San Francisco—In the wake of Sony's Project Morpheus announcement Tuesday, VR forerunner Oculus Rift countered this morning with its own exciting news.
"Almost exactly one year after shipping the original dev kit, we're pleased to announce DK2," wrote Oculus in a blog post. The second generation Rift Dev Kit is now available for purchase, and will be demoable on the GDC show floor through Friday.
The second-gen Rift dev kit seemed imminent after Oculus halted sales of the original Dev Kit last month. The new model is based off the Crystal Cove prototype, which I previewed with launch title EVE: Valkyrie at DICE in February.
Dev Kit 2, like Crystal Cove, is a multi-faceted improvement on the original Rift, offering a low-persistence display, higher resolution, and positional head-tracking. The new screen is a huge upgrade from the pixelated display of the original, whose low resolution often resulted in a notorious "screen-door effect."
DK2's leap in visual quality stems not just from using a higher-res 960x1080p-per-eye resolution, but the low persistence OLED screen prevents screen judder and motion blur, making you less likely to get sick or dizzy while using the device. (More than a few PCWorld staffers are relieved to hear that, I'm sure.)
You'll also receive Oculus's external camera, first introduced with Crystal Cove, which allows full positional tracking instead of the original's mere head-tracking. In other words, with the previous model you could turn your head in any direction, and it would rotate your view in-game. Now you can also lean forward, side-to-side, or away from the external camera and your view will follow along.
"Positional head tracking opens up all sort of new gameplay opportunities like peering around corners, leaning in to get a closer look at objects in the world, and kicking back on a virtual beach," wrote Oculus. Notably, I used it in the latest build of EVE: Valkyrie to lean forward and get a closer look at text in some cockpit displays.
Less vital, but still important: DK2 also updates the original's prone-to-drifting orientation tracking, and features a latency tester, a USB accessory port, and elimination of the original's control box.
The price? $350, or $50 more than the original Oculus Rift developer kit. Again, this isn't the consumer version of the Rift—that's still in development. Oculus did say, however, that "the fundamental building blocks for great VR are there."
"All the content developed using DK2 will work with the consumer Rift," the post continued. Oculus expects the first DK2 units to ship in July. Wait, July? When-oh-when will the actual consumer version of the Rift finally launch? The waiting is excruciating.
Regardless, I'll get my hands on Oculus Rift's second-gen dev kit at GDC this week and return with impressions of both it and Sony's Project Morpheus.