Virtual momentum: Newest Oculus prototype triples daily sales

The Facebook-owned virtual reality company says it has sold as many as 70,000 units of its latest developer kit. Plus: Check out its work with Samsung.

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Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe

Joining Facebook hasn't slowed Oculus down at all.

Sales of the virtual reality company's latest prototype, a device for developers dubbed "DK2," not only remain strong through the company's $2 billion purchase by Facebook, but they've actually accelerated, said Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe.

In an interview with CNET, Iribe said sales for DK2, which was announced in March, have reached nearly 70,000 units and are selling three times more per day than the first developer device at its height.

"Momentum is really ramping up," he said, adding the first prototype took about 15 months to sell 50,000 units.

The sales further cement Oculus as a leading company in burgeoning virtual reality industry, a position strengthened by a relationship announced Wednesday with Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone maker.

The two companies announced a new device called Gear VR, a headset powered by Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 smartphone designed to offer virtual reality experiences without the need for a separate computer. The Gear VR headset, a different device from DK2 into which users snap their Note 4 smartphone, comes with a complement of Oculus's sensors in addition to a touchpad and button on its side.

The two companies began working on the project a year ago, Iribe said, and the mobile device efforts were what had attracted John Carmack, a legendary video game designer, to work for Oculus as its chief technology officer. He and a team of several dozen employees worked on the mobile device software in secret, along with a team of about a dozen Samsung employees. At times, Iribe said, he had to "hide" Samsung's team from partners who were coming through his offices to maintain the project's secrecy.

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The new Gear VR device is the result of a partnership between Samsung and Oculus Sarah Tew

The result is a high quality virtual reality experience for mobile devices, Iribe said. Samsung's display technology in particular played an important part, he noted, saying typical LCD displays aren't able to deliver the performance and image quality Oculus desired. Samsung's screens didn't just power the smartphone in the Gear VR, they also power Oculus's latest prototype for desktop computers as well.

Samsung's screens are "the only technology we know of today that delivers this experience at an affordable price point," he said. "The relationship has worked really well so far."

For now, Iribe said Oculus is focused on its partnership with Samsung, adding that his mobile device team is focused on creating code for Google's Android operating system.

The initial Gear VR device, called the "Innovator Edition," is meant for developers, much like Oculus's prototypes for desktop computers. Of course, the ubiquity of smartphones will make it easy for enthusiasts to get access to the technology as well, but Iribe said what's being released this year isn't fully finished.

As for Facebook, Iribe said he's even more enamored with the company than when the acquisition deal was announced in March. "The rumors of them potentially being evil are not true," he said with a chuckle, adding that he talks to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg almost every day. "He cares about really doing right by users."

Facebook has taken over functions such as legal, finance, human resources and accounting, he added, and Zuckerberg has continued to voice support for Oculus both inside and outside the company. "Mark's all in on this," he said. "So are we."

About the author

Ian Sherr is an executive editor for the west coast at CNET News. He writes about social networking and manages coverage of video games, Internet giants, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, e-commerce and wearable tech. Previously, he wrote about Apple, the PC industry and video games at The Wall Street Journal. He's also written for Reuters and the Agence France-Presse, among others. He's a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, though he knows what real weather feels like too.

 

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