Oculus Rift virtual reality headset delayed to March 2013

The Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality headset will miss its original estimated ship date of December and will instead begin shipping in March 2013, the device's makers announced today.

In an update posted to the product's Kickstarter page, the Oculus Rift's developers listed a variety of factors that forced them to push back the headset's release. "We were blown away by the overwhelming response" to the Kickstarter drive, they said, explaining that they initially "hoped to sell a few hundred kits" and instead finished the campaign with nearly $2.5 million in contributions — almost 10 times their goal — from over 9,500 backers.

The campaign ended on Sept. 1, and building more than 7,500 kits between then and December proved impossible, especially since the developers did not originally design the headset for mass-market production. The company said it takes "approximately 90 days" just to prepare a factory for large-scale production of a device like the Oculus Rift, which is using injection-molded plastic for its shell.

According to the developers, the design also had to change because of production problems. Oculus Rift prototypes featured a 5.6-inch screen, but the developers had to find a different display because that particular screen was recently discontinued; their unique requirements made the search difficult, but they settled on a 7-inch, 1280x800-pixel screen that added about 30 grams to the headset's weight. In addition, the developers decided to design their own motion sensor specifically for virtual reality applications, instead of using an existing sensor.

the developers did not originally design the headset for mass-market production

Going by the production process' revised timeline, the company hopes it will be able to ship the majority of the rewards by mid-March, with all of them sent out by mid-April. Any kits that were ordered after the Kickstarter campaign concluded won't begin to ship until late April.

The headset's makers also said they're "working closely" with Epic Games and Unity to integrate Oculus Rift into the free versions of Unreal Engine 3 and Unity. Unreal Engine integration is already working in Unreal Tournament 3, and Unity integration is "getting underway," according to Oculus.

The company has not yet announced a release window for the consumer version of the headset, although today's Kickstarter update noted that the developers "had to push several exciting features" from the existing developer kit to the consumer headset due to time constraints.

"We want to thank everyone for their patience and support," the developers said. "Know that we're pouring our hearts into this project."

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