Oculus Connect, the company’s annual developer conference, is here once again. Now in its fifth year, Oculus is expected to update the world on what’s next from in VR content and hardware. Here’s a look at what we expect to see this year.

Taking place this week on the 26th & 27th, Oculus Connect 5 will be hosted in San Jose, CA. The opening keynote on the 26th is where most of the major announcements will happen, while smaller developer-focused sessions across both days will likely give deeper glimpses into what Oculus and partners have been up to. You can find the full OC5 schedule here, and if you aren’t attending yourself you’ll be able to watch the keynotes and some of the VR esports action via livestream (details here).

Here’s a look at what we’re expecting to see from the company this week.

Santa Cruz, Oculus’ High-end Standalone Headset

Image courtesy Oculus

Santa Cruz is the code name of Oculus’ high-end standalone headset. While the company launched Oculus Go just earlier this year, at $200 Go is built as an entry-level VR device for casual users. Go lacks positional tracking on the head and hands, limiting its capabilities to the point of being in a different class of VR device compared to high-end VR headsets like the Rift.

While Go targets the casual user, Santa Cruz is being built with the same positional tracking features as high-end headsets, meaning it’s expected to be able to play the same class of high-end games. As a ‘standalone’ headset however, all the compute hardware is built in, with no reliance on an expensive gaming PC to power Santa Cruz. While that brings ‘take-it-anywhere’ accessibility, it also means users should expect mobile-class graphics.

While we don’t expect Oculus to outright launch Santa Cruz at Oculus Connect 5, we do expect them to formally announce the consumer version, which means branding the headset with a proper name and detailing some features that will be included at launch. The actual launch of Santa Cruz is presently rumored for Q1 2019.

It seems Oculus could take a similar approach to Santa Cruz’ announcement and launch as they did with the Go headset. Go was announced at Oculus Connect 4 (right around this time last year), and then launched in the first half of 2018. At Oculus Connect 5 this week, we could see the company formerly announce the consumer version of Santa Cruz with a launch date set for early 2019, which aligns with the headset’s current release date rumors.

If you want to dig deeper into what’s known (and still unknown) about Santa Cruz, check out this article.

Half Dome, The Next Step for Rift

Image courtesy Facebook

Oculus’ first PC VR headset, the Rift, is still going strong now 2.5 years after its 2016 launch. Even so, earlier this year Oculus offered a glimpse at a what could be coming to the next Rift.

The company showed what they call the ‘Half Dome’ prototype at Facebook’s F8 developer conference back in May. Oculus said that Half Dome manages to pack a 140 degree field of view (up from the Rift’s ~100), eye-tracking, and a ‘varifocal’ display into a Rift-like form-factor.

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While an expanded field of view and eye-tracking would be big improvements alone, the varifocal display could prove to be Half Dome’s most unique feature. A varifocal display is one that can focus at multiple focal lengths, compared to today’s VR headsets which are locked at a single focal length. In Half Dome, the headset identifies what part of the scene the user is looking at (thanks to eye-tracking), and then physically moves the display inside the headset to achieve the correct focal length. Doing so could be a solution for what’s called the vergence-accommodation conflict in today’s VR headsets.

A Rift-like field of view compared to the Half Dome prototype. | Image courtesy Facebook

Worth noting: Oculus has stated that we shouldn’t “expect to see all [of Half Dome’s] technologies in a product anytime soon,” meaning that the next Rift might incorporate some but not all of what Half Dome can do.

That said, we don’t think that Oculus will announce a Half Dome-based ‘Rift 2’ at Connect this year. Instead, the company may do what they’ve done in years past with Santa Cruz: show Half Dome to a select group of press and developers in a ‘behind-closed-doors’ setting so that it doesn’t steal the spotlight from products that are nearer to launch (namely, Santa Cruz).

Beyond that, it still feels a little early for the company to give any indication of a release date for an eventual Rift 2, which we may not see until late 2019 or even into 2020.

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  • Mei Ling

    Santa Cruz is technically an iteration over the Oculus Go (it has an improved mobile processor and a full hand input system with positional tracking) so it’s likely the name will be Oculus Go Plus or something along the lines of that.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Agreed – Go was touted as the “mainstream breakthrough” product, but I really feel it is going to be this particular headset/controller combo that will do it.

      • MosBen

        Same here. The ability to set up to do VR in any room in your house, or to take it to someone else’s house, is a huge selling point. And if they’re able to get it on shelves for $400-$500, that’ll be in the range where it might make good birthday/holiday presents.

        • HomeAudio

          I am not going to take VR with me when I am going to someones house. I prefer to spend hours and hours on VR at my home! It is absolutely not a selling point! Selling point is IMMERSION! Give me 200FOV, fovetal rendering, screens with low screen door effect, not visible godrays! I have strange feeling that StarVR and XTAL VR is doing it MUCH MUCH better.

          • MosBen

            I have this conversation rather frequently around here, but it’s important to take a step back and realize that things that are selling points for those of us who are early adopters are not necessarily selling points for normal people. Maybe they aren’t super excited to take their VR setup to their friends’ houses (I doubt this), but probably lots of them would like the ability to pack it up and put it away when not in use; to be able to pull out their VR setup without having to run wires all over their living room, etc. And they care about cost, and not needing to buy a new computer to make it work, and having good customer support, etc.

            Sure, I’m totally drooling about the StarVR, XTAL, Pimax, etc., but we’re part of an enthusiast market that represents a small chunk of potential crop of consumers. The things that we want are relevant, and there will likely always be a market for higher end headsets marketed to people that have more powerful machines and more willingness to deal with less consumer-friendly devices, but the selling points that matter most to VR hardware companies, and the ones that will most likely grow the VR market the most, are seemingly boring things like how convenient it is to setup and use, cost, comfort, etc. That’s why Santa Cruz is so exciting: it’s the first VR product that I may be able to recommend to my non-techie friends and family.

          • HomeAudio

            “but probably lots of them would like the ability to pack it up and put it away when not in use”

            It already exists!!! Buy Gear VR or any Daydream headset and you will have it! You can watch movies, netflix, play games! There is no need to duplicate this functionality by Oculus! They can give support to Samsung to improve Gear VR but FB should focus on high quality devices that will show the path to another companies! FB has money for it! There is no better comapny to develope new technologies! Cooperate with giant of market like Nvidia to resolve problem on hardware level for fovetal rendering!!!! They are not doing it!

          • MosBen

            It seems like Oculus plans to serve several different markets with different products. They just released the Go, which is a cheap entry point for VR. Somewhat more expensive will be the Santa Cruz, which provides 6 DOF tracking, which is a huge benefit to immersion, but doesn’t have the graphics processing of a PC. Finally is the Rift, which provides high quality VR at a premium in both price and complexity. I have a feeling that the Go is going to be phased out as the Santa Cruz tech becomes cheaper, but that’s not really important to this comment.

            They are most assuredly developing the followup to the Rift. They’re just not ready to show it yet. Part of it may be technical, as they continue to develop the hardware, and part of it is alternating their product releases so that the Rift 2 doesn’t step on the Santa Cruz’s feet. But part of it is also that doing things like expanding the FOV and increasing resolution take increased graphics processing, and right now that’s really expensive. The Pimax reviews that I’ve seen basically say that you need an RTX 2080 or 2080Ti to run it well, and those cards are crazy expensive. Neither Oculus nor HTC, nor anyone that really wants to release a product that lots of people buy is going to release an HMD that requires a $1,000+ PC to run it. It’s just not going to happen. The people like you that have enough money to jump ship to a Pimax simply aren’t a huge part of the market, and there’s always the chance to lure them back by releasing a better product in a year or two.

          • HomeAudio

            “The Pimax reviews that I’ve seen basically say that you need an RTX 2080 or 2080Ti to run it well, and those cards are crazy expensive.”

            “Eye tracking and foveated rendering properly implemented should lower graphic cards requirements comparing to current headsets generation! ”

            They should work on this technology with NVidia/AMD. Already they proved that it works (you can find it on YouTube)! Why they are not working with NVidia on hardware solution of fovetal rendering implementation?!!

          • reddwarf2300282

            I guess that rendering implementation is not so big problem. Reliable eye tracking which works 100% of the time and with any eye is the biggest problem.

        • Firestorm185

          I totally agree. If it’s around the same cost as Rift right now *maybe even a bit higher because of the computer on the headset itself) it’ll definitely be worth it! And yeah, I don’t know how I feel about a go Plus/Pro naming scheme, with all the hulabaloo over Vive Pro, but hopefully the Cruz will have some cool name that has to do with it’s mobility.

    • Xron

      Snapdragon 845 PLZ! 835 doesn’t seem like a worthy improvement over 821 of Go…

      • MosBen

        The Road to VR writeup seemed to think that the 845 was likely, and it seems even more likely if they’re targeting a release next year.

        • R FC

          845 SOC has hardware support for full 6DOF tracking system, 835 doesn’t. You can run 6DOF on 835 using software emulation, but it degrades compute power available for application.

    • Doctor Bambi

      I get the thinking that because Santa Cruz is running on iterative mobile hardware to Go that Santa Cruz is just that, but we’re talking about a massive change in interaction model here. It’s not really valid to only consider the SOC specs, you have to consider everything that Santa Cruz brings to the table and the use cases it will best fit. I think Oculus isn’t trying to fool anyone here, Santa Cruz will be the start of its own product line independent from Go or Rift, they each have strengths and weaknesses and each cater to different user demographics.

    • IMHO Go Plus would be misleading…

    • Adrian Meredith

      it needs a virtual link port and an optional wireless adaptor and be the rift v2

    • MosBen

      I wonder if Oculus will keep three tiers of products going forward. The Go is probably the best option among current phone-based VR, but the lack of tracking is so limiting that I can’t imagine that Oculus will keep producing products like that much longer. It seems much more likely to me that they either go to two product lines, Rift and Rift mobile, or they keep three, with Santa Cruz becoming the entry-level unit, perhaps call the Go 2, its replacement in the middle called the Go 2 Plus, and the Rift 2 at the top end.

  • HomeAudio

    I hope they will announce that they are working on 200 FOV headset… otherwise I will start to look more closely on StarVR/Pimax products.

    BTW:
    “Rift users won’t be able to see these immersive views” …. “Oculus instead suggests that Rift users consider jumping inside Oculus Home where they could virtually visit with other Rift users (but not friends using Go or Gear VR) while watching the standard 2D livestream from the event.”

    SHAME ON THEM!!!!!!! THIS KIND SUPPRT OF VR DEVICES IS SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!!

    • Xron

      And what gpu will you use for this 200fov headset? 2080ti? I guess it will be the only card that can get decent framerates in AAA games.

      • Cless

        With eye tracking and a new RTX they can do foveated rendering natively, that should fix that issue in a decent way. Not so much the decrease in dpi that higher FOV’s cause, but still, a worthy solution.

        • decrese in PPD that higher FOV casuse*

          PPD- Pixel Per Degree, it has to do with sharpness of visuals
          PPI – Pixel Per Inch, it has to do only with HMD form factor and optics, nothing with resolution, etc.

      • Adrian Meredith

        they used fixed foveated rendering on the go quite well

      • HomeAudio

        Eye tracking and foveated rendering properly implemented should lower graphic cards requirements comparing to current headsets generation! Why they are not working on this techonolgy with NVidia and AMD???!!!! SHAME SHAME on them in ALL aspects!!!

    • MosBen

      The 140 FOV in Half Dome seems much more likely if they’re planning on releasing the Rift 2 in the 2020 time frame. Oculus simply will never put out a product like the initial Rift, which required a $1,000+ computer in addition to an expensive piece of VR kit. They’ll keep releasing PC-based headsets for the foreseeable future, but the system requirements will not be nearly as steep as in that first generation. My guess is that the minimum graphics requirement will be in the GTX 1070 area, and paired with foveated rendering will allow for a slightly higher ppi screen and slightly wider FOV. Then the Santa Cruz 2 will come out and match the FOV/ppi of the Rift 2, then the Rift 3 will move the ball a bit further, and so on. I imagine that the Go gets phased out, or the Santa Cruz 1 gets relabeled the Go 2 when the Santa Cruz 2 is released.

      • Stop using ppi metric, it’s nearly ussles in VR context. Better use Pixel Per Degree, PPD, or just straight resolution.

        • MosBen

          You’re right. That was a mistake.Thanks for the correction.

        • Thud

          I read an article the other day that used The number of horizontal pixels available in the 360 degree view. This makes a ton of sense. Field of view horizontal and vertical and horizontal pixels in 360 degrees. All headsets could be easily and accurately compared.

        • Jistuce

          PPPI, or pixels per perceived inch.
          Of course, then the headset performance varies with gender…

          • First, sorry for my English. No, it does not. I think you are speaking about the fact, that eyes of man and woman are in slighty diffrent position on the face realtive to lenses, and the distance betwen eyes and lenses affects the FoV. But it affects only precived FoV, the total maximum FoV which manufactuer claims stays the same. Also “precived inch” is less specific than PPD, because it depends on the distance to this partucular inch, or HMD optics.

            PPD is just self explanatory, and I think it’s the best as an representation of clarity in raw numbers. It has two disadvantages, it’s hard to measure, but we can get good aproximation form what manufactuer claims, the second is that PPD may vary because of lens distortion, but it’s still better than PPPI.

            PS. We should dump “inch”, “foot” etc. long ago… Even the definition of an inch it’s now precisly calculated chunk of kg, not physical object.

          • Jistuce

            It was a poor joke that was apparently too subtle. Since men tend to overestimate the length of certain anatomical parts, they must use a different inch than women. Dick jokes: always classy.

            PS: Feet, pounds, and gallons put men on the moon. Grams, liters, and meters killed the Mars Climate Orbiter. Your silly french numbers are objectively worse, and holding back all humanity.

      • HomeAudio

        If they will not start to look what is going on the market than they will have to stay with low budget, low quality headset like Oculus Go or Santa Cruz. Proper implementation of eye tracking and fovetal rendering should lower graphic cards requirements comparing to current generation of headsets. If FB will not work with NVidia/AMD on this technologies than they could forget about winning competition with Pimax/StarVR/XTAL VR.

      • Xron

        Hope that Gtx 2060 will reach ~1070ti perf, because that will be the card that avergae consumer will have by 2020. Though same year they will likely to release to 7nm production.

  • I’ve written a post with my predictions for Oculus Connect 5 on my blog as well. What do you think about Oculus cameras and streaming services? Facebook partnered with RED to produce high quality production 360 3D cameras and at OC 5 there will be an innovative e-sports streaming service… do you envision announcements on this side as well?

    • benz145

      I would definitely bet on hearing some news about the RED camera.

  • MosBen

    Super excited to finally get some hard info on Santa Cruz. Sure, it won’t be able to run Robo Recall, but it should be able to run Beat Saber, and I’m sure that Oculus is making sure that it can run Marvel Powers Unite. Here’s hoping that it slots in around the $400 price range.

    Along with info about Half Dome, I’m hoping that Oculus is working on updated input devices. Touch is pretty good, but with Valve’s Knuckles on the way, it seems like a good time for Oculus to talk about where they think improvements can be made to their input system.

    • benz145

      I’d actually be surprised to see MPUVR on Santa Cruz any time soon. It’s a graphically rich game and usually has a lot happening on screen at once (so both GPU and CPU intensive); I think it would be much harder to port down to Santa Cruz than something like Beat Saber. Not to say that no UE4 games will be able to work on SC, but I expect we’ll see many more Unity-based titles as we do currently with Go / Gear VR.

      • MosBen

        That’s true, but it seems like Oculus spent so much time and money developing it that I feel like they’d have planned for this. Maybe they developed a less complicated version in parallel, with fewer enemies and less detailed backgrounds.

  • impurekind

    Looking forward to this. I have a suspicion it probably won’t have any major announcements (especially any truly standout new VR games)–shame–but it will just be cause to see where Oculus is at right now, and indeed where VR is at and going.

  • HomeAudio

    I have Oculus Rift CV1 and i prefer it over HTC Vive. If FB will not show on OC5 anything interesting in subject of new headset for PC than soon I will sell Oculus Rift and I will buy Pimax 5K+. I wonder how many people is planning the same move as me… :/

    • MosBen

      I mean, probably not that many, simply because there aren’t that many people who own Rifts. And even if you do that, Oculus already has your money from when you bought the Rift. If they do release a new Rift 2 in 2020 that’s fundamentally superior to the Pimax, will you buy that as well? But more importantly, Oculus and HTC would obviously love to create some brand loyalty, but at this point the number of people who don’t own a VR headset, but who might be interested if the product had the right features and price, so completely dwarfs the people who are already VR aficionados that the possibility that they’ll lose a few current customers by spending more time to polish their next device and wait for the tech to mature/become slightly more affordable simply isn’t going to move the needle.

      • HomeAudio

        “I mean, probably not that many, simply because there aren’t that many people who own Rifts’
        As far as I know even on Steam now there is more people with Rift than with HTC Vive ;)

        “Oculus already has your money from when you bought the Rift”
        Yes – but par of this money will go back to me when I will sell Oculus Rift ;)

        “they do release a new Rift 2 in 2020 that’s fundamentally superior to the Pimax, will you buy that as well?”
        Depends if it will be worth buying. If yes – than I will sell Pimax and buy Rift 2. But for now looks like Oculus is loosing field in competition.

        • MosBen

          Yes, Oculus has a larger share of the VR market, but it’s currently a rather small market, with only a few million non-phone shell VR headsets out there.

          Oculus doesn’t care if you recoup some of your investment by selling your headset. That doesn’t take any money out of their pocket. They have your money, and it seems like if they release a good product you might be willing to give them more of it. So it doesn’t make any sense for them to meet your demand that they talk about the Rift 2 if it’s not ready yet. If you follow through, you’ll end up with a Pimax, but by letting their product develop longer they may be able to both convince you to sell your Pimax and buy a Rift 2 while also convincing lots of people who don’t currently own a VR headset to buy it.

          It seems likely that Oculus will be releasing Santa Cruz sooner, rather than later, so that’s going to be their focus at this conference. Given the state of Half Dome, it also seems like the Rift 2 is more than a year away from release. This means that they’re not going to distract attention from Santa Cruz by talking about the Rift 2 a lot.

          • HomeAudio

            “Oculus doesn’t care if you recoup some of your investment by selling your headset. That doesn’t take any money out of their pocket”

            Of course it is taking money from their pockets. This guy that will buy it from me – he will not buy this headset from Oculus. So Oculus will lost one potential buyer. Instead selling two headsets – they sold only one…. And if this guy (that will buy CV1 from me) will decide to change it to Pimax (as me) than in few next months they can lost next potential buyer (because someone else will buy this headset from him instead from Oculus).

          • MosBen

            The main point is that people who are in your boat of wanting to stay on the bleeding edge of VR tech are a tiny part of the VR market, and it will only become a smaller part as the VR market grows. There will likely always be a company like Pimax willing to release a product that requires the newest and most expensive hardware to run, but the companies that are able to build a large base of customers are the ones that will control how the industry grows and evolves.

          • Veron

            No. The guy who will buy it from you will buy it at a significant discount. He would not have bought it from Oculus since they wouldn’t have matched his price point

          • HomeAudio

            I believe if no one will sell “used” Oculus headset than this guy will not have choice and he will buy it from Oculus ;)

            Anyway… I think better to have enough good product that people will want to buy directly from you (I mean producer – Oculus) than from second hand (only because of attractive price) ;)

      • Brandon Haney

        Currently I think its less about the “right features and price” and more about who gets content first. I love my rift but only find myself using it for tabletop simulator and The Forest (great vr experience). Everything else is short and kinda eh.

  • I’m ready!!!!!!!!!!!