There’s something about the smell of a freshly unraveled piece of kit that gets me excited. No, not that type of excited. Rather, what I’m referring to are the warm fuzzies I get from the aroma of a new console, new gaming peripheral, or new hardcopy game that I associate with a sense of childhood nostalgia. Every time I’ve been delighted with the olfactory sensation of freshly unpacked plastic and silicone, it’s because I’d opened something exciting and new.
So, with that said, it’s quickly looking like many more consumers will begin associating that ‘new tech scent‘ with VR in the year 2019.
Progressing through the year, we’ve seen every major developer announce or tease a new headset; meanwhile, you can expect to see a boatload of new games and software release across all platforms, inciting dreams of No Man’s Sky VR, Dance Central VR, and Boneworks—to name a few. While not quite ready to usher in the long-awaited 2nd generation of VR, it seems like all VR developers are primed to let loose with a fresh set of goodies. And that’s a very good sign of growth (if you’re still concerned about VR dying off overnight).
On the hardware side, there are plenty of iterative improvements finally making their way into the hands of consumers—inside-out tracking, standalone 6DOF, and foveated rendering, oh my! But it’s important to note that while many projects are promising new and exciting features, there is still a metric ton of marketing hype floating around in this space.
VZfit Sensor Kit
Right off the bat, the VZfit Sensor Kit delivers an accessible VR biking experience to more people by making its two apps VZfit Play and VZfit Explorer available for Oculus Go owners. All you need is the $99.95 sensor, a Go headset, a stationary bike, and you’re good to go. VZfit Play has a more open-ended format, with example games including a WW2-era skirmish where you maneuver tanks against other players. Meanwhile, the VZfit Explorer drops you into any real locale you choose for real-time biking challenges.
Valve Knuckles Controllers
Giving you the ability to track all four of your long fingers, the standalone Valve Knuckles controllers (which plug into SteamVR) are expected to shift how VR games are played on the PC. Presumably launching alongside Boneworks, an extremely interactive physics-based FPS that will show off what the Knuckles controllers are capable of, you will get to experience what it’s like to grapple with virtual objects using all of your fingers. Expect the controller set to release along with the Valve Index mid-June, but remain standalone for non-Index owners.
Oculus Rift S
Not a sequel to the first Oculus Rift CV1, but rather an iterative half-step into the future, the Oculus Rift S has a lot of good things going for it that aren’t apparent off the bat. For example, while it has a lower max refresh rate (80hz vs the 90hz of the original), it boasts a higher pixel density that makes it look and feel much smoother than the original. The resolution on the Rift S is 1,280 x 1,440 vs. the Oculus Rift CV1‘s 1,080 x 1,200.
The elusive, long-awaited Valve Index is the first true first-party headset from Valve, who is apparently no longer resigned to delivering its technologies behind the scenes through manufacturers like HTC. There isn’t a ton of info available on the headset yet, aside from a June 15 release date. But suffice it to say, this one is going to change the playing field of PC VR as we know it. As a direct response to Oculus opening their platform up for the much broader demographic of lower-end users rather than iterating vertically, Valve has come out with a bold statement: in a VR industry increasingly dominated by Oculus and Sony, at least one major developer is willing to invest into a high-end PC VR platform.
And that brings us to spot #1: the Oculus Quest. Ever since its announcement at Oculus Connect 5, industry professionals and consumers alike have sat with bated breath for the Quest to get a release date. In fact, it’s a hard understatement to say that this thing is easily the most sought after item in VR right now; even Oculus’ most zealous foes are anxious to see what happens after the Oculus Quest hits the streets and the proverbial cat escapes its PC-bound bag.