Hands-On With Oculus Dev Kit 2, and Looking to Retail


The new development kit is shipping in July, so we decided to see how close the unit was to being ready.

Oculus VR has only been around for a few years (its Kickstarter ended in September 2012), but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re the veteran elite in the VR space. A new prototype comes with nearly every E3, CES, or GDC, and this year is no different.

The new Development Kit 2, which ships in July for $350, is on the GDC expo floor for all to see, and I donned the Oculus headgear yet again to see how the latest version stacks up against Rift units past.

Dev Kit 2 is a massaged version of the Crystal Cove prototype Andrea and I tried at CES 2014. The software has been upgraded, along with the custom CMOS camera, but much of the internal hardware is the same.

Despite not being a retail product yet, there’s already a very familiar feeling when you put on Dev Kit 2. It’s like wearing all the Oculus kits before it, as it uses the same dual-strap design. If you’ve tried the Crystal Cove prototype before, you’ll be in familiar territory, for sure.

If the first Oculus Dev Kit was meant to introduce developers to the world of approachable VR game design, Dev Kit 2 is meant to give that same crowd a solid idea of what retail hardware will be like. Motion blur is virtually non-existent, the 75 Hz refresh rate offers up a fairly smooth experience, and the 1080p OLED panel is already a solid piece of kit. Even when the higher-spec’d retail unit ships, developers now have a proper baseline as their own projects undoubtedly approach the polish phase.

Moving forward, Oculus VR seems to have two mantras, the first of which is “better, faster, stronger.” Another way Oculus VR Founder Palmer Luckey put it: “We know what we want for hardware in the retail unit, and we know how to get there.”

The retail unit is going to be at least 90 Hz, and the panel will definitely be OLED, and above HD (1920×1080). The goal is still 4K, although it’s hard to tell if Oculus will get to that point if they still want to ship retail inside 2014. I could see a 2560×1600 OLED panel happening, and 1280×1600 per eye would be a fantastic mark to hit. The latency and refresh rate are arguably more important than resolution, and both of those specs will be increased and decreased, respectively, at retail.

While resolution wasn’t confirmed, Luckey did confirm that OLED will be the display tech of choice going forward (and Valve feels the same way, according to him).

The other mantra is “perfection first, standardization later.” This is what Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is pushing, especially when asked about an Oculus-Sony API/software partnership. His simple, boiler-plate-ish response: “It’s too early to talk standard is right now,” and I think he’s right. Sony and Oculus both seem to be laser-focused on their own prototypes, so talk of cross-licensing and API teamwork hasn’t led anywhere meaningful just yet. That doesn’t mean the duo won’t be interested down the road, but perfecting hardware first is the primary goal. Once hardware is in the right place, developing an open standard for VR headgear is the next hurdle.

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