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Oculus Revamps Controllers on Next-Gen VR Headset

Oculus VR today showed off its $199 standalone Oculus Go headset, but it also provided an update on its prototype virtual reality headset, codenamed "Santa Cruz," which will pack more power than the Go without the need to be tethered to a nearby PC.

Santa Cruz will use redesigned controllers with a touchpad that'll pave the way for developers to create even more content. Facebook-owned Oculus didn't provide a timeline for when Santa Cruz will be ready for primetime. But it will start shipping to developers some time next year, the company said at its Oculus Connect 4 event today.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RlPZ_EGIv4&w=740&h=416]

Santa Cruz could be a big game changer for VR. Unlike the company's Oculus Rift headset, it doesn't rely on a PC to power the virtual reality content. Nor does it need any external sensors set up around the headset to track the user's position.

The Santa Cruz prototype has four sensors built into the headset.

To track the user's position, the Santa Cruz headset has four wide-angle sensors that are built on the edges of the visor itself. Those four sensors will also track the user's hand movements and the redesigned controllers, which remove the analog thumbsticks found on existing Oculus Touch controllers in favor for touchpads.

The touchpad "gives developers more flexibility to create great experiences in this new category," said Hugo Barra, Vice President of VR at Facebook, who spoke at the event on Wednesday.

The prototype does away with the thumbstick in favor of a touchpad.

The company has also repositioned the large "tracking ring" around the controller, making it easier for the Santa Cruz prototype to read the user's movements.

A year ago, the company showed an early prototype of Santa Cruz. At that point, along with the visor, it included a computer that strapped onto the back of the user's head. "Not quite a super ergonomic masterpiece," Barra quipped today. But Oculus VR has been working hard to polish the prototype; that computer now appears to be embedded inside the headset.

"You really want your hands in VR," Barra added. "You want that magic and freedom you get with touch."

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