Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly live video show and podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. You can enjoy the full audio recording below:
In this Episode 30 of the VRScout Report, we talk all things Oculus Connect 3 (OC3), getting insights and takeaways from: Max Cohen, VP of Mobile at Oculus; Raj Rao of uSens; Ela Darling of Cam4; Tahdg Kelly of VReal; and Ashley Pinnick of California Rex..
We also chatted with some developers behind the titles at Oculus Connect 3, where VRScout’s Steve Ip sits down with the makers of Arktika.1, an FPS from 4A Games; SingSpace, a karaoke experience from Harmonix, the creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band; and Luna, a soothing storybook world puzzle game from Funomena.
OCULUS CONNECT 3: “THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT I GOTTA WEAR A RIFT”
The third Oculus Connect was an explosion of information and announcements during the keynote sessions. They brought out the big guns in the form of Mark Zuckerberg (with no mention or sighting of tarnished leader Palmer Luckey, notably absent from the demo floor), and the Zuck came out swinging. He enthusiastically hammered home Oculus’s (and Facebook’s) next phase: great software experiences. Zuckerberg repeated numerous times throughout his presentation that VR/AR is the next computing platform, and rounding out the future-focused theme was Michael Abrash’s final predictions. Abrash laid out the impending plan for Oculus and Facebook’s future: optics and displays, graphics, eye tracking, audio, interaction, ergonomics, and computer vision…
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OCULUS CONNECT 3
HARDWARE: Oculus Touch controllers are FINALLY coming, and they sure feel smooth and intuitive (you won’t have to break your immersion with that silly bundled Microsoft Xbox controller anymore). The Touch controllers are priced at $199 (which puts the total Rift package at the same price point as the HTC Vive, which included native controllers in its spring launch). Oculus will also release an additional sensor camera to improve positional tracking for room-scale experiences ($79), and $49 add-on ear buds to enhance the positional audio (not necessary, as the Rift has over-the-ear headphones built in – but audiophiles will relish the richness). All this hardware will be shipping in December… right in time for the holidays.
STANDALONE HEADSET: Oculus recognizes the need for a viable hardware tier in between (more accessible) mobile-powered devices and (more expensive) PC-powered devices, and announced their plans to provide a solution. Although just a prototype was available for only press to demo, the 3-minute demo experience looked smooth, and it felt surprisingly light (although admittedly not much battery, graphics, or computer power was needed for the very short demonstration). Wires are a buzzkill, and untethered virtual experiences are the future – so this wireless, mid-tier prototype is a definite step in the right direction.
SOCIAL INTEGRATIONS: Oculus Avatars is a new way to create your digital representation in virtual reality, with a vibrantly-colored steampunk aesthetic. Two more Oculus products are Rooms and Parties, which will provide virtual spaces in which you can hang out with friends, play games, and watch videos. Although just a demo at this point, Zuckerberg (or his avatar) showed off a cool future twist in an Oculus Room: he made a video call to his wife, who was beamed into the virtual space via Facebook Messenger on a traditional FaceTime-style tablet.
ALSO: Oculus announced partnerships with Disney (DISNEY!!!! aka intellectual property heaven) and Epic Games (focusing on the intersection of gaming, VR, and artificial intelligence); they also announced a $10M diversity fund (“so our future reflects our real world”).
In other news…
WHAT A DAY FOR A DAYDREAM…
Google has already been blazing a trail in the smartphone-based mobile space with Google Cardboard, and is continuing its drive to make the technology more accessible. Daydream is Google’s entire-pipeline solution, from hardware to software to content, and the first Daydream-ready hardware is here. The phone is called Pixel, and the headset is the Daydream View. The View is wireless and priced at $79, and initial reports say that it feels like wearing yoga pants on your face.
NYC startup LiveLike raised $5M to immerse you in the action of your favorite sports team. With former NBA commissioner David Stern as one of the investors, no doubt we’ll soon be able to get virtual courtside seats to watch King James dunk backwards.
Triple-A games are a big business, and Santa Monica-based First Contact Entertainment has raised $5M to bring that caliber of gaming to virtual reality. Working on its first release, a futuristic FPS in which you break the laws of physics, First Contact has an impressive roster of developer talent from Starbreeze, Blizzard, Treyarch, and Infinity Ward. The funding comes from an assortment of angels and early stage investors.
Moscow-based VR/AR game developer Luden.io has raised over $1M (65M rubles), saying its purpose is to “combine VR games with science to spread cognition via fun.” The funding comes from Sistema VC, which is a corporate venture fund from AFK Sistema – a major Russian conglomerate (with $161M) that targets global early-stage startups and focuses in Russia and surrounding regions.