Oculus Rift will for the immediate future require a poerful Windows PC to run. The most common laptop video technoloogy doesn't work with the Rift, and Oculus has halted development for hardware running Apple and Linux.

That's the takeaway from the spec information Oculus published last week detailing what type of computer would be compatible with its headset.

Oculus RIft headsets will shrink - eventually, says Mark Zuckerberg. Image: IDG News Service

Graphics cards need to be equivalent to or more powerful than the AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, while the processor needs to match or exceed an Intel i5-4590 chip, the virtual-reality headset maker said in a blog post. Systems need at least 8GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports and must be able to handle HDMI 1.3 video output. They also need to be running at least Windows 7 with Service Pack 1.

Having common specs will simplify the development process and allow programmers to create apps and games that offer a consistent experience, said Oculus chief architect Atman Binstock in a blog post. This is important, since hardware that isn't up to par will deliver a negative experience, he said.

The specs will stay consistent, but in theory, the cost of components that support the technology will decrease over time, allowing a broader range of PCs to work with the Rift, Binstock said.

Laptop owners who hoped to use the Rift are out of luck, at least for now. Many laptop have external video outputs connected to an integrated GPU (graphic processing units), said Binstock said. However, in those scenarios the video output is handled by "hardware and software mechanisms that can't support the Rift," he added.

For now, Oculus is focusing its development efforts solely on Windows machines. Development for Apple's OS X and Linux has been "paused" and will resume, although there's isn't a timeline for when that will happen, Binstock said.

Also on Friday, Oculus released a beta SDK (software development kit) for developing Rift applications on PCs.

Last week Oculus revealed that the highly anticipated Rift will go on sale in the first quarter of 2016, though did not specify pricing. The Rift began as a crowdfunding campaign in 2012 and development units began shipping the following year. Last March, Facebook purchased the company for US$2 billion.

Spoeaking at a Facebook 'town hall' meeting last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested the Rift headset woudl develop to resemble a pair of spectacles and that eventually it would not need to be tethered to a computer.

Zuckerberg predicted that it will take between five and 12 years before this technology works reliably and the headset becomes affordable for people.

A timeline of a decade or longer before virtual reality becomes mainstream didn't keep Facebook from pursuing Oculus. It purchased the company knowing "there's a ton of work ahead" but with the understanding that virtual reality is the next computing platform, Zuckerberg said.

Oculus was keen on Facebook buying it since the social media company has the capital to invest in developing a virtual reality platform, he added.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is [email protected]

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