For the past three years, Will Smith and Norman Chan have been playing the latest virtual reality demos and tracking the evolution of VR with their Tested.com reviews. Will was able to see Oculus’ Toybox demo at E3 this year, a multiplayer sandbox experience which showed off the company’s ‘Touch’ motion controllers. The Presence he felt with the controllers, combined with dynamic social interactions, convinced him to quit Tested to start his own VR company. Will isn’t talking about the specifics of his new venture just yet, but he alludes that it has something to do with telepresence communication as inspired by the interactions in Toybox.
Will talks about some of the big turning points in tracking the story of the consumer VR revolution starting with first seeing the Doom 3 Oculus Rift demo at PAX shortly after the Kickstarter was successfully funded and after the initial buzz from Carmack showing it off at E3 2012. He says that the Rift DK1 release was a huge turning point for developers, and then the amount of embodied Presence with hand tracked controllers with the Vive demo at GDC this year was another huge turning point.
Will says the thing about the Vive demo was that it opened up more verbs that are available to game developers and VR experience designers. While previous actions had to be abstracted out into a keystroke, button, or joystick movement, the hand tracked controllers allows us to move in a more intuitive and natural way that creates a sense of immersion that really fools more parts of our brain into believing in the reality of these virtual worlds.
Will talks about noticing how he backed up to avoid hitting his head on a virtual table that didn’t exist in real life, but his primitive brain still believed in the reality of it. With the addition of real-time interactions with another person in the Toybox demo, it increased the feeling of immersion and helped to convince him that virtual reality was a technology that was ready to make a game changer today, rather than a technology that could have an impact 5-10 years from now.
In terms of experiences that Will is looking forward to, he’s really interested in doing things that are either impossible, too dangerous, or too scary to do in real life. He’s also really interested in telepresence applications of VR, and sees that VR is going to fundamentally change the way that we communicate with each other. He’s looking forward to being able to spend time with his wife while he’s away traveling, and that this is one of the things that he’s working towards in his new venture.
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Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio