E3 is around corner and Oculus is getting ahead of the action in a number of unveilings in a press conference the week beforehand. Virtual reality is an emerging industry and a number of players are getting aggressive in their attempt to take hold of early market share. Oculus made a number of huge announcements Thursday. We’ve packaged them up for you so that you don’t have to dig around for the details. Check out all the best Oculus announcements below!
Consumer Oculus Rift Revealed!
We’ve seen a number of prototypes of the Oculus Rift over the past couple of years. Oculus finally displayed the consumer version of their soon to be released virtual reality headset. The new rig looks polished with a set of wireless integrated (yet removable) headphones, a lighter and more “glasses friendly” design, and an incredibly engrossing OLED screen with an incredible field of view. (Photos at the bottom of the article) The consumer version of the Oculus Rift is set to be released in quarter one of 2016. Every Oculus Rift will include a wireless Xbox One controller. (More on this partnership in the next section.)
A full Oculus Rift setup may be a bit costly for some. Due to the render intensive nature of Virtual Reality, the goggles require a high-end gaming computer to be able to fully support the Oculus Rift. As a result, the total setup cost has been estimated by some to be around $1,500 dollars. The exact cost of the headset alone has not been revealed.
Oculus + Xbox One = Project Morpheus’ Twisted Sister
After Sony announced their virtual reality headset for the Playstation 4 last year, many have wondered what cards Microsoft has up its sleeve in the virtual reality space. Some speculated that the console would make use of Microsoft’s Augmented Reality headset, the Hololens. However, in Oculus’ press conference we found out Microsoft’s real Ace of Spades.
Xbox announced at the Oculus’ press conference that the Oculus Rift will be Windows 10 compatible. They also announced that using the Virtual Cinema feature, users will be able to play Xbox games on their Oculus Rift. How will this work?
- Xbox will stream its games over the local network to a compatible Windows 10 PC
- User will plug-in their Oculus Rift and Xbox One controller into their PC
- Using the Oculus Rift, users will be able to play games on a virtual big screen
Currently, the VR experience is limited to playing regular style video games within a virtual theater. What I mean by this is that the virtual reality experience is the theatre as opposed to the Xbox One game itself. Streaming an actual virtual reality experience over a local network could be problematic. One of the biggest hurdles virtual reality has faced over the years is latency. Latency was one of the primary causes for the motion sickness that many experienced in early builds of the Oculus Headset.
Game streaming over a local network has improved drastically with experiences such as Playstation’s Remote Play and the Nividia Shield, however, neither are without noticeable latency. Such added latency would not bode well for a virtual reality experience.. This is likely why Oculus chose to make the virtual cinema the virtual reality experience while simply playing video games in classic “on-screen” style within the virtual cinema; as the computer (not the Xbox) is natively generating the imaging for the virtual cinema. It will be interesting to see if this new partnership between Microsoft and Oculus will eventually bring native Oculus Rift support to the Xbox One without a PC as the “middle-man.” Time will tell.
Announcing a New form of Input: Oculus Touch
The included Xbox One controller will not be the only form of input for the Oculus Rift. Thursday, Oculus announced the Oculus Touch controllers. These unique input devices place two motion controllers in each of your hands. These controllers allow you to interact with virtual content in a much more realistic way. In addition to capturing your motion, each controller has two face-buttons, a joystick, and two trigger buttons. (Shooting seems to be a common thread in video games – a trigger-less input would be like an empty banana.)
As you can see in the picture, the controllers wrap around your hand. While you may have thought this was just a futuristic design, the controllers can actually read your hand gestures. You might finally be able to give that sarcastic thumbs up sign to your virtual friends in the near future.
No word on price or release date, but the Oculus Touch is expected to release in Q1 2016 after the release of the Oculus Rift itself.
$10 Million Fund for Indie Developers
Every gaming platform released struggles to have sufficient titles to keep users busy while developers finish the development cycle of their next games. Oculus is pushing hard to fill that oft-famine that occurs shortly after a gaming platform’s release. The company has created a $10 million dollar fund to provide capital to independent developers to develop VR games and experiences. The folks at NDTV have a particularly good explanation as to why this is such a smart move on Oculus’ behalf:
This is particularly important because most big developers – who have huge budgets on the line – can’t take too many risks to figure out what works and what doesn’t in the world of VR. A small indie on the other hand is going to be willing to make weird experiences like a VR cinema, or a Web browser. These early experiments are going to be very important in helping to understand what works and what doesn’t in VR.
Can’t say we don’t agree. Virtual Reality is still in its infancy and most projects are/have been experimental. For the Oculus Rift to be a viable consumer platform, a variety of polished virtual reality experiences need to be available out of the gate. Capital will be a driving force behind this.
It’s easy to visualize the Oculus Rift as a gaming or movie platform, but many have overlooked the potential application of virtual reality within other aspects of life. According to the New York Times, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Schroepfer, made a very interesting comment about the company’s plans for Oculus beyond gaming when he said, “This is a teleportation device…”
This comment helps bridge the gap as to why a social media company would pay billions to purchase a virtual reality company. In the same way video calling revolutionized communication, virtual reality could be the next step to finally bringing gramps to that family reunion; despite being tethered to his bed in the nursing home. The implication of such technology is huge and shows incredible promise. Schroepfer goes on to say, “What people are missing is that we have a clear path of research and development”, indicating that Facebook has calculated plans in terms of bringing such technology to the masses. The future is bright.
These are exciting times in the virtual reality space. What are your thoughts on all of Oculus’ recent announcements? Are you going to buy the Oculus Rift? Let us know in the comments below.
For your viewing pleasure, below are some additional images of the Oculus Rift: