Oculus fails loyalty test, gives pre-order customers virtual finger

Oculus Rift Intel Experience at Best Buy - Virtual Middle Finger
I see a Best Buy in my future.

Update 5.3.2016: Problem solved. I cancelled my pre-order. That a company would bump loyal customers is definitely odd, but especially odd and possibly disturbing is that VR, a promising, futuristic digital technology, would require us to trek to a brick-and-mortar called Best Buy.

Interesting news today out of the world of VR.

Oculus, one of the two big VR headset makers garnering headlines (the other, HTC Vive), has oddly decided to ship headsets to retailers ahead of fulfilling pre-orders. Many of those orders were placed earlier this year, months in advance of today’s announcement. Generally, companies tend to reward that kind of loyalty — EV-maker Tesla and camera manufacturer RED come to mind.

Yet, Oculus has decided to do the opposite, and re-direct finished Rift headsets coming off the line to its retail partners. I get that it wants to stoke awareness, and spark continued interest in VR and headsets (demos at local Best Buys as part of “The Intel Experience” campaign should draw weekend crowds and excitement), but the move could cause some backlash, and possibly prompt some to cancel orders and switch to the HTC Vive.

I’m one of those who placed an early pre-order for an Oculus Rift. So now what to do?

I can run to a Best Buy here in Silicon Valley and hope to find one in stock.

Or I can wait just a few more days, when on May 6, the Rift hits the Microsoft store and Amazon.

In either scenario, if I do buy a Rift, Oculus (a division of Facebook) says I can go ahead and cancel my pre-order. Thanks for that!

Another option: forget the whole thing.

I’m skeptical — very skeptical — about the short-term market viability of VR. Yes, in ten or twenty years, I expect virtual and augmented reality to be commonplace, and to reshape not only social patterns, but to pave the way for massive breakthroughs in many industries (healthcare, science, biotechnology, etc.).

For now, though, I see VR as synonymous with video gaming. Not a small industry, to be sure, but far from the mainstream appeal many are forecasting. Remember Google+? Path? Google Glass? 3D home theater? There’s a lengthy list of technologies that generate buzz, only to die on the vine.

Blazing a new trail doesn’t come easy of course.

Before iPad, for instance, there was Newton.

Recall that the precursor to the modern day tablet was something by Apple called the Newton Messagepad. I remember playing with one when I was working at Bell Northern Labs up in Ottawa. Wow, handwriting recognition! Like VR, the Newton could draw a crowd and lots of buzz. But John Scully’s pet project would flop. Years later, Apple would perfect the concept, and release the iPad, a product clearly owing to its kludgy predecessor.

VR promises an amazing rollercoaster ride. Yes, I’m sure it generates many smiles. Still, not everything in life requires that rollercoaster inspired experience. I’m hard pressed to see how VR, with its spec-heavy computing requirements, and need for space (a 10×10 foot room at minimum), and high price tag, will ignite hyper-growth, in the short-term, despite the feeding frenzy among the technorati.

Either that or I’m just annoyed that Oculus gave us early pre-order loyalists the virtual finger.

Now where’s my Google Cardboard… ? Maybe I will have another go at that rollercoaster after all.

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  • Dr_I_Needtob_Athe

    There’s a big difference between the questions of whether a new industry will thrive, and whether or not you’ll enjoy their current product. I’m having a blast with my HTC Vive, and it’s hard to keep up with all the new games and applications that are coming out.

  • Ezra

    10×10 feet? Holy factcheck, Batman!

    • Dr_I_Needtob_Athe

      I’ve seen that figure before from reviewers who haven’t actually tried a Vive, and it makes me wonder who’s spreading that bit of misinformation. Actually, the Vive has no minimum space requirement. You can play standing in one spot or even sitting down, depending upon the game.

      • JoeD

        What? Some “journalist” on the web got things wrong! My faith in humanity is shattered!!!

      • OkinKun

        There’s quite a bit more misinformation out there, about what the Rift is capable of too. People said it couldn’t do room-scale at all. lol

  • Klartreumer

    i got both rift and vive… shipped both in an okay time… but the Rift is no back to his box. The vive is such a amazing experience, no need for “just seating experience with an xbox controller”

  • insum snoy

    Cancel and get a Vive, it is so much better.

    • Tempted!

      • RadthorDax

        Give in to temptation!

        VR without motion controls is like having cake but not being able to eat it!

      • Fredrik Sjöborg

        I cancelled my rift and got a Vive and I’ve never been so happy with a piece of technology in my life. You want at least 2×1.5 meter space to get room scale, but I have that even in my tiny apartment. You can also set it up for standing, seated stuff if you absolutely have no room which is what you’d have with the oculus anyway.

      • OkinKun

        Personally, I don’t think that would be a good decision. I think waiting for the Touch controllers is the wiser course of action right now.
        The Touch controllers may turn out to be FAR better than the Vive’s, for how far they take you into VR. They focus MUCH more on actual hand-presence, ergonomics, and the added benefits of finger-tracking. They’re smaller, better at simulating a gun, and when used as a virtual representation of your hands, they match up with your real hands far better than Vive will ever be able to. The finger-tracking allows for more gesture controls, and social interactions too, which makes it stronger for multiplayer/social VR.
        It will become obvious, that there are a few things which can be done on Touch, which can’t be done right on Vive’s controllers. And Vive-gamers might miss out on certain features, because of this hardware difference.
        The Rift + Touch also seems to be the more comfort-oriented setup, and even tho they’ve moved more slowly towards room-scale than Vive, they have more long-term potential for VR interactions and comfort, for now.

      • Julia Grant

        I have to second Radthor’s sentiments. Give in. The price tag is worth being able to actually explore your virtual world with your body rather than with an Xbox controller. Their cake analogy is deliciously accurate!

    • OkinKun

      Once Touch comes out, Vive owners are going to be jealous of what it can do! ;P
      I bet HTC/Valve will have to come out with new controllers, to catch back up, once people realize just how much better Touch is! heh

      • insum snoy

        Touch isnt better though, I have tried it personally at EGX and its only just better than PSVR move controllers. It is already common knowledge among developers that Vive controllers are the best and there are even developers showing off videos with Touch as well as Oculus’ attempt at room scale and the tracking is all over the place. Besides Vive controllers are already perfect 1:1 tracking and it would hard to best that.

        Check out developer posts on Reddit complaining about how poor Touch is in comparison to Vive.

  • Yeltnerb1

    R.I.P VR

  • perfectlyreasonabletoo

    “need for space (a 10×10 foot room at minimum)”

    Rift doesn’t support room-scale tracking and Vive’s minimum is 5 x 6.5 feet (only for “room-scale” games; many games don’t require this)

  • OkinKun

    The way this is being reported on, and the way it’s being spread around the community, is entirely NOT FAIR, and ends up being not true either. People are over-exaggerating this, Oculus is not insulting consumers AT ALL. -_-

    Oculus is STILL filling preorders first! There is no reason to be concerned about a small pre-agreed upon batch of units going to some retailers. This was probably decided in contracts even before launch, long before any launch delays were even a possibility. What are they supposed to do?
    This false outrage, hating Oculus for the sake of hating FB, is becoming angering. Stop grasping for every straw to get outraged over, especially before taking a calm look at what’s really going on. 90% of the community freakouts over Oculus have been false or severely exaggerated, in retrospect. These rumors end up spreading, and making everyone just look stupid, and it’s shit like this that will cause general consumers to think VR is a failure.. Not the way Oculus is behaving, but the way the community is going crazy.

    • JoeD

      “This was probably decided in contracts even before launch” Not quite getting the concept of contracts, then. The people who preordered also had contracts with Oculus. Now, unless you can point to something that says “In case of shortages we will ship to retailers first…” then people who preordered SHOULD be outraged. It’s far more important to keep your end customer satisfied than it is the middle man.

      • OkinKun

        Nope.. IMO, they don’t really have a right to be outraged over the retail situation, because it’s just a misunderstanding on their part.. Because Preorders are STILL being filled FIRST.. There is no issue here, nothing to report on, these articles are basically lies and hit-pieces, because of the way moronic readers misunderstand what they’re being told, and what’s really going on.
        Bottom line: The number of units that go for retail purposes, as well as public demos (which are hugely important), is ENTIRELY INSIGNIFICANT! The number of units we’re talking about, probably wouldn’t even delay anyone’s order by a single day..
        So why the hell is anyone upset? There is no reason for this, it is insignificant, and when every other company does these things, no one bats an eye. It’s all just facebook hate, and as a developer working on a VR Rift game, I hate that all that facebook-hate is being directed onto such an amazing VR device.

    • Julia Grant

      What will cause investors and consumers to think VR is a failure is not necessarily what Oculus did. I agree with you. They had to keep their promises to retailers. The company’s behaviour, although not appreciated by early adopters, made business sense. I can see why they did it.

      What didn’t make sense, however, was Palmer Luckey being a fantastic jerk to all of his supporters in the statements that he made following this. That was a huge mistake. He should have taken a step back and not said anything. I understand he’s under a lot of stress, but by opening his mouth and saying the things he did, it destroyed my faith in Oculus. I bought the DK2, but I have now adopted the HTC Vive. It will be here tomorrow. As it stands, the Vive controller will work much better for the game I’m working on. If Oculus digs its way out of this PR nightmare, though, it’s good to know that Touch will also be able to accommodate my game’s controls.

      I will be waiting before purchasing a Rift at this point, though. I don’t want to back a company that verbally attacks its customers >.>

      • OkinKun

        The thing is, I never interpreted what Palmer said, as attacks or being a jerk, he certainly wasn’t being those things intentionally. Although his attitude may have been a little tired of dealing with the anti-rift-fanboys out there (btw, those people didn’t pre-order the Rift) He was never trying to insult his customers. At the worst, he was just poking fun at trolls who were trying to make Rift look bad, by acting like upset customers. If any actual customers interpreted what Palmer was saying, as negative towards them, they have misunderstood Palmers side of this. :/
        Of course he should be more careful in the future.. But people are misinterpreting this whole situation. Palmer is not trying to be a cocky jerk to his customers, but it’s easy to misinterpret that way, if you miss some of the context, or how crazy things must be on his side of this. :/

  • JoeD

    I find your lack of faith disturbing.

  • insum snoy

    The first video you linked strengthens my point by showing how bad the tracking is. the controllers loose tracking a lot in that video, If you think this is better than the Vive controllers then its clear that you havent tried either. The second video doesnt even have Rift controllers and demonstrates how the wireless lighthouse towers of the Vive are better because they dont need a cable from the computer to the corner of the room it is tracking from. Developers are also saying that there is no Vive like chaperon system for the Rift which is a big problem for room scale in its self.

    The rest of your post I didnt read because the first paragraph tells me how little you know and what to expect from the rest. Im guessing you bought the Rift and want to justify your purchase. The truth though, however much it hurts -is that the Vive is the better choice for VR right now, and that wont change any time soon. Pretty much everywhere, everyone is talking about that amazing VR experience they had with the Vive and that is testament to how good it is and the amount of attention it is getting over the Rift.

    • OkinKun

      Read the rest of that post, or don’t reply. I thoroughly explained why Touch is a better controller than Vive’s, in the second half of that post.
      Also, wiring a USB cable to the Rift camera, is roughly about the same inconvenient as running an power extension cable to Lighthouse, or hoping that you have a wall-outlet where you want to put them.
      The first video shows how it is perfectly possible to setup the Rift + Touch system, in a similar way to the Vive, and achieve similar results. No, it did not loose tracking “a lot”, it lost it a couple times, for understandable reasons, which even the Vive doesn’t handle any better. Vive drops it’s tracking in the farthest corners, or in certain situations, just like Touch does. So don’t complain about that aspect. Also, his video was trying to test sub-optimal situations, showing that things STILL worked, even when the setup was poor.
      The second video shows how good just 1 tracking camera can be, and how the HMD itself is capable of 360 tracking all over a room, with just 1 camera in a corner like that. This setup was more optimal, even tho the software he was using to test it, didn’t support it yet. heh
      The Rift WILL have a Chaperone system, once Touch comes around. Once Oculus starts showing off Touch and room-scale, they’ll create a chaperone system. It’s entirely done in software. I’m actually working on my own chaperone system, for my VR game/project. Which brings me to my next point.
      Don’t tell me what “developers are saying” about the Rift vs Vive. I happen to be a developer, I’ve used both systems, and I prefer the Rift for many reasons, and will develop mainly for it, for now. They’re both fully capable of room-scale VR, of the SAME quality.. But I like the Rift’s comfort, and I think Touch is MUCH better designed than Vive’s controllers.. Touch will also be able to do things that Vive simply cannot. As a developer, and as someone who’s done a lot of comparison between the 2 systems.. All I’m saying is Vive is NOT better than Rift, they are at least equal, and IMO, Touch has some advantages.

      • insum snoy

        Look its clear you have a bigoted and fanboyish response for everything with no actual experience with either the Touch controllers or Vive. I am not interested in discussing this with you any more.

        BTW: I only read the first two lines of your last post this time :D

        • OkinKun

          ..Then you are just a troll.. because unlike you, I’m fully willing to read and discuss back and forth, even if we disagree with each other.
          Both sides in this discussion do have valid and fair points, but the discussion is how you pick out the relevant information from the exaggerations. Without someone explaining WHY they feel something is good, without the reasoning process behind it.. It’s all nothing more than hyperbole, and only causes misunderstandings and misinformation, on BOTH sides. Discussion is essential, even in disagreements.