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New Oculus Interface Brings the Desktop to VR

Although hardware announcements like a standalone VR headset dominated the news at Oculus Connect 4 developer conference, Oculus isn't taking its eye off software. The company plans a redesign for the Oculus user interface that's been dubbed Rift Core 2.0.

Set to launch in December as a beta, Core 2.0 is highlighted by a new feature called Dash that brings together existing menus in an easily accessible hub.

Dash provides a 3D overlay that users will be able to access anywhere, even in the middle of a game. It's designed to work with the Oculus Rift's Touch controllers. When activated, Dash appears as a row of menus which can quickly launch apps or games. Dash can also be used to reach out to online friends. However, the most compelling uses for Dash by far are the multitasking and desktop functionality.

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During a demo, we watched as someone opened a virtual browser to listen to music while playing a game. The window sat neatly to the side, allowing the person to keep blasting away at hostiles. The virtual displays can also be resized and pinned to a designated spot.

These virtual displays will give Oculus wearers access to desktop apps. That means you can theoretically launch Microsoft Excel, Google Chrome or Powerpoint in VR. If Dash and Rift Core 2.0 work as promised, it could be a big help in positioning Oculus Rift as more than a fancy gaming platform.

Oculus Home is also getting an update under Rift Core 2.0 with a focus on customization. Instead of the static decor from the old Home, Rift users will finally have the ability to decorate Home as they see fit. We saw a demo where the user placed furniture around the space as well as hung their achievements on a wall. And instead of clicking on a big tile to launch a new game, the person placed old-school cartridges into a virtual console. And when you're done with all that decorating, you can show off your space to your friends or go visit theirs.

All in all, Rift Core 2.0 is potentially a big leap forward in terms of letting people interact with their desktops virtually and allowing users to really make really their VR space into a place of their own. I'm looking forward to taking Dash and the new Home features for a spin as soon as they launch in December.