Speaking at the Ignite: Seattle event back in May, Joe Ludwig, Programmer at Valve Software (Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2) delivers a brief, irreverent summary of the history and current state of Virtual Reality.


Joe Ludwig, speaking at the Ignite, Seattle event on May 16th delivers a brief overview of VR as it stands with a tongue-in-cheek glance back in time to it’s origins. Despite it’s brevity, it’s quite a nice potted summary of where we are right now and how uncertain the future is given how new this technology.

Joe Ludwig has been the public face of VR at Valve ever since they announced they’re first public experiment with Virtual Reality and partnership with Oculus VR which resulted in Team Fortress 2: VR Mode being released back in March. Since then, Valve’s source engine based games have slowly received full, native Oculus Rift VR modes — including the legendary Half Life 2.

The Ignite Ethos

For those of you that don’t know, Ignite is an organisation specialising in organising  technology-based talks (a la TED), the twist is that anyone presenting has only 5 minutes to speak, with a maximum slide deck of 20 which rotate every 15 seconds. As a result, you get very little waffle in Ignite talks, this one being no exception.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Palantir

    Ludwig on several occassions talks about latency and getting sick in this video. Kevin Williams (former Disney VR guy that you have interviewed here) has also talked about this issue in various places, and that companies, especially oculus, should take a leadership role in funding research on this issue. So how much funding of research is Valve, Oculus, others doing in VR sickness? http://embedded.eecs.berkeley.edu/Respep/Research/weld/ilp/ilp97/szollar2.html This research says maybe there can be permament axon formation that causes brain damage from the VOR adaptation. I know that since Valve and Oculus care about their users, they are spending lots of money to fund research as Kevin William suggests to make sure no people are hurt with this new axon formation. Especially now that Oculus has gotten all that new funding. Another VR Pioneer, Jaron Lanier http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june13/lanier_06-17.html says in this video it is very unethical for these companies to take all our user input (that we give away for free and are not paid for) and then the companies use to make hardware and software that financially benefits them while basically “stealing” from us. I would value Valve’s and Oculus’s position on what Lanier says in that video. Is it wrong for them to profit off the potentially millions of pieces of information that the community gives to them in feedback in the way Lanier criticizes?

  • Brady

    I can’t speak to the health implications of VR, but intuitively it would make sense to be similar to home theater or gaming. I’ve experienced some motion sickness with it, but I also get that playing some FPS games on a large screen. I seem to be sensitive to FoV.

    As to the Lanier assertion, that is the dumbest thing I have seen all day (but it is early yet). Would it be better for companies to not take input from their customers? Companies in a marketplace are trying to satisfy a customer demand, and any communication that lets them do that better benefits the consumer. Oculus has no power whatever to force or coerce customers to try their products or give feedback. Something given freely cannot be stolen.

    • Palantir

      Bradley, I am trying to look at things from the perspective of 8 billion humans trying to peacefully coexist on this planet. This involves monetary systems, technology, social welfare, digital divides, etc etc The father of cybernetics Norbert Weiner said things were going to be very very bad in our time, that a capitalist system would eradicate billions of humans who no longer had “use.” as automation and robots and AI took over, http://anengineersaspect.blogspot.com/2011/07/nikola-tesla-mr-tesla-explains-why-he.html Nicola Tesla also said the present times could possibly see the destruction of billions of people. I think Lanier is simply echoing this larger Macro Issue, that the current “system” does not work for maybe billions of people on this planet, it is enriching a few people and hurting billions, this divide may lead to global war and destroy all of us. Perhaps the ideal situation would be what Lanier suggests, that some of the companies profits go back to the users who provided contructive feedback. I am not sure of the solution Bradley, but I would not call Lanier dumb because he sees a lot of people being disenfranchised with our modern world, and the great promise of digital worlds, internets, vr communities seems to maybe be helping a very small few while leaving a large majority out in the cold. The first satellite in space and the first man in space was off the communist system eh?

  • kevin williams

    I would just like to clarify my position – thank you for bringing me into to the discussion.

    I am a former Walt Disney Imagineer, who also oversaw a development at Disney VR Studio -wanted to make that clear to avoid Jessy coming round and kicking my chair :)

    My position is clear on a need for invested funding on VR usage monitoring. As Palantir stated, I had proposed that Oculus VR look at funding research, but understand that they are incredibly busy. But I was keen for some kind of census is retained data, so we have a historical reference. We created a lot of data on the Disney VR projects I worked on, though sadly this is retained within WDC and can not be shared.

    From my perspective, when working for Hughes Rediffusion (a commercial flight simulation company), we received regular eye-tests to evaluate any detrimental changes to our eyesight from using the collimated WIDE optics – this was still new technology and all aspects were being monitored. We seem not to care at this point, and I just wanted to look at redressing this situation.

    Regarding Jaron’s comments – there was at the time of Apples’ growth a complaint that so many hobbyists and friends had supplied so much to make the computer a success, but when a corporation Apple, they spent most of its time ‘controlling’ the ideas and data and retaining it exclusively, abandoning the community that originally supported them.

    I think it is a sad factor of all corporations, that though the most successful and populous may be born of community involvement, fundamentally they are machines to create profits for their investors, and will revert to a mega-corp-dictator approach no matter the initial intentions.

    • Palantir

      Kevin, I am concerned, when I see companies http://blog.hugoroy.eu/2012/10/10/some-facts-about-the-us-patent-system/ spend more on patent lawsuits than real research and development. Carmack has echoed similar comments about NASA and the NTRS debacle causing him great pain in his rocket research. I am hoping In Q Tel and Palantir types like Joe Lonsdale is associated with does not infect the VR future in a negative closed way. Always enjoy your unique perspective, can’t wait to read your book.