When I talk to people about Oculus Rift, there are some standard questions that I tend to come up more often that others. First, how much will it cost? Second, what hardware my computer will need to run the games smoothly? Thirdly, when it gets out?
Thankfully, I have the answers for all of these questions, but that doesn’t make it an easy discussion. We’ll have to start with explaining to you what virtual reality actually is. You’ve probably watched a 3D movie sometime in your life, and you probably remember that sensation of the characters getting alive before your eyes. Now, imagine the same thing happening in a really short distance from your eyes.
With a fully materialized 3D world, and with motion tracking in the headset, Oculus Rift acts like your eyes and head inside that virtual world. You have to admit that technology like that will cost, and will probably cost a lot. Most of the rumors talk about an average of $350, but the price keeps getting up every time we learn something new about the headset. However, that price is only the price you’ll have to pay to get the headset.
Oculus VR has a very specific place in its site dedicated to the second question: what hardware will I need to smoothly run the content that will get published with Oculus Rift?
Another difficult question, but this is more easy to explain it to you. I’ll start by saying that it’s not the Rift that creates the virtual reality effect, but actually physics and a very good understanding of the human anatomy. You can achieve virtual reality by using your smartphone with a pair of lenses to enhance the effect and a case to shut out the light and keep it steady before your head. However, it would not be much of an experience if you constantly got motion sickness, or if the app kept crashing.
In a latter article I’ll explain exactly how virtual reality works, using terms like fps and latency, but for now the only thing you need to now is that your PC will have to maintain a pretty consistent experience to make the experience bearable. That’s why Oculus advises users and developers to use a pretty specific set of hardware.
The specifications are: NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM. With a quick look in Amazon and eBay, we’re looking at a $550 setup, and that if you have a compatible motherboard and cooling system able to support the hardware. If not, the price can get even higher. So, in the end, we talk about a $1000 rig to just be able to support virtual reality.
It might sound a bit too much to you, but due to the current speed that technology proceeds, the hardware is sure to get cheaper as time passes by. Even more, Oculus has already worked out a solution for those who aren’t adept at creating their own PCs.
Working with Dell, Alienware and Asus, Oculus VR came up with Oculus Ready PCs, computers capable of running smooth virtual reality experiences. The prices for those three PCs is closer to the $1000 price tag that we would like to, but it’s still too early to make assumptions.
Lastly, we come to the last question, which luckily is the easier to answer. When Oculus Rift “consumer version” will launch? The short answer: Q1 2016; the long answer: we don’t really know. There are many things that remain to be seen with Oculus Rift. Still short of content, even when Valve added a dedicated part of its popular Steam platform to virtual reality, still trying to iron out some last minute details, and still unable to give a certain answer to the last question, we hope Q1 2016 doesn’t mean the last week of March, but rather the early days of January.
Even so, we still have a long way before getting there. Until then, take a look to those beautiful PCs that one day can be yours, together with a headset capable of producing stunning, virtual reality words.