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Oculus Reveals Consumer Rift, New Touch Controller

SAN FRANCISCO - Oculus has given the world an extended look at the final consumer version of the Oculus Rift, building up anticipation for the virtual reality headset in the lead-up to next week's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles.

Besides unveiling a finished version of the device at a press event in San Francisco today (June 11), Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe also revealed that you'll be able to use an Xbox One controller with the headset when it ships in the first quarter of January 2016. In addition, Oculus took the wraps off a handheld input device of its own, the Oculus Touch, that's aimed at extending hand gesture controls into the Rift's virtual world. Oculus also previewed some of the games developed for the Rift.

Meet the Rift

Oculus had previously revealed the final design of the Rift back in May, but this was the company's first chance to go over the headset's finer points. The all-black Rift slips over your head like a baseball cap. A dial at the bottom of the headset lets you adjust the focus -- a nod to the fact the space between your eyes is different from person to person, Iribe said.

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"You'll put it on, you'll move the dial, and you'll be right there," Iribe added.

When you look through the Oculus Rift, you'll be looking through a pair of OLED screens that boast a wide field of view. A constellation tracking system on the headset ensures "very precise, low latency movement," according to Iribe. There's also a stick-like external sensor that plugs into your PC to interact with the Rift, but once you've plugged that in, Iribe said, it fades into the background.

Besides the visual elements to the Rift, Oculus also focused on developing an integrated audio system offering spacialized, 360-degree audio so that the sound in games will match the visual cues you see on-screen. The earphones are attached to the headset, but if you want to bring your own headphones to the mix, the ones on the Rift can be detached.

Iribe emphasized the ergonomics of the Rift, pointing out that it's comfortable enough to hold in one hand. The headset itself is wrapped in fabric. "It feels incredible to hold and wear," Iribe said. We'll have to take him at his word for now: Oculus wasn't letting anyone try on the headset and my attempt to run a finger across it during a press scrum around the Rift brought a polite-yet-firm admonition to keep my hands to myself.

Controlling the Rift: Xbox Controller and Oculus Touch

As part of today's coming out party for the Rift, Iribe announced a partnership with Microsoft. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox for Microsoft, says the Rift will work natively with Windows 10, taking advantage of the speed and performance of DirectX 12. When you stream your Xbox One games to your Windows 10 PC, you'll be able to play them the Oculus Rift using the Xbox One controller that will be included with this generation of the device.

Oculus is also developing a controller of its own -- the Oculus Touch. According to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, the controller's design was inspired by something that happens whenever someone tries on a Rift -- they reach out as if trying to control virtual images with their hands. "We wanted to create an input device that will let them do that," Luckey said.

The Touch actually features two controllers, one for each hand. They have the standard analog controls, including an analog stick, two buttons and a trigger. But they'll also be able to recognize communicative gestures like a thumbs up or a wave. And the Oculus Touch will support haptic feedback if that's built into games.

If you'll have to wait a few months for the Oculus Rift, you'll wait a little bit longer for the Touch controller. It's set to ship in the first half of 2016.

What You'll Play

Besides Xbox One games, which will stream in a virtual theater-style setting, Oculus showcased some of the apps built specifically for the Rift. Highlights include:

  • EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer shooter from CCP games that puts you in the cockpit of a fighter spaceship
  • Chronos, an atmospheric role-playing game from Gunfire Games in which you navigate a labyrinth and your hero ages over time
  • Edge of Nowhere, a third-person action adventure game built by Insomniac Games that puts you in search of a missing Antarctic expedition

Those titles, along with the Damaged Core first-person shooter, the VR Sports Challenger sports sim, the real-time strategy game AirMechVR and others will be on display at E3 next week.

It was hard to get a sense of how these games will play on an Oculus Rift. After all, the demos appeared on a flat screen, and as Oculus executives pointed out repeatedly today, the point of virtual reality is to break through that screen and allow you to interact with the games themselves. Still, it's not hard to imagine how the immersive sights and sounds of something like EVE: Valkyrie might give you the impression that you're at the controls of an actual spaceship when you strap on a Rift.

We still don't know what the Rift will cost. Oculus executives weren't saying at this event, though at last month's Code conference, Iribe said the cost of the headset and the high-end PC needed to operate it would be in the neighborhood of $1,500.

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.