Last week, I ventured to Oculus’s third annual developers conference in San Jose, California. For three days, thousands of developers would be entertained with a packed schedule, filled with amazing VR Demos, panel discussions by experts in their field, workshops, and keynote speeches. Here are the 10 biggest takeaways that I got from Connect 3:
1. Room-scale for the Rift
With purchase of a third tracking sensor priced at $79 (the second sensor is included with the Oculus Touch) and shipping December 6th, Rift owners can add Room-Scale to their setup! Now users can move within a 3D mapped space, instead of a relatively stationary sitting or standing experience. The $79 price tag combined with the cost of the Rift and Touch do make the system more expensive than the HTC Vive’s complete bundle that includes room scale and two motion controllers ($877 Oculus vs. $799 HTC).
2. Touch Release Dates and Price
After much speculation, the long awaited Touch, the Oculus Rift’s Motion Controllers, have finally been given a release date and price. Pre-orders are available starting online and in retail stores on October 10th at the price of $199 and shipping worldwide December 6th (hopefully knowing Oculus’s history with delays). This means that the total price of Rift and Touch will be $798, a dollar less than HTC’s Vive. The pre-order also comes bundled with VR Sports Challenger, a game that will allow you to take control of an elite basketball, hockey, football, baseball athlete, and the Unspoken, a spell casting, magician dueling action game, all for free!
3. Oculus Earphones
Oculus is also releasing a set of earphones for the Rift, an alternative to headset’s headphones. At a reasonable price of $49, these headphones supposedly were tested against hundreds of others, even going head to head with a $900 pair according to Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe.
4. Untethered HMD: the ‘Santa Cruz’
Finally, at Oculus Connect 3’s keynote speech, CEO and founder of FaceBook, Mark Zuckerberg announced the Oculus ‘Santa Cruz’, an untethered head-mounted display. In terms of quality and price, this wireless prototype is meant to be a mid range option in between the Oculus/Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift in a bid to make VR more accessible to the consumer market. Unfortunately, no other details have been made public, so we will have to wait.
5. Mark Zuckerberg wants to make VR more Inclusive and Interactive
Describing VR as a perfect medium to “put people first,” Zuckerberg wants to have Oculus center around communities and people, not applications. To do this, Oculus has developed their own version of Google Hangouts with Parties and Rooms.
To interact with these programs you’ll have to create a virtual representation of yourself through Oculus Avatars. These monochromatic floating heads with hands can be customized to look like you (or anyone else for that matter) with over a billion options available.
With up to 7 other people you can chat, play games, watch videos, listen to music, and connect with friends thousands of miles away. You can even take phone calls and selfies!
6. Asynchronous Space Warp and Lower System Specs
As a followup to Oculus’s Asynchronous Timewarp, a technique that “warps” in a synthetic frame to replace a dropped one in order to reduce judder in applications that can’t keep a steady frame rate, is Asynchronous Spacewarp. Original title, I know. Asynchronous Spacewarp, however, takes the two previous frames and extrapolates information to help positional tracking. Don’t know what this means? Neither do I. Fortunately, they included a simplified description that basically stated that it reduces the minimum specifications needed to run VR. Now, instead of a NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater, and an Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater, you can run a NVIDIA GTX 960 equivalent or greater, and an Intel i3-6300 or AMD Fx4350 equivalent or greater. This means that consumers can now purchase a Oculus Ready desktop such as the Cyberpower PC for as low as $499. However, these specifications will not be able to run future AAA games and applications at optimal levels.
7. Quill, Oculus Story Studio
Over 400+ games and applications are already available on the Oculus Store with 35+ being released at the same time as Touch. Quill, a Google Tilt Brush-esque program allows illustrators to animate and draw in virtual reality in a style reminiscent of watercolor painting. This program was used to animate Oculus Story Studio’s Dear Angelica, and is finally being released after its announcement in 2015 so that users can create their own 3D masterpieces.
8. Artika.1, 4A Games(Metro: Last Light and Metro 2033)
If that doesn’t catch your fancy, there is Artika.1 is a post apocalyptic FPS game set 100 years in the future when the planet has been desolated by an ice age. The game puts you into the shoes of a battle hardened mercenary who must fight his way through the ice ravaged lands of Russia.
9. Lone Echo, Ready at Dawn (The Order:1866)
Then there is Lone Echo, a game where you play as an astronaut in zero gravy. In a universe that is a combination of Gravity and Interstellar, you must float, repair, and survive in spite of colossal space storms that comes across your path. Grapple your way across the space station, or use your gun to propel yourself in any direction.
10. Robo Recall, Epic Games (Infinity Blade)
Finally there is Robo Recall, the new FPS by Epic Games. With an art style reminiscent of the Borderlands series and Bioshock you take control of “an agent tasked with recalling rogue robots while unlocking an expanding arsenal of weapons.” Best of all: it’s free.
With Virtual Reality beginning to creep into the consumer marketplace, it’s amazing to watch each groundbreaking development shape the future of this technology. Facebook and Oculus are performing some of the field’s most innovative work, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!