Road to VR is heading to Las Vegas to attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January, which is shaping up to be a Red Letter Day for Virtual Reality.
2014: The Year Virtual Reality Delivers on Its Promises?
‘Virtual reality is cool but it’s a fad and a gimmick.’ This was the general consensus as the abrupt resurgence of VR began with the appearance of the Oculus Rift just 18 months ago now. In that short space of time we’ve seen the creation of Oculus VR and its subsequent meteoric rise from plucky startup to $75M technology darling of the industry. In its wake, a plethora of companies who had seemingly been in stasis waiting for a sign that commercial virtual reality was finally viable, exploded in a shower of Kickstarters: Sixense STEM, Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip, Virtuix Omni, and a tidal wave of crowd funded games promising Oculus Rift support. Not to mention the rapidly maturing of the 3D / VR Driver arena – spearheaded by vorpX, Vireio Perception and DDD’s TriDef Beta. If this is a fad, it’s trying its hardest to pretend not to be. All of which points towards 2014 teetering on the edge of delivering the promises it failed to back in the 90s.
Will You Be There? We’d Love To Talk to You!
If you’re involved in virtual reality hardware, gaming, or its related technologies, and you’d like to talk to us, please get in touch at the email addresses, twitter, or Facebook accounts on our About Page and we’ll do our best to set something up. We’d love to hear from you.
Ben and Paul’s Excellent Vegas Adventure
We think 2014 will be a make or break year for VR, so we felt it was immensely important that we were there to report on it right from the start. So, Road to VR Executive Editor Ben Lang and I are heading to Vegas to cover the event from beginning to end.
CES has traditionally been one of the lynchpins in the Consumer Electronics and videogaming calendar. It has a rich history replete with legendary product announcements and first showings and is attended by the world’s industry heavyweights and press. Held in the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center, the show kicks off with a press-only day Monday January 6th with the show proper between 7th–10th.
In truth, we don’t really know what to expect, but we can make some educated guesses at what me might see over the course of the show:
Oculus VR, DK2 and the Mysterious Prototype
We’ve been bombarded with snippets of social media reaction to Oculus VR’s mysterious cutting-edge prototype, apparently demonstrated to a handful of lucky and ecstatic developers and industry veterans. We think the chances of seeing that particular device may be slim, but the persistent rumours surrounding the existence of a 2nd Developer Kit (DK2) with a closer relationship to the final consumer edition, higher resolution screen and positional tracking refuse to die. Quite what Palmer and Co. have in store for us is anyone’s guess, but whatever it is we’ll be there to find out.
It’s been a hell of a year for Virtuix, from their enormously successful Kickstarter campaign to touring the world to their recent appearance on Shark Tank. We expect to see the latest revision of their Omni prototype with improved tracking technology, as discussed with Ben Lang back at Engadget: Expand in November. Virtuix are no longer alone in the Omnidirectional Treadmill market however, with Cyberith’s Virtualiser gaining much credibility and admiration recently with their unique answer to the question “How do you walk through a virtual world?”.
Avegant and Their New Glyph Prototype
At Engadget Expand 2013, Ben was extremely impressed with the startling image quality produced by the then early prototypes of Avegant’s ‘virtual retinal display’ technology. This dual DLP chip based solution was recently given its official name as Avegant released details of what their latest prototypes might look like—the Glyph looks an extremely enticing bit of kit. Currently targeting the portable entertainment market rather than Virtual Reality (yet), with just a 45 Degree field of view, the Glyph’s design alone is worthy of attention. Recent pictures tweeted by Avegant’s CTO Allen Evans of a working prototype mean we’re now hoping to get our hands on the new design for a closer look at CES.
Despite a strong start, YEI failed to reach its Kickstarter campaign target recently. Their technically impressive and ambitious PrioVR consumer motion tracking solution is still unrivaled in its scope. Nevertheless, YEI have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and are heading to CES, we hope to catch up with the team and discuss their thoughts on 2013 and what they have planned in 2014.
Sixense and Their STEM System
And of course, one of the more successful Kickstarter campaigns of 2013 was Sixense’s spiritual successor to the Razer Hydra controller, the STEM positional tracking system. Opting for a neat modular design, the system is essentially giving developers and enthusiasts an open invitation to innovate with precision spatial tracking in games and applications. More than that though, the STEM units themselves are small enough to be incorporated in other, 3rd party controller vessels. We’re hoping to have or first play with the system and with any luck the latest prototypes might be on hand to use.
Alongside all that, I’m personally very much looking forward to going eyes-on with the glut of new ultra high resolution and high density display technologies which could ultimately inform the direction of consumer headsets in 2014 and beyond. High Density 4k displays are already beginning to appear and now 8k (some would argue actually ‘4K’ due to horizontal resolution). The shrinking of these displays may hold the key to displays that unlock photorealistic capabilities for the new generation of Virtual Reality HMDs. Pure pixel density and resolution aside, OLED is finally poised to deliver on its promise as the successor to LCD with a glut of OLED displays on show from the big manufacturers. OLED is interesting due to its versatility and its unique VR friendly properties—namely the possibility to non uniform display shapes (curved displays) and its extremely fast pixel switching time—ideal for ghost-free, low latency displays vital for realistic virtual reality.
CES 2014 is sure to be filled with surprises and we look forward to bringing you the latest coverage direct from the show floor. See you in Vegas!