It's not certain quite yet, but with the HTC/Valve Vive suffering a delay until Spring, it's looking as though Facebook's Oculus Rift might be first out of the gates for a consumer PC VR headset. Oculus have announced that "final Rift hardware" is now on its way to developers who are "imminently shipping." "Imminently" is a very exciting word.
The final hardware, pictured above, is accompanied by a new version of the software development kit, which they've stuck a 1.0 tag on. This is what will power the first major VR games, and for now is limited to "developers putting final touches on launch titles." There's that language again - "final touches." The consumer Rift headset currently carries only a 'Q1 2016' release date, but the current talk suggests it's right around the corner [psst, 2016's only a week away -sarky ed.].
For those devs who are not working on launch titles, Oculus say that the old DK2 headset and 0.8 SDK is sufficient, suggesting that there won't be a vast gulf in technology between the DK2 and the consumer model, even if the latter is likely to be a more beautiful and comfortable experience. If you're a VR dev who thinks you can become an Oculus launch title dev, you can submit your game or application here and might wind up with a final tech headset if you sufficiently impress 'em.
Pre-orders of the Oculus tech, whenever they open, will get you a 'free' copy of EVE Valkyrie, by the way.
The overriding question is whether Oculus will make an irreversible land-grab before Valve can arrive on the scene, or if the Vive's more full-body, magic wand controller approach will see many early adopters hold off for that. That's certainly my own thinking at the moment, although I will struggle with the idea that VR gaming is already out there and I haven't got it. I'll just have to see how traumatised my wallet is by the time Christmas is over, I guess.