Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oculus VR releases DK2, its second VR headset/software development kit

Just in time for GDC, Oculus VR has released its second Oculus Rift development kit, called DK2. Engadget got a look at the new hardware, and it's a mild improvement over the Crystal Cove prototype shown at CES in January. Here's a summary:

  • Oculus now supplies its own user-facing IR camera to track the headset's position.
  • It's made the IR-reflective dots on the headset used for position tracking, which were visible on Crystal Cove prototype, invisible and harder to damage.
  • There are USB 2.0 and headset ports above the user's left eye.
  • A single cord breaks out to connect the headset to a computer's HDMI and USB (power) connections.
  • The display resolution is 1920 x 1080 (1080 x 960 for each eye.)
Oculus has priced DK2 at $350, $50 more than the original development kit. The company notes that the the final consumer version of the Oculus Rift will have higher resolution displays, a faster refresh rate and lower latency, and will be physically lighter than the DK2, but it's significantly closer to the final product than the original development kit was.

Even with the announcements from Sony and several other VR headset vendors at GDC, it's likely that Oculus is still significantly ahead of the pack. However, the company's one potential weakness is that it's dependent on third-party manufacturers for much of its technology--displays, sensors and cameras. For example, DK2's display has a 72 Hz refresh rate, which is as fast as Oculus could find in a 1920 x 1080 OLED display, but it needs at least a 90 Hz refresh rate to eliminate visual artifacts that can cause motion sickness. Sony manufactures image sensors and many of its own displays, so it may be in a better position to source the necessary components. 

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