers of the Unreal engine), Unity Technologies (open source Unity3D game engine) and Valve Software (Half-Life 2, Portal), all of whom endorsed the Oculus Rift in the original Kickstarter launch video.

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Markus “Notch” Persson and Jens “Jeb” Bergensten pose with Oculus Rift developer kits.

Oculus Rift Dev Kits on Schedule to Ship Mid-march, Delivered by End of Month

Those of us not lucky enough to receive an early pilot-run unit are of course still patiently awaiting delivery of the first mass production batch. The latest update from the company says that things are on schedule.

“We’ll make a Kickstarter announcement as soon as boxes start leaving the warehouse. The goal is to have the first batch of kits in people’s hands before the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco March 25-29,” reads the update.

The company disappointed fans last year when it delayed the Oculus Rift several months because the company needed to source a new display. With the delay, the company made a few changes from the original design: a larger 7″ display with faster pixel switching, removable eye-cups for those with poor eyesight, and a retractable assembly to adjust the screen’s distance from the user’s eyes (useful for those with glasses).

Oculus makes the New York Times and Chris Roberts visits Oculus HQ

I doubt anyone reading this really has any need for confirmation that Oculus has ‘arrived’ in the commercial and business sense. Nevertheless, on February 18th, Oculus was featured in the print and online business section of the New York Times. The piece rounds up what we all know already about the fledgling company and its founder, but it’s an important milestone in Oculus and virtual reality’s road to legitimacy. Clearly the the team was rather proud:

“It’s pretty incredible to be reading about Oculus in the New York Times when we completed the Kickstarter campaign just six short months ago. Thank you again for making all of this possible!” they wrote in the update.

The New York Times is one thing; playing host to a gaming industry legend is quite another. Chris Roberts, the mind behind fellow Kickstarter baby ‘Star Citizen‘, visited the Oculus offices in Irvine, CA for a sneak peek at what they’ve been up to. Roberts is an Oculus Kickstarter backer and a VR ‘believer’ which is why he plans full ‘out of the box’ Oculus Rift support for Star Citizen on its release sometime in 2014. Roberts is best known for his work on the Wing Commander franchise.

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[Left to Right] Palmer Luckey [Oculus Founder], Chris Roberts and Brendan Iribe [CEO Oculus] (image courtesy Roberts Space Industries)
Roberts had this to say about his experience ‘in’ the Rift:

As cool as Doom 3 was, it’s not going to compare to Star Citizen / Squadron 42 — as we’re pretty much the perfect kind of game for the Oculus. Sitting in chair looking around, is exactly what you do in a cockpit, so the Rift is just going to feel natural. And as Star Citizen already works in stereoscopic 3D right now there is almost no extra work needed to support the Rift. And who doesn’t want to be sitting in their cockpit, whipping their head around to track their target, pulling back on the joystick to drop in behind their next target?

A rough cut video of the visit was uploaded to You Tube briefly and hastily removed shortly afterwards, according to reports no new info was included but it purportedly saw Roberts signing Iribe’s copy of Wing Commander 4 — seems Iribe is a fan.

Oculus Continues Recruiting

Finally, several new job openings have now been posted over on the Oculus Careers page, indicating the company’s rapid growth:

..all of which indicate that, now that the dev kits are close to shipping, the company has its eye fixed on the next generation, consumer-version of the Oculus Rift.

That sums up what very well could be the last Oculus Rift News Bits update before the Oculus Rift is in our hands!

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