The much-anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will be available to consumers in early 2016, Oculus VR has announced.

The goggles use sophisticated head-tracking technology to immerse users in virtual, 3D worlds. Gamers have been waiting for them to hit the market since the Facebook-owned company's hugely successful Kickstarter campaign introduced them in 2012.

You'll be able to pre-order the consumer version starting later this year, and expect it to ship in the first quarter of 2016, Oculus said in a blog post today. It didn't say how much the headset would cost.

Compared to earlier versions released to developers, Oculus says it will have:

  • Improved tracking that will work both when users are standing up and sitting down.
  • Updated ergonomics "for a more natural fit."

Versions of the headset for developers were released in 2012 and 2014, priced at $300 and $350. Those developers been creating a range of VR games, apps and even movies for the Oculus Rift.

However, Oculus is targeting the device mainly at gamers.

"It's a system designed by a team of extremely passionate gamers, developers, and engineers to reimagine what gaming can be," the company said, hinting that it will be revealing more at the E3 gaming expo in June.

Oculus ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for a developer kit for its headset, raising $2.4 million US or almost 10 times its goal of $250,000.

Oculus Rift

Oculus didn't indicate how much the consumer version of its VR headset would cost. (Oculus)

Facebook agreed to purchase the company for $2 billion in 2014, causing some controversy among Oculus's Kickstarter backers. The creator of the popular game Minecraft also cancelled a deal with Oculus after the Facebook purchase.

The Oculus Rift faces a number of competitors – Samsung released its Gear VR headset, which uses Oculus software, in late 2014. HTC and Valve are expected to release the HTC Vive in November 2015, and Sony says it will start selling its Project Morpheus VR headset in 2016.