Can Oculus create the virtual reality world it envisions?

By Hareem Ahmed

oculus rift Oculus Rift is the first thing that comes to mind when “virtual reality” is mentioned. Launched for consumers in March 2016, four years after its extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, Oculus has become synonymous with the term “virtual reality headset”. Virtual reality headsets in combination with handheld controllers, like the Oculus Touch, create an immersive user-experience by incorporating visuals, sound effects, motion control and haptic feedback. Applications of the technology range from video game play to medical training. When Oculus Rift first hit the market, it was available for a staggering $599. By the end of 2016 Oculus released Touch controllers to round out the virtual reality experience; at $199 a pair, the total cost of an Oculus Rift set came out to a whopping $798.

Product Original Price New Price
Oculus Rift $599 $499
Oculus Touch $199 $99

Although the Oculus name has become commonplace, the price point coupled with limited selection of mass-consumer content has led to Oculus Rift being a "tech enthusiast” purchase rather than a typical consumer purchase. Another gripe with Oculus Rift is the expensive computer processing power necessary to use it. Oculus compatible computer purchases can easily run into the thousands. Despite Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook, who purchased the company in 2014)’s vision that VR would be “the most social platform”, the Rift has a long way to go before it can become a household item. On Wednesday March 4th Oculus announced price cuts across the board. Just a few days shy of their one year launch anniversary, Rift and Touch prices have been reduced to $499 and $99 respectively. This is a step in the right direction, however prices are still too high for the average consumer.

gear vr In comparison to the Rift, Oculus’ Gear VR headset in partnership with Samsung seems to be the more popular choice for your typical buyer. At $99.99, the Gear VR’s price point is far more attractive. It does not offer the same experience as the Rift but it is user-friendly and requires just a Samsung smartphone which many people already own. Instead of having to be attached to your PC by wires in the case of the Rift, the smartphone is attached right into the Gear VR headset and allows for a more casual experience. While not as immersive as the Rift, the Gear VR provides an advanced enough experience for a mass consumer. The Rift may be “true” virtual reality, but for Oculus to achieve its goal of mainstream virtual reality use it has to strike an attractive balance between price and functionality. The ideal virtual reality headset would be user-friendly without compromising significantly on quality. Given Oculus executive Jason Rubin’s recent comments about the future directions of the company, sharing similar sentiment, the virtual reality era that Oculus has envisioned may not be too far-fetched.

Product Device Wireless? Field of View Refresh Rate Portable?
Rift Windows PC No 110 ° 90 Hz No
Gear VR Samsung Galaxy Phones Yes 101 ° 60 Hz Yes