Oculus announces delay and shows off dev kit

After 3 weeks of silence Oculus finally posted another update. It was a mixed bag of a lot of interesting new information, and some disappointing news regarding a delay of the previously estimated shipping dates.

Let's go over the big points

Shipping schedule

The original plan was to get the initial kickstarter dev kits out by December, but now the first batch of dev kits are expected to reach people in mid-march at the earliest. Oculus cites various reasons for the significant delay in the schedule, the most relevant one being the that due to the overwhelming demand for the headset they needed a way to reliably mass-produce large quantities of the headset, requiring a lengthy initial period for their factory to make the injection mold tooling they will use to produce the Rift. As you can see from the schedule below they expect actual mass-production of the kits to begin in early February.

Production schedule for the Rift dev kits. Click for bigger version.

They also needed a new screen, as the screen they used for their prototypes went out of production, and they've moved from using a third-party tracking sensor to building their own.

According to the schedule, most kickstarter backers can expect to receive their kits from the middle of March. The kits will be shipped out in the order people pledged or pre-ordered, so if you pre-ordered after the kickstarter, you'll most likely have to wait until late April for the kits to arrive.

However, if your were one of the 100 people who got in at the $275 level, Palmer Luckey has said that they plan on taking the initial pre-production batch at the start of February, and, assuming they work, pass them straight on to the first 100, who were originally expected to receive them in November.

The screen

The prototypes they've been taking around the world so far have been using a 5.6" display. They intended to use the same display for the dev kit, but found out it had been discontinued, so they started looking for a new screen.

They ended up going with a 7 inch screen, which does add 30g weight compared to the previous display, but makes up for it by improving response time, switching time, contrast, and color quality. From the update regarding switching time:

The improved switching time of the panel actually alleviates most of the motion blur people saw in earlier prototype demos.

The resolution is the same as before at 1280x800, but the field of view will stay mostly the same, probably due to a change in the optics used. Nate Mitchell, Product VP at Oculus, said "the field of view is slightly improved, but it’s the difference is only a few degrees, which isn’t particularly noticeable to the average user!"

The sensor

In the prototype they used a third-party tracker from Hillcrest Labs, but have since taking steps to make their own. It's been known for while that they hired Nirav Patel after seeing his work on the Adjacent reality tracker, so that's most likely the basis for their new sensor.

In the last update, Oculus gave a sneak peek of their new sensor, and they've now given some more details. Besides featuring a refresh rate of up to 1000hz, which is several times the rate of their previous tracker, the new sensor also adds a magnetometer to the accelerometer and gyroscope, which will allow for even more accurate head tracking, as well as help reduce drift for the other sensors.

The SDK, Developer Center and engine integration

Oculus reaffirms their intention of getting the SDK out, and launching the Developer Center before the rifts are shipped, although they do not give a timeframe for when this will happen. Unreal Engine demo running with rift support They showed off Unreal Integration saying it was in a "completely playable/usable state", while saying Unity integration was underway.

We’re working closely with Epic and Unity on integrating support for the Oculus Rift in the free versions of their engines and will keep the community posted on the progress.

The Future

The Oculus update signs off by promising upcoming updates with detailed information regarding the sensor, screen, display controller, and the headset itself, and also on "exciting" features planned for the consumer model that didn't make it into the dev kit.

We look forward to more updates, and in the meantime here's some pictures of the (almost) finalized dev kit design.