Next year, developers will start playing with Oculus’ next-generation VR headset: a wireless system codenamed Santa Cruz. Facebook VR chief Hugo Barra stresses that Santa Cruz is a prototype, not a commercial product. But he tells The Verge it’s “very representative” of where the company is going, and “realizable” as a consumer headset. So in a few years, Oculus hopes to offer something that delivers a lot of high-end Rift features, but without any of the complicated setup, or the need for a separate PC. At this year’s Oculus Connect show, the company hustled reporters through a quick Santa Cruz demonstration, looking to show that the technology works. As always, these demos were highly controlled, tailored to highlight Santa Cruz’s strengths and avoid showing its flaws. But as far as I can tell, Santa Cruz does work. It’s the most promising VR headset I’ve tried this year, even if it’s way too early to get excited about a consumer release. Like last year’s Santa Cruz prototype, this headset looks a lot like a wireless Rift, and tracks movement with wide-angle cameras around its edges. Oculus has introduced a softer shape with rubber straps, as well as a pair of motion controllers, which are equipped — like the existing Oculus Touch controllers — with infrared LEDs that those cameras can track. While it’s hard to make direct comparisons in such a short demo, Santa Cruz feels heavier than the Rift, but not as chunky or front-loaded as Oculus’ Gear VR. The screen and field of view feel comparable to the Rift’s, and the controllers have similar ergonomics to Touch, although the layout is simplified and the half-moon tracking strip has been flipped above the wearer’s hands, so it’s easier for a head-mounted camera to see. Technically, I got two demos with Santa Cruz: a hangout session with Oculus’ dog-like alien “mascot” Bogo, and a shootout in the Rift’s Wild West gunslinging game Dead and Buried. Both felt almost indistinguishable from using a Rift. I suffered a couple of tiny glitches — the ground seemed indescribably “off” for one split second when I was picking up a stick, and my hands would drift if I put them at the very edge of my peripheral vision — but for