Oculus Rift: Why Did Oculus Discontinue Sales of Rift?
Not your typical review, that’s for sure. No way! Today is the pinnacle of not only three years of reporting on virtual reality, but also a completely new technological frontier.
There were many other conventions and shows between E3 2013, Indiecade, GDC, E3 again (and again), and the two Oculus Connect gatherings. Now that the Oculus Rift has been released to the public, virtual reality has officially entered the mainstream.
From the outside looking in, the gradual burn must have seemed strange, if not downright annoying. “Great,” I thought, “more information about a technology I still can’t afford.”
But now you can, and the result is that we now know the history, current state, and potential future of virtual reality (VR), based on our experiences with the first and second generations of developer kits (DK1 and DK2), as well as two prototypes.
As for me, I’m crossing my fingers that it does. While the initial consumer edition of the Oculus Rift is plagued with glitches and has demanding system requirements, the Rift truly transports you inside virtual worlds once it reaches its stride, turning gaming from a passive experience into an immersive one. Even with its flaws, it’s a magical experience.
What’s in the Box?
First things first: the hardware.
Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift are really just a screen that you wear over your eyes. Next, lenses distort the 21601200 images you’re viewing, which are comprised of two 10801200 OLED panels, so your brain interprets the scene as a 3D one.
It’s your choice of the virtual 3D universe (or, at least, that developers have built). Take in a flick on the Moon! Swimming with whales is a lot of fun. North Korea is calling!
Theoretically, it’s fairly incredible. Countless potentials. Advancement toward the Holodeck of Star Trek legend.
What’s inside the box is listed below. From the top left, we have the remote, the position-tracking camera, the Rift, and the Xbox controller.
We could go into great technical depth here, discussing things like low-persistence screens, fields of view, lens design, and so on, but I’m going to assume that if you’re nerdy enough to care, you’ve already done your homework on these topics. After all, the retail Rift is only a refined version of the two Rift prototypes.
So far as this review is concerned, Oculus has succeeded admirably in achieving the technical goals it set out for itself two or three years ago in its pursuit of building compelling VR hardware: a 90 Hertz OLED display, a decently wide 110-degree field of view, responsive position tracking, and a relatively lightweight and comfortable design.
This second point is crucial because Rift’s design sets it apart from the competition. The consumer Rift is a more rigid assembly of stiff cloth and flexible plastic than the original, stretchy-headband fit of the first two dev kits. As a result, the Rift is slightly more cumbersome to stow, but it also has many advantages.
1. Put it on and take it off with little effort. The Oculus team likes to remark, “Like a baseball cap,” meaning that you have to wear the headset inside out, just like a baseball cap.
2. It won’t make your face hurt like some other options. The DK2 was already more comfortable than the first dev kit, but the retail version improves upon that much further. I’ve worn it for hours at a time without experiencing any discomfort in my nose, but you should expect to be left with unmistakable lines on your face after a VR session.
3. Despite the fact that it doesn’t quite snug up to your head as a traditional VR headset does, the Rift still stays in place surprisingly well as you search high and low for murder mystery clues, zombies, hidden coins, or whatever else you might be after.
Every so often I’ve had to readjust the headset, but after a while, it became automatic, much like when you first start pushing glasses up your nose.
Oculus also excels because its lens focus can be easily adjusted using a knob located at the bottom of the headset. Not to mention, the Rift comes standard with integrated headphones. When Oculus first announced this, I dismissed it as a useless gimmick because I already had a high-quality set of headphones in my home studio.
However, it is important to remember that people can be surprisingly lazy. The headphones included with the Oculus headset are “good enough” for casual use, and it’s handy to have the whole setup in a single package.
However, the location of the headphones gives me pause. When you set the Rift down on a desk, its entire back edge rests on the headphones, which don’t look very sturdy. For long-term Rift storage, I’ve been debating whether or not to invest in a dummy head.
And now we come to the less positive part of our hardware evaluation. How about we begin with the camera? The Oculus Rift’s rear-mounted infrared LEDs are used by the headset’s external position-tracking camera.
When your head is turned away from the Rift, positional tracking isn’t quite as precise as when you’re looking straight into the camera, and you can still feel the occasional jarring leap when you spin 180 degrees.
In addition, the Rift’s camera can’t follow that vast of an area. Size-wise, it’s adequate for the primary use case of virtual reality headsets like Oculus: sitting use. Standing VR and room-scale VR like HTC Vive were obviously an afterthought for Oculus.
Due to the Rift’s camera’s limited field of view, standing-focused games like Farlands can be a bit of an ordeal as you try to keep your body in the headset at all times.
Unfortunately, Oculus provides no guidance on positioning the Rift’s camera. Oculus clearly intended for the DK2 Rift camera to be placed atop a display. The consumer Rift comes with a camera attached to a pole that looks like a small desk lamp. I can’t even begin to imagine storing it.
Where can I place it on my desk to get the best floor tracking? Where I can’t see it from behind my desk lest I knock it over by accident? Also, at what degree of tilt should I install it?
After some adjusting, I think I have it in the best position for my room, but it’s not quite as simple to set up and use as the design makes it seem at first.
There are many other problems that have not been solved. All virtual reality headsets generate some amount of residual heat from the display, and while I never had any discomfort while wearing the Rift, I did enjoy the refreshing coolness of the air when I removed it.
Another annoyance with the Rift is the tether. Although it’s lightweight, its short length (much shorter than the Vive’s) means it frequently becomes entangled under furniture.
Further, the headset itself does not provide any controls. Disappointment has set in because, like with headphones, it’s more convenient to have the entire mask intact before you strap it over your eyes. On the other hand, the Rift comes with a tiny black remote for use with Oculus Home and less sophisticated games/experiences.
The remote is an excellent piece of equipment, but it is easy to misplace it the moment you put it down, what with the virtual reality headset covering your eyes and preventing you from seeing anything outside the headset.
Until the hand-tracking Oculus Touch controllers are released later this year, the Xbox One controller that comes with the Rift is your only other input option, and it’s an Xbox One controller. I get that Oculus wanted to set expectations for VR developers, but the Rift isn’t exactly awe-inspiring hardware.
However, if this is the standard Rift controller, Oculus will need to establish some guidelines, such as renaming the Xbox One’s “Back” button to “Reset Orientation.” Games can use this, the Y button, or the Oculus menu’s software button. They have made quite a mess of it.
Actual Physical Death
Welcome to the Oculus menu. This is the perfect opportunity to begin discussing software.
Oculus has created its own enclosed marketplace and ecosystem for the Rift, complete with its own app store, firmware updater, friend system, and virtual world. With Oculus Home, everything is in one place.
You can put on the Rift and be transported to a virtual living room complete with a voxel fireplace and the sounds of a happy fire. The space is dominated by enormous floating menus that provide access to the Rift’s app store, installation wizard, and launcher. You may also do this without the Rift and use a regular computer with a mouse.
Having a good time at home. The Oculus Store works as intended. Just relax; everything is great. The pause menu is always in view and just as practical as Steam’s overlay, and the whole thing looks great.
It’s not Steam, though. Not in an “I want all my games in the same spot” sort of sense, though I’m certainly guilty of that mentality myself. The main problem is that Oculus fails to adequately replicate Steam’s core features, missing the mark in a number of subtle but significant respects.
The C: drive is the only one that can be used to install games at the present. Just crazy. It’s unacceptable that Oculus is using up to 4TB of my machine’s extra storage when many high-end users are still running Windows on a 128GB or 256GB SSD.
Oculus claims they will get this fixed in a few weeks, which is good, but it shows their inexperience in the digital games sale market.
Additionally, installations represent a significant drain on available resources. Even simple tasks like “writing in Notepad” would come to a halt as the actual installation ate up my entire CPU in the final stages due to the lag imposed by the download.
Even worse, I experienced a crash in the middle of the installation, and the Oculus Store didn’t realize that it had already downloaded 20GB of data, so I had to manually delete the files from the Oculus directory and re-download the entire game.
My computer doesn’t “Meet Rift’s suggested specifications,” I’m told. How am I to know this? Because it’s impossible to overlook the enormous banner spanning the entire width of the storefront. My GeForce GTX 980 Ti makes up for any slowdown caused by my overclocked Core i5-3570K (often known as the standard gaming-build processor for many years) and the recommended (non-overclockable) i5-4590.
While Valve’s SteamVR Test rates compatibility based on actual performance, Oculus compares systems to a list of “approved hardware,” therefore I’ve been plagued with a warning about my system’s specs despite experiencing zero in-game slowdowns all week.
As well as pests. Besides the installation crash described above, I have also repeatedly awoken my computer from sleep to discover the Oculus inactive. The fix is very straightforward, but still: just quit the Oculus app and start it up again.
In Oculus Home, your own technology is protected within its own sandbox. As a bare minimum, I anticipate that the feature “Knowing the Oculus is properly attached” will activate as intended.
In any case, we will eventually resolve these issues. I’m willing to give Oculus the benefit of the doubt and predict that any impending technological difficulties will be resolved over the next six months.
How the Oculus Store actually works in the real world is a more pressing concern.
How soon can we anticipate updated software? Which “Upcoming” games stand out the most, and why? As I write this on a Sunday, I see that Steam lists two major Oculus-ready apps (Virtual Desktop and Bazaar) for Monday’s Rift launch, yet neither of these programs appears in the “Rift Launch Lineup” section of the Oculus Store.
Why? When are they going to add those games? Do you know how difficult it is for programmers to get their games and apps authorized by Oculus?
What about games that are compatible with the Rift but weren’t purchased from the Oculus Store? Do I have to choose “Allow apps that have not been reviewed by Oculus to operate on my Rift” in the Rift’s Options menu?
Oculus, will you make that information available to buyers? Can I then create Oculus Home shortcuts for my Steam games?
It’s a shambles, and I haven’t had the chance to play around with it during the pre-launch review session because, for example, there are no consumer-ready Rift demos on Oculus Share for me to attempt and sideload. After the democratic openness of the previous three years, seeing the consumer Rift so tightly secured from the start is a bit of a letdown.
Oculus has clearly assembled a strong launch lineup, with games that are comfortably on pace with the average console release. I’ve gone to length on the various launch software for the Oculus Rift, but I think everyone will find something they like.
There are a few first-person games, a tonne of third-person games, a few tech demos, and a few apps, all of which do a fantastic job of transporting you into their respective virtual worlds once they’re up and running.
Many of the best virtual reality experiences right now (Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, Dead and Buried) rely on the Oculus Touch controllers, which aren’t even out now, so predicting the future is difficult.
Another annoyance is the extremely long loading times of several of the games. Even after being forced to put it on my SSD, Oculus’s own Farlands takes more than a minute to boot up. With the Rift on, a minute can feel like an eternity as you stare into the blackness.
I know we don’t usually spend much time discussing rating methods, but I think it’s relevant here. In a nutshell, this is the debut of virtual reality. Ratings are only useful for making comparisons, which is why nothing else has ever been seen on stage quite like the Rift.
Not much can be done with four stars if nothing else is happening. Could it be that the hardware rating is a perfect five? To rate software at four stars? One that takes the best features of both?
This is not a vacuum, though. Think back on what I said: Three years of quiet development in the virtual reality area have given us a good notion of where the field is heading. Possible outcomes. What steps are missing from the process?
Maybe it’s easiest to say that we gave the Oculus Rift a score depending on how well we think it achieves its intended purpose: Developing a tool that gives the user a sense of virtual “Presence,” if we can forgive the virtual reality cliche.
The introduction of the Rift isn’t flawless and it doesn’t feel complete because Oculus’s own Touch controllers aren’t included.
However, there have been brief stretches this week when I forgot about the hardware and simply relished the sensation of speeding through space, standing in Iceland, or chilling out on a strange planet. doing them, not just seeming to do them.
Because of this, the Oculus Rift headgear is a huge hit, even though it is expensive, lacks Touch controllers, and has some rough edges from being first-generation. Though its consumer debut will likely be limited to enthusiasts due to its flaws, the Rift’s in-game experience is undeniably great, especially for those who have never tried virtual reality before.
Frequently Asked Question
Which of the Rift and Oculus is Superior?
The Quest 2’s virtual reality capabilities are nearly identical to those of the Rift S, albeit with a significantly higher resolution (1,832 by 1,920 vs. 1,280 by 1,440). Beat Saber and Superhot VR are just two examples of the many games that can be played without the need for a separate gaming system, thanks to the headset’s Snapdragon 865 CPU.
Why Did Oculus Discontinue Sales of Rift?
In 2018, Facebook confirmed that the Oculus Rift S would be discontinued in 2021. The headset may have been an improvement over the original Oculus Rift, but it lagged behind high-end PC-based rivals such as Valve’s Index in key areas like screen resolution and refresh rate.
What Device Succeeded Oculus Rift?
You can no longer purchase OCULUS RIFT S.
Try out Oculus Quest 2, our most cutting-edge all-in-one VR headset, and get entry to an epic library of PC VR games by connecting to the Oculus Store with Oculus Link.