Oculus VR is undoubtedly the first and most important name in the virtual reality (VR) industry. Never has this been more true than today, as the company hosted its first Oculus Connect developer conference and revealed the Crescent Bay prototype for the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). But by the company’s own admission, it wouldn’t be where it is today with out the help of some friends. One such friend is Half-Life developer Valve, which Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe labelled as a ‘major contributor’ in the VR space during his keynote at Oculus Connect today.
“While we were working on iterating with the Rift and getting the developer kit out, scrambling as fast we we could to ship you something, Michael Abrash, Atman Binstock and the Valve VR team were hard at work on R&D.” Iribe revealed “They were working on trying to solve the elephant in the room: motion sickness. In September 2013 Abrash called and said “Brendan, we have something I think you’re going to want to see.” When Abrash calls and says that, you go.”
Iribe continued, revealing that he flew to Valve’s headquarters as soon as possible to sample their VR work. There he saw the now-famous VR room, which has tracking markers posted across the walls, floor and ceiling pf ‘VR wallpaper’, which the developer claimed had eradicated motion sickness. He even explained his skepticism, given that both Iribe and Abrash are noted for their sensitivity to motion sickness. As the CEO put it: “Literally a few head turns and we’re out.”
“So they strapped on this kind of clunky 3D printed headset, circuit boards exposed, dangling wires, it was really reminiscent of Palmer’s prototype, but a little bit better; no hot glue or duct tape. Then came this game changing moment, a moment that I will absolutely never forget, when I knew VR was really going to work, and it was going to work for more than just enthusiasts and nerds like us, like me. It was going to work for the entire world. As I looked around, I felt great and I felt like I was there. All of a sudden this switch in the back of my head flipped. And instead of thinking ‘wow this is a really neat VR demo’, bam, I was in it and I believed I was there.”
Iribe explained that he even tried to convince himself that he wasn’t really there, sometimes taking the headset off to reassure himself. “I left the room feeling more motivated than ever. I left the room feeling good.”
Valve’s VR prototype has been seen since, although the company has always maintained that it will support the Oculus Rift instead of rivaling it. Of course, both Michael Abrash and Atman Binstock now work for Oculus VR itself. We may never see the HMD again, then, but at the very least VR fans can be thankful that its work led to work where Oculus VR currently finds itself. VRFocus will continue to follow any and all stories out of Oculus Connect, reporting back with the latest updates.