Oculus ‘Santa Cruz’ Standalone Dev Kits Coming Next Year, Including 6 DoF Controllers


Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg took the stage today at Oculus Connect 4, the company’s VR developer conference, to tell the crowd that the high-end standalone Project Santa Cruz VR headset will be heading to devs next year and it will be coming with 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) controllers.

Update (10/11/17): In the confusion of the avalanche of updates from Oculus, it was incorrectly reported that Santa Cruz was a wireless PC VR headset when in reality it is a completely standalone, high-end mobile VR headset.

Project Santa Cruz is a high-end standalone headset with inside-out tracking, something that’s differentiates itself from the newly revealed Oculus Go mobile headset because it uses the a high-end, head-mounted mobile PC to drive the headset’s graphical abilities and comes with 6DoF controllers similar to Touch in function.

Oculus says in a blogpost announcing the headset dev kit and 6DoF controllers that “[g]etting the infrared LEDs on our new Santa Cruz controllers to work with the sensors used for inside-out tracking on the headset was a significant computer vision, design, and engineering problem. This is a milestone we’re proud of. By using four ultra-wide sensors, we achieved a large controller tracking volume, allowing for natural and unrestricted movement.”

Ever since building Rift, our dream has been to bring the magic of a PC VR experience to an untethered form factor. That’s why we were so excited to share our early work with Santa Cruz at Oculus Connect last year. Although that first prototype had a full-blown mobile computer strapped to the back of your head, the feeling of freedom you got when first experiencing fully untethered positionally-tracked VR remains unparalleled.

Today, we showed the next phase of Santa Cruz development, delivering hand presence with two positionally tracked controllers. This is an important, industry-first milestone that brings the magic and incredible design expertise of Touch into a completely standalone experience.

The Santa Cruz headset includes 4 camera sensors to allow for a wide field of view, allowing for both inside-out positional tracking and the controller tracking that allows for a seemingly full range of motion. The controllers integrate infrared LEDs to accomplish 6 degrees of freedom.

VR Horror 'HappyFunland' Coming to PSVR 2 & SteamVR This Month, Trailer Here

Zuckerberg told the crowd that “Santa Cruz headsets [will be] in your hands and the hands of developers in the next year.”

The company say they’ll be sharing more updates on Project Santa Cruz soon.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Brad

    This is confusing. You keep using the word “standalone”, but then say that “it uses the PC to drive the headset’s graphical abilities.”. Standalone means it doesn’t need a phone or a PC. You should say “wireless” instead.

    • Alundre

      I am confused as well. They kept saying “Standalone” during the conference which is the same terminology used when talking about the Oculus Go. I am assuming that they would have said something…anything… about Santa Cruz being PC powered if it were. My guess is that Santa Cruz is essentially a Go with motion controllers.

      • Brad

        Yeah, but Go already has motion controllers. And inside out tracking and wireless.

        • Alundre

          I don’t think so…look at the press release for Santa Cruz and Go…the Go controller looks like the GearVR controller or Daydream controller and the headset doesn’t have any cameras.


          Also, from the same release… “Gear VR and Oculus Go apps are binary compatible, and they share the same controller input set”

          • Brad

            Right, I stand corrected. I’m not sure how I got that impression….

        • Zach Mauch

          Go does not have true motion tracking. It is basically a daydream view without the phone.

    • dk

      it’s changed now to “it uses the a high-end, head-mounted mobile PC”

  • visual

    So, is Santa Cruz more a DK3 or a CV2 if we have to categorize it?

    • kontis

      More like a Next Gen GearVR.

      • Alundre

        This is my understanding as well. Essentially a mobile VR experience with tracked controllers.

        • VirtualJedi

          I wonder if the upcoming Daydream Standalone vr headsets will be able to incorporate tracked controllers as add-ons. That was my biggest disappointment with their announcement.

  • Foreign Devil

    Still not clear if it will require a seperate PC or not. Doesn’t seem like it.

    • Rainfox Wolfstone

      it is self contained , higher end than the Oculus Go, Oculus Go is sooner ,Santa Cruz is later with full tracking and more powerful.

  • kontis

    Standalone (mobile) headsets:


    • Alundre

      I’m not sure I understand this graphic….It looks like the first column says Daydream (as in Google Daydream) but then it lists a Vive Standalone (which doesn’t exist as far as I know and a Lenovo standalone which also doesn’t exist? The Daydream doesn’t have positionally tracked headset except turning from side to side…no depth head tracking so it should have the same checks as the Go since they are essentially the same…but this graph doesn’t seem to show that. Am I missing something here?

      • VirtualJedi

        Vive and Lenovo Daydream standalone do exist. Suppose to release 4th quarter of this year. They will use Google “Worldsense” for inside out positional tracking.

        • Alundre

          Why bother with inside-out tracking if you aren’t tracking the controllers? Just for 3D positional head tracking? That seems strange to me…if you have the cameras already there, why not use them with controllers?

          • VirtualJedi

            I agree, they should add this and maybe they will. My guess it will be included in next years update and come to market roughly the same time the Santa Cruz gets to developers.

          • Alundre

            This brings up an interesting question in my mind then…with all these new standalone headsets coming out, are they trying to use them as a gateway to standard (PC based) VR or is mobile VR going to become the standard VR going forward since it is much more accessible to the mainstream folks? It will certainly be interesting to see.

          • VirtualJedi

            Oculus definitely seems to be thinking mobile based platform is the future. I tend to agree. Although have been playing with the wireless add on for the vive and am pretty impressed with that approach as well. But its not simple to set up at all which is a huge problem for large scale adoption.

          • Alundre

            I definitely think that mobile has the ability to sell more units but assuming that happens, I can only assume that PC VR will all but die. Why would devs make games for PC VR when they only have a maybe 2 – 3 million people out there with it when they can make games for the mobile VR world which has 10’s of millions of people using it. Mobile certainly seems like it could be pretty great with full motion controls and whatnot but it is also a lot more limited in games/gfx potential.

          • VirtualJedi

            For now yes, But GFX and performance will continue to go up on mobile SOC platforms. The have many other advantages of these platforms make them far superior for easy to use lightweight vr systems of the future. Good news though for devs is that anything you design and build for pc now, will be easy to port to the next generation of mobile standalone headsets. I could see it going something like all of the best VR games made for Vive/Rift through next year end up as the initial game library for the standalone mobile vr systems of 2019

          • Laurence Nairne

            To be honest, you’d think you’d have the same problem with High end and mid-range PCs in terms of game/experience development, but you don’t.

            The best software developers optimise and look at the big picture of maximising their consumer base. They do this by hitting different thresholds depending on the platform. At least in the case of Oculus,they have stated that the same SDK will be used across their range of platforms, so it’s really in the hands of the developers to create experiences that work across those platforms.

          • WyrdestGeek

            My expectation is that standalone will become the standard, low-end-but-it-works-anywhere VR.

            A small-ish number of people will have a dedicated PC and dedicated space in their home.

            For the really great VR experiences (“beyond roomscale”), you’ll have to go to a VR center.

      • kontis
      • dk

        the vive and the lenovo…….running daydream….. r coming before the end of 2017

    • dk

      hmm yeah daydream headsets should really get 6dof controllers……but those headsets will be out way earlier than santa cruz

  • GrangerFX

    Why does Oculus hate people that wear glasses?

    • Smokey_the_Bear


  • Lucidfeuer

    So given that I don’t trust HTC/Valve as a branding/design/implementation drive behind VR, there’s an unanimity in my agency that consumer/prosumer VR is dead for it’s cycle. It’s going to have some good years as an event or convention, branding and innovation tax washing micro-market.

    The 2010s were as fun as the 90s, and I can’t say whether in relativistic contextual terms it was that much better, but what a gleamy dream it was for this decade, I’m actually surprised Apple and Nintendo bet right for once. See you in 10-12 years for the real thing.

    • Bet you said the same thing about the iphone when it first announced :)

      • Lucidfeuer

        I was about the only around saying how successful it’ll be and how much it’ll change “the world”. But then I was one of the rare people at my age who got one of the first iPod and then Macbook.

        I’m also one of the few (before having everyone around try it and joining an agency) who had one of the first Oculus DK. I was skeptical and now I’m absolutely certain that VR will not be a thing for this cycle.

        Sorry, but even the strategic position they just took, which is 100% geared toward event/branding/demo (and although this is why we already plan on ordering a bunch, nobody else wants to have a standalone headset with neither the power, versatility and scope of a PC headset nor the double convenience of having a high-end smartphone), shows they have completely abandoned the idea of true VR device.

        And that my friend, the “mainly events” step of VR, was actually the final step of VR in the 90s before it completely disappeared.

        • Except VR back then was far more headache n nausea inducing w/o the worlds full of immersion n motion controllers especially Knuckles controller.

          At this point VR looks far better n now much cheaper :)

          • Lucidfeuer

            But that’s the whole point and it actually joints the comment of MosBen above: how much better from the 90s headset are current headsets relative to what it actually should be as a final (not perfect but initial) practical device?

            In fact you mentioned my favorite comparison token which is the iPhone: the answer could be in the numbers, the first iPhone sold 6 millions units at 6/700€ in a year, the Oculus and Vive combined barely sold 500K…or the answer could be in the purest definition of what a smartphone is; today a smartphone is a exactly “a mobile computing interface that does everything prior mobile devices did (calculator, handeld console, cell phone, palm, hand camera, mp3 player etc…) operated through a capacitative touchscreen on a pocket-sized thin pad”. What was the first iPhone? Exactly the same things, “a mobile computing blablabla in a pocket-sized thin pad”. Which means from the first iteration of the smartphone/iphone it was a final practical device having been conceived, build and sold.

            Well the problem is no-matter how far (or maybe little?) we think we went from 90s headset, we might as far or even further from actual product.

          • MosBen

            What do you think an actual practical VR device is? What does the current paradigm lack that you think can’t be surmounted for 10-12 years?

            All of the use cases that I can think of for VR (entertainment, social communication, education, etc.) are things that the current crop of VR HMDs can do, they just do them in a very rough way. For these use cases they just need to get lighter, more comfortable, cheaper, and somewhat more technologically advanced (bigger FOV being the single biggest need in my mind). These are all things that can be achieved incrementally through iterative hardware revisions driven by a mostly niche enthusiast base.

            It’s possible that there’s a giant leap for VR in shifting from using screens situated in front of the user’s eyes to something radically different, like beaming images directly into their eyeballs. With something like that I think that you could be right that such advances won’t be created by a tiny niche market, but while I think that that sort of advance would be a big deal for VR, I see it more like the jump to HDTV. HDTV drove a lot of TV sales, but TVs were already ubiquitous before that. TVs started out pretty shitty and expensive, but over time they got better and cheaper and worked their way into everyone’s lives as both an entertainment and educational medium.

          • MosBen

            Right now we’re basically in the late 40s to early 50s ear of TV. There are a few compelling experiences, but most of it’s not great and the tech is a novelty for most people. And an expensive novelty at that. But TVs plugged along and came down in price while getting better and better. And as people who worked in TV gained experience the things produced for TV got more and more compelling.

            There might be some different technological paradigm that will be a big jump in quality for VR experiences, but what’s available now is compelling to people; it’s just not so compelling that they’re willing to pay lots of money for it or use it every day. But that’s as much a function of the average level of experience of people working in the industry as it is a function of hardware. Once people have worked in VR long enough to develop a language similar to the language of film/TV or traditional video games, we’ll see much more compelling offerings.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Again not true. I don’t know why people like to use the exemple of TV that they seem to completely ignore the actual stats of, back in a context in which at the relative rate of technological adoption and distribution which took years, let alone the infrastructure installed, had a huge rate of adoption. Do you know that a decade after Television launched (around 1940) there were ~30 millions TVs in the world? Ten more years after (1960) it reached ~100 millions users? Even though this was more expensive relative to inflation.

            How many people had a headset at the end of the 90s? How many have one today, almost 30 years after?

          • MosBen

            So, according to Wikipedia by 1947 there were 40 million *radios* in the US and *44 thousand* TVs. I find it pretty hard to believe that seven years earlier there were tens of millions of TVs worldwide in households.

            But that’s beside the point. The point of a comparison isn’t that it is the same in all respects. When we talk about VR plugging along as a niche market for, say, 10 years while the technology matures, if it takes that long, we’re talking about a few million people buying and using hardware. That’s probably not enough to tempt big sofware players into the market, but it’s enough money for someone to make a play for it.

            When interest in VR died in the 90s VR went almost completely away. That won’t happen again. It may fade from the headlines a bit, but the tech is good enough and there’s enough enthusiast interest, and the hardware is affordable enough to keep what happened in the 90s from happening again. Come back with doomsaying when major players like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc. announce that they’re cutting support for the hardware that they’ve released with no followup. Or alternatively, if there’s a study about the number of VR games starting to decline significantly year over year.

          • Lucidfeuer

            That’s not beside the point, like radios, like tvs, like consoles, like cell phones, and then smartphones, this is the greatest indicator that VR has gone and is going nowhere for now and for how long it’s been around.

            Also when it comes to informations that precise, wikipedia is usually false, so I had to use traditional sourcing as during work to find precise institutional sources from the Unesco (yes that thing the US and Israel just left…): https://imgur.com/a/FvqJr
            And earlier in the US: https://imgur.com/a/jk8l6
            In a time when technological development, adoption and export, not even mentioning infrastructure installation took way more time.

            But because the context has slightly evolved and slightly gone forward I agree with you that it’ll continue existing in events/research/art for a few years until it’s reduced to a niche research/geek follow-up that might be bigger than the one that followed the 90s crash (because there was still a niche, that’s why we got Palmer Luckey and the Oculus).

            This is not what I hope, but clearly Microsoft, Google, Oculus and HTC clearly either have no idea what they’re doing because they don’t care (in fact there are so many background governance, politics and financial reasons while they would care or even be capable of -inventing- such a product) or they have a very good idea of this context so they simply dropped the ball like Oculus just did. As I mentioned what they just announced, are nothing consumer/prosumer would want, but perfect specifically for event/branding/demos. But then they might announce a CV2 that is exactly like Santa-Cruz plus cable-tethering or wireless, and then we have a better but still way too limited VR headset.

            As for waiting for things already slated to happen as causal effects of current contexts and events, and even waiting for someone to officially make statements is the opposite of my job.

          • MosBen

            Here’s the thing that I never understand from your posts. You always talk about these devices as if they’re not something that consumers want, but clearly some consumers do want them. I wanted one for years, and then bought one, and am quite happy with it. Is it what I imagine is the pinnacle of this technology? Of course not, but I am still pleased with my purchase. And when I show it to people they are also impressed with it. Now, none of them have gone out and bought one themselves, but I guarantee that if you polled them the single greatest reason why they didn’t do that was cost. I’m the only one of my local friends with a gaming PC. Lots of my friends use Macs, or laptops, or Mac laptops, and it’s just not practical for them to sink a bunch of money into a VR headset AND a gaming PC.

            I’m also pretty confident that the second reason they would list would be ergonomic issues like the weight of the headset and the presence of the cord. Getting rid of the cord would make it a more attractive item.

            I have literally never seen anyone try a Rift or Vive and decide that it was dumb, and they’ll just wait for some paradigm shift in the technology. It’s just super expensive. A $400, self-contained Santa Cruz is something that I could see several of my friends wanting.

          • Lucidfeuer

            I had the same experiences these past years: I was amazed with the DK1, got a DK2 and then via a VR agency a Gear, a Vive, an Pimax even customs one. Everyone that tried it, except for a few exception had all the amazement. Who bought it? None. And for none of them it was a question of price.

            The difference is that I personally think THIS is the pinnacle of 21th century consumer technology. I know (after tons of thinking, studying, reporting and predicting) what VR means and the only way it can truly be. And we are so far from that, not for a lack of existing infrastructure or technology, but because of corporate governance and approaches.

            And my main job for years was consulting and prospective/analytics, so I could spend hours talking about exactly how those governance and agendas form the context for corporations not to do the only things that a consumer market (behavioural and practical wise) would adopt significantly enough that it is a real sustainable market for this cycle. Of course that’s my opinion, a pretty well constructed or informed one, but an opinion still.

          • Well, the worlds are 3D now.

            that helps a ton drive the VR tech along w/ motion controllers.

            It actually looks like its worth the investments.

            Nintendo says they are looking into the tech.

            So many headsets are coming including wireless n mobile.

            And AR is far away from hardcore adaption.

          • sntxrrr

            “barely sold 500K” That to me is exactly on par with the 6 million iphones sold in their first year. A smartphone’s use is immediately clear and useful to everybody and now more than 2 billion people use one. VR is a “intense, high-end entertainment system” better compared to consoles of which only a few 100 million are in use. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the maximal market size for VR is in the 100 to 500 million range. An early adopter first year sale of 500K isn’t that bad at all in that light.

          • Lucidfeuer

            You have no idea what VR is do you? Well in 10 years from now when it starts being adopted, you’re in for surprises.

          • sntxrrr

            I do, I have been following this for over 25 years. Have you?
            I like to stay on the conservative side with my estimations and do not give in to Ready Player One-like fantasies that are created for story-telling instead of realism.
            Now if AR and VR are to merge and get to a sunglasses form factor then it will replace EVERYTHING. But that technological path is unclear from our current perspective and it might take us 10-20 years to get there.
            But current form factor VR? Yeah, I stick to my prediction of a few 100 mil headsets in 5-10 years.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Yeah everybody has been “following VR for over 25 years”. Now I don’t know about estimations (it’s part of my actual job, do you?), but your projection for somewhat of a sunglass AVR in 10-20 years is about right.

            Your prediction of a few hundreds of millions in 5/10 years? Impossible in basic consumer market prospective terms, but I need to clarify here: either it won’t ever reach even a quarter of that in the coming years whether it’s 3, 6 or 10 years OR if it even begins to pick-up to considerable numbers meaning there’s a true virtual (AVR) headset worthy of being adopted by consumers IN the short remaining attention window of this cycle (2/3 more years top), it will reach MORE than that in 5/10 years.

          • sntxrrr

            Thanks for the clarification, I didn’t know on what side of my estimation you saw yourself and I suspect a lot of people think that somehow the path to FB’s 1 billion is clear by just iterating on what we got now. It is not. What we’re getting now is more console-like and can still fail to numbers below that if I put my pessimistic hat on, as you indeed indicated.
            We need at least one technological breakthrough, possibly several, to get to some iphone-level tipping point.
            I agree with you that if someone like Magic Leap manages to pull a (afforable) white rabbit out of their hat things will look very different very quickly but I won’t hold my breath. People think change is quick nowadays just because they witnessed a tipping point (iphone) but it is not, it often takes many years if not several decades to get to such a point. But I sure love to be surprised here.

          • Pre Seznik

            Comparing the phone market before iPhone and the VR market before this gen VR, the sales for iPhone were embarrassing compared to VR. I’m sure you can see why?

          • Lucidfeuer

            Since you are comparing something that is not remotely a phone and actually more than a typical computer, no I can’t see why. Unless you want to compare TV/Screen sales with VR? That actually would be the same comparison.

          • Pre Seznik

            Do you not get how comparisons work? The relative size of the phone market means the iPhone sold *nothing* compared to how these products in the BRAND NEW VR market did. Do you understand what I’m talking about?

          • Lucidfeuer

            I understand, and I understand that this is false since you are comparing two different technologies and markets, thus when the iPhone sold initial it was in a non-yet existent market, and comparing it to cellphone is like comparing TV/screens to VR headset.

        • MosBen

          I think that it’s important to define what we mean when we say that VR will be a “thing”. While you could be right that VR’s popularity could wane after a few years in the spotlight, there’s no reason to think that it will completely go away to the degree that it did in the 90s. In a worst case scenario the expensive enthusiast-geared HMDs get winnowed down to one or two manufacturers and new revisions happen less often. There’s enough of an enthusiast market today to support a very niche model. But in the meantime smartphones will still be capable of VR. It’s not like a 3D TV, which requires additional components that make the product more expensive and harder to sell. The flagship phone market isn’t going anywhere, and as long as you have an expensive and powerful phone you’ll have the capability to mess around with VR. Again, we may reach an equilibrium where some subset of people buy the equivalent of Google Cardboard for a few dozens of dollars and VR remains a minor aspect of the phone market, but it won’t go away completely.

          Of course, a much more rosey view of VR’s chances would be that it continues along as it is, a cool niche thing that people try but don’t really need, while each generation it gets just a bit better and better until someone invents an app, hardware breakthrough, or use case that makes VR/AR extremely useful on a daily basis for people, leading to near universal adoption.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Well talking about smartphone, I make the specific comparison to explain VR’s too many shortcoming (not for a lack of being possible) in my response to OOluigiOo.

            And yes, I do think like you that if VR unfortunately wanes as an on-going developing market (if there’s even one yet), there’s still be a thinning but remaining VR enthusiast core even though this will mean slowed down hardware and software research, development, investment and implementation…and that’s why it would take 10-12 years at least, with completely new actors for another paradigm of VR device, this time pretty much certainly the final practical one,to come.

            I’m less convinced by the gradual, limited iteration of things that would require important established tech infrastructure and research, or in the lack thereof, important investment and team of specialists, for people to suddenly start adopting VR. For the simple reason it never happened in history, and rather every changes or successful new market were brought up either by radical simple tech/hardware availability (VR being too complicated for that to be the case) or as in most cases, an established flag-ship product that does it.

  • These can’t compare to the Knuckles controller can they? Your hands are free to grab(w/ knux controller) things w/o buttons along with tracking fingers.

    • Suitch

      The will certainly be “comparable.” They will likely have three finger tracking like the current touch controllers which is basically all that is needed to track a full hand. The Knuckles will likely have realism on their side, but the current prototypes are sketchy at tracking all of the fingers in my opinion. I will be getting them as soon as they are available, but I don’t think they will obsolesce the Touch controllers. How often do you use your ring finger or pinkie without also using your middle finger?

      • Well, not needing to hold it all the time especially while throwing is a plus.

        Like a glove controller, you can do so much with them on including handing real objects.

      • Can’t imagine what new feature these new touch is gonna bring to VR.

  • Adrian Meredith

    Pretty disappointing they made almost no mention of the rift and are seemingly giving up the pc space. There’s no way a standalone device is going to be anywhere near powerful enough for years

    • WyrdestGeek

      I guess we’ll see.

    • dk

      lol not if u look at it like that
      the dream is ……..a standalone ……+having input from a pc …..+ eye tracking
      + the option to plug in a wireless module in the ports for a pc

    • Laurence Nairne

      Actually, John Carmack does a great job of explaining how a lot of the power to develop and deliver truly compelling and robust experiences is in the hands of software developers and in good optimisation techniques.

      If you’re looking for photrealism at 90+Hz and 4K visuals, then maybe you need to go with something like a PIMAX, but the mass market lives in the mid-range and the big players are realising this – the same as the mass market for home PCs is in mid-level laptops, not high end desktops.

  • Pre Seznik

    So no wireless headsets are in development? Wow that’s depressing.