This year’s Oculus Connect brought us some really big news for the rising VR industry. Over two hours long keynote session with key executives from Facebook and Oculus covered everything from prices, release dates, new stuff brought into the VR, and more hardware and software news.
Mark Zuckeberg started the session strongly by announcing an upcoming standalone VR headset. This 2017 mainstream Rift headset will be affordable, and something in between medium and enthusiast gear but limited Gear VR. It will have position tracking, which is the biggest differentiator between mobile and desktop VR experiences right now outside graphic fidelity. The headset is only in a prototype phase, and there was no word on when to expect it to ship. In a way, one could say the company is working on getting ready for Microsoft’s Windows Holographic Edition, codenamed Redstone. This operating system will see the light of day in second quarter of 2017, when Intel is widely expected to release mainstream designs remotely based on Project Alloy.
Oculus also finally announced when we can get Oculus Touch. The launch date is set for December 6th for $199. The package will include an extra camera sensor for tracking, bringing the number to two. If you purchase the third sensor for $79, you get Oculus version of room-scale VR. The company will also sell in-ear headphones which can be swapped in for the existing on-ear headphones the Rift comes with.
Something new that we could see at this presentation is new social experience Facebook is designing. The company is making customizable avatars and hangout spots where you and your seven friends can hang out and play games, or enter other VR games as a party. Mark Zuckeberg starred in quite a catchy presentation. He switched places from Mars, bottom of the ocean, Facebook offices and more, he played chess, cards, made a phone call, took a VR selfie with his wife and more.
One of the biggest news is that Oculus will soon be able to work with a much cheaper PC’s. Brendan Irbe, the CRO of Oculus said that the biggest problem with Oculus and hardware is maintaining FPS rate. To fix FPS drops Oculus has developed two systems, Asynchronous Time Warp and Asynchronous Space Warp. These techniques, now baked into the Oculus firmware, create synthetic frames that can be used to keep the image smooth even when your hardware is struggling. Timewarp is used as a corrective, it steps in with a synthetic frame when your machine misses one. Spacewarp, on the other hand, can be used to lower the threshold for hardware that works well with Oculus. Iribe said the system allows a PC to run at 45 frames per second, half the ideal rate, with the other 45 frames being created synthetically. That shifts work from your PC to Oculus, allowing the system to work with cheaper PCs, and for the first time, with laptops. This systems will maintain FPS at 90, and help not only with better performance, but also in user problems such as nausea.
We saw a lot of cool things, such as designing your own avatar, Oculus’s new partnership with Disney for short films based on classical characters, the upcoming Blade Runner film, games and more. It is certain that VR is going in the right direction, and that in few more years we will have smaller hardware and better software that will run VR and AR that we couldn’t even imagine.
Check out our list of seven favorite games from Oculus Connect 3.