Oculus Rift Release Date
Facebook has hinted that Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will be available in 2015CC

At Facebook's F8 conference in San Francisco, the social network giant has confirmed the company it bought for some $2bn (£1.3bn) just over a year ago will ship a product capable of playing virtual reality games before the end of 2015.

Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer told attendees at F8 that virtual reality gaming is coming "this year" and gamers would be able to play in VR on "something" shipped by Oculus.

Oculus is a pioneer in the virtual reality headset market but the company has always shied away from announcing when a consumer version of its Oculus Rift headset might be available.

Schroepfer's comments would suggest the Oculus Rift could be on shelves before the end of 2015 but he was vague enough to suggest there could also be another product on the way.

On stage, Facebook showed off what appeared to be the latest build of one of the most anticipated games being built for the platform, Eve: Valkyrie which is based on the Eve Online universe.

As well as Oculus Rift, Sony is developing its own VR headset, known as Project Morpheus, while more recently HTC announced a partnership with game developer Valve to build a headset called Vive. Microsoft is also entering the space with its HoloLens technology.

There is still no indication how much a consumer version of Oculus Rift would cost, though.

Entering the Matrix

Speaking on stage alongside Schroephfer was Oculus Rift's chief scientist Michael Abrash, who refrained from saying his project would be arriving in 2015, instead pointing out it will be "shipping in quantity before long".

Abrash spoke at length about how the brain interprets reality drawing heavily on The Matrix film. Quoting the seminal science fiction film, he asked: "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

Unlike Lawrence Fishburne's character Morpheus, Abrash was not giving his audience a choice between a red pill and a blue pill, simply saying everyone is heading down the virtual reality rabbit hole together.

The scientist said the fact that people are getting virtual reality right this time - compared with the attempts in the 1980s and 1990s - is down to a combination of broad industry participation, long-term commitment and because it is already compelling and even shipping, as is the case for Samsung's Gear VR headsets.