Oculus has officially announced that the Touch controllers will be released on December 6 for $199. You can also buy a third camera for $79 to put behind you for room scale VR. The days when the Rift was the only non-portable virtual reality headset on the market without motion controllers are coming to a close.
The fact that Oculus originally focused on a seated experience with a standard, Xbox One wireless controller was always an unfortunate situation. It’s hard to go back to using a game pad in virtual reality after trying the HTC Vive or the PlayStation VR with its tracked Move controllers — or even the Dual Shock 4 with its light bar and limited motion control ability. It seemed like an instant anachronism in a brand-new art form.
And the majority of games we played at Oculus Connect 3 with the Touch controller were, indeed, standing experiences. While some games offered the option of playing sitting down, and a few of the demo spaces included chairs, this was a standing event. Games like Superhot rewarded the act of moving your entire body while you played, and Epic’s Robo Recall also seemed designed for standing players.
Seated experiences on the Rift were the minority, and some of the seated games relied on the standard controller.
It’s a large shift for the Rift, even though the hardware was always capable of delivering a standing experience. The seated experience was always more about marketing than technology; the standing experiences we’ve been playing at Oculus Connect allow you to use your hands in 3D space, but we were also mostly told to keep our feet planted.
You could stand up, turn around and interact with objects in 3D space, but no one uttered the words "room scale." Almost none of the demos seemed aimed at a walking experience, or even rewarded the player taking a step in any direction. Some of the demos even included a third camera, located behind the player, that allowed you to turn completely around with the Touch controllers still tracked. You'll be able to buy a third camera for $79, and Oculus even used the words "room scale" onstage. Oculus is chasing the future instead of creating it. That's a hard situation to find yourself.
But based on my day of demos, the Oculus Rift with the Touch controllers feels like a complete platform, and it's finally able to compete with the Rift at its own game. The price of the Rift and the controllers is the same as the Vive now, though, allowing the PlayStation 4 to look like an even better deal, and putting the Rift on near even footing with the HTC Vive. Oculus needs to expand its user base, and releasing controllers that will both splinter the user base while seemingly completing the true virtual reality experience is going to be a hard sell, even though they're some of the best controllers on the market for motion controls in VR.