Venture Santa Cruz is a brand new standalone headset from Oculus, makers of the well-known Oculus Rift digital actuality (VR) headset. 

Alright, the headset is not really new. Fb first introduced it was engaged on Venture Santa Cruz, which does not require a PC or cellphone to function, throughout final yr’s Oculus Join builders convention. 

At this yr’s Join convention, nevertheless, we have been handled to a much more refined prototype. What’s extra, now we have a launch time-frame for builders of early 2018. 

We obtained to attempt the most recent Venture Santa Cruz prototype for ourselves throughout this yr’s Join in San Jose, California. No images or video have been allowed, so we will not present you what the headset in its present type seems to be like precisely, however we obtained 15 minutes to expertise the VR provided by Santa Cruz. From our brief time with the headset, it seems to be mighty promising. 

Design

Venture Santa Cruz seems to be and feels just like the present Oculus Rift (just like what you see within the image above). It has barely rounder edges across the visor and there are 4 sensors embedded in every nook for inside-out monitoring, which suggests no exterior cameras or sensors are required. All the things is contained within the headset, together with all of the elements that run the VR experiences. 

Santa Cruz is a bit heavier within the entrance than Rift, although removed from uncomfortable to put on. We really observed the load extra whereas holding the headset than after we wore it. The headset was comparatively simple to slide on and take off, which may’t at all times be stated concerning the Rift.

The headset portion is made from a smooth fabric materials that feels good within the hand. The straps that go round your head are made from an elastic materials, and stretch to go round your head earlier than snugly cradling it. The entire contraption is safe as you progress across the VR world, with no slippage.

Once more, Venture Santa Cruz is a prototype, so every little thing from its elements to its design is topic to alter. Barring a bit extra refinement – it nonetheless seems to be like a prototype and never a completed product – we will see Venture Santa Cruz hitting the market in its present type.

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Venture Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

One welcome function of Santa Cruz is that there are not any headphones to flip over your ears, as is the case with Rift. The sound is built-in into the headset, permitting you to listen to clearly what is going on on within the room round you whereas not dropping the sense of presence within the expertise. 

The sound has an all-encompassing high quality because it emanates from the headset, and we have been drawn into the VR worlds in a means we have by no means fairly skilled with Rift. 

Demos

We tried two demos with Venture Santa Cruz. These gave an excellent sense of the headset’s capabilities, although did not match the extra intense video games we have performed on Rift. In that sense, it is troublesome to do an apples-to-apples comparability. Nonetheless, the experiences have been clean, and although there was a slight granular high quality to the graphics, these have been additionally crisp. 

The primary demo was referred to as Boundless. We have been tasked with feeding a creature named Bogo, a cute dog-like dragon. The creature got here as much as us after we provided it numerous items of fruit, and ate from our palms. We plucked the fruit from bushes utilizing the Venture Santa Cruz controllers. Later, we performed fetch with Bogo, chucking a digital stick throughout a whimsical panorama.

Boundless was a cute and fuzzy world, one which we may discover because of the dearth of a thick wire connecting Santa Cruz to a PC. When the demo first began, we saved ourselves confined to the restricted area we’re used to with Rift. However after stepping outdoors that arbitrary zone, we realized we may crouch, bend and transfer round utterly unrestricted. 

This freedom was much more pronounced in our subsequent demo, referred to as Timestall. We mainly needed to fend off robotic invaders and numerous particles earlier than they killed a buddy who was in cryogenic sleep or destroyed his life assist. 

On this demo, we actually flew across the room, leaping over a crack within the flooring and swinging our arms to push objects and robots out of the way in which. We dodged, swatted and jumped with out the worry of getting tangled in a wire. It was liberating, and an entire lot of enjoyable.

We have typically caught ourselves considerably frustratingly pushing the wire hooked up to Oculus Rift out of the way in which. Since you’re tethered to a different object, you are restricted to a confined vary of movement. With Santa Cruz, the room is actually your playground, and also you’re free to maneuver round as you please.  

And in case you have been questioning, sure, Santa Cruz has a chaperone system. A blue grid wall seems if you attain the boundaries of the area, and this saved us from venturing too near any actual world objects. Due to the chaperone, we felt free to maneuver round with none added fear.  

Venture Santa Cruz controllers

Venture Santa Santa Cruz does not come alone. It additionally incorporates a new set of controllers. Consider these as Oculus Touch 2.zero. 

The Santa Cruz controllers are smaller than Contact, and match extra comfortably within the hand. Whereas they initially felt virtually too small, you neglect you are utilizing them after awhile, which looks as if an excellent factor.

The trackpad is visial on this slide displaying the Venture Santa Cruz controllers

Whereas Contact has an analog stick and large buttons on the highest, Venture Santa Cruz’s controllers cast off these and substitute them with a trackpad. Sadly our demos did not embody utilizing the trackpad and solely relied on the grip and set off buttons, so we did not get the total impact of utilizing the brand new controllers. 

The Santa Cruz controllers have been extra responsive than Contact, and that is probably because of the six-degree-of-freedom, of 6DOF, monitoring. This makes it so the controllers are extra correct at monitoring your hand actions, which they must be as you progress round extra freely in VR.

We have at all times been a fan of Contact, and Venture Santa Cruz controllers solely construct and enhance upon the expertise, refining it and doing a greater job of maintaining with you as you progress round.

Early verdict

Although our time with Venture Santa Cruz was brief and the headset is a prototype topic to alter, what we skilled was spectacular. Whereas we did not get to see all that Santa Cruz can do, it gives one thing Rift cannot, and that is motion. 

The experiences have been fairly good, and have been solely enhanced as a result of we may transfer and work together with the surroundings. The 6DOF controllers match proper into the puzzle, and whereas we’ll have to attend earlier than we will judge the trackpad, the controllers really feel like they’re proper on observe.

It may be simple to say Venture Santa Cruz is a Rift and not using a wire, and to some extent, that is true. The headsets are very related, from design to experiences. Santa Cruz’s graphics regarded like solely a small step down from Rift, and there was no lag or display screen door impact throughout our demos. 

However Santa Cruz additionally appears to occupy an area all its personal. Inside-out monitoring and the controllers give Santa Cruz a little bit of an HTC Vive really feel, whereas every little thing else retains it firmly within the Rift household. It is within the mixing of those two experiences with added motion that makes Venture Santa Cruz its personal beast.

That being stated, the massive query heading into 2018 is how a lot Venture Santa Cruz will price. Will Oculus place it beneath, the identical as, or above Rift price-wise? It is exhausting to say, and Oculus is preserving mum on all these particulars. 

Value stays a barrier to get into VR, and pricing it too excessive may hold Santa Cruz out of the palms of many. However value it proper, and Venture Santa Cruz – which can virtually actually be referred to as one thing else by the point it reaches shoppers – might be the digital actuality headset everybody has been ready for. 

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