Some weeks ago I talked about “Valve, the great hope of VR”, and wondered if finally Oculus wouldn’t be who bring VR to its full potential, but now the sentence has changed completely for me.
We are at March 28th, 2016, a date for framing, as it is the date of the global launch of Oculus Rift, the first VR system intended for the consumer who uses the PC platform, and I must say that all I’m looking from Oculus is to give them an applause.
Oculus has grown from a small company creating devices and software with hard effort, to become a company creating an entire platform and ecosystem that didn’t exist at all.
When I asked myself what interest a company like Facebook could have to acquire Oculus, the possible intentions wasn’t clear to me. But after several months of seeing news Oculus has been uncovering, as apps for social VR , their new short films made with real-time graphics , or their “Oculus Ready” PCs in collaboration with major industry PC gaming names , I have no doubt. Oculus, with Facebook, is the future of VR.
Facebook is building a future social network not based in classic websites or apps for smartphones, but in VR. Something completely different than the current Facebook app. Something that will leave us amazed when it start working, and for what we’ve had light glimmers with Oculus Social app for GearVR.
In the imminent future we’ll do hangouts with friends or relatives within a virtual environment. The setting will be that we want, fully customizable, and will allow to a group of people share space and feel like we’re all together the same than in the real world. At first, our image will be somewhat simplified, perhaps only showing a head and floating hands, or graceful forms of robots, or fanciful characters, but in time, we will create photorealistic avatars of ourselves without effort, simply putting ourselves in front of a camera, and we will can have near-real virtual telepresence, as Microsoft has recently shown with HoloLens and its Holoportation .
HTC is a company whose main purpose in VR is to sell devices, produce hardware. Valve is a company that in recent times isn’t releasing videogames. Worldwide players have always been anxious and excited with a Valve announcement of a Half Life 3 release, a sequel of its successful game, but the reality is Valve right now is very focused in their role as the reference in online video game store.
Hardware and online store are important parts of a VR platform today, but content, games and apps, they are much more. And here I must say that Oculus has made every effort.
Oculus is a company that lives for VR. Oculus is not like HTC, that if VR isn’t a success can again focus on producing mobile phones. To Oculus is an “all or nothing”. If VR doesn’t succeed, Oculus disappears. For that reason they have been the drivers of all this new industry. They have funded videogames development and worked closely with studios to brig at release date one of the best catalogs of games that a new platform has ever seen. Thirty games today and a hundred games by the end of the year, some of many hours of content such as Elite Dangerous or Project Cars.
Oculus has created its own studio, Oculus Story Studio to produce content for a new film medium that can be something impressive, immersive cinematic movies. One type of movies in which you are a part of the story, interacting with the scenes, the characters or the plot. Something never seen before and for which Oculus has brought several examples, such as Lost, Henry and Dear Angelica to show us what is to come. None of this is now in the plans of HTC or Valve. This is an exclusive commitment of Oculus, which is making all efforts to convince Hollywood that VR is the next revolution in terms of audiovisual content.
It is important to not forget other content that Oculus, and Facebook, is promoting as no one. 360 photos and videos, with or without 3D. This is a whole new way to capture events and memories, the next thing after photos and traditional videos. Many manufacturers like Samsung or LG, not to mention Ricoh and others are pulling out cameras that capture 360 degrees and can be enjoyed in a VR headset. Facebook, which already has spent years allowing people to share photos and videos in its social web, undoubtedly is having much to say here. Google is the only to say something more here, but not HTC.
When many specialized press review Vive say Valve’s and HTC’s product is a premium product that offers an experience above Oculus product because it offers what is called “room scale”. Well, as has been demonstrated by Will Mason of UploadVR , that is totally wrong. Oculus Rift is able to do “room scale” even using a single camera! The well-known reporter of this website focused exclusively on VR clearly shows in this video and also in this another video how Oculus, with a single camera!, is capable of tracking a huge volume of room (4×3 m), almost similar to the space for Valve is advertizing for Vive and Lighthouse sensors. In september, when Oculus launch Touch, its controls for hands, which come with an extra camera, it’s possible that Oculus tracked volume is even higher than Valve product. And that users can choose whether they want a VR experience with the new controls for hands or without them is something that I find a very fair move from Oculus. I think a mistake from Valve and HTC to force users to buy a particular type of peripherials. Not all VR experiences and games will require some controllers as Vive ones. For example, ideal racing games will need wheels, and space sims still will need a joystick or HOTAS.
In short, Oculus is who initiated consumption of VR. They are who have made that a lot of devs become believers in the potential of this tech. They are who are making heavy investments to fund studies or creating content themselves, or even creating a whole new medium to entertain viewers. They are taking all the risks and doing all experiments at the level of content. Its annual conference, Oculus Connect , now in its second edition, it is the industry reference in this of events.
Oculus is the great hope of VR.