Another world

22 Jul 2014
“Today I finally got to see the virtual reality demo at Valve Software. And it completely blew me away. … In this demo, unlike all the others I have seen, a threshold has been crossed, and I have seen another world.”

Ken Perlin

Virtual Disney Worlds

12 Jul 2014
“One of the most exciting developments I see on the horizon is technology that will immerse us into entertaining worlds, or project those worlds and experiences into our lives. In essence, entertainment will be immeasurably enhanced with both virtual-reality experiences and augmented-reality experiences. Bringing us into created worlds and bringing created worlds into our world will fundamentally explode the boundaries of storytelling, unburdening the storyteller in ways we can't yet imagine.”

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney

Enormous change

8 Jul 2014
“We’re on the brink of a simply enormous change in visual communication.”

—Sir David Attenborough, working on virtual reality storytelling at Alchemy VR

“We’re talking about a massive revolution in storytelling and in content. It’s going to happen very quickly.”

Phil Harper, Alchemy VR’s creative director

The next television

7 Jul 2014
“I’m telling you: Cinematic VR will change everything. This technology represents a paradigm shift in entertainment and communications as significant as the radio or television.”

Anthony Shore

“VR hardware will get better, and better, and suddenly I looked at the limited little rectangle of my videos and saw something soon to be archaic, an arbitrary shape chosen by technological convenience rather than anything fundamentally meaningful to the human experience, and I saw VR as the platform for video, for social media, for the entire internet.”

Vi Hart, creating a VR-first video platform

“When you put on Oculus and get into VR and get that sense of presence, people are just streaming with ideas when they come out of it. They’re dreaming about these things. That’s why I think this will be the most powerful platform of all time. Everyone has an idea for it.”

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR

“Virtual reality — I mean truly accurate, comfortable virtual reality — is the most important thing to happen to interactive entertainment in decades. I know it sounds like exaggeration, but it’s impossible to explain what this is like to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. Your brain is convinced that you are somewhere else, that you are in another world. I have worked my entire career to get to this moment, to create something like this.”

Paul Bettner, creator of Lucky’s Tale (a game you will know soon)

I’m continually amazed by the ever growing number of people-in-the-know saying things like this, because it foretells a most amazing future, and it’s just around the corner.

SVVR Con

23 May 2014

It’s all in the headline description for the SVVR Conference: the world’s first professional conference for consumer virtual reality. A conference that gathered many of the key players in what is the rapid creation of a new industry, taking the first steps to explore the vast possibilities of virtual reality. The building of the foundation of the future is beginning.

Impact coming soon

14 May 2014
“Since visiting the Oculus VR team at their office three months ago, I've come to believe that immersive computing (aka virtual reality) is poised to rival the personal computer, the web, social networking, and mobile devices in its impact.”

—Tom Preston-Werner, cofounder of Github

Future experience

12 May 2014

I’m liking this whole Silicon Valley thing. Where else can you go to a meetup and see the future first hand on a monthly basis?

The latest future vision: Jaunt VR and their 360 camera that crucially can reconstruct depth info to give a powerful sense of being there. It’s impressive and like so much that is happening, coming soon, to a HMD near you.

Old VR

2 May 2014

I had the opportunity recently to visit the VR lab at Stanford. (The same one Mark Zuckerberg tried out while evaluating VR prior to buying Oculus.) This is what I got to try out:

It's a $40,000 headset paired with a custom room that allows positional tracking Up until very recently was the state-of-the-art in VR. And soon to be utterly obsoleted by consumer VR devices at 1/100th the cost, and an enormously better experience. Technology trends at work.

photography 3.0

23 Apr 2014
“You’ve got photography, which is all digital now. And then you’ve got computer graphics, which brings incredible capability and gives people incredible power to create. And then virtual reality, this whole 3D space. Those three are going to collide, and where they collide is exactly where Lytro is sitting right now.”

Azmat Ali, Lytro

GDC

24 Mar 2014

My first Game Developers Conference did not disappoint. Oculus revealing their latest development kit (DK2) and Sony entering the ring with their intriguing Project Morpheus are another few steps on the road to VR being a reality.

Available now for preorder, delivery in July. Can’t wait to get my hands on what will set a new bar for quality VR.

Game of Thrones VR

16 Mar 2014

Amazing experience at the Game of Thrones Experience exhibiting at SXSW this year. Being a fan of the show not required (but it helps. Great usage of the number one).

The setup: the Oculus Rift (DK1) headset, headphones, a physical cage matching the virtual cage of a setting from the show, which was able to shake and had fans to simulate the wind/cold.

The result: an immersive journey to The Wall of the North, and the knowledge that this mixing of virtual reality with a physical area that can provide haptic feedback will be a big thing. I can't wait.

Crystal Cove sim

7 Mar 2014

One of the features of the Oculus ‘Crystal Cove’ prototype revealed at CES was the long-promised positional tracking, via an external camera an LEDs on the headset. It’s important for reducing simulator sickness as it allows a more 1:1 tracking of your motion. But more critically such tracking allows new gameplay and experience opportunities; peering around corners, inspecting objects and the world as naturally as you do in real life. Want to look at something a bit more closely? Move your head.

Working on my theme of trying to understand via making things what is coming and building with that future in mind, I’ve produced a first pass at a demo of positional tracking, ala Crystal Cove.

The demo uses your webcam to track your head, allowing 4 degrees of motion tracking. This if reflected in a scene of the Crystal Cove prototype (thanks Chris!) and a view of what the IR-filtered camera sees. Shy of the 6 needed to fully track the motion (currently).

What is it good for specifically? If extended you could use the simulated IR camera data to develop and test tracking algorithms, comparing to a ‘true’ data, such as the webcam head tracking. So, engineering.

Another possibility is for marketing. While an in-person demo might be the ideal way to showcase the Rift to consumers there are other contexts such as the web in which it could be valuable to demonstrate the various functional aspects of the technology, interactively.

But of course the main goal would be actual in-game usage of positional tracking. A very basic demo, Fifa VR, demonstrates being able to lean in to get a better view, move one's head up and down to change ones perspective. Positional tracking opens up a ton of interesting possibilities.

More to come on a fuller native (Unity) tracking solution, no DK2 needed.

The year is 2014

17 Feb 2014

There’s been some recent discussion of when the consumer Rift will come out, largely brought upon by Steam Dev Days within two years remarks. The pessimism is not warranted.

“2014 is going to be a big year for VR.” Oculus VP Nate Mitchell

Which CEO Brendan Iribe confirmed. It's hard to have a big year if nothing comes out.

What else is there to go on besides some admittedly vague statements? For one they’ve repeatedly said they intend to under promise and over deliver, a late timeline wouldn’t help that intention. But briefly there are a few more considerations:

  • existence of large studios committing significant resources with deadlines in 2014, which would not be the case with an unknown launch date period
  • not-so-subtle hints from industry veterans
  • an experienced startup mentality of knowing the real need to ship, without getting caught in traps such as always increasing the scope (too much) to make it better, knowing when it’s good enough
  • competition: this is a competitive landscape where even those slow to the realization of the potential will eventually make a strong play making the clock run down to be first to market with an outstanding product, which must is the strategic goal for VR

What does a 2014 introduction of VR to the masses mean for 2014? A more intriguing question that I will address. It’s not easy to understand the scale of the impact, only easy to underestimate it.