The Oculus Rift is the first VR platform to gain a foothold in the 21st century VR market; in fact, its storied introduction pretty much kickstarted the entire modern VR movement. Here’s the cliffnotes:
1. 2010: 18-year old hardware hobbyist Palmer Luckey joins the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Southern California to research the development of low-cost VR rigs. A year later, combining special optics, the LCD panel from a smartphone, and fast-track gyroscopes and accelerometers, he builds a prototype HMD in his garage. Luckey posts his progress on the MTBS3D forums, a website frequented by VR enthusiasts and experts alike.
2. early 2012: Computer Graphic God John Carmack requests a Rift demo unit. He gets so excited, that he dedicates the next 6 months of his life creating a VR version of Doom BFG, specifically tailored for Rift play mechanics. Carmack demos his game on a famously duct-taped prototype at at E3, the annual mega-convention for the videogame industry.
3. July 2012 : Luckey launches a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of his initial DIY VR kit.
4. The kickstarter campaign goes on to raise an unprecedented $2.4 million USD in a mere 40 days. Production of the Rift Developers Kit (DK1) HMD begins.
5. June 2013 : Matrix Partners and other VCs invest an additional $16 million into Oculus. A mere 5 months later, amidst a tidal wave of positive press, legendary VC firm Andreesen-Horowitz leads an additional $75 million in financing for the young company.
6. Oculus ships is first dev kits, the DK1, to kickstarter backers. App development begins in earnest.
7. May 2014: WIRED Magazine features Palmer Luckey and Oculus as its cover story.
8. July 2014: 2 years after their KickStarter launched, Facebook agrees to purchase Oculus for $2 billion (thats $2,000,000,000, or two thousand million) in cash and stock. Mark Zuckerberg declares that VR is the future of social computing.
8. Aug 2014: Oculus ships its DK2, by any measure an order of magnitude better than the original developers kit, and essentially the first VR hardware ever to even come close to meeting consumer requirements for such a device.
9. Sep 2014: Samsung announces its Gear VR mobile HMD, powered by Oculus… a fully portable rig that relies on their Note 4 smartphone for graphics, power and brains.
10. Sep 2014: At its first developer conference, OC1, Oculus previews the Crescent Bay Prototype HMD, supposedly a close preview of the final consumer product… the HMD has flawless 360° tracking, and solves just about every issue that had troubled earlier units.
…to be continued…