Oculus Rift will reach consumers in early 2016

Oculus Rift: pre-orders open later this year.
Oculus Rift: pre-orders open later this year.

VR device virtually ready for consumers, but are brands?

Facebook-owned Oculus finally put to rest rumors that its virtual reality headset would ship this year.

On its website, Oculus on Wednesday announced that Rift "will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year."

Despite intense anticipation for the device, Oculus didn't specify an exact release date. It also skimped on hardware details, saying only that the consumer version would "build on" its latest prototype, Crescent Bay.

Oculus has been releasing prototype versions of its headset since 2012, when the DK1 arrived for those who backed the project on Kickstarter. The idea was to give developers a chance to play with the headset and iron out flaws.

Since then, Oculus has been tweaking its headset, improving the visuals, sound and head tracking for a more convincing experience. The latest prototype, Crescent Bay, was so advanced that commentators described it as a "watershed" moment for virtual reality.

In a post, the Oculus team wrote: "The Oculus Rift builds on the presence, immersion and comfort of the Crescent Bay prototype with an improved tracking system that supports both seated and standing experiences, as well as a highly refined industrial design, and updated ergonomics for a more natural fit.

"Virtual reality is going to transform gaming, film, entertainment, communication, and much more."

Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey commented on Reddit that the company would have "further news" soon.

Oculus Rift in marketing
From a marketing perspective, the most interesting aspect to Oculus may be its acquisition by Facebook in March last year.

Facebook has a strong history of buying into successful platforms, namely WhatsApp and Instagram.

Oculus was a much higher risk purchase by comparison — there was no consumer-ready product, no significant existing user base and no proven platform. The acquisition was both a gamble and a signal that there may be something in this virtual reality lark after all.

Nonetheless, marketers have mixed views of virtual reality. Some sectors — film and TV especially — have embraced the technology as a way to bring consumers into another world.

Marketers from Honda and Telefonica have declared the technology is not a passing fad for consumers. Others, from brands such as Argos and Asos, say the tech isn't "ready for the prime time."

This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.

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