Going into my hands-on demo with Oculus’ Project Santa Cruz headset, consider we forgot how it felt to be astounded by practical reality. We’re entrance adult on 3 years given a final vital allege in VR, that I’m going to brace as a initial time we attempted the HTC Vive’s room-scale experience. Since afterwards we’ve seen a few refinements—Oculus Rift’s built-in headphones and lighter form factor, a remarkably gentle and discerning Oculus Touch controllers—but a elemental tech has stayed flattering identical to a Vive demo we saw in 2015.
And we theory we got complacent. we forgot about—well, articles like this, where we wrote about fluttering behind to a practical alien. That feeling of observant something really new.
That feeling came rushing behind during my Project Santa Cruz demo yesterday, as we sealed out my day during a fourth annual Oculus Connect. It’s incredible.
Oculus Santa Cruz hands-on
I suspicion we were serve divided from wireless VR, we guess. Not Samsung Gear VR-quality mobile wireless. We’ve had that for a while, and a newly announced $199 Oculus Go headset (releasing in early 2018) seems to be a delay of that ecosystem nonetheless a coherence on a apart phone purchase. That space has finished some considerable things on mobile architecture, nonetheless it’s still phone-quality apps. Mobile VR is sincerely simple, sincerely small, and singular by a hardware—meaning no position tracking of possibly a headset or apart controllers.
Oculus CTO John Carmack has been bullish on wireless VR for a while though, and for good reason. Cords suck. The fasten built into a stream era of Rift and Vive headsets isn’t that distracting, nonetheless it’s usually irritating adequate to spasmodic take we out of a knowledge and kill an differently illusory moment.
But a desktop-quality VR knowledge with full position-tracking, palm controllers, a well-spoken support rate, and top-tier visuals? we didn’t consider it was probable nonetheless wireless yet. And we was wrong.
Oculus was flattering tight-lipped about Santa Cruz’s specs, nonetheless did let us go hands-on with dual opposite demos. The first, Boundless, put me face to face with one of a cutesy aliens from Rift launch pretension Farlands. It was a flattering uncomplicated demo, usually vouchsafing me feed a visitor fruit, pat it on a head, play fetch, and so on.
The other, Timestall, was suggestive of Epic’s scandalous Bullet Train demo. we was tasked with safeguarding a cryogenic pod from an approaching drudge attack, nonetheless as a robots approached time…well, stalled. Froze. Whatever. Bullets hung in mid-air, as did pieces of shrapnel, a span of drones, and an rivalry robot. we could squeeze these objects and file them, branch bullets behind on their owners, throwing rocks in a trail of other bullets, and so on. It was a bit like a nonplus diversion wrapped inside each movement stage from The Matrix.
Neither was impossibly difficult per se, nonetheless we will tell we this: They looked great. Maybe not Intel Core i7 and a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti great, nonetheless positively on standard with a lower spec Oculus-ready machines—maybe one versed with a GTX 1060? Or even somewhat better.
That’s a sense we got from a demo, anyway. An sense that was helped, we should note, by what seems like a higher-resolution screen. As we said, Oculus was tight-lipped when it came to specs so we don’t have any numbers for we to dissect. I’d feel protected wagering it matches or exceeds a Oculus Go’s new 2560×1440 display. In any case, a picture seemed a lot crisper than my stream Rift and Vive headsets.
So Santa Cruz supposing an knowledge on standard with a low-to-mid tier PC, and Oculus packaged it into a device a same distance as a stream Rift. Last year’s Santa Cruz prototype had a tiny mechanism fixed to a behind of a headband, nonetheless this new iteration clearly packs all a wiring into a visor.
This would seem to lift Problem #2: Weight. I’ve attempted a integrate of standalone headset prototypes in a past few years from VR start-up companies anticipating to mount out. But fundamentally I’d get there, try on a headset, and it would import something like 10 pounds, with all a weight strong on my nose and also a hulk prohibited battery container on a behind of my conduct or whatever.
Oculus Santa Cruz? Totally comfortable. we didn’t have a Rift to A/B exam with nonetheless we feel protected observant Santa Cruz is heavier (and understandably so). That said, a weight is expertly balanced. we didn’t feel any aria on my neck, no worried vigour on a climax of my conduct or a overpass of my nose, nothing. It indeed reminded me of a Vive with a new Deluxe Audio Strap—still noticeably heavy, nonetheless with adequate beauty we don’t unequivocally consider twice about it after a notation or two.
The headphones are maybe my favorite change though. Or rather, a lack of headphones. Gone are a vast on-ear discs that debuted with a Rift’s consumer model. Both Oculus Go and Santa Cruz use a new “spatial audio” system, building speakers into a side of a headset—resting on your temples, basically. And this will sound supernatural until we try it, but: It overtly felt like we was wearing headphones, even nonetheless we wasn’t. Like some arrange of supernatural ventriloquist headphones.
Audio fealty is substantially reduce than even a stream on-ear headphones, nonetheless a combined preference of putting a headset on and a audio usually working offsets a lowered peculiarity for me. There’s also a 3.5mm jack for those who wish crisper audio though, as good as volume controls on a bottom of a headset—something we could’ve used in a stream Oculus Rift iteration.
Wireless VR isn’t ideal yet
Now for a intermediate and a not-so-great. And as with any pre-release hardware, keep in mind that this hardware is still unequivocally many in development. Santa Cruz dev kits won’t go out until someday in 2018, and if past Oculus function is anything to go by there will be a serve excellence of a hardware before it hits consumers—probably in 2019 during a earliest, if we had to guess.
Like Microsoft’s arriving line-up of Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Oculus Santa Cruz relies on inside-out tracking by approach of cameras embedded in a front of a headset. But where Microsoft uses dual cameras, Santa Cruz uses 4 decorated around a edges of a HMD.
I’ll note this: we didn’t have any problems with a headset tracking, that is some-more than we can contend of my Windows Mixed Reality demo final month. (That demo had me station 8 feet above a “ground” by a time we was done.) Santa Cruz tracked a room nonetheless issue, and even popped adult a common blue-grid Guardian complement when we got too tighten to a wall. we fell in adore with relocating around a room, quicker and some-more worry-free than I’d ever pierce with a fasten attached. That’s a sorcery of wireless.
I did have some troubles with a palm tracking though. With 4 cameras Santa Cruz can lane a much incomparable area within that your hands register—almost perpendicular to a headset in any direction, including adult and down. That’s approach improved than Microsoft’s implementation, where we felt like my hands had to be directly in front of my face during all times.
There are still passed spots though. Move your hands outward your margin of prophesy and there’s no longer any camera to lane your movements. Like Microsoft, Oculus apparently relies on program and a controller sensors—the accelerometer and such—to plan where it thinks your hands have moved. The longer your hands are outward a margin of view, a reduction accurate this projection will get.
It wasn’t a large understanding in a demos. Frozen bullets and a saved Tamogotchi aren’t a many complete activities. we still consider people will notice a undo in games like Superhot though, or something like tennis where your palm is mostly out of your evident margin of vision. There’s a supernatural uncanny valley-type feeling when your palm isn’t purebred precisely where we know your palm is in genuine life, and while we consider Santa Cruz’s inside out tracking is leagues improved than Microsoft’s headsets it still isn’t as accurate as a stream Rift and Vive setups, that rest on outmost bottom stations.
The new controllers themselves will also take some removing used to. Oculus Touch is substantially a many gentle controller I’ve ever used. Touch Redux/Santa Cruz Touch? Not quite as comfy. My categorical emanate is that all is a bit smaller, with a face buttons reduced to mini-MM distance and a analog sticks transposed by Vive-style trackpads. As someone with incomparable hands, a new controllers feel a small undersized, and they’ve unequivocally been designed to concentration on a thumb, trigger, and hold some-more than a face buttons this time around.
Trackpads competence also chuck a wrench in anyone’s skeleton for free-movement systems (i.e. some-more like normal video games). Those are many harder to conduct nonetheless analog sticks. Expect some-more teleport-style locomotion.
And one final surprise: The new Touch controllers are significantly lighter weight. First-gen Touch is reassuringly heavy, in partial since a controllers run on AAs. From a weight of a new prototypes we can roughly pledge a new models have built-in rechargeable batteries, nonetheless Oculus wouldn’t criticism since a controllers “might change before launch.” The lighter weight is expected to be a good thing once we get used to it—less highlight on a wrists and forearms—though during my demo we felt like we competence let lax and chuck one by accident.
Oculus Santa Cruz: Bottom line
I’m scrupulously vehement about practical existence for a initial time in during slightest a year though.
I still use a Vive sincerely often, nonetheless usually puncture a Rift out for Oculus’s exclusives—and even afterwards we infrequently can’t be bothered. Both headsets are removing prolonged in a tooth, both could use a modernise (particularly a displays), and while Santa Cruz is unequivocally “something else entirely” and not a loyal Rift inheritor we determine with Carmack that this is a destiny of VR. Untethered headsets are a approach to go.
Other issues need to be worked out forward of launch. Tracking still needs to be refined, a controllers could use another pass, and we still don’t know anything about a battery life of a headset. That’s going to be an critical concern. There’s no genuine use going wireless if it usually runs for an hour during a time.
Those are concerns for a destiny Oculus Connect though, or maybe GDC 2018? For now, all we can contend is Oculus Santa Cruz outperformed my expectations. Wireless VR isn’t usually coming—it’s here.