Last year, Oculus, the makers of the Oculus Rift VR headset, raised almost $2.5 million in a massively successful Kickstarter campaign. (The original fundraising goal was a relatively paltry $250K.) Today, the company announced that it had raked in an additional $16 million in an initial funding round led by Spark Capital and Matrix Partners, two top venture capital firms.
"[T]he funding opens up all sorts of doors for Oculus," Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, said in a statement. "It helps us hire the best and brightest minds in VR from around the world. It lets us experiment and prototype with more cutting-edge tech."
It's also a sign of continued institutional support for – and interest in – virtual reality gaming technology. As the Monitor's Jeff Ward-Bailey wrote back in March, gamers have been promised VR technology for decades now, with little to show for it (save the clunky and not particularly well-received Virtual Boy, which was released by Nintendo in the mid-90s).
Oculus Rift development kits are expected to start shipping in August; the price tag for pre-orders is $300. Is it worth it? Well, Brad Chacos of PC World recently had a chance to try out the device, and he was pretty wowed by what he saw. "Oculus Rift utterly engulfs you in PC-generated virtual worlds, making you feel like you’re truly inhabiting digital domains," he wrote.
It's unclear when polished, finished versions of the Rift will arrive on store shelves. Writing on the company blog, Matrix partner Antonio Rodriguez recently acknowledged that the glasses are "rough around the edges right now, and the team has loads of work ahead of it before the Rift can go mass market." Our estimate? Sometime in 2014.
But judging by the buzz around the Rift headset, we're guessing there are plenty of gamers who will be more than happy to wait that long.
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