Oculus Santa Cruz is the VR headset we are all waiting for

Oculus is working on a standalone headset that will offer similar power and capabilities as the Rift, but without needing to be tethered to a PC. Codnamed Santa Cruz, Oculus shared a few more details about its next-generation headset at its Oculus Connect event today.

What a difference a year can make. While still in prototype form, the new version looks much more polished than what Oculus trotted out at last year's Connect event. In its current form, Santa Cruz appears far less bulky and a lot more comfortable, resembling a finished product rather than a pre-release product. All of the hardware components have been moved to the front part of the headset.

"Ever since building Rift, our dream has been to bring the magic of a PC VR experience to an untethered form factor. That’s why we were so excited to share our early work with Santa Cruz at Oculus Connect last year. Although that first prototype had a full-blown mobile computer strapped to the back of your head, the feeling of freedom you got when first experiencing fully untethered positionally-tracked VR remains unparalleled," Oculus explains.

To be clear, Santa Cruz is a different beast than Oculus Go, the standalone headset announced today that is basically a Gear VR, minus the phone. This is also the company's first-ever headset with inside-out tracking technology, similar to what's found on the crop of mixed reality headsets Microsoft's hardware partners have built for Windows 10.

A revised design is not all that is new here. Oculus said Santa Cruz will come with 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) controllers that work with the headset's sensors, as shown in the image above. According to Oculus, its ability to recognize gestures and movements is superior to what other standalone headsets offer.

There are still some details we don't yet know, such as how much Santa Cruz will cost and what kind of battery life we're looking at. It also remains to be seen exactly how much power Oculus can cram into such a relatively small space (compared to a full blown PC). That said, it's still early.

"We have a lot more work to do as we build the next generation of standalone VR technology, and we look forward to sharing more updates on these products soon," Oculus said.

Developers will be the first to get their hands on a version of Santa Cruz sometime next year.