• The official consumer edition of the Rift, as of May 2015

  • Oculus Rift developer edition

  • Oculus Rift in use

  • Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype

  • Oculus Rift rugby

  • Oculus Rift HD prototype

Despite valiant – if misguided – efforts from the likes of the Virtual Boy and VFX1 during the 1990s, virtual reality has never succeeded in cracking the mainstream. But we’d bet our mortgage on that changing with the Oculus Rift, a headset that manages to hit all the sweet spots: it’s affordable, comfortable and delivers an incredibly immersive experience, even with existing games.

With the Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift still in the prototype stage and a consumer version not due in shops until late 2014 at the earliest, there’s much about the headset that is still yet to be confirmed – but there’s also much we do know and much we can take an educated guess at.


User experience

Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype

At CES back in January we had the opportunity to try both an HD prototype of Oculus Rift and the even more advanced Crystal Cove version of the headset – and it’s no exaggeration to say that both blew us away.

You can read our detailed thoughts on both below, but the headset manages to be comfortable to wear despite its bulk and delivers an experience quite unlike any VR headset we’ve seen. The level of immersion is incredible – in EVE Valkyrie, for instance, you can look around your spaceship’s cockpit with Rift while piloting it with the regular controller. The potential for any first-person view game is obvious, it'll draw you into these worlds like never before.

The main issue that can arise is motion sickness – particularly when the screen's view moves when your head doesn't and vice versa – but Oculus is working to fix that by adding positional head-tracking and faster-refreshing screens.

READ MORE: Hands-on with Oculus Rift v2: believe the VR hype

READ MORE: Face-on review: Oculus Rift Crystal Cove, a bona fide VR revolution

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Games

You can see a full list of upcoming and existing games with Oculus Rift support here. Most are for Windows PCs and a handful are also available on Mac and Linux, but the headset’s HDMI and USB connections mean it’s theoretically compatible with consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as Android devices.

Even games that haven’t been designed with Oculus Rift in mind (or later patched to support it) can sometimes be played using the headset, thanks to a new wave of specialist drivers including VorpX, Vireio Perception 2.0 and TriDef Ignition, all of which can give standard Direct X games a 3D makeover.

READ MORE: Loading Human could be Oculus Rift’s first indie hit

Non-gaming uses

Oculus Rift rugby

Being a virtual reality 3D headset, there are many potential uses for Oculus Rift beyond gaming. To give some recent examples, there’s the University of Surrey’s Virtual Ride to Space, O2 putting you in the jockstrap of an England rugby player during a training session, and HBO allowing you to take a virtual ride up the 700-foot ice wall from Game Of Thrones.

Thanks to the presence of a software development kit, it’s a fairly straightforward process to program for Oculus Rift and use the technology to educate or entertain. Expect to see it put to use at museums, exhibitions and inside shopping centres very soon.

Price and release date

Oculus Rift HD prototype

Oculus VR has yet to confirm a release date for the consumer version of Rift, but it seems a safe bet that it'll arrive in either late 2014 or early 2015.

Update 16/03/15: Or maybe not. Speaking at a SXSW 2015 panel (as reported by Re/code) Oculus founder Palmer Luckey seemed to suggest that the headset might not be released this year at all. Luckey had previously stated that something would have to "go horribly wrong" for the Rift not to arrive in 2015, but appeared to backpedal: "I did say that, before we made a lot of changes to our roadmap... I can't comment on the date one way or the other, but I can say nothing is going horribly wrong." Luckey's original statement came before Oculus VR's acquisition by Facebook, so it could be that the deal has resulted in the release date being pushed back. All the way back to 2016? We hope not, but it's not outside the realms of possibility.

As far as pricing goes, the best guide we have is that the developer version sells for US$300 (S$420). But given the consumer edition is likely to be more powerful and better equipped, it may cost more. Don't expect it to break the bank though - Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has suggested that the consumer version will be affordable to most gamers.

“You can’t sell an expensive piece of hardware and expect tons of content to show up," he said. "We’re not doing market research around what’s the breaking point for people to buy a VR headset; we’re just trying to sell it as cheap as we can while still existing as a company.”

Of course Oculus VR isn't the only company interested in virtual reality: Sony is expected to unveil its own VR headset at GDC this week, while Valve, the company behind Steam, also has its own prototype. But having tried Oculus Rift ourselves, it's still the one we're most excited about right now.

Update 06/05/15: Oculus has confirmed that the consumer edition of the Rift will be released some time in the first quarter of 2016, and that you’ll be able to pre-order it at some point in 2015.

No price, no details on launch games or Facebook integration – it’s hardly the in-depth reveal we were hoping for, but we do expect to hear more at E3 in June. Make sure to check back then.