Oculus VR is currently hosting its first ever pre-E3 press event, and while we were hoping for a custom controller to accompany the Rift Virtual Reality Headset, the team has instead revealed an impressive collaboration with Microsoft.
The first part of this means you’ll get a free Xbox One controller to go with your snazzy new headset – Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe describes the Xbox One controller as “one of the best in the world”, so it seems an ideal pairing.
…and the second? The Rift headset will work seamlessly with Windows 10 straight out of the box.
But it’s probably the third that is most exciting: You’ll be able to seamlessly stream your Xbox One games onto your Rift and see things displayed directly on your headset.
At today’s inaugural event, Iribe took the stage first up, stating that it had been three years since the initial Kickstarter for the Rift VR Headset, before using a giant 3D generated Tyrannosaurus Rex to show off the official consumer version of the hardware.
“With this device, you’re going to be finally able to teleport to other worlds,” he promised.
Wearing a black hoodie over a buttoned white shirt (of course), Iribe explained that after years of trying to tell your brain that what you’re seeing on TV “is real”, now you’ll have to start reassuring yourself that it’s “just a game”.
We’re promised twin OLED displays, “maybe not quite as high a resolution as you’ll one day want,” he laughs – and a new “constellation” tracking system.
This is also the first time we’ve been shown the sensor – which looks almost like an on-desk microphone, very small and sleek. It’s been designed to blend in and disappear once it’s placed on your desk (or your living room set up).
The Rift headset also features its own built-in audio system, that the team is “incredibly proud of”. They look fairly standard, but Iribe promises they provide serious spacial effects that work perfectly with the VR. They can also be removed quickly and easily, in case you want to wear your own particular headset.
Also, the headset (perhaps unlike earlier dev kits) is now “incredibly light” – an ergonomically-designed strap system has improved the balance of the device, so it’s as comfortable as wearing a pair of glasses. If you’ve been told previously to “put it on like a pair of ski goggles”, you can forget that – the new phrase is “just like a baseball cap”.
Inter-pupillary distance (ie: the space between your pupils) can be adjusted quickly and easily via a built-in slider – and Iribe is very happy to point out that it’s now more comfortable for those of us who wear glasses while gaming.
But of course, people want to know about the games. Oculus first-party developer bossman Jason Rubin (also co-founder of Naughty Dog) has shown off some of the new titles that are coming natively to the Rift hardware, including – of course – EVE Valkyrie, shown off by CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar. It’s difficult to tell just how good this will look in VR, but looking at it on the big screen really is awful pretty (if a little motion-sickness inducing).
David Adams is CEO and founder of Gunfire Games, who was there to show off new game Chronos – an “atmospheric RPG” that takes the concept of aging into video games. Rather than trying to achieve beautiful, lifelike graphics, it looks like Gunfire has gone for a more stylised, cartoonish approach, which is refreshing (and again – awful pretty).
…but they’re not the only two studios involved in Oculus – Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price also took the stage to introduce Edge of Nowhere, which has a bit of a Lara Croft voiceover. The game has been 100% designed for VR, with Price explaining that it wasn’t something the studio had thought up in advance and then shifted over to the new hardware. It will be on show at E3 next week, alongside other titles including my personal favourite, Lucky’s Tale.
Anna Sweet is a programmer (and blames Ultima Online for her addiction). She’s head of developer strategy at Oculus, and discussed how the new hardware works with Unity and Unreal engines, “right out of the box”.
Sweet was very pleased to confirm that Oculus is investing more than US$10m to “accelerate independent game development”, to see what can be made with the Rift – and we’re looking forward to seeing where this goes!
VP of product Nate Mitchell also stepped up to introduce “Oculus Home”, the new, unified dashboard that provides the “perfect jumping-off point” for playing games. You access it while wearing the Rift headset – which means you can check out VR games before you buy them, rather than relying on 2D representations. (There is also a 2D implementation that accesses the store and a few other features, in case you don’t want to be in front of the machine all the time.)
Finally, company founder Palmer Luckey (wearing a shirt I’d quite like to steal), explains that the Xbox One controller is a “key part” of the current Oculus Rift experience… but that this will change. When the hardware launches next year, that’s what you’ll get, but afterwards…
Oculus Touch is a pair of tracked wireless controllers (one for each hand) designed to “take VR to the next level”. It’s like if someone split a gamepad in half and gave a joystick/d-pad to each hand. Currently in a prototype stage called “Half-moon”, these lightweight, ergonomic controllers provide hand presence (thanks to multiple tracking points on each hand using the same technology as the headset), as well as manipulation and a “low mental load” (ie: they’re easy to use). Communicative gestures are possible, “like pointing or giving a thumbs up”, but there are also two buttons, a standard trigger (and a new VR trigger), and an analogue stick to provide more traditional inputs.
Plus, getting really futuristic now, the Half-moon controllers will “recognise standard hand positions” – so it can tell if you are pointing, giving a thumbs-up, or performing a number of other pre-determined actions. It’s not quite at the virtual-reality glove space we’ve all dreamed of, but as an early step, this is a big one.
…as this is a pre-E3 press conference, obviously the focus is on what will be shown off at the convention next week… so let’s see what we can get our hands on from the show floor!