Oculus VR's annual developers conference kicked off this week, and a main keynote address by notable Oculus figureheads, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, revealed multiple plans and tech for the company going forward.
So here's everything you need to know about Oculus Connect 3, including how to watch it and what was announced.
Oculus Connect 3: What is it?
Oculus Connect 3 is Oculus' third annual developers conference. It started on 5 October and will run until today, 7 October in San Jose, CA. The conference features over 40 technical talks, workshops and roundtables about the company's products and development in virtual reality. There were also over 80 industry leaders across 50 companies and studios scheduled to present.
But the main keynote was by far the most interesting event on the agenda.
Oculus Connect 3: Can you still watch the keynote online?
The live stream of the Oculus Connect 3 keynote was originally broadcasted from Twitch, but you can watch the stream after the fact above or on Facebook Live. You can also watch live in VR with NextVR, but it’s limited to Gear VR owners.
Oculus Connect 3: What was announced?
Oculus Touch controllers
At Connect 3, Oculus announced its Touch controllers would be available on 6 December. Pre-orders open 10 October. The controller bundle will come with two titles (VR Sports Challenge and The Unspoken) and a second camera. A third camera, which releases 6 December, is needed for the controllers to room-scale, so you can move around in HTC Vive style.
You'll need to use the third camera placed in the back of the room, with additional cameras costing $79 each. The Rift's $599 headset package, when combined with the controllers' $199 price (thought to be £189 in the UK) and the extra camera's $79 price, makes the full Oculus platform more expensive than the $799 HTC Vive, which has two Lighthouse tracking boxes and two handheld controllers in the box.
At Connect 3, Oculus introduced a new audio product for Rift, called Earphones.
As you've probably guessed, Earphones are in-ear headphones. You can use them instead of the on-ear headphones that currently come with the company's Rift VR headset. Priced at $49, they're sold separately but should deliver sound as good as headsets that costs more, according to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe.
Oculus Earphones will be available to buy from 6 December, but you can pre-order them starting 10 October on Oculus.com.
Oculus Santa Cruz
At Connect 3, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced a VR headset prototype that works without cables. Called Santa Cruz, it looks like an Oculus Rift but is self-contained. It doesn't need a separate PC to run and is therefore untethered.
When it comes to virtual reality headsets, there are two categories: mobile VR headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR, and tethered VR headsets with external tracking, like the Oculus Rift. Mark Zuckerberg said during the keynote, "We believe there is a sweet spot between these. A standalone virtual reality product category..."
This category would be high quality and affordable, and you can bring it with you out into the world. "We're working on this now," he added. "It's still early."
While on stage, he played a video demo of the wireless prototype product.
This new hardware project will sit between the existing Oculus Rift headset and Samsung’s Gear VR headset, which is one of Oculus' platform partners.
Oculus Avatars, Parties and Rooms
From early 2017, Oculus Rift and Gear VR owners will be able to create their own Oculus Avatars to represent themselves in the virtual world. There will be more than one billion permutations of how an Avatar can look and they will be what other players see during VR social interaction.
That includes in Oculus Parties and Oculus Rooms. The former is essentially Oculus' own VR version of Skype. You can chat with up to eight people using voice, while Oculus Rooms gives you a virtual location where you can all hang out.
Parties and Rooms will be released for Gear VR in the "coming weeks", while Oculus Rift will get them from early 2017.
Asynchronous Spacewarp and new minimum PC specs
One of the biggest barriers to Oculus Rift adoption has been the high level of PC specifications required to run the headset adequately. That's no longer the case.
Thanks to a technology Oculus calls Asynchronous Spacewarp, lower spec'ed PCs can now run a Rift headset without hampering the experience. Much.
Essentially, to attain the best, least dizzying performance, high-end PCs have always been required to ensure games run at a smooth, standard 90Hz (90fps). And considering the resolutions also required that has always put strain on graphics cards.
Asynchronous Spacewarp software cleverly allows games and VR experiences to drop refresh (frame) rates to 45Hz, yet fills in the missing frames synthetically to ensure the user still gets a smooth 90Hz experience. That means graphical muscle is not as required and PCs as cheap as $500 can now run an Oculus Rift well.
Of course, it's still better to have a higher end PC and run games at a natural 90Hz, but this means a wider range of hardware can still offer a decent experience.