Speaking at a panel today at SXSW, Oculus VP of product Nate Mitchell answered a long-standing question about the company's Crescent Bay prototype headset: it looks so good because it actually uses two screens instead of one. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey chimed in as well, saying that it was "super obvious" that the prototype used two screens, but nobody had really looked closely enough before to notice it. (The headset was announced in September 2014). Using one screen to save costs was one of Oculus' first big advances, but there's definitely been a jump in quality since then.
"Most proposed killer apps [for AR] are not cool."
The panel was a wide-ranging Q&A about Oculus and the future of virtual reality, but one of the first questions posed to Luckey was about the augmented reality in Microsoft's HoloLens. Luckey, as you might expect, is much more interested in VR than AR. Although he admitted that AR could "be as big or bigger than VR," he felt that there was no "killer app" for AR. "Most proposed killer apps [for augmented reality] are not cool," he said, "they're kind of boring." Luckey is much more interested in gaming, and said he believed that the gaming industry was going to become more important as time goes on — it would become the foundation of the VR industry since so much VR technology fundamentally depends on gaming engines.
Speaking of competitors, Luckey said he felt "no pressure" from the announcement of the HTC Vive, created in partnership with Valve. "We're already under a lot of internal pressure" to release a device, Luckey said, and that just one more competitor isn't going to raise those stakes any higher. And everybody on the panel was excited about the idea that there would be more VR headsets, because it would drive the overall market for VR and incentivize developers. "A rising tide lifts all boats," Mitchell said.
Luckey, however, took issue with Valve's Gabe Newell's contention that nobody gets sick using the Vive headset, arguing that "every VR headset will have people getting sick in it," especially since developers may not adhere to standards for VR that would prevent that.
As usual, Luckey wouldn't comment on when there will be an actual consumer release of the Oculus Rift. However, he did say that things were moving along as he'd hoped. "Nothing is going horribly wrong, everything is going horribly right," he quipped. Luckey is also constantly asked if the issue of "input" on VR is solved yet, letting users move beyond basic motion tracking and gamepads. The answer, as before, was the same: "I don't think anyone has nailed input," he said. "Making a universal virtual reality controller is very hard."