Six months ago I made a prediction about when Oculus CV2 and Vive 2 could come out: I said that in my opinion, the end of 2017 would have been a good timeframe. As you may have noticed, I’ve been proven wrong… unless Oculus and HTC decide to release a new model in the next ten days (come on guys, I believe in you!). I made some wrong assumptions and was driven mainly by my passion, my willing to put my hands on a new device and by the shorter release cycle between the various developer kits. Nothing bad, I think I will survive my errors… I make so many.
Today I want to concentrate on Oculus and make new predictions about it so that in 6 months I can write a new article telling you why I was wrong :D. I want to tell you when I think that a new CV2 will come out and its possible relations with the upcoming Santa Cruz device that has been teased at Oculus Connect 4 this year. There are no official statements about this, so I would like to give you my insights about all this.
Why has CV2 not been announced yet?
So, why Oculus has still not announced a CV2? Well, the reasons are many, but I think that this bullet list talks about the main ones:
- There are actually no technical reasons to release a CV2. What great innovations could it introduce? A better resolution and bigger FOV. Maybe inside-out tracking and an easier setup. But all the big things we’re waiting can’t still be implemented:
- wireless adapters are a thing thanks to TPCast (and Intel), but these devices are bulky, have glitches and require a complex setup;
- eye-tracking (and so foveated rendering) is implemented by Tobii for instance, but Abrash said that this technology works, but is still non optimal for daily use… and you can’t introduce such an important feature (that can be used as a VR pointer mechanism) when it works only “most of the time”… it has to work always;
- displays to solve vergence-accomodance problems are being studied at Oculus Research group, but are not ready;
- better hands controllers, like gloves or Leap Motion-like sensors are cool but still have usability issues. Vive has invented the Knuckles but they’re just an incremental innovation over the Touch, they’re not a disruption;
- brain computer interfaces… well, actually they’re being studied but it’s really too early now;
So, a CV2 would just be an evolution of CV1… and an expensive one, due to the use of cutting-edge technology. And who is going to spend $600-$700 for a CV1.5? Some innovators, for sure, but not the majority of people. Furthermore, the announcement of a CV2 would halt the sales of the CV1, with people confused about which device to buy. Oculus could make as HTC and offer incremental evolutions and add-ons for its device, but honestly, I haven’t seen the Vive sales skyrocketing for this. On the contrary, I’ve seen the Rift’s sales skyrocketing after the huge price drop: now VR needs lower prices to foster adoption, not little evolutions of current hardware;
Just to make things clear: I’m a VR innovator, and I would really like to try a Samsung Odyssey headset because of its superior features, but I don’t see a compelling reason for having that over owning my Rift… I would just want to try it;
- If instead the CV2 managed to implement all the above experimental features, the resulting device would be a super-expensive and super-buggy one and very few people would be interested in buying one;
- There is still not a true competition: let’s face it, apart from the Pimax 8K, there are no VR headsets that offer such superior features over the Rift that we really can’t resist to buying them. Microsoft Headsets offer the nice thing of inside-out tracking and a little improvement in resolution. Valve has announced a new tracking technology, but nothing more at the moment. There’s no need to rush to the market with a new product;
- Oculus wants VR to become widespread and now its main concerns are solving the issues that are preventing VR from taking off, that is high prices and few available content. So it has reduced the price of the Rift to a ridiculous amount ($379) and is funding interesting games and projects. Furthermore, it continuously offers discounts on games. Zuckerberg claimed that it wants to put 1 billion people inside VR and this means that VR has to appeal to the various consumers, not only innovators. We innovators care about specifications, about innovative technologies and such technical things. Standard consumers are more interested in price, content, and usability. PSVR is the most sold headset (over 2 million devices sold!) even if it is the worse from a technical standpoint, just because it is better than the other ones on these 3 points. That’s why Facebook is investing in mobile and standalone headsets, that are more user-friendly and cheaper;
- Releasing an innovative CV2 will mean raising again the bar of the required VR-ready PCs: Pimax has done an excellent job of offering a super-high-end headset, the Pimax 8K, but its top-notch version, the Pimax 8K X, requires a graphics card that has still not been released on the market! If you want VR to be widespread, you can’t impose such requirements: again, you can appeal some innovators, but not the general consumers;
- Oculus has already announced two new devices for this year: Oculus Go and Oculus Santa Cruz. Adding a third device would mean a lot of complications: fragmentation of the market, confusion in customers and a lot of expenses to manage the production and the marketing of three completely different devices at the same time;
- The VR software ecosystem is still unripe and it has still to grow to reach the limits of what is possible now, before releasing a new device. As someone pointed out in this interesting Oculus forum thread, it would be as struggling to improve the device resolution of mobile phones when the only available game was Snake;
- VR isn’t in its best moment (a lot of people say that it is dead), so it is not the best moment to release a new premium device: the customers are not ready to embrace it in my opinion.
For the above reasons, Facebook is investing in mobile and standalone headsets, that can foster a broader adoption of VR. This is something that also its main competitor, that is HTC, is doing: some weeks ago, it has released the Vive Focus, the first 6DOF standalone virtual reality headset. Oculus will release Oculus Go at the beginning of 2018 and Santa Cruz most probably in the second half of the same year (there are no official statements on this side, though). Oculus Go is ultra-cheap and easy to be used and this can appeal lots of people (even if I’m quite skeptical about it being disruptive), while Santa Cruz, thanks to its 6DOF tracking and ergonomic controllers, can please a wider public, even the VR enthusiasts. These devices could really help VR exit from the quicksand it is in.
When will Oculus CV2 be released?
If an Oculus CV2 will ever exist, my new prediction is that it will be released 2019, with maybe an announcement at the next OC5 in Q3 2018. This would give enough time to let:
- Oculus Go and Santa Cruz go to the market and happily gain customers without the shadow of a new PC VR headset obscuring them;
- The technology of all the cool feature above specified to improve, reducing costs and offering better features, with a precision and reliability that makes them usable every day by every kind of customer;
- The technology of PCs to evolve: more and more PCs will become VR-ready according to present standards so that more people will be ready to have a virtual reality headset;
- VR exit from the quicksand, so that more people will understand its potential and will want to embrace a new premium device and have it at home or in the office;
- The library of VR software to grow, so that Virtual Reality will be considered useful by general consumers, that will feel the need to have a VR headset attached to their PC (the VR killer application, that actually is a rich VR ecosystem, will arrive);
- The available software to grow so much in quality that developers will really feel the need of having a new disruptive hardware to go beyond current limits.
Oculus has always stated that the Rift’s release cycles would have been between the ones of smartphones and consoles. 2-3 years seems a reasonable timeframe for that, also considering that actually, the Rift is really a complete device since only one year, that is when the Touch has been officially released.
Iribe seems to confirm that prediction: in an article published on The Verge in March of this year (2017), he says that we won’t see a new Rift for 2 years:
“Everything we’re doing is still research-oriented,” says Iribe. “The future of VR, the [generation] of VR that we call second-gen, is going to be a very big leap from where we are today.” So potential Rift buyers will get “at least the next two years” before their headset is superseded by something new. “I think you’ll see even beyond that, a lot of people will be using this first [generation],” he says.
This means that according to his predictions, we won’t see a new Oculus Rift released until 2019.
Will Oculus Rift CV2 ever be released?
This is the main question we all have in our mind: there will exist a CV2 or not? Since the Santa Cruz will already be a device:
- Easy to be used;
- Completely wireless;
- Standalone, so ready out of the box for VR;
- With 6DOF tracking;
- With 6DOF tracked ergonomic controllers;
why do we still need a tethered device for our PCs? It seems so perfect, the top VR headset possible. Furthermore, handling the production and marketing of another line of products won’t surely easy for Facebook, it means investing a lot of money. And the market would be hyper-fragmented, with actually 4 kinds of products offered by Oculus: Gear VR, Go, Santa Cruz and Rift. Managing all such products is an enormous effort. These seem all valid reasons to answer “no”, there won’t be a new Rift. Santa Cruz IS the CV2″.
But actually, I think that the answer will be “yes”. The reasons? Well…
- My gut says so. Considering the previous errors, I don’t know if you have to trust it, but let’s take it in count anyway!
- The various communications by Oculus people seem to suggest the arrival of a CV2 (see the above Iribe statement, for instance). Surely plans can change in the future if standalones prove to be very successful, but I think that at the moment Oculus plans a CV2 release;
- The target market for the two different headsets seems different to me. Rift seems more innovators/enterprise-oriented, Santa-Cruz more consumers/prosumers-oriented;
- VR is in a time where companies have still to understand what is the best path to follow and trying a lot of different solutions on the market is the best way to do that;
- Standalone headsets are cool, but they lack various features: the processing power is terrible, it is maybe like the one of actual smartphones and this is good for watching videos or playing low poly experiences but can’t be enough for gamers or for enterprise applications. We’re talking about the fact that VR needs more AAA games to succeed and then we want to force game studios to develop low-resources games?? It would be a huge step backward. Surely cloud rendering for all VR headsets can be a thing in the future, but we’re not there yet. Also developing on a standalone is a nuisance for all the deploying time necessary to test the application and for the awkward debugging mechanism;
- Oculus needs a hardware to showcase all its technological innovations and a new Rift with foveated rendering, an incredible resolution, and FOV, eye tracking, etc… can be the right choice to do that;
- Laptops, desktop PCs, and consoles will still be owned by billions of people in the world… and all these devices should have a companion VR headset to enjoy dedicated VR content. Surely Microsoft won’t abandon the Microsoft Mixed Reality platform on PC (because of… Windows) … Oculus can’t be so stupid to leave them the monopoly on such an enormous market. Yes, there could be streaming from/to the PC… but again, times are not ripe for such a solution.
So, I’m a believer. I also thought about a hybrid solution: a Santa Cruz headset that can work in both standalone mode and as a simple inside-out tracked headset when connected to a PC. This would solve all the issues, keeping the advantages of both solutions. Googling around, I’ve discovered that I’m not the first one having had such an idea (as always), but tech people are very skeptical about this. Technology is not ready and this hybrid device should feature so many compromises and so much hardware to handle all the possible cases that it would be neither a good standalone headset nor a good tethered and comfortable tethered headset.
So, in my opinion, we’ll enjoy Oculus Go and Oculus Santa Cruz in 2018 and Oculus Rift CV2 in 2019. What do you think about this prediction of mine? Do you agree with me? Do you have other ideas? Let me know in the comments! (And subscribe to my newsletter to help me keeping this platform alive, please…)
(Header image by Road To VR)
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