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Replace: F8 2018, Fb’s large developer convention, got here and went in early Might with out Mission Santa Cruz releasing into the wild, more likely to the frustration of many hoping for particulars on the highly effective wi-fi VR headset.

However hopefuls weren’t left empty handed as Fb CTO Mike Schroepfer supplied two substantial teases on the headset. First, he revealed that Mission Santa Cruz is at the moment within the fingers of third-party builders. Second, he mentioned Fb can have “thrilling updates” about Mission Santa Cruz to share later this yr. 

“Later this yr” traces up with the annual Oculus Join convention, which often goes down in October. 

Is it then that the Mission Santa Cruz launch date will lastly be revealed? It seems that may very nicely be the case. 

Unique hands-on overview continues under:

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

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

At this yr’s Join convention, nonetheless, we had been handled to a much more refined prototype. What’s extra, we’ve got a launch timeframe for builders of early 2018. 

We bought to strive the most recent Mission Santa Cruz prototype for ourselves throughout this yr’s Join in San Jose, California. No pictures or video had been allowed, so we will not present you what the headset in its present kind seems like precisely, however we bought 15 minutes to expertise the VR on supply from the next-gen headset. From our brief time with Santa Cruz, it seems mighty promising. 

Design

Mission Santa Cruz seems and feels just like the present Oculus Rift, with just a few key exceptions.

Santa Cruz has barely rounder edges across the visor than Rift, and there are 4 sensors embedded in every nook for inside-out monitoring, which suggests no exterior cameras or sensors are required. Every little thing is contained within the headset, together with all of the parts that run the VR experiences. 

Santa Cruz is a bit heavier within the entrance than Rift, although removed from uncomfortable to put on. We truly observed the load extra whereas holding the headset than once we wore it. The headset was comparatively simple to slide on and take off, which might’t all the time be mentioned about Rift.

The headset portion has a smooth, cloth-like high quality that feels good within the hand. The straps that go behind your head are manufactured from a stretchable rubber materials. It is a break from the extra inflexible plastic straps discovered on Rift. 

Mission Santa Cruz’s straps 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. It feels akin to sporting a well-fitting hat.

Once more, Mission Santa Cruz is a prototype, so every thing from its components to its design is topic to vary. However pending somewhat extra refinement – it nonetheless seems like a prototype and never a completed product – we will see Mission Santa Cruz hitting the market in near its present kind.

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Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Project Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Project Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Project Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Project Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

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Project Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

Mission Santa Cruz as seen in an Oculus video

One welcome characteristic 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 shedding the sense of presence within the expertise. 

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

Demos

We tried two demos with Mission Santa Cruz. These gave a superb 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 tough to do an apples-to-apples comparability. Nonetheless, the experiences had been clean, and although there was a slight granular high quality to the graphics, these had been additionally crisp. 

The primary demo was known as Boundless. We had been tasked with feeding a creature named Bogo, a cute dog-like dragon. The creature got here as much as us once we supplied it items of fruit, and ate from our fingers. We plucked the fruit from bushes utilizing the Mission 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 absense of a thick twine connecting Santa Cruz to a PC. When the demo first began, we stored ourselves confined to the restricted house we’re used to with Rift. However after stepping exterior this arbitrary zone, we realized we may crouch, bend and transfer round utterly unrestricted. 

This freedom was much more pronounced in our subsequent demo, known as Timestall. We principally needed to fend off robotic invaders and bat away varied particles earlier than both reached a pal who was in cryogenic sleep, or destroyed his life assist. 

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

We have usually caught ourselves considerably frustratingly pushing the wire connected to Oculus Rift out of the best way. 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 had been questioning, sure, Santa Cruz has a chaperone system. A blue grid wall seems once you attain the boundaries of the house, and this stored us from venturing too near any actual world objects. Because of the chaperone, we felt free to maneuver round with none added fear.  

Mission Santa Cruz controllers

Mission Santa Santa Cruz does not come alone. It additionally contains a new set of controllers. Consider these as Oculus Touch 2.0. 

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

The trackpad is visible in this slide showing the new Project Santa Cruz controllers

The trackpad is seen on this slide exhibiting the brand new Mission Santa Cruz controllers

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

The Santa Cruz controllers had been extra responsive than Contact, and that is seemingly because of the built-in 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 all the time been a fan of Contact, and Mission 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 Mission Santa Cruz was brief and the headset is a prototype topic to vary, 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, albeit restricted, had been fairly good, and had 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 is likely to be simple to say Mission Santa Cruz is a Rift with no wire, although to some extent, that is true. The headsets are very related, from design to experiences. Santa Cruz’s graphics appeared like solely a small step down from Rift, and there was no lag throughout our demos. There was a perceptible display door impact at instances, but it surely wasn’t distracting or detrimental to the general expertise. 

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 thing else in regards to the headset retains it firmly within the Rift household. It is within the mixing of those two experiences with motion thrown in that make Mission Santa Cruz its personal beast.

That being mentioned, the large query heading into 2018 is how a lot Mission Santa Cruz will price. Will Oculus place it under, the identical as, or above Rift price-wise? It is laborious to say, and Oculus is conserving tight-lipped on these particulars. 

Value stays a barrier to get into VR, and pricing it too excessive may maintain Santa Cruz out of the fingers of many. However worth it proper, and Mission Santa Cruz – which can nearly definitely be known as one thing else by the point it reaches shoppers – could possibly be the digital actuality headset everybody has been ready for. 

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