A virtual reality system at the Oculus booth during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California on March 4, 2015

Oculus, the virtual reality firm acquired by Facebook last year, said Wednesday it would begin shipping its Oculus Rift headset to consumers early next year after years of development.

"Today, we're incredibly excited to announce that the Oculus Rift will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year," the company said in a statement.

The headset, designed for immersive gaming and other applications, has built a strong following among developers and has won praise from analysts for limiting the which affects users of virtual reality (VR) gear.

"The Rift delivers on the dream of consumer VR with compelling content, a full ecosystem, and a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality," the statement said.

"It's a system designed by a team of extremely passionate gamers, developers, and engineers to reimagine what gaming can be."

The statement said more details are forthcoming on hardware, software, and other technical specifications.

"Virtual reality is going to transform gaming, film, entertainment, communication, and much more," the statement said.

Facebook last year bought the company for some $2 billion.

Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year that the acquisition of Oculus was a long-term bet that making the social network's offerings more immersive would pay off in the future.

A girl in a costume walks by the Oculus booth at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California on March 4, 2015

He suggested that the technology could be applied to various offerings of the world's biggest social network.

"People will build a model of a place far away and you will just go see it; it is just like teleporting," Zuckerberg said.