Some of the biggest ideas in virtual reality came together at the third Oculus Connect conference, as the company rolled out its latest hardware, partnerships and plans for the years ahead. That included new Touch controllers, two different sets of avatars, and a mysterious mid-range Facebook standalone headset demo — with plenty more to come. Catch up on all the news and analysis below.
Oct 11, 2016
Seven VR predictions from Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe
Oculus announced a surprising amount of VR news at last week’s Connect conference. Its research division teased a new all-in-one headset, parent company Facebook demonstrated some new social features, and most pertinently for many VR enthusiasts, Oculus cut the minimum requirements for its Rift headset, reducing the cost of entry by hundreds of dollars. (Even if it's still quite an investment.) Then, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash came out and gave an extremely detailed talk about what features VR headsets will include by 2021.Read Article >
But this still left us with a lot of questions about Oculus’ vision. How does the Rift’s two-camera motion tracking setup compare to its ultimate "room-scale" experience? If you could get a standalone headset with no wires, why would you want a Rift at all? And what’s going on with "augmented virtual reality," one of Abrash’s most novel predictions? So we asked Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe about all this, and more. Here’s what he told us.
Facebook’s Michael Booth answers our questions about VR social networks
At Oculus Connect conference yesterday, we got a glimpse of what Facebook was after when it got into virtual reality: a VR environment where you can feel like you’re hanging out in the same physical space as your friends, complete with realistic body language and emotional responses. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in virtual reality with some of his colleagues to play cards, travel to a simulation of Mars, and hold a video call with his wife.Read Article >
One of those colleagues was Michael Booth, Facebook’s product manager for social VR. Booth comes from the world of game development, but what he’s helping to build now isn’t just a Facebook-owned massive multiplayer VR game — it’s a new place that’s eventually supposed to connect to every part of the social network, for all its billion-plus users. After the keynote, we asked him a few questions about how that might work.
Why it’s cool that there’s no gender option in Oculus Avatars
When I put on a headset to try out Oculus’ new virtual reality avatar system earlier today, the first thing I did was look for the gender toggle. From Second Life to Pokémon Go, this is so ingrained in my understanding of character-creation menus that I barely noticed what I was doing, until I realized that the option wasn’t there.Read Article >
Instead of "male" or "female," Oculus Avatars starts you straight off with picking your face and hair from a single side-scrolling list. Clothes are organized vaguely by theme and type, like "jacket," "unique," and "sci-fi." You can pick something as masculine or feminine as you want, but you have to actively pore over the options and find something that represents you, instead of plugging in a gender option and choosing from whatever comes out.
Oct 6, 2016
The 8 biggest stories from Oculus Connect 3
Today's Oculus Connect 3 keynote covered a lot of ground. Over two hours of speechmaking Facebook and Oculus executives covered everything from release dates, prices, content, social, and diversity, to mobile SDKs and foveated rendering. If you want to relive it the way it happened, you can check out our liveblog, or watch the whole keynote on Facebook.Read Article >
Here are some of the highlights:
Oct 6, 2016
I built a beautiful VR avatar in the Oculus Rift
Earlier today, at its Connect keynote, Oculus announced a new avatar system for its Rift — and eventually Gear VR — headsets. Yes, the avatar is not exactly a new piece of technology, even in VR. You can already build an avatar in AltspaceVR or vTime, and Facebook has its own animated avatar setup that Mark Zuckerberg showed off on stage. But these avatars are classy, and I made one.Read Article >
Instead of being either cartoonish or photorealistic, Oculus decided to go for severe monochrome busts with floating hands. Put on the Rift, and you can see something like a virtual mirror, where you can pick a face shape, a hairstyle, a pair of glasses, and an outfit (seen from the shoulders up). You can also pick the material you’re made of: glass, glowing metal, knitted fabric, or twinkling stars, among other things. Here’s me:
Oct 6, 2016
The five best VR experiences we saw at Oculus Connect’s demo day
Only at a VR show would a day of playing video games feel like a workout. Oculus started its third Connect conference with an eight-hour block of demos, mostly for the upcoming Touch motion controllers. (And even all those hours weren’t enough time for us to catch everything.) A few we’d seen before, most we hadn’t — and here are our five favorite ones.Read Article >
Here's what you'll be playing with the new Oculus Touch controllers
We finally know exactly what you'll be playing when Oculus' Touch controllers launch in December. Today at its Oculus Connect keynote, the company unveiled a number of new titles that will support its fledgling controllers, including apocalyptic sci-fi shooter Arktika.1 from the creators of the grim Metro series, and Lone Echo from Ready at Dawn, a narrative-driven game about being trapped on a space station. Epic Games, meanwhile, will release its own sci-fi first-person shooter called Robo Recall set in an iRobot-esque universe. Robo Recall will be available for free early next year.Read Article >
In addition to games, Oculus announced that a number of art tools will be available for Touch in December as well. That includes both the Kingspray graffiti simulator, and illustration tool Quill.
Oct 6, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg's new VR pitch sounds like Steve Jobs introducing the iPad
Moments ago at Oculus Connect 3, Mark Zuckerberg gave a very brief look at a prototype standalone VR headset that Oculus and Facebook are collaborating on. But the way Zuckerberg presented it was very familiar; it was basically a direct callback to Steve Jobs' introduction of the original iPad in 2010. The pitch is identical: something magnificent that fits between lightweight mobile devices and powerful PC environments.Read Article >
Oculus will soon be able to work with a much cheaper gaming PC
Brendan Iribe, the CEO of Oculus, announced today the the company's VR system will now be compatible with much cheaper, less powerful PCs. In the past Oculus had certified a number of machines as compatible, but all cost around $1,000 at a minimum. Today it showed off some new engineering advances that allow Oculus to provide a smooth VR experience with a PC that costs just $499.Read Article >
To make VR feel truly immersive, and to avoid nausea, it helps to have your software running at 90 frames per second. That is very demanding on your hardware, and even the best machines sometimes drop a frame. To fix that Oculus has developed two systems: Timewarp and Spacewarp. These techniques, now baked into the Oculus firmware, create synthetic frames that can be used to keep the image smooth even when your hardware is struggling.
Oculus announces new $49 in-ear headphones for the Rift
Oculus has announced a new way to listen to audio while immersed in the Rift virtual reality headset: a set of in-ear headphones that can be used in place of the on-ear headphones that currently come with the device. The new earbuds cost $49 and will ship in December.Read Article >
Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe boasts that the earbuds sound as good as headsets that costs much more, but we'll reserve judgement on them until we're able to test that independently.
Oct 6, 2016
Oculus Touch will be available on December 6th for $199
The Oculus Touch will be available for the Rift on December 6th for $199, the company announced at its Oculus Connect keynote today. Preorders open on October 10th. The controller bundle will come with two titles — VR Sports Challenge and The Unspoken — as well as a second camera users can put in their play area. A third sensor that'll allow the Touch controllers to room-scale will also be released on December 6th for $79. Other games, including apocalyptic sci-fi shooter Arktika and Lone Echo from Ready at Dawn, will be released for Touch, too. For comparison, the Vive costs $800 for room-scale. The Rift costs about $880.Read Article >
Oculus's Input API works with three different devices, including Touch, so developers can create one game while players have a choice for what they want to use to play. Oculus Avatars in VR are also launching along with Touch. These Avatars can be customized to create "billions" of character permutations, which Oculus says will become the "foundation of your identity in VR."
Oculus Avatars look like the future of video game character creation
At its Oculus Connect event today, the VR company announced a new project: Oculus Avatars, designed to give you a real presence in virtual reality.Read Article >
The avatars themselves are stylized but much more detailed compared to something like Nintendo's Miis. You're able to customize your character to make it look like you, choosing from a range of cosmetic options. The process looks a lot like character creation in a video game. "We want to enable social presence at the platform level," explained Nate Mitchell, Oculus co-founder and VP of product. The avatars will be launching alongside the upcoming Oculus Touch controllers, and will be coming to mobile in 2017. The avatars will also have a social element; when you interact with friends you'll be able to see their avatars.
Mark Zuckerberg is playing VR games with world leaders
Mark Zuckerberg says that world leaders often stop by Facebook's headquarters to see what kind of interesting stuff it's been up to. "And that means I usually get to be the person to show them virtual reality" for the first time, he said while on stage at Oculus VR's developer conference.Read Article >
Introducing world leaders to virtual reality may be an unexpected part of Zuckerberg's job, but he seems to have fun with it. Zuckerberg says he shows people different creative tools and "depending on what kind of a leader it is and what their culture is, maybe we'll play a first-person shooter," Zuckerberg said. "By the time they take it off, they don't want to leave."
Oculus is working on a cheaper, wireless VR headset
During the keynote presentation at Oculus' annual Connect developer conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off a demo of a new virtual reality device that's supposed to sit between mobile and full PC experiences. Zuckerberg said the product is still in its prototype stage, but it will offer a standalone experience, without relying on a phone like Samsung's Gear VR or Google's Daydream, but won't be as expensive as a full Oculus Rift.Read Article >
The new product is designed to be portable, so you can take it anywhere, yet remain affordable and accessible. The prototype appears to have a similar design to the Rift, including built-in earpads, but without the wires that tether the Rift to a PC.
This is how Facebook will animate you in VR
Facebook showed off its latest ideas for social interaction in virtual reality today, demoing more complex avatars at Oculus Connect, the annual developer conference for the VR company. The avatars could smile, laugh, or express anger and shock. They had arms attached to their hands and personalized clothing. All this was new and more robust virtual representation than anything we've seen from the company so far.Read Article >
We've known for a while that Mark Zuckerberg's long-term goal for virtual reality was to transform his social network from a place where you post text, photos, and video to one where people can hang out in virtual space and feel as if they are conversing face to face. He elaborated on this dream a few months ago at F8, and today the company showed off a few new pieces of software that built on these early demos.
How to watch the Oculus Connect 3 event: start time, live blog, and streaming
Oculus is holding its third-annual developers conference this week, and the main event happens today. It’ll be a 2-hour presentation where the company’s leaders lay out what they see as the next steps for virtual reality and Oculus VR. There’ll likely be new products, new games, and some experimental ideas on show. It should be a good time.Read Article >
Unlike an iPhone unveiling, we don’t actually know everything we’re going to see here ahead of time. But we do have some idea of what to expect out of Oculus. For one, it’s likely to finally announce pricing and a release date for the Rift’s Touch controllers, which it’s been showing for over a year now. Oculus has also promised there’ll be more than 30 compatible games when the controllers launch, so we should learn what some of those titles are, too.
Oct 5, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg says he'll reveal 'something new' for Oculus tomorrow
Mark Zuckerberg might be ready to take the Oculus Rift and virtual reality to new applications beyond video games. This afternoon, Facebook's CEO posted a photo of himself wearing the Rift (and Oculus Touch controller). "Getting ready to demo something new we've been building in virtual reality," he wrote in the description, adding that he'll be revealing the project at tomorrow's Oculus Connect presentation.Read Article >
Zuckerberg has frequently commented on the many use cases for VR beyond games and entertainment. "After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences," he said in March 2014 when announcing Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR. "Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home." In the same post, Zuckerberg wrote "By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures."