Oculus Rift aiming for 2014 release, CEO touts potential on ‘next gen cellphones’

The maker of Oculus Rift wants to release the VR headset to the public next year, and intends to keep the launch price as close to $300 as possible.

CEO Brendan Iribe told us that while the company has played around with Kinect and Move, bringing Oculus Rift to consoles is not his team’s focus. Instead, it will concentrate its efforts on bringing its VR headset to PC and “next gen cellphones.”

“Consumer release-wise we haven’t set a date yet – it’s not going to be this year but we would love it to be next year – we want it to be right,” he told us. “We don’t want to announce any dates because frankly we just don’t know when it’s going to be really ready for the consumer market where everything is tied together – you have the form factor, HD, motion blur eliminated… so we don’t know how long that will take, but it’s close – we have internal prototypes which have a lot of each thing solved and it’s such a magical experience when you see it all together.”

The idea of bringing Oculus to games consoles was politely but firmly shrugged off as “not a focus” right now; Iribe believes that PC and, in particular, mobile, is where VR’s future lies.

“I love consoles but internally we’re a lot more excited about where mobile’s going to go, and being able to plug it right into a next gen cellphone,” he told us. “It’s the innovation, and how fast cellphones are now improving – where we’ll be with the next Galaxy or the next iPhone compared to where consoles are. Those things are almost doubling every year, compared to a console that’s just stuck it out for eight years – it just makes us very excited. There’s a lot of improvements that can be made on the hardware side for VR that no-one’s doing yet because it’s a new thing. The mobile rate of innovation is going to be able to make a lot of those improvements.”

Like the mobile handset arms race, Iribe welcomed competitors into the VR space – it’ll speed up the development of the medium, he said. “There’ll be other people that end up doing VR, it’s not like Oculus is going to be the only VR provider – and I think there is a lot of innovation still to come. This is one year in, right? Imagine where we go in the next eight to ten years. It’s going to accelerate so quickly, with the resolution, positional tracking, hand tracking – you should be able to be in there and see your hand without any latency in the future, and you should be able to look at other avatars in the game and see mouth tracking without any latency tied to voice.

“I think a lot will come from the social and emotional side that nobody has even seen yet. Like, you’ll know where the player’s eyes are, and characters can now look at you and say ‘hey what’s up?’ and if you look away they’ll be like, ‘hey what’s going on?’. There’s a lot of emotion you can spark in [VR] that you just can’t on a TV. When you have headset with a really wide field of view and low latency, your brain flips the switch and says: wait a second – this is reality now? It just fundamentally changes the way you feel things.”

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