This coming Wednesday and Thursday, digital actuality (VR) builders and fans from world wide will as soon as once more collect in San Diego, Calif., for Fb’s Oculus Join developer convention. One of many large reveals of the convention is anticipated to be the newest model of Oculus Santa Cruz, a standalone VR headset that Fb has been teasing since 2016, and that’s anticipated to develop into obtainable to shoppers within the coming months.

Santa Cruz has been billed by the corporate as a brand new gadget class that sits squarely within the center between current headsets, providing PC-like immersion with out the necessity for any wires. For for a lot of within the trade, Santa Cruz is much more than that: It’s the hope to lastly carry immersive VR experiences that had been beforehand solely obtainable to a small subset of hardcore fans to a a lot wider set of shoppers.

Right here’s what we learn about Santa Cruz to this point:

Excessive-end monitoring. For this reason everyone seems to be so enthusiastic about Santa Cruz. The headset options what’s identified within the trade as six levels of freedom (6DOF) monitoring. This basically signifies that the headset not solely is aware of the place you’re looking in a VR expertise, but additionally when you’re leaning into it, or taking a step ahead.

PC-based VR headsets just like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been providing any such performance for a while, however it has been absent from most mobile-based VR. Samsung’s Gear VR, the Oculus Go or Google’s Daydream View headsets solely supply three levels of freedom, which signifies that the headset is aware of the place you’re looking, however not whether or not you shifting ahead or backward.

Headsets just like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been utilizing exterior monitoring {hardware} for 6DOF, which has additionally restricted client enchantment. Not everybody desires to first set up and calibrate further {hardware} earlier than they will get began with VR. For Santa Cruz, Fb is as a substitute utilizing what’s identified within the trade as “inside-out” monitoring: a mix of cameras and different sensors built-in into the headset itself — one thing that has additionally been utilized by Microsoft and its {hardware} companions for his or her PC-based blended actuality headsets.

Santa Cruz, as proven finally yr’s Oculus Join convention.

Tracked controllers. Oculus isn’t truly the primary main firm to promote a standalone VR headset with 6DOF monitoring to U.S. shoppers. That honor goes to Lenovo, which teamed up with Google for a Daydream-based standalone referred to as the Lenovo Mirage Solo. However whereas the Mirage does know whether or not you’re leaning into an expertise, it doesn’t truly observe your controller, which signifies that customers are left with the identical form of pointer-type expertise that’s additionally obtainable on the Oculus Go, Gear VR or Daydream View.

From final yr’s Oculus Join keynote presentation: Santa Cruz will observe person’s handheld controllers, making it doable to succeed in out to digital objects. 

Santa Cruz, however, will have the ability to totally observe two controllers, which permits builders so as to add palms to their avatars, and customers to truly attain out to digital objects. Not solely does it permit for way more immersive gameplay, it additionally permits all types of different interactions in VR. Tiltbrush for example — an app that permits customers to freely draw 3D objects — merely isn’t doable with out controller monitoring.

An Android-based working system. Santa Cruz will run on cell {hardware}, seemingly utilizing a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It’s confirmed to run a custom-made model of Android, very like the corporate’s lower-end Oculus Go headset. Which means it’s going to essentially much less highly effective than an Oculus Rift powered by a latest-generation gaming PC.

Nonetheless, Oculus has invested lots into optimizing cell VR video high quality to blur these strains. In truth, Oculus representatives instructed the viewers of the Sport Developer Convention (GDC) in San Francisco earlier this yr that “growing Rift high quality content material is the purpose” for Santa Cruz.

A promotional video for Santa Cruz launched a yr in the past.

An enormous concentrate on consolation. When Oculus first unveiled a Santa Cruz prototype at its Oculus Join developer convention in 2016, it basically appeared like a modified Rift with an additional large cumbersome chunk of {hardware} connected to the again of your head. Anticipate the ultimate model of Santa Cruz to look very completely different. Extra not too long ago, Oculus has already proven pictures which are extra harking back to the Oculus Go, that includes the identical built-in audio know-how that takes away the necessity to add exterior headphones.

However whereas the Go has free elastic band head straps that must be adjusted with two palms, sources have instructed Selection that Santa Cruz will use firmer materials. These head straps shall be connected to the principle headset with a form of hinge that makes it doable to place the headset on with only one hand.

Right here’s what we don’t know but:

How these controllers will appear to be. Oculus unveiled what appeared like a near-final design of the Santa Cruz controllers final yr, displaying off two handheld controllers with rings for monitoring and contact pads for swiping and different controls. Nonetheless, there has since been speak that the corporate could change the contact pads with buttons and a thumb stick, comparable the controllers that ship with the Rift. That will make plenty of sense for video games, and in addition make it simpler for Rift builders to port their apps to the brand new headset.

Which titles it’s going to ship with. Provided that Santa Cruz is operating on Android, the corporate may simply let publishers carry their Oculus Go apps to the gadget. This would offer Santa Cruz with over 1,000 launch titles out of the field.

Nonetheless, the entire messaging we’ve got seen from Oculus to this point has been about differentiating the gadget from cheaper cell VR, and likening it to the Rift. With that in thoughts, it’s fully doable that Oculus would put a premium on person expertise to ensure that new customers aren’t underwhelmed by apps not designed for the gadget. The corporate may, for example, bar Android apps that haven’t been up to date for 6DOF from the platform.

On the similar time, Oculus is probably going going to encourage Rift builders to carry their video games and experiences to Santa Cruz. The Fb subsidiary has prior to now spent tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to get launch titles for the Rift, and it’s seemingly going to do the identical to ensure that numerous large names can be found at launch.

A launch date. We don’t truly know but when Santa Cruz goes to be on the market, or which identify it is going to be bought beneath. In truth, Oculus hasn’t even confirmed but that it’ll introduce the gadget at this yr’s Oculus Join, however there have been loads of hints, together with classes meant to assist builders with porting their apps to the brand new platform.

Making the gadget obtainable to the broader developer neighborhood now means that it may very well be obtainable on the market in early 2018. Then once more, Oculus hasn’t had the most effective observe file for transport gadgets on time. Oculus Go was speculated to go on sale in early 2018, however didn’t truly make it onto cabinets till Could.

How a lot it’s going to price. Oculus hasn’t given us any indication in regards to the value of Santa Cruz but. The corporate did be taught fairly a bit about pricing from the introduction of the Rift and Go headsets. The Rift was initially priced $600, and Oculus was charging a further $200 for its handheld controllers. That’s a steep value, contemplating the truth that shoppers nonetheless wanted a high-end gaming PC to run the Rift’s software program.

Oculus has since considerably decreased the value of the Rift, and is now promoting a bundle of headset and controllers for simply $399. The corporate additionally priced the Oculus Go much more aggressively when it launched the cell standalone headset again in Could, promoting the bottom mannequin for simply $200.

From final yr’s Oculus Join convention: How Fb has been positioning the headset.

Maybe it’s value contemplating how Oculus has positioned Santa Cruz prior to now: As a brand new gadget class that sits between low cost cell headsets and costly PC-based VR {hardware}. It’s fairly doable that the corporate will persist with this line of considering for pricing as nicely for a “good, higher, greatest” pricing construction. That will make much more sense if Oculus was to introduce a revamped model of the Rift with higher-resolution shows in 2019, which might permit it to maybe promote the Go for $200, Santa Cruz for round $400 and a high-end Rift for $500 or $600.

Oculus seemingly received’t announce a value for the Rift till it is able to promote the {hardware} to shoppers, however we could be taught much more in regards to the firm’s new headset at Oculus Join Wednesday.

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