At Oculus Connect 2015, key members of the teams responsible for designing and manufacturing the consumer Oculus Rift took to the stage to talk about the process of creating a headset for mass production. It was revealed that the first headset has already rolled off of the production line.
On stage during the session ‘Shipping Hardware: The Evolution of the Rift’ at Connect 2015, Stephanie Lue, Hardware Project Manager at Oculus, showed a photo of the Rift design team gathered together in the factory, receiving the very first production Oculus Rift off the line.
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Together with colleague Caitlin Kalinowski, Head of Product Design Engineering at Oculus, Lue talked about the many considerations made in getting the Oculus Rift from a feature prototype stage (like the Rift ‘Crescent Bay’) to a manufacturable product. The two stressed how working in parallel with teams across the company was essential to reaching this milestone.
I caught up briefly with Kalinowski at Connect to better understand exactly what this meant for the production of the Rift. She told me that while the headset in the photo wasn’t ready to ship to customers, it was the very first consumer Oculus Rift to run through the same production line that will eventually manufacture the headsets in bulk. There’s tweaks left to be done, but the manufacturing process is in place, she explained.
“We set a date out for ourselves for when we wanted to build the first product and we hit that date on the nose,” Lue said on stage at Connect. “It was a career first for me to put together something that complicated on the first try. It was a testament to both product management and engineering,” Kalinowski added. “On this first build we actually outperformed many major companies out there.”
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Kalinowski said that the hard work by the teams within Oculus was in service to designing a product that the user will ideally forget about while using.
“After all the work we put in, the headset disappeared for me during [Oculus Story Studio’s Henry] and it hit me… if you can make people feel like that with this product… you can do anything with it. All this work that we’ve done has been worth it.”
Lue joined in on the reverence of the project.
“Our hardware teams are pouring our hearts and souls to get it just right for the experience and for manufacturability so that we can get this out to as many people as possible. It’s definitely worth the wait.”