For the last 3 days I have been at San Jose at the third official Oculus Connect conference (OC3) and its been amazing to see some of the prototypes, talk to a few developers and just learn from other folks who are charting the VR space. Its been an amazing mix of education and fun and given me a lot of mull over on the flight back tomorrow. Here are some highlights though:
The Social Focus: Putting people at the center
Social was definitely the big message at OC3, and the Facebook Social concept that Mark Zuckerberg demoed was really well done.
I really liked the avatars and the way they worked here. What was a little weird was it was at the same stage where a few minutes later they talked about the new Oculus Avatars system which as developers we are encouraged to use. These 2 projects are totally independent of each other and a later talk by Facebook’s Mike Booth talked about a lot of learnings that they developed while building Facebook’s avatar system that flies in the face of the look of the official Avatars app/sdk. Hopefully these two will me merged at some time in the future but there is enough of a chance that they may not.
Oh and I hope you didn’t liked the boxy avatars from Oculus Social app, cause that effort seems to be dead.
Oculus finally revealed the pricing and availability of the Touch controllers. At $200 they are a little pricey and make a full Rift setup be almost the exact same price as the Vive. That aside the controllers are really nice and bringing your hands into VR does up the level of immersion in VR tremendously (at work we had used the Leap Motion sensor on top of the DK2 to get some hand tracking in a demo but thankfully we can leave those kludges behind). The only unfortunate thing with the Touch controllers being optional purchase is that developers can’t really rely on them being available which might prevent them from leveraging them to avoid splitting the market. Hopefully most Rift owners choose to get it cause I will say they work really well.
Oculus can now do Room-scale VR but requires a third sensor that you can now buy for $79. I can’t imagine a lot of people going for this at least immediately and Room scale might remain the domain of the Vive for now.
One of the messages Oculus apparently wanted to send was that passive experiences shouldn’t be dismissed as apparently usage of Oculus is equally divided between games and video apps. At the keynote, Oculus also announced a Video SDK that will let video publishers create content but let Facebook host and distribute that content efficiently based on their research around optimized 360 video streaming (Foveated rendering etc). I need to dig more into this.
Other things also interesting included:
- Facebook continuing to fund more VR development with another 250M fund for VR apps and games
- Oculus is adding an Education category to their stores so expect more apps and games for that
- Cheaper Oculus Ready certified PCs including a $500 one. Oh and Oculus Ready certified laptops for you developers on the go.
- Oculus will cover Unreal Engine license fees for apps sold through the Oculus Store for up to the first $5 million in gross revenue.
- Lots of effort being put into audio and ambisonic rendering. A new higher audio quality headphone for the Rift was also introduced and given away to the attendees.
- Untethered stand-alone VR headset in the works in the lab.
Most of the OC3 event was about trying out the demos for different games coming soon. Lots of good ones to choose from but Eagle Flight was totally awesome.
Favorite moment: Talking to John Carmack
Okay so this was a totally nerd moment, but I have been a big fan of John Carmack for a long time and he was kinda like a geek hero of mine. Being able to talk to him for a bit was really amazing. I even captured a part of it on video (vertical cause I saved it from Periscope 🙂 )