New report says the beta could start in April 2015, but will likely be pushed into the Summer season.
TechRadar and VRfocus both have reports today about the consumer/retail version of the Oculus Rift headset. Both reports state that Oculus VR will be starting a public beta for the consumer hardware in 2015. "Multiple sources with knowledge of the matter," say the beta could start as early as April 2015, but could be pushed into the Summer '15 quarter "as the plans were still not entirely nailed down."
Oculus VR representatives declined to comment about the report when The Escapist reached out earlier today.
If Oculus were to offer beta hardware at some point in the future, it would not be the first company to do so. Astro Gaming released its A38 Bluetooth headset in beta form earlier this year, and the non-beta version of the headset is due in the coming weeks/months. Valve has also done the beta hardware thing to help collect data for SteamOS. Of course the key difference here is Valve ending its (non-controller) hardware plans before a legitimate retail release.
A Kickstarter campaign tied to hardware could be considered a beta of sort, especially with early funding and potentially pre-retail-release hardware.
If anything, these reports are about the third phase of the Oculus VR beta period, rather than being a wholly new initiative. While the Oculus Development Kit 1 and DK2 are meant for developers and not the general public, there are no real, concrete restrictions on purchasing such hardware.
We'll be sure to update if any additional evidence arises. In the meantime, feel free to wax poetic about the Rift down in the comments.