In what’s being widely called the “Year of VR”, GDC 2016 will be the first major battle in the War For Your Head. VR headset frontrunners Oculus and HTC/Valve are due to begin shipping the Rift and Vive in less than a month, with Sony’s PlayStation VR coming not far behind. Three headsets, three platforms, and each of them wanting to win the right to be worn by you.

GDC 2016, the world’s largest game developer conference, begins tomorrow. By all measures this will be the biggest year for VR at the conference. So big in fact, that the organizers of GDC have spun up VRDC, a sub-conference of sorts (of which Road to VR is the official partner) to contain the mass of VR content, running alongside GDC itself.

As the destination of the reveal of the Rift DK2, PlayStation VR (and predecessor Morpheus), and Vive DK1 over the years, GDC has been an important theater for the headset’s early skirmishes. With each of due to ship to consumers in just months or less, you can expect these companies to vye for ‘top of mind’ when it comes to VR headsets that will be ‘top of head’.

Here’s a preview of what we expect to see from Oculus, Sony, and HTC/Valve at GDC 2016.

Oculus Rift

oculus-rift-with-peripherals

Oculus planted their flag in the ground last year for a Q1 2016 shipment. The consumer Oculus Rift (often called the CV1), went up for pre-order in January and the first units are expected to ship to customers on March 28th (new orders are currently backlogged to July). With the Rift shipping at the end of the month, what more is there to learn? A lot, actually.

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'Oculus Home' Update Brings New Improvements, Social Features & More to All Users

Oculus Home for PC

There’s not much left that’s a mystery on the headset itself: we know what it looks like, how it feels, the resolution, and that it’ll have built-in (but removable) headphones, along with an IPD adjustment. What we know very little about, is what Oculus’ software platform will be like, and we expect to hear much more about it from Oculus at GDC 2016 this week.

oculus-home-featured-bg1

On Samsung’s Gear VR, which is powered by Oculus software, the company calls their VR platform Oculus Home. We expect the same name and style to carry over to the Rift. Oculus Home will be the in-VR hub for your Rift games, the Oculus store, and social features. We’ve seen glimpses of the Oculus Home launcher in action at prior events, but haven’t been able to dig into what the store integration will look like, nor have we seen any of the social functions like friends lists, communication, or multiplayer integration.

Rift Launch Preview (How Much Touch?)

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Oculus is holding an invite-only event today previewing a selection of games coming to the Rift. Info from this event is under embargo until Wednesday, so be sure to check back then to see what we’ve gleaned.

The big question for this game preview is: how much will Oculus emphasize Touch, their VR motion controllers which aren’t expected to ship until the second half of 2016?

oculus touch apple marketing
See Also: 3 Moves Oculus is Borrowing from Apple’s Marketing Playbook

Oculus is in a precarious situation with their headset launching, at minimum, several months before their motion controllers, while competitors Sony and HTC/Valve both have their controllers ready to go at launch.

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New Quest Ad Spot is One of Oculus' Best Yet

Because of these mismatched timelines, all of Oculus’ launch titles have to be compatible with the Xbox gamepad that the company is shipping with each headset. And while motion controllers are clearly the way forward for VR input, Oculus can’t be too aggressive about the fact that Touch is coming down the line, otherwise they risk putting the spotlight too heavily on titles that players won’t be able to play until Touch arrives, while offending the current crop of developers who have committed to gamepad support.

For this reason, I’m not expecting Oculus to announce a Touch launch date or price at GDC—that is unless they’ve managed to move the Touch launch date into early Q3, or have a surprisingly low price to tell us about that will give their complete headset+VR controller package a nice lead over HTC/Valve’s $800 Vive.

We may, however, get to see the evolved Touch design that Oculus teased back in January.

Continue Reading on Page 2 (Sony PlayStation VR)

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  • Simon Wood

    Regarding PSVR: The bundled/supported games will be the biggest motivation to buy. For me PS4 + PSVR + GT (with VR support) under $1000 would be mighty tempting.

  • CURTROCK

    A hella-good week for VR coming up! I’ll be keeping my browser pointed to R2VR for all da 411…. bring it!

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    Currently absolute winner is HTC vive for me as a developer.
    Rift and Samsung gear are ok but not that good, especially Gear you still stuck on an android OS which have only GL shaders and no directX support.
    Sony playstation no idea yet, but it runs on AMD hardware that also says enough….

    • The Sir

      It seems odd to mention wanting DirectX as a developer, the future is the Vulkan API (glNext), surely as a developer you are excited about this?

      Your remark about AMD hardware is an odd thing to say as a developer, considering compute cores are likely the future. Are you not excited about this also?

      PSVR will no doubt be the sales driver for VR, surely as a developer you are excited at the prospect of taking what is a niche market and making it as mainstream as possible (even if it will remain only a subset of all users)?

      • DougP

        Re: “AMD hardware is an odd thing to say as a developer, considering compute cores”
        I think you’re reading too much into what he wrote.
        Going from AMD to “compute cores” when he could be referring to video cards.

        • DiGiCT Ltd

          Exactly DoughP, Vulkan is still under development and cant do everything yet, also there are not much benches out yet for DirectX12 as most still run on DX11 or earlier.
          I refer to AMD as i been in there since their history, their major part was the time they got their athlon CPU launched for desktop computers, before they had their K series which where incompatible as hell in CPU instructions.
          Another thing which still exist with AMD is power consumption and life expectation time, heat is always a killer for electronic equipment, it reduces lifetime.
          Still AMD is cheap it also can perform well, but reliability is simply not there. Not sure at the end it will still be cheaper though, all depends on how long it runs before you need to replace it again.
          AMD also is ATI on graphic cards, just same story.
          It’s just about reliability, not cost or performance, as a little slower and longer life time matter more for me.

          • DougP

            It’s funny that similar to “console wars” or “PC vs Mac”, in the PC world there’s a LOT of fanboyism when it comes to “green/red” team.
            Personally, I don’t get nor go for any of that.
            I simply want the best, most compatible, for my money.
            Side note:
            I’ll also admit that when “all things are [near] equal” I’d actually choose the “under dog” to promote competition. As well I’ve chosen components based on manufacturers who were being anti-competitive/monopolistic.
            For example: I’m a big-time AMD supported, heck (I’m old!) even pre-AMD days I was supporting alternate (non-“Wintel”) CPUs. In more modern times, nearly all of my PC chips have been AMD, except for laptops where I had less choice in the past, and GPUs- mostly NVidia due to driver support & often better performance.
            [ Again, I’m an old-timer & used to work in high-end graphics, “true color” in PC days when Mac was still black&white. ANd 3DFx’s Voodoo isn’t relevant ]

            My ~10yr old quad-core AMD w/8Gb mem was holding up nicely (upgrade GPU years back to GTX607 OC).
            My new VR rig – CPU & GPU:
            Intel 5930K – overclocking (liquid cool) to 4.5+
            32Gb – 2666Mhz “Vengeance” mem (‘sposed easily clock @ 3ghz)
            2x SLI – 980Ti, 6Gb Extreme Amp!(Zotac)
            Only mentioning my hardware choices, to see what your thoughts are on this.
            My thinking was – about best bangbuck on GPUs.
            6core(12thread) CPU.
            So hoping/expecting that w/DX12 & new game engines, future utilizing more cores & compute coming back to being more important ( as writing more to GPU, cpu can become more of bottleneck ).

            Lastly – went 5930K vs 5820K…not for the clock/OC but for the PCI lanes.
            Realized with 2x SLI’d GPUs (16x * 2=32) & M.2 (4x) I’d not have enough lanes with 5820 or Skylake.
            Truth be told, as much as I’ve historically supported/owned AMD, I was concerned about heat (power consumption) & reliability (OC to within very safe/conservative range).
            Zotac’s are already stock OC’d so I’ll probably leave them at that.

            Also chose GPUs I did, as I’ll be driving a 4K monitor & projector & want 60FPS.

            Anyhow…sorry for the ramble, but just getting my parts in & very excited about building up the new rig.

            P.S. MANY years ago I used to write games. Was s/w developer for years, as well as 3D renderer/animator. So I’m excited about getting back into some 3D dev, if only for playing around *inside* the models using the Vive in room-scale. Sketchup, Unity, Unreal – “working” inside your model just sounds amazing to me.
            Exciting days ahead for VR!

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Same for me DoughP, also old guy already in it before even PC’s existed, funny yeah the 3dfx voodoo you mentioned, bouhgt out by NVidia.
            Similar stuff as you did i did too in the past, render servers, 3d design etc etc.
            I can clearly understand what you are trying to say, and on most points i can agree.
            The thing now is just that i use it for my business and not as end user , as all need to be planned on investment reliability is important, as financial you need to write equipment off within 3 years to play it safe as a business.
            An other thing not mentioned but will not be used for end users but in development we use it are NVidia design cards in the Quadro line, and design desktops using 2-4 Xeon CPU boards out performing all the stuff endusers use in their pc rig.
            There is better stuff to get but not cheap, it is more for high end development, so in general the battle is not there on high end usage, only on consumer equipment.

    • AuxPlumes

      Hello biased “Game Developper”, what games are you working on ? If you want to sell your game to the maximum of players, I suggest you to open your mind and aknowledge that people usually don’t have a lot of place to fool around with their VR HMDs. This is not a mature VR market, this is only the beginning, and you’ll have to stick with that.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        We are not just developing games for at home only, think about a new kinda arcade hall, more i can’t tell about it, as for the full potential of VR you are right ppl dont have the place for it in their home, so our solution would be a kinda arcade place where people can just enjoy it.

        • yag

          VR arcade is promising but when will the hardware be ready ? We need very robust headsets, controllers and stuff. Is there a company going into that ?

  • Sky Masterson

    The best thing about the poor bastards that impulsively ordered the rift is how they adamantly insist that it will support room scale.

    Palmer indicated it is “possible” for the Rift to emulate the Vive’s room scale. Possible meaning – we can’t do it now, had no plans to, but we underestimated the competition so we’re just making this shit up as we go along.

    I am a happy owner of HTC stock. Look at dat puppy go!!! Sure paid for my Vive… Many times over. Thank you Palmer for f’ing up your product and letting me buy the leading hardware developer for less than FB paid for your dumb-ass.

    All we need now is one big article in WSJ about HTC’s skyrocketing share price and how Oculus completely screwed the pooch and all of a sudden room scale is going to have a lot of developers.

    • aceofspadesfg

      Man I just realised I should have invested my money in HTC, I would have gotten a MASSIVE return if I had.

    • There is no question whether Oculus will support room scale. It will. It does. Many people have tried it. That’s what Crescent Bay was about. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether experiences created for room-scale Vive will be immediately available to Rift users through Steam without the need for a bunch of extra code. You’ve misconstrued Luckey Palmers’ comments.

      • DougP

        Re: “There is no question whether”
        The important question is which is better.
        At this point is seems near certain that the Vive’s is.
        Coverage of the entire room from all angles with information at the speed of light (emitters) w/the Vive….vs constellation sensor/camera system, issues with occlusion/losing tracking/lag.
        Developers have already commented on this.
        Sure, as an after-thought, Facebook’s gonna shoe-horn in a bit a room-scale type work, but the Vive will blow it away in performance & scalability.

        How many of the freaking stupid constellation camera/sensors are you gonna have to put around your room to get even the same coverage? The Rift is already USB cable hell compared to Vive’s 1-usb cord.

        Oculus missed the boat on this one, after getting in bed w/Facebook & whatever weird backend deal with Microsoft got in the way.

        Also….
        Re: “misconstrued Luckey Palmers’ comments”
        What’s NOT miscontruing Luckey (Luckey’s tale?) was when he used to be honest, mostly pre-Facebook sellout, and told people – “traditional controllers are crap for VR”. Facebook comes along, some weird Microsoft backend deal is made & voila – “VR is all about an old xbox controller!” ( you can’t see/track/etc & lack immersion )

        • He still feels the same way :)

        • It’s a matter of degrees. All accounts have Oculus’ room scale solution working very well. I can’t imagine anyone’s living room or den needing more than 2 cameras for coverage. Lighthouse’s true advantage is in large scale applications.

          I think their angle with the Xbox controller is about making casuals feel comfortable starting out, and encouraging developers to provide sit down experiences for beginners and those who lack 200sq ft of free space. On the flip side, their forthcoming Touch controllers have received nothing but acclaim.

          I really like both companies and hope they can together help create a healthy PC ecosystem. Steam certainly seems aimed at this collaboration. I see no need to bash one or the other, and no evidence that they don’t both present formidable experiences.

          • DougP

            Re: “those who lack 200sq ft of free space.”
            Keep in mind, the Vive works just fine as “sitting only”. Actually better, as out-of-the-box it can track 360-degree (think “swivel chair”) whereas the Rift will lose tracking & have occlusion w/using single camera/sensor.
            Also – the target *minimum* is “about the size of 2x yoga mats”.
            I honestly can’t imagine ANYONE living in a reasonable home/apartment NOT being able to clear that much space for “room scale”. Slide a coffee table or piece of furniture 1m away from an open space & you have it.

            Re: “hope they can together help create a healthy PC ecosystem”
            I’m worried about a healthy PC ecosystem with what Facebook’s been doing:
            1) paying for *exclusives*
            2) concerns of forcing you into “Oculus home” like they’re done w/GearVR (hate how it locks me out of Google Play)
            3) no support motion tracking in the package
            This last one is very problematic.
            It’ll hold back developers who want to create the most immersive experiences (your hands/arms “inside VR”, not feeling like you’re just watching a 360-degree monitor, but *prescene* within the scene!).
            So instead of ALL developers who want to jump on VR being able to target motion controllers (where sitting/standing or seated), they’ll lose a huge potential market share.
            It will hobble & fragment (& adversely affect!) devs wanting to support the Rift:
            a) lowest common denominator – seated & xbox contoller
            b) if write for their motion controllers (whenever they launch) can only sell to some small fragment of Rift users

            I just think that Facebook made some very bad decisions & it’s going to adversely affect the VR marketplace near-term.
            A lot of those decision probably stem from wanting to partner with MS & considering Valve & Steam their competition. Instead of playing along nicely with some standards for VR they’re gonna fight to take control from Valve’s Steam distribution system – sell through Oculus home or Windows Marketplace. That’s what this *battle* is really going to be able.

            And…again, like MS/Sony – Facebook’s already doing bad things with paying for exclusive titles, trying to “buy the market”.

          • The beginner Rift package supports 360 seated experiences. The back of the headset supplies information for the single camera.

            There is a significant problem with trying to provide experiences for both the minimum “2 yoga mats” recommendation in addition to the ideal, largely unreachable 15ft x 15ft spec. Kinetic has demonstrated this well. Either way, both experiences will be available to Rift users for a similar cost.

            I too find Oculus Home to be a bit of a constraint on Android; I just wish I could access a VR representation of my desktop or at least Cardboard somehow through Home. As long as Valve and Oculus continue to play nice on the majority of titles, I don’t see much a a problem on PC. Exclusives have always existed on consoles to little effect.

          • DougP

            Re: “The beginner Rift package supports 360 seated experiences.”
            What I meant by this was emphasizing that the beginner Rift only comes with a single camera/sensor.
            So if you’re using motion controllers ( or anything other add-on being tracked ) the front camera/sensor loses *sight* of it.
            Quite a few devs have complained about occlusion issues, so it seems that at least 1 additional camera/sensor will be required.

            Again – my preference is that they just include the fully functional system out-the-box, so that ALL games can support it.
            Devs won’t have to worry or limit themselves ( design choices ) developing for seated, mostly front facing, and a traditional xbox controller.
            I mean that Vive only costs $200 more & it comes with 2x lighthouse emitters, 2x motion controllers & still managed to include a front-facing camera. Another feature that I think people will wish they had is the camera – even seated, say taking a drink/eating, locating a peripheral,etc.

            Anyhow… it’s going to be an interesting year ahead.
            Very excited my Vive’s arriving in a few weeks!
            [ Note: I’m a “lucky one” & actually building/dedicating a room in my basement to VR. Putting a wall-bed in it as guest room, but will otherwise has ~15’x11′ for maximum “room scale” – for games that ‘scale up’ fully it’ll be interesting to see how that plays ]

    • bxrdj

      another genius on board …

  • VR Geek

    It is going to be a very interesting week for sure. I am certainly getting the feeling that Oculus may be in a bit of trouble here, but hoping not as I want to see all 3 deliver a solid experience and make VR happen once and for all. Let the games begin!

  • GabyS

    I wait for good news from GDC… Meanwile i show you my personal top vr headset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCMTS7F5ob8

  • Pistol Pete

    HTC Vive is winning for me as a consumer.