Oculus' new Touch controls are intriguing, but I'm still holding out

Oculus Rift Touch controllers.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tries out the Oculus Rift’s new Touch controllers.

During its Oculus Connect 3 conference on Thursday, Facebook (FB) announced that it’s adding even more capabilities to its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, including new touch-based controllers and room-scale VR.

No, you didn’t wake up from a coma in a world where virtual reality has finally hit critical mass among consumers, but that isn’t stopping the VR wars from going nuclear.

Oculus Touch is a pair of touch controllers that allow you to manipulate objects in virtual reality games and worlds with your own hands. The controllers weren’t exactly an unexpected announcement, as Oculus has been teasing them for quite some time. In fact, I tried a pair of the Oculus Touch controls a few months back during CES 2016.

What was unexpected, however, was the steep price: $200. That’s a good chunk of change to ask someone to drop on an additional peripheral for a $600 VR headset.

The Oculus Rift Touch controllers.
The Oculus Rift’s new Touch controllers.

One of the big sells, for me at least, about Oculus Rift was how it was $200 less than its chief competitor, Valve and HTC’s $800 Vive headset. But Vive launched with a pair of touch controllers and allowed for full room-scale VR, meaning you can walk around a fairly large space and your movements are replicated in VR.

Oculus didn’t launch with room-scale VR, but will soon support it at an additional cost: an extra $80 for a third position tracking camera.

All totaled, a fully outfitted Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch controllers and a third tracking camera will cost $880.

That’s a pretty penny. Besides the fact that no leading virtual reality platform, whether it’s the Rift, Vive or Sony’s PlayStation VR, have any must-have games or experiences at the moment, the already prohibitively high costs put them out of the reach of many consumers. And that’s not even taking into account the price of the PC needed to run these systems.

Oculus did announce that it has developed software that will let you use the Rift with a $500 PC rather than a $1,500 machine, but that’s still an extra $500 you need to spend on top of the $600 you already have to spend just to get the Rift headset. Throw in the extra $280 you’ll have to spend if you want to use the Oculus Touch controllers and the third tracking camera for a room-scale experience and you’re looking at spending $1,380. That’s cheaper than it was, but it’s still a lot of cash.

Of course, these are the very early days of a nascent form of media, so it’s only natural that VR headsets costs a good chunk of change. Remember when DVD players cost an arm and a leg? Today they’re so inexpensive they’re practically given away.

All of that is to say, the new fully outfitted Rift is pricey and there aren’t any killer apps, but Oculus, and its competitors, clearly believe in their products and are continuing to innovate, which means prices will eventually fall and, god willing, we’ll finally get a game that truly makes us want to run out and get a VR headset.

For now, I’m still holding off on making my purchase.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.