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March 28, 2016, 12:05 p.m.
LINK: www.oculus.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   March 28, 2016

After years of anticipation and waiting, the Oculus Rift VR headset is finally here. Facebook-owned Oculus began shipping pre-ordered headsets today. The Rift retails for $599 — plus you need a special high-powered PC to run the VR headset. (Sorry Mac owners.) If you want to order a Rift today, it won’t ship until July.

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The first reviews of the consumer version of the Rift were also published today, and there was a near consensus: The Rift is a solid first step into mainstream VR, but the computing power necessary to use it along with its prohibitive price will limit its adoption.

“It could be a smart decision to limit the Rift’s initial market to consumers ready to invest in the commitment of virtual reality. That could also be an obstacle to its growth,” Mashable’s Chelsea Stark wrote. “While we ponder this, on the precipice of virtual reality’s wide adoption, it seems too early to completely predict how the platform will evolve. At least Oculus’ first Rift is a calculated, well-executed step forward into a larger virtual world.”

“The high cost of buying and running high-end VR headsets makes them inaccessible to many people, and the Rift in particular is relentlessly focused on gaming,” wrote The Verge’s Adi Robertson. “Within these limitations, though, the Rift makes a good case for seated VR, and it lays a solid foundation for what’s to come.

“It’s Day One for the Rift, and I’m already ready for Version Two,” The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey A. Fowler wrote.

Oculus has already partnered with Samsung to produce the Gear VR headset, which works with Samsung’s mobile phones, and only costs $99. Samsung is even giving free Gear VR headsets to those who buy Galaxy S7 phones.

For several years, VR proponents have been pointing to the arrival of the Rift as a key moment in the format’s adoption. Big news publishers have begun experimenting; perhaps most notably, The New York Times, last fall, sent out 1 million Google Cardboard headsets to Sunday print subscribers. CNN also broadcast a Republican presidential debate in virtual reality. Outlets are also taking advantage of Facebook and YouTube’s support of 360-degree video. But publishers are waiting to see what kind of mainstream uptake these devices get before making any big bets on VR.

In a report released earlier this month, the Knight Foundation and the USA Today Network said 2016 would likely be a big year for VR in newsrooms.

While there is general optimism among current VR content creators that use of the medium in journalism will expand, many concerns and open questions remain. They are primarily focused on the burden of production, accessibility of headsets and quality of content. They also include whether people’s news consumption habits will embrace immersive behavior and how to track ad metrics.

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