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Five Years of VR: A Look at the Greatest Moments from Oculus

We released Oculus Rift in March 2016. It was a big moment — the launch of the first consumer VR headset of the modern era. And it was just the start. We’ve released five headsets in the past five years, each driving the technology forward and enabling major improvements in how people interact with VR and the experiences developers can offer. 

We wanted to take a moment to celebrate the achievements of so many who have contributed to making VR what it’s today. 

Oculus Rift – March 2016

Before Rift, there was the Kickstartera crowdfunding campaign to raise money for DK1. By 2014, Facebook had acquired Oculus with a vision of VR as the next computing platform. 

Rift was the first step toward that vision, a $599 fabric-covered headset with flip-down headphones, an external sensor, a remote and an Xbox controller.

Caitlin Kalinowski – Head of VR Hardware: “I give credit to Peter [Bristol]’s team. They took a ugly prototype, Crescent Bay and figured out how to package it into a beautiful and elegant piece of consumer electronics. The fabric application, figuring out how to integrate audio into the straps… I think it established what consumer VR would be. Almost all VR since then has been derivative of Rift CV1 in some way. It showed people that VR could be a consumer product.”

Oculus Touch Launch – December 2016

Touch enabled players to essentially bring their hands into the virtual world. That ended up being a key turning point for VR, with games like Robo Recall, SUPERHOT VR, Arizona Sunshine, The Unspoken and The Gallery. Exploring the possibilities of this new control scheme and paving the way for Lone Echo, Beat Saber, Asgard’s Wrath and countless others. By the following summer, Rift and Touch were permanently bundled together.

Peter Bristol – Head of Industrial Design for FRL: We probably made hundreds of models — just simple sticks with clay, crumpled paper, sanded foams, et cetera — trying to figure out how to get the ergonomics to work. The idea of the controllers becoming your hands set the trajectory of the entire program. We were trying to get your hands into this natural pose while holding the controllers so that your virtual hands matched your real hands. We also developed movements like the grip trigger to be similar to motions you use in the real world, so it would feel intuitive to use.”

Oculus Go – May 2018

Oculus Go reimagined the media-centric Gear VR as an all-in-one device — our first — with better lenses and longer battery life, a sleek new strap-based audio solution, higher-resolution screens and a mainstream-friendly $199 price point. 

Matt Dickman – TPM, Health and Safety: Go was the first time we really thought intentionally about accessibility and what that might mean in VR. You look at the attachment points inside the headset. Those were designed to hold the fabric interface originally — but you could repurpose those mounts to accommodate prescription lens inserts. That sort of thinking around comfort and ergonomics takes a long time (and internal design support), but it led to the accessories you see on Quest 2 today.”

Oculus Quest and Rift S – May 2019

In May 2019, we released two headsets on the same day: Rift S and Quest. Each sported a state-of-the-art inside-out tracking solution (Oculus Insight), higher resolution panels and a $399 price point. Rift S — a refinement of our previous PC efforts and Quest — a groundbreaking all-in-one device that offered a relatively comparable experience without wires or any additional hardware. Making VR more accessible to more people and helping developers reach new, larger audiences in the process.

By the end of 2019, Oculus Link allowed players to connect Quest to a PC for a best-of-both-worlds experience. And in 2019, the addition of an innovative hand tracking solution gave Quest users a glimpse of a more natural and intuitive VR future.

Atman Binstock – Chief Architect of Oculus VR: “I always believed that long-term, standalone VR would be the path forward. The question was more of when. My personal belief was that something like Rift and Touch was the experience we’d need to deliver on standalone. Not the same level of performance as a PC, but the self-presence, interaction, and social presence. And VR’s competing for people’s time with TVs, with laptops. So making the product easier to use, making “time to fun” lower—that’s huge.”

Oculus Quest 2 – October 2020

Our goal with Quest 2 was to give both players and developers a higher-powered and more customizable device — and do it for $100 less. That goal grew to be more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but we managed to ship Quest 2 in October and are already so proud of its success and the success it’s brought developers.

Rangaprabhu Parthasarathy – Product Manager, Quest / Quest 2: When we started Quest 2, we looked at all the things we did on the original Quest and CV1 and said what do we need in a mass market device? Affordable. Easy to use. Think about the setup process. Think about accessibility. Make it available in more places, make it friendly.”

The Next Five Years

What’s next? Michael Abrash has been making predictions about VR’s future since the first Oculus Connect, so we asked him. You can read his full response in our full oral history, but the short answer is:

Michael Abrash – Chief Scientist, Facebook Reality Labs:We are at the very beginning. All this innovation, all this invention still has to happen with VR. Early VR rode on the back of other work that had been done. The cameras were cellphone cameras and the optics were basically off-the-shelf optics initially. Going from this point forward, we’re the ones who are developing it—and that’s exciting. It’s good. But it is also really, really challenging on the innovation front. People should realize that we’ve come a long way and we’ve done a great job — but this road stretches out for the rest of their lifetimes.”

We’re grateful to everyone who’s helped make VR real over the last five-plus years, including everyone who’s bought a headset or even shared a headset with their friends and family. Here’s to five more years and beyond.

To read the full oral history visit: tech.fb.com/five-years-of-vr-an-oral-history-from-oculus-rift-to-quest-2/

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