The Oculus Rift can support room-scale virtual reality, but the pioneering VR company doesn't believe there is consumer demand for the feature.
Room-scale VR is the principal point of differentiation between the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, which allows the user to roam a 15ft x 15ft area. According to Jason Rubin, head of worldwide studios at Oculus, the Rift will gain similar functionality when its Touch controllers ship in the second half of 2016. An additional sensor, designed for Touch, will allow room-scale experiences of up to 5ft x 11ft.
"Some people will really want room scale," Rubin told Polygon. "It's definitely cool. We have the tech ability to provide room scale. Our tech doesn't preclude that. At some point we'll demo that."
The Vive stands apart from Oculus Rift due to HTC and Valve's insistence that room-scale sensors and wand controllers be part of the entry-level package. In short, it isn't possible to experience Vive without those features, and that speaks to what Valve and HTC see as the best VR experience. With Oculus, the Touch controllers and sensor will be an additional expense, potentially shipping six months or more after the Rift launches on March 28.
According to Rubin, that decision speaks to what Oculus believes the VR market will be like in its nascent stages. "We don't believe that the consumer has the space in general," he said. "Has the commercial viable space of the 15-by-15 foot square."
The lingering question, then, is whether enough consumers will ever have the space for room-scale VR. Many of the immediate problems in this sector can be solved through better design or refining the technology, but the size of a given front room is not under the control of Oculus, Valve or any VR developer.