Some days ago I wrote a blog post about what to expect from the Oculus Connect 3, the greatest Oculus event of the year. I made some predictions… and I got right with three and a half out of five! Am I a magician? Well, it would be cool, but actually it’s only matter of being informed on the VR world and just being a bit visionary… even if the magician story is the one I actually tell girls to impress them:)
Ok, so… what have been the most important announcements of Oculus Connect 3? Oculus has made a short recap on its blog and I want to enhance it with some thoughts.
The most important announcement in my opinion has been the one that no one was expecting: Oculus has managed to reduce the specifications for a VR ready PC!! They developed a technique called Asynchronous Spacewarp (a name that seems taken from Star Trek), so that your PC can render the game at 45fps while the game will look inside your headset like if it had been rendered at 90fps! Don’t know the details of this algorithm, but surely it implements some kind of prediction, so that the runtime can render only 45 fps and then reconstucts the other missing 45 frames just by making predictions, interpolations and stuff like that. This way, the specifications of a VR ready PC are reduced to a i3-6100 with Nvidia GTX 960!! W00t! This means that you could have a VR ready PC for only $499!! Obviously you can’t use this trick for every kind of experience (super graphical-heavy games will still require a super-PC), but I’ve read enthusiastic feedbacks on reddit from people who have tried it. It works! Why is this the most important news in my opinion? Well, because as a startupper I’m used to look at things on the business side: lowering the entry point of VR by $500 means letting more people enter the VR world, so it does mean that Oculus can enlarge its users base, making them score a huge point against the Vive. But beside the headsets war (I think that Vive will be able to implement something similar), this means that VR adoption moment will become closer. The true reason why VR is only a stuff for nerds is that it is too much expensive and lowering the prices will be the key for VR to become widespread. From a business standpoint, lowering the prices by $500 is a bigger leap than increasing the FOV by 30° or doubling the screen resolution. So, kudos to Oculus team!
The most engaging moment, instead, has been the initial moment with Mark Zuckerberg. I expected some huge social innovation by facebook and they didn’t disappoint me. Watch this video before going on reading, because it is really awesome.
Surely the video is using some fluffy experimental features (how are they choosing their faces? Using gestures? Or using some headsets with additional sensors in?), but it clearly shows how videoconferencing can be in the future, how we could meet with our friends or family in the future! We could feel like in the same place, having fun together… like if we were there. The system can remind a bit AltspaceVR, but the cooler part are the cartoon avatars, very well made (with a great work that have been with Inverse Kinematics to reconstruct all the upper pose just having head and hands poses) and the integration with facebook (that means an users base of billions of people, including all our friends… I’ve not friends that are on AltspaceVR). This will be the future, but not the present, since there is no launch date for this system (and I’ve the suspect that this moment has been a lot a “marketing” moment to give a wow effect to the facebook vision, than the launch of an actual product).
One of my predictions have been improvements to GearVR, but Oculus actually launched the idea of a new standalone headset, like Intel Alloy or lots of others that are popping out. They showed a prototype called Santa Cruz that will free us from the cable.
They made people try it and everyone said that it was great. Don’t know if the prototype shown there actually needed a PC in the surroundings (just to show the idea), but the vision is to have a complete standalone headset, like Hololens. This could be a game changing in the virtual reality world, because we all hate that damn cable… and because this would free people from the need of having a PC (another possibility of lowering the prices!). Santa Cruz is still a prototype… we will see in the next times when it will be released.
Oculus has introduced a new platform, called Oculus Avatars, to have your customized Avatar inside Oculus platform. This means that you can shape your own avatar once and then having it in all kind of Oculus games and experiences! This is super-cool, because it does mean that we’re starting to have our virtual identity, something that still lacks in the VR world. The downsides of Oculus approach are: Avatars are not full body (you’ve only head and hands), so you can’t use them for full body games like ours; but even worse is that they’re specific to Oculus platform… so you’ve not a virtual identity, but an Oculus virtual identity and that’s bad… because this means that while playing with Vive you’ll have another avatar. And even worse, for us developers will be a pain to implement different avateering systems for different headsets! With Avatars, Oculus has created Oculus Rooms and Parties, that are two social platforms where you can hang out with your friends with your brand new avatar!
Last but not the least, Oculus has finally released Oculus Touch price and launch date. Oculus Touch will cost 199$ (but we already knew it) and will start shipping on December, the 6th. Preorders start today (October, 10th) and we that pre-ordered the Rift and got all that initial mess can reserve our front seat to have them until the 27th of October. Touch controllers ship with an additional sensor (to give more tracking stability) and a Rock Band VR controller (which I don’t give a f… about, don’t know why they’re giving me it). So, the end price for Vive and CV1 will be almost the same… but with the little detail that if you want to have true room-scale with CV1 you’ll have to buy a third sensor for additional $79, so if you want room-scale in the end Vive will be a little cheaper.
These have been the most important announcements of the Oculus Connect, in my opinion. There have been many others, like a big push on the content side (Oculus is partnering with Disney and is investing a lot of money on developers, paying also the fee to Unreal Engine game developers!), but in my opinion they have been more obvious and less game changing for the VR universe (again: read all the most important announcements on the Oculus blog post!)
Besides the announcements, there have been other very cool moments, like the speech of a man I love, Michael Abrash, that predicted how VR will evolve from a technical standpoint in the next five years
And that’s it… if you love my recap please share it to let other people know about OC3 announcements!