Oculus has announced that the long-awaited consumer model of its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will be available to buy from early next year.
There's no exact date, but even that window is better than we've had before as, while there have been confirmations in the past that a full release consumer model would be available at some point, the actual time frame was never discussed.
Now, according to Polygon, the company has revealed an early 2016 release, either nationally for the US or globally. We do still have a few questions though, with at least one of them being a major one; will anybody care?
Although the answer is more likely than not "yes", it is understandable that some might be wondering exactly that. After all, the famed Kickstarter project to help fund development of the VR headset started in 2012. And bar a few development and test versions, the actual device has been largely out of reach to the general public, regardless of the constant hype in the interim.
Facebook even bought the company along the way, but that still didn't speed up the process of getting units out there. And with rival VR devices, such as the HTC Vive and Sony's Project Morpheus stealing the headlines amid potential consumer releases this year, some started to feel as if Oculus might have not only missed the boat, but got an entirely different boat and headed in an entirely different direction.
Now the hype can continue once more however, as a prospective, albeit vague date has been set and we can once again look forward to the exact headset we'll all be able to buy. Indeed, Oculus has even teased us with pics it claims are of the full model.
But what else can we or should we expect with the first mass market Rift? Here's a few of our thoughts to once again whet the appetite, after all pre-orders start at the end of 2015 so you won't have long to decide whether to take the plunge or not.
One of the technologies that is currently available as a separate add-on but is not part of any of the current development versions of the Rift headset is eye tracking. This feature would be a great addition to the consumer model therefore, not just to open up options for software to interact with where you look in the virtual world (although, that would be neat), but to help reduce sickness or disorientation.
When you turn your head to look at an object in the real world your eyes turn slightly faster that your entire head, which your brain is tuned to accept. However, if you keep your eyes completely still in your head while turning it can induce feelings of dizziness, even outside the confines of a virtual reality headset.
A shorter screen response time is essential to dampen possible causes of nausea, and it can be improved greatly through tracking the gaze of a user as well as the motion of their head.
It has been previously claimed that the consumer version of Oculus Rift will come with integrated audio, although the recent statement by the company has neither confirmed nor denied such a feature.
If it is to really take off though, there need to be as few other elements to strap to your face or head as possible. If you only had to place the Rift visor over you eyes and then crack on with a game, that would be far more enticing than if you also had to feel around for a pair of gaming headphones to put them on correctly, as you do currently with the development kits.
Better, more comfortable fit
With each generation of Oculus Rift in the development stage, the headset itself has become a touch lighter and more comfortable to wear. There is still a long way to go though before you could wear one for prolonged bouts of interaction.
Even with the dummy pictures released with the consumer announcement, it still looks like a shoebox you strap to the front of your face, so needs to be a light shoebox rather than a slab.
Thankfully, it looks like the elasticated strap system that the devkits use will be replaced by something else - hopefully an adjustable band covered in comfortable foam.
External motion tracking
The HTC Vive, the VR headset created in partnership between mobile device manufacturer HTC and Valve, wowed everybody at Mobile World Congress at the beginning of March by offering something we hadn't seen before with the Oculus Rift: the ability to get up and walk around while wearing the device.
This is done through the use of external cameras set up in the room that track the person within it. In the virtual world, therefore, representations of real walls appear when the subject gets close to them, helping prevent accidents yet adding a more mobile experience.
There is some doubt as to whether the latest Crescent Bay version of the Oculus Rift has a 1440p screen or 1080p, or even two separate screens - one for each eye - but we would like to see the consumer model adopt a 4K (3840 x 2160) screen at the very least. That would provide a 1920 x 2160 resolution to each eye, which naturally make everything look sharp and well defined but also, like eye tracking, reduce feelings of sickness - at least, according to some experts.
By early 2016, there might even be an OLED screen of the correct size with that resolution knocking about. Samsung has a partnership with Oculus to provide OLED panels in return for VR tech knowhow and help with its own headset (Gear VR) and that could stretch to its expected 4K panels when they become available.