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Oculus Project Santa Cruz VR goes fully wireless in 2018

Facebook's next VR platform ditches the cords, and is coming to developers first. Here's what you need to know.

No more cords. Santa Cruz goes wireless for VR.

The Oculus Rift, Facebook's PC-based VR system, has great controllers but it lacks the stand-up camera sensors it needs to work in a full room like a holodeck, like its rival the HTC Vive. That sounds like it's changing next year with a "Santa Cruz" Rift model that will leave those sensors behind. It was announced in a keynote Wednesday at the Oculus Connect conference in San Jose, California.

The prototype headsets will have "inside-out" tracking, meaning that all sensors for locating motion in the room are handled in-headset like the Microsoft HoloLens. That'll apply to the Oculus' next-generation controllers, too.


A look at the new controller hardware.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Here's what we know so far about the Santa Cruz:

There are four ultra wide-angle sensors on the headset that track controllers and also your hands. Instead of the little Oculus Rift plug-in camera stands, this new version will track everything with on-headset sensors.

It will track around your head, and even a bit behind you. For controller moves that require lifting and throwing or pulling virtual arrows out of your quiver, Project Santa Cruz won't lose sight of your Touch controllers and lose tracking. Microsoft's Mixed Reality controllers can do this too, albeit via a trick that knits camera tracking with controller motion to handle out-of-sight movements.

It'll allow more holodeck-like VR. The extra freedom of inside-out tracking will allow something like the HTC Vive's full-room tracking, or like the HoloLens.

There are new controllers. They look like the Oculus Touch wireless controllers, but are streamlined and retooled to work with the Santa Cruz headset's new built-in tracking hardware.

It's a new tweener platform. This isn't PC VR, and it's not mobile phone-based, either. Instead, it'll put the VR power into the headset at a level aiming for Rift, but probably between Rift and the more affordable/mobile Go.

It's for developers first. We don't have a release date for a consumer version of the hardware. Developers will get to use Santa Cruz VR in 2018.

It's fully wireless. The headset doesn't have any tethers at all. The completely cord-free design is spiritually similar to the new mobile standalone Oculus Go, also announced Wednesday.

We tried an early version of the Santa Cruz wireless VR hardware last year. 

Virtual Reality 101: How VR will change your life.