As this year's International CES 2014 wraps up, many are saying the consumer electronics show was underwhelming. While only a handful of companies used the annual event to make major announcements, one shining star that made an impression was the Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality headset, which ultimately won "best of show" accolades as "best emerging technology."

Nicknamed "Crystal Cove," the new version is significantly better than the Rift that debuted last year. In comparison with the original Rift, the Crystal Cove prototype features much higher resolution with its 1080p OLED display, less latency, and the image is less blurry. All of these advances have made for a more immersive and more realistic experience, according to many CES attendees who gave it a spin.

Working Toward Public Release

The Oculus Rift continues to be one of the most impressive crowdfunding success stories, as the majority of its first developer version was constructed thanks to millions of dollars contributed by individuals. Moving forward toward a public release of the Rift headset, Oculus now also has the benefit of a recent $75 million investment from one of Silicon Valley's most important investors, Andreessen Horowitz.

There is speculation that a 2014 release date could be possible based on the improvements that have already been made. However, Oculus has chosen to remain relatively quiet regarding a specific release date.

Oculus spokesman Jim Redner said, "We will only release it once we feel it is ready. We don’t want to rush to market. We want to ensure the experience is amazing and that there is a ton of content available at launch." As Redner pointed out, until there is more content, the benefits of the 3D device will be limited.

Even NASA Is Using It

Although some people might think the applications for a 3D virtual reality headset are limited to gaming and consumer programs, others have noticed that it can be useful in commercial and research environments, as well. In fact, reports indicate that even NASA has been using the Oculus Rift to explore places that are not accessible to its employees.

The U.S. space agency has apparently been using a combination of the Microsoft Kinect and the Oculus Rift to control a large robotic arm in real-time Relevant Products/Services, and while the two pieces of consumer technology are only being tested. NASA says that they could even end up on the International Space Station.