The Oculus team has just announced that the shipping for the developer kits of the Oculus Rift 3D VR headset have been rescheduled to March next year due to various reasons causing the delay. Can’t say I’m surprised as similar faith probably will follow with other Kickstarter projects that simply did not expect to get such an overwhelming user interest such as the Rift. That however does not mean that I’m not disappointed by the fact that my early DIY dev kit is not already in my hands as initially promised and that I’ll have to wait 4 more months as literally thousands of other Kickstarter backers of the project. Hopefully the extra wait will be for good as apparently the latest prototype of the device that the Dev Kits will be based on has some changes from the specs of the earlier prototype. Based on this current schedule, the goal is to ship the majority of the Dev kits by mid-March shipping them in the same order as the Kickstarter pledges were received (first come, first served) with all the kits expected to sent out by mid-April 2013. Any pre-orders taken post-Kickstarter are expected to ship in late April 2013 with the delivery for US residents expected to take 5-7 business days and international backers should receive theirs in 2-3 weeks, depending on the destination.
The early Oculus Rift prototypes were using 5.6″ LCD panels, but unfortunately the production of that display panel has been discontinued, so the final design will apparently use a new slightly larger 7″ LCD panel with resolution 1280×800. The bright side is that the new display should be better than the old one in almost every key area including response time, switching time, contrast, and color quality. The improved switching time of the panel actually alleviates most of the motion blur people saw in earlier prototype demos according to Oculus. The downside to the new 7″ panel is the weight is going to be approximately 30g more.
The original Oculus Rift prototypes used an off-the-shelf sensor from one of the leading sensor vendors and while the original sensor was high quality, the Oculus has decided to develop their own 9DOF motion sensor that excels in VR-critical areas. These new sensors should be part of the developer kits shipping in March. The new Oculus sensor will support a refresh rate of up to 1000 Hz, which is several times faster than the previous sensor. In addition to the accelerometer and gyroscope, it also includes a magnetometer, which opens new doors in terms of sensor data and head-tracking. The data coming from the new sensor will be accessible using the Oculus SDK in easy to manipulate formats (quaternion, matrix, Euler angles). The raw sensor data will also be available for those that want to do the math themselves.
Also all developers will be invited to join the Developer Center and start discussing Rift development before the kits begin shipping. The Developer Center will have the latest Oculus SDK, engine integrations, official forums, support system, and ways to send hardware/software feedback directly to the Oculus engineering team.
The other good news is that plans for an even better consumer version of the Oculus Rift are already underway, but these will not be coming anytime soon and if we consider the time needed for the production of the Dev Kits we could probably expect an improved consumer version not earlier than the end of the year 2013 or more realistically sometime in 2014…