Oculus Unveils Lower Cost Prototype Virtual Reality Glasses

Oculus Wireless Prototype code named Santa Cruz. Image credit - Ars Technica

Oculus’ wireless prototype code named “Santa Cruz.” Image: Ars Technica

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

When Oculus finally announced the price of the Rift virtual reality glasses, it was stunningly high. Not only did it have a price of around $500, but you would likely have to invest in an expensive, Oculus approved PC to support it. But when you consider that Samsung’s Gear VR uses Oculus’ technology but relies on a mobile device to power it, you can see why that $69 price tag could beat it out. And it looks Oculus says it found a ‘sweet spot’ in between the Gear VR and Oculus with a new, lower cost virtual reality device.

“We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm that we’re making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category. This is in addition to our commitment to high-end VR products like Oculus Rift and mobile phone products like Gear VR.” – Oculus spokesperson via a statement

17425-f71763d2ecd7385439d8311882d928abLast year Facebook’s Oculus Connect, a prototype was shown codenamed Santa Cruz, but after a year of refining the design, it looks to be the next incarnation dubbed Pacific. Much like the Gear VR, it will be cordless.

But while the Gear VR is optimized to work with the Samsung Galaxy line of Android mobile devices, it looks like the new device isn’t going to be a smartphone housing at all. Instead, it will, in essence, be a mobile device, without the ability to make phone calls. All the hardware necessary will be built into the virtual reality headset to stream VR content.

A subtle difference to be sure, but a very important one. Pacific will also sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile graphics chip, a wireless remote, and more powerful Oculus hardware than what is under the hood of the Gear VR. It also promises to be even lighter than its competitors.

Though the Rift has positional tracking which allows it to interact with a video game or virtual training simulation, the new device won’t. But at a price of $200, you have to cut corners somehow.

In addition, Oculus parent Facebook is also working on Pacific in partnership with Xiaomi, which will provide Facebook with access into the Chinese market place, while Xiomi will get access to offering custom software on the Oculus platform.

Currently, Facebook is banned China, so being able to partner up with Xiomi is a strategic way to gain a foothold into the Chinese virtual reality and social markets. Facebook VR Vice-President Hugo Barra is now working for Xiaomi, and that is sure to make for a smoother partnership across Pacific’s VR development.

Some believe that this is a step backwards for Oculus, choosing to sacrifice hallmark features in exchange for marketshare. But after experiencing Oculus, I can’t see it that way. The Rift simply isn’t that good in quality for the high price tag. So if they can lower the price, and removed a few features that some may not miss, I say go for it. You can always add the stripped features back in via another generation. Look for it in early 2018.

Source: Bloomberg

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.