Almost three years ago, a company called Oculus started off a Kickstarter to transform gaming and entertainment, with the goal of finally delivering on a virtual reality device that would further immerse us in other worlds. That day is closer as Oculus has unveiled the final design for Oculus Rift.
Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, hit the stage and talked about how Oculus Rift finally delivers on the dream of virtual reality. VR allows us to experience anything, anywhere. For the first time ever we’ll finally be inside the game. Gamers have been dreaming of this for decades, and it is (almost) finally here.
Oculus Rift consists of two OLED screens in an enclosed housing unit that straps to your head, and will have no motion blur or jitter, allowing you to easily focus on virtual objects. Iribe did mention that it may not be as high resolution as you one day want, but this is the beginning. On that note, detailed technical specifications such as resolution and price were not announced today. A wide field of view is incorporated so you really feel immersed and the Constellation tracking system is very precise, with low latency for optimal and realistic movement.
The headset will connect to your computer via the Sensor, an external sensor that goes on your desk and plugs into your computer and that’s it – you’re ready to go. Unfortunately the type of connection, whether it be HDMI, DisplayPort, or other was not mentioned. By connecting it through the Sensor, it allows developers to develop games and entertainment for both sitting and standing with some movement.
Not only does Oculus Rift immerse you visually into a virtual world, it also tricks your ears. For a truly immersive experience, the audio cues also have to be just right. Rift includes an integrated 360 degree spatialized audio system with removable headphones, allowing users to use their own headphones if desired. The entire unit is very lightweight and comfortable as Oculus’ goal is for users to be able to put it on and have it “disappear.” Oculus has improved the balance, and you simply put it on like a baseball cap.
An issue that came up during development is the fact that everyone’s eyes are spaced differently. The solution for this was to add a dial which adjusts the lens distance so you can get them right on the center of your eye. They’ve also evolved the form factor to better accommodate glasses. Finally, Oculus Rift is wrapped in fabric, making for a very nice looking unit.
Oculus wanted an input device that developers and gamers understood, one that’s robust, and covers all types of gaming genres and scenarios. The company felt that including a gamepad with this generation of the Rift is the right move as a gamepad has become an extension of who we are when we game. Iribe announced that Oculus Rift will include a wireless Xbox One controller and wireless adapter. Oculus chose the Xbox One controller indicating that it was designed by one of the top teams in gaming.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division and Microsoft Studios, took the stage to briefly talk about the new partnership between Microsoft and Oculus. Not only will the Xbox One controller be bundled with Oculus Rift, but Rift will natively work with Windows 10 and DirectX 12 is expected to bring the best possible VR experience on the Oculus Rift.
Including the Xbox One controller was big news, but Spencer continued. One of the new features of Windows 10 will be the ability to stream Xbox One games to Windows 10 devices, including PCs, tablets, and laptops. Through the partnership, that same streaming capability will extend to Oculus Rift as well. That’s right, stream your Xbox One games to your Oculus Rift device. This is huge news as Sony has been working on their VR device, dubbed Morpheus while Microsoft has been silent on VR for the Xbox One. By partnering with Oculus, Xbox doesn’t have to develop their own in house VR solution, and to top it off gamers can now use one device for both Xbox and PC gaming. No details were given on if the streaming would occur strait to Oculus Rift or through a connected Windows 10 device.
Jason Rubin, Head of Oculus Studios, came out to discuss gaming on Rift. VR has always been an unfulfilled promise, a window gamers couldn’t step through. With Oculus Rift, the dream of stepping into worlds that feel real will finally be fulfilled. Oculus Studios has been working with a number of companies to build an incredible lineup of made for VR games.
Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP (creator of EVE Online) came on to talk about EVE Valkyrie which has been built from the ground up for VR. Wanting to “create virtual worlds more meaningful than life, EVE Valkyrie showcases everything great about the VR experience and gamers will be immersed in a 360 degree cockpit experience while playing with Oculus Rift.”
Next up was David Adams, CEO and founder Gunfire Games. In the past they’ve worked with Oculus on Herobound. Adams mentioned that Herobound is the past and introduced Chronos, an atmospheric RPG chronicling a hero’s quest to save the world from a dragon. In the game, you enter a labyrinth that only opens once a year, die and you have to wait a year (in game) to enter again. As a result, the hero is a year older, wiser, stronger, etc., which results in having different ways to attempt the labyrinth.
Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac Games introduced Edge of Nowhere, a brand new third person action adventure for Rift. Here gamers will encounter a surreal world which will test you, and maybe even break you – nothing is what it seems. The choice for a third person view in a VR game is an interesting choice and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays once released.
Rubin returned to the stage and announced a few other games that will be available on Oculus Rift next year including Damaged Core (from Hi Voltage), VR Sports Challenge (from Senzari), Esper (from Code Sync), AirMechVr, and Lucky’s Tale (from Playful). Other developers like Harmonix, Square Enix, glu, Carbon Games, 4A Games, ozwe, Coatsink and others were also mentioned as working on Oculus Rift games.
Anna Sweet, Head of Developer Strategy, spoke about how VR is going to inspire a whole new generation of game designers and the goal of Oculus is to support all studios, including small and independent teams. With Oculus Rift, anyone can be a creator. A few simple clicks and you can create your own mountain in Unity and view in VR. With Unity 5 and Unreal 4 support, native Oculus support is free and will work out of the box for developers using those systems.
Oculus Share is Oculus’ current developer hub where developers can share games and experiences, allowing teams to freely experiment. Oculus is going to revamp and make it more vibrant and easier to share and experience and is also going to be investing $10m in accelerating independent game development.
Rift has always been about delivering technology that unlocks experiences. Nate Mitchell, VP of Product for Oculus, spoke about how Oculus Rift has been designed from top to bottom for gamers and how they’ve created an absolutely seamless experience by working with Microsoft, NVIDIA, AMD, and others to provide a product that works right out of the box.
The new system interface, Oculus Home, was built for VR first and foremost and brings all your Rift games in one place, is a lightweight interface, and easy to use. With Oculus Home, gamers can check out their games library, easily launch games, and check out games others are playing. You can even get a VR preview of a game before purchasing it and once you are ready to do so you can buy it right from Oculus Home while wearing Rift. Oculus Home also lets you see what your friends are doing in Rift and allows you to join them. A 2D interface to manage and purchase games and view your friends activity will also be released.
The founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, took to the stage to wrap up and talk about something new that Oculus has been working on for quite awhile. While Oculus Rift will be bundled with a wireless Xbox One controller, Oculus sees VR input evolving over the coming years with different types of inputs for different games. During testing of Oculus Rift, Luckey mentioned that the first thing a lot of people do is reach out into the virtual world. As a result, Oculus set out to develop an input device that lets people reach out into the world around them and translate those actions into the virtual world.
Luckey then unveiled a pair of track controllers to take VR to the next level, called Oculus Touch. The current prototypes are called the Half Moon project and had six specific goals:
- Hand presence – need perfect, accurate, low latency
- Manipulation – need to be able to pick up a gun from a table, pick it up, use it, drop it, throw it;
- Low mental load – effortless use
- Communicative gestures – pointing, waving, thumbs up
- Traditional inputs – buttons, analog sticks
- Lightweight and ergonomic
Half Moon consists of two controllers – one for each hand, the design mirrors each other, are wireless, have integrated high precision low latency tracking, an analog thumbstick, two buttons, finger trigger, and a hand trigger on each controller. The controllers can detect finger poses via sensors integrated in the device.
The Half Moon controllers are currently being tested in Toybox, an internal prototyping test bed, and will be shown off at E3. Toybox is a social experience, users are in a VR space with another person. As the experience gets more natural, you feel like you’re in the same room as the other person. Toybox lets users light explosives, punch, pull robots apart, and a number of other activities to deliver an entirely set of new VR experiences.
Luckey finished off the presentation with a quote that gamers have been waiting to hear for some time:
“This isn’t science fiction, this is reality and it’s happening today.”
And there you have it. Just about everything Oculus announced today about Oculus Rift. As mentioned before, there were no technical specifications or price released yet and hopefully we’ll see more of that information at E3. What do you think about the new information surrounding Oculus Rift? Will you be picking one up? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.