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Developer kit for the Oculus Rift - the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.
Developer kit for the Oculus Rift - the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.
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9,522 backers pledged $2,437,429 to help bring this project to life.

Behind the Scenes of the Pilot Run

Posted by Oculus (Creator)

After a long, exciting week at CES, we packed up and flew directly from Las Vegas to Hong Kong to oversee the pilot run at the factory. We lived on the factory floor for just over two weeks setting up production, assembly, and QA for the developer kits.

The result? We produced over 40 complete Oculus Rift "pilot run" developer kits and we're on schedule to start shipping the full kits in March.

The first unit from the developer kit pilot run.

None of this would have been possible without your support. Thank you again for making this happen!

We want to take you behind the scenes of the pilot run process to see how it all works. But before that, we have good news that we’ve been keeping under wraps at Oculus VR HQ.

A handful of hardware detectives in the community have speculated on the unexplained mechanisms shown in our photos of the early SLA prototypes. What are those engravings on the side of the headset? Why the plastic around the lenses? What diabolical plans has Oculus cooked up?!

A Few New Features

When we extended the ship date to change the display, we wanted to take advantage of the expanded schedule. Because we couldn’t make any drastic design changes, we decided to pursue two small features we hoped would improve the kits for everyone.

The majority of the team at Oculus wear glasses or contacts. Our early prototypes required that you either:

  • Wear contact lenses.
  • Press your glasses up against the lenses, which can cause scratches (it’s also uncomfortable).
  • Squint!

After prototyping a number of potential solutions, we picked what we thought was the best short-term bet and ran with it. The results were:

#1 Removable Eyecups for Vision Correction

The Oculus Rift developer kit now comes with three pairs of removable eyecups, instead of a single, permanent set. The different eyecups allow you to switch the focal distance of the developer kit between three predefined settings. This means that if you’re nearsighted and your vision isn’t too bad, you may be able to use the developer kit without glasses or contacts.

Pilot run unit with left eyecup removed. Different eyecups below.

Here’s how they work:

  • If you have great vision (or you wear contacts), your vision inside the Rift will match your vision in real life. You’ll use eyecup set A.
  • If you’re farsighted, you’ll have no vision problems in the Rift because the optics are focused at infinity (which makes your brain think it’s looking at something far away). You’ll also use set A.
  • If you’re nearsighted, the additional eyecups, B and C, allow you to see inside the Rift as if you were wearing glasses. Again, this is because the lens cups change the focal distance. If you’re moderately nearsighted, you’ll use set B. If you’re very nearsighted, you’ll use set C.

This isn’t the perfect solution: the B and C cups won’t be ideal for everyone, but we’re hoping that they help some of the nearsighted developers. If you have other eye issues like astigmatism, the additional lens cups may not be sufficient. In short, your mileage may vary.

#2 Adjustable Assembly

The developer kit now has a geared mechanism that allows you to extend and retract the assembly that holds the screen and the eyecups to position it comfortably. This has a few advantages:

  • You can extend the assembly to provide extra clearance for glasses or a larger brow.
  • If you’re using either of the shorter eyecups, the lenses will be further away from your eyes. By retracting the assembly, you can bring the lenses closer to your eyes, significantly increasing your field of view.

The mechanism shown here is on both sides, allowing for assembly adjustment.

We’re designing better vision solutions for the consumer version of the Rift. These are just a few last-minute additions that we hope help developers in the meantime.

Production Progress

This pilot run is the final test for our calibration, assembly, and testware pipeline before we kick off mass production. The photos below provide a peek behind the scenes at the factory during pilot run week. Remember that everything you see in the photos below is still subject to change.

The very first Oculus Rift developer kit from our pilot run.


We covered tooling in a previous update (available here), but we wanted to provide a few shots of the actual tooling used for the pilot run:

Tooling for the developer kit's headset assembly.

Tooling for the faceplate of the developer kit.


When you’re creating a hardware product, it’s crucial to test every function and feature. These tests need to be simple, robust, and streamlined so that they’re easily integrated into the manufacturing process. For the developer kits, we needed testware for everything, from the complex components (display and tracker), to the simplest buttons and switches on the control box.

Sensor programming and testing software.

Sensor Calibration

We’ve touched on this in previous updates, but building the Oculus motion tracker from scratch was an exciting challenge. Perfect gyroscopes and accelerometers would report the exact angular velocities and acceleration in all axes. Unfortunately, due to the physical limitations of the manufacturing process, the tracker data may contain scale, offset, and cross-axis sensitivity errors that are unique to each unit. To make matters worse, minor misalignments in chip placement can introduce additional errors.

Pick and place machine for the Oculus tracker.

To counter this, every Oculus tracker is put through a thorough calibration process at our factory where it’s placed on each of its six orthogonal sides and rotated on a high-speed turntable to test each vector. The calibration produces error correction matrices unique to that particular sensor. These matrices are saved and later used to correct for errors when the kit is actually being used. The sensor can also recalibrate itself to adapt to changes in temperature that would otherwise affect the orientation data.

Sensor calibration system, inside the sensor calibration room.

That last bit is actually trickier than you might think. To dial in temperature correction, we built a mobile room at the factory that heats the sensors to operating temperature during calibration. To throw one last wrench in the system, the rigs need to stay perfectly level for accurate calibration. You'd be surprised just how hard it is to make a surface perfectly level to 0.1° and keep it that way.

Building a mobile sauna to calibrate our sensors is definitely a little crazy, but pretty neat.

Nirav peering into the sensor calibration room.

Nirav, Nate, and Jack looking over testware results.


Once we’ve tested and calibrated all the the individual components, it’s time to assemble the developer kit. The kit is produced on a standard assembly line by the factory’s team. Assembly is broken up into sub-tasks like attaching the plastic pieces together, sealing foam on the facemask, and connecting display and tracker components.

Removable eyecups.

Assembly adjustment parts.

Display controllers for control box.

Plastic shells for the headset.

A sheet of Oculus trackers.


The assembly line's QA process relies on custom testing software that walks the user through a series of display, tracker, and overall functionality tests. The last step in the QA software places the user in a virtual room with targets that they have to look at in a set order. As they look at each target, the target lights up green and computer plays back a sound, notifying the user of success.

QA application. The orientation target here has not been activated yet.

After QA, all that’s left is to print out the labels, wrap up the cables and eyecups, and pack it all into the box that ships to your doorstep.

Manufacturing Hardware

Manufacturing is a tough business, whether it’s in China or the United States. You can’t whip something up in CAD, email the files over to a factory, and receive your perfect finished product in the mail. Unexpected issues always pop up, and concepts can be miscommunicated. In the end, nothing beats having boots on the ground where the product’s actually being built, so your team can be analyzing problems and creating solutions on the fly.

As an example, we noticed in our early SLA’s that the Oculus tracker was angled by about a degree and a half. While that number may seem insignificant, it’s a disaster if your virtual world is permanently stuck at an angle. We worked with the factory to create a simple solution: three tiny plastic strips beneath the tracker that keep it completely level and parallel to the screen. This resolved the issue, kept us within the factory’s manufacturing tolerances, and only cost us a few days of R&D and testing.

The plastic strips can just barely be seen at the bottom left of the tracker.

When you’re building hardware, every day’s a new challenge. Luckily, tackling issues like these to build a great product is a lot of fun.

If you found all of this fascinating, we recommend reading through the “On the Factory Floor” blog series by Bunnie, hardware guru, who details the finer points of manufacturing a product in China:

On the Factory Floor Part 1 - The Quotation (or, How to Make a BOM)
On the Factory Floor Part 2 - On Design for Manufacturing
On the Factory Floor Part 3 - Industrial Design for Startups
On the Factory Floor Part 4 - Picking (and Maintaining) a Partner

Back at Oculus VR HQ

As always, you can stay up to the date with the very latest Oculus news by following us on Twitter (@Oculus3D), liking us on Facebook (, or checking out our website:

Late night Unreal Engine 3 deathmatch playtesting in Oculus VR

Special thanks to Joshua Topolsky and Jimmy Fallon who demoed the Rift last week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC! If you missed the show, you can watch the clip here: The Verge - The Oculus Rift on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Thanks again for all the support! We will have more information on the Oculus SDK to share as we draw closer to the developer kit launch.

We’ll see you in the game!

-- Palmer and the Oculus team


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    1. Wilson Bilkovich on

      Also, thanks Marc Olivier Chouinard for those pointers; looks like I'm amongst the first 250 backers by that logic (halfway down page 6, 2012-08-01), etc, though it's hard to trust Kickstarter for this sort of thing. Looking forward to the dev kit whenever it happens.

    2. Wilson Bilkovich on

      Holy smokes that is so much more polished than I expected the dev kits to be at this point. I'm amazed that it will support vision correction; I was certain that would be a 'mark 2' feature.

    3. Brett Pokorny on

      That looks fantastic! The only thing I would be curious about would be how far apart the eyecups are, as that has been the main problem I've ever run into with any sort of headset viewer. Really excited about this (particularly the extra eyecups haha).

    4. Blake F. on

      See you have learned a bunch. Having learned many of the lessons of a) manufacturing and b) china, it was well worth the effort to have people there on the ground.

      Great going! I'm so looking forward to games and developing other solutions with them.

    5. gonggeer on

      thanks Marc!nice job!

    6. Missing avatar

      Marc Olivier Chouinard on

      To give yourself an idea what your backer number, you can check the date you back the project, and the backer per day off kicktraq :
      I backed the project on 08-04, so I should be around backer 5000. But if I take the amount accumulated, I might have a headset with a serial under 4000(since not all backer paid the 300 for the headset).
      Based on the kickstarter backer list, I'm on page 18, so I should be backer 900, so the backer list on kickstarter page is useless to find your backer number. Use my previous idea to find your backup number.

    7. OlivierJT on

      @ Matthias Zobel
      Thank you for the information, it still good to know.
      I backed up the project on august 1st.

    8. Missing avatar

      Daniel Smith on

      @Matthias Zobel - nice work going through 143 pages, but according to Kickstarter (, "While the total amount pledged and number of backers are updated on a project page in real time, the actual names of backers are added in groups of ten. When names are posted, they're listed in a random order." - I actually show up on page 187 when I look it up myself, so I'm pretty sure there's no way to figure out your own position in line now; and let's not forget that until we hear from Oculus, we don't even know if the position is of any relevance or if they'll perhaps ship the dev kits by geography?

    9. Matthias Zobel on

      Hi Guys. OliverJT is Backer 3190 on Page 63 and Daniel Smith Backer 7193 on Page 143. At least if this order is correct ;-)

    10. James McCrae on

      Very cool! And a fascinating "look behind the scenes"

    11. Missing avatar

      Marc Olivier Chouinard on

      Thanks for sharing that dev process. You didn't have to, but I'm really glad that you did.
      I got lot of things that goes though my mind all the time, so I'll just write them here in hope it can be useful ;)
      I really wonder how those new screen standout finally ? It supposed to be better, but no one really ever tried it outside of maybe Oculus, and all I heard was that the specs are better, but no real life comments on how it performed, so would like some info on how they turned out compare to the previous model. I'm wondering about good does the headset feel ? Is the facemount partially made of rubber or it all hard plastic, and only the foam make it comfortable, and how does the preproduction run feels like. Some reviewer talk about feeling the headset was hot and made the user sweat. Wonder if anything was done to improve on this. I see that there a over the head strap too now, was it because of the extra weight, or it just feel better either way to get the extra support ? I know those are just dev kit, and I guess this is probably where most of the comments for a consumer version will all be about. I was wondering myself about how hygienic it is to let lot of people try the headset especially with the open foam finish. Any idea to use something else as padding that is more easily cleanable and also replaceable.
      Would be it be good to make some kind of 'curved' elastic attachment so it goes over the ears... (Or with circle hole, but that sound pretty horrible). I've seen regular over the hear headphone was used in demos, but what about in-ear head phone ? Does having the elastic over the hear cause them not to be really usable or comfortable ? Maybe having some kind of 3.5mm audio jack integrated in the headset so only 1 wire from the oculus control box goes out. As I said in a comment, maybe having in the headset a 'face' detector so it know if it in used or not, and provide this info back to the game, so it can switch to VR mode. Would also be nice if the controller box had a 'switch box' video mode inside, so it can via USB enable the VR and switch the screen resolution to the Oculus mode correctly yet still having the current monitor plugging as normal. This way we can leave the rift plugged in all the time. Is there some kind of 'cover' to keep the front of the len clean or as simple protection when not in used ? Any issue in keeping the whole internal clean and out of dust ? Having removable eye pieces bring the problem of having the internal open to dust that can get on the screen, and people will try to clean the screen and pretty much destroy it, or there a glass separation and the headset inside is sealed ? If it need air port for cooling, are they going to have small filter to get dust out. I guess there is a lot to learn before doing a consumer product that will be rock solid in every way. One thing I was thinking, was to get a second sensors of yours attach to the upper body in some way, so you can check the difference rotation between both of them. So the head would be based on the neck model, and the chest one can be based on the hips providing early limited positional tracking. But I hope you guys come up with a better solution !
      Well I'm done for the moment... I really hope to see the rift at my door step soon ! :)

    12. Ryan McClelland on

      I see you are trying to measure a 7" screen with 6" calipers :)

    13. spyro on

      I LOVE such big updates in my mailbox! :) I can't wait for my Oculus Rift! :)

    14. Andreas Aronsson on

      Awesome update, makes me want to get this time machine working even more! *goes back to shed*

    15. Tyler Griesinger on

      Awesome update! I have the same calipers... I got them from China :P

    16. Missing avatar

      martinP on

      Definitely the best update so far. Especially the optical ergonomics. Just out of curiosity how far away will the virtual image be placed with the eyecup B and C?

    17. Missing avatar

      Peter Verrey on

      Fantastic update!

    18. Missing avatar


      I love it! Best news I've heard all week.

    19. David McGraw on

      Really great update. Thanks for the insight!

    20. Missing avatar

      Hannes K on

      It would have been great if you included the dioptre your lenses will cover good/acceptable/bad/not at all.

    21. Missing avatar

      Hannes K on

      At least it seems that you put quite a lot more effort in your manufacturing process than many other companies do. I like it how much time you invest in the calibration and hope you'll keep up the high level of commitment in the future.

    22. Richard Perry on

      Great update, always interesting to see the manufactoring process that we often take for granted.

      I would be interested to know how long it takes for a single unit to be built and tested.

    23. ET3D on

      I love the consideration that went into the removable eyecups. Even if they don't fit everyone, I think it's great that you thought about this.

    24. Missing avatar

      Daniel Smith on

      @OlivierJT - I'm not sure there's a way to find this out now, I just remembered that when I backed the project, it said "3000 backers" for my pledge right before I backed it and "3001 backers" straight afterwards, hence I'm going to assume that I'm #3001 ;)

    25. Missing avatar

      Nathan Andrews on

      Really appreciate the thorough update and looking forward to the dev kit release. I've been working on a half-life 2 mod for the rift with head and gun tracking that just got featured in PC Gamer, check it out when you get a chance.

    26. Kevin Corcoran on

      Mobile sauna!!!!
      Seeing your process and hearing about the challenges is very exciting. You guys are taking very important steps to make sure this will work for ANYone!!

    27. Tomas Mariancik on

      Awesome, thanks for the update and being so open about the whole process, I enjoyed reading this :-)

      May I ask what is the equivalent in dioptres for the cups B and C? I have -3 on both my eyes.

    28. OlivierJT on

      @Daniel Smith
      I have been trying to find information but couldn't :

      How can one knows his backing numbers ?
      (I went to my amazon payment etc... no info)

      Very nice update, the testware pictures are from HK ? I am guessing every pictures with a green floor are... ?

    29. Missing avatar

      Dominic Wild on

      I'm so excited to get it :D. However your schedule are no longer right? You said that starting from January 28 you were building 500 pieces/day until February 10 because of the 4 weeks vacation of the factory. Does it mean that it will add a 4 weeks delays? Have you started the full production yet?
      I don't care if I need to wait longer, I just want to know it.

    30. Joe Lackner on

      great update!

      > > Are the 'Unassambled Kit' backers still on-track for getting some of the early validation batch?


    31. Missing avatar

      Mal Duffin on

      > Are the 'Unassambled Kit' backers still on-track for getting some of the early validation batch?
      +1 on an answer for this.

      Thx for the update, looking good so far!

      Would be interesting to hear a blog post about how the tech demos had to be adjusted for the switch between the old and new screen sizes, and the resulting differences.

    32. Thomas on

      I'm astigmatic, but i don't think it's too bad - might be hard to see text in the oculus but i thought it would be any way since the resolution is so low.

    33. Missing avatar

      edzieba on

      Are the 'Unassambled Kit' backers still on-track for getting some of the early validation batch?

    34. Missing avatar

      Che on


    35. Ryan McClelland on

      Amazing how much has been done is such a short time. You guys really know how to build stuff!

    36. WormSlayer on

      Awesome! I'm so excited! :D

      And jealous, I want to play Unreal 3 deathmatch in VR!

    37. Yossi Preminger on

      I'm seriously impressed by how professional the process is... keep it up and the big electronics companies will not be able to catch up with you!

    38. Missing avatar

      Daniel Smith on

      Great news, guys - appreciate the update! As I've been hearing different things from different sources, could you perhaps comment on the timeframe in which you expect to be able to ship the dev kits? I know you're planning on starting to ship in March, but what percentage of the approximately 7K dev kits for Kickstarter will actually be going out in March, are you going to be doing this in batches, etc.?

      For instance, I know I'm backer #3001 (so pretty much in the middle of all backers) and living in Germany - does that mean I still have a shot at finally holding the Rift in my hands anytime close to March or will international shipment mean I'll be closer to May or even June here?

      As I'm sure we're all most anxiously awaiting the day when that little package finally arrives, any updates or clarifications from your side on when that might be are much appreciated by everyone here, I'm sure! :)

    39. William C Crawford on

      I'm quite nearsighted with a slight astigmatism... It'll be interesting to see how well your solution works for me, or if I'll end up buying contacts again. I quit using contacts because I couldn't wear them for a full 8 hours... But if I'm only wearing them for a few hours a day, they should be fine.

      Thanks for the update! I'm quite excited now!

    40. Missing avatar

      Michael Schlafli on

      That's the first picture in a long while where Palmer looks genuinely happy and not "stage" happy :)