“Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so,” Douglas Adams once wrote, and it’s a fitting way to summarize how fast the last 12 months have felt since I was at Gamescom in 2013. Visiting the biggest games show in Europe again this year illustrates how far the VR industry has come in that year. VR hardware is still front and centre of course, but this year it’s all about the VR games.
Oculus VR, an Exhilarating and Brutal Year
The most extreme example of VR’s growth and rise to maturity is perhaps Oculus VR’s meteoric rise and frankly incredible 12 month journey since Gamescom 2013. In that time the company has metamorphosed from a promising startup into the force to be reckoned with the in VR space.
Highlights for Oculus over the last year include the reveal of their next generation headset, the Oculus Rift DK2, which addresses three of VR’s biggest challenges: latency, motion blur, and motion sickness. The Oculus Rift ‘Crystal Cove’ prototype debuted at CES 2014 in January, which lead to the announcement of the DK2 in March, and finally it shipping to developers just last month. But of course, the biggest event—Oculus’ acquisition by social media giant Facebook—meant their new era had begun, and their subsequent acceleration of hardware development and massive recruitment drive means they’re now positioned to develop the VR solutions that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey could only have dreamt of just three years ago.
I sat down at Gamescom this year with Luckey and Nate Mitchell, Oculus’ VP of Product, and asked them to describe in one word. “Exhilarating,” said Mitchell, “Brutal,” said Luckey before they both conceded both were appropriate. As ever generous with their time and open with their answers (except of course the ones they couldn’t answer), we talked about the DK2 launch—both the successes and the bumps.
Mitchell admitted that although the company had really the nailed DK2’s production and shipping, the updated SDK had more rough edges that they’d have liked. He also stated that the recently released Oculus SDK 0.4.1 beta is a noticeable improvement, but that this is still early days for DK2’s supporting software.
We talked in depth about Oculus Connect, their developer focussed event coming to Los Angeles, CA in September. Although exact details on precisely what would be discussed were closely guarded, Oculus are expecting around 1,200 developers at the event said that the majority of invites have now been sent. They also told me that the event would open with Luckey addressing attendees and “…a couple of interesting keynotes that people won’t want to miss.”
An intriguing snippet too: when questioned whether developers attending the event could expect to see more on Oculus’ work on VR input devices, Luckey responded “You’ll probably hear more about it, we’re gonna be talking about everything we’re doing at Connect”—whether that means VR input devices will be debuted at Connect, or even that they’ll begin to discuss details of the consumer version of the headset (CV1) is of course now open to wild speculation(.gif).
Catch the full interview with Mitchell and Luckey very soon.