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VR vs. GDC 2015

If you take a look back at any of VRFocus’ pre-event ‘VR vs.’ articles from the past year, you’ll likely note a sense of tempering expectations. It would be all too easy to get carried away every time an E3 or Gamescom rolls around and speculate on the reveal of highly anticipated information such as details on the consumer version of the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) or an update on Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) Project Morpheus HMD. But such information was realistically – and evidently – out of reach in 2014. Now in 2015 solid news on the arrival of true consumer virtual reality (VR) seems closer than ever, and it might be time to pick those expectations up. That starts with the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC).

ProjectMorpheus_1

Taking place from 2nd – 6th March 2015, GDC marks a year since what was arguably the most significant week in VR’s history so far. GDC 2014 played host to the reveal of the second development kit (DK2) for the Oculus Rift, a huge leap forward to the technology that now populates the studios of many a VR developer. It also served as the debut of Project Morpheus, a promising HMD that many PlayStation 4 owners are eagerly awaiting news on. A year on, could these HMDs have their next big updates to share?

It certainly seems like that will be the case for Project Morpheus at the very least. SCE has spent the last few weeks quietly scheduling VR-related sessions for developers to attend throughout the event and last week revealed that it will be hosting a four-hour show for the kit on 3rd March. There’s still plenty of things to learn about Project Morpheus; its real name being just one of them.

Introduced as a prototype at GDC 2014, the device was strikingly similar to the Oculus Rift DK2, a HMD that has since been improved upon by Oculus VR itself with the Crescent Bay prototype. With that in mind, it might be time to see an updated version of Project Morpheus itself, possibly improving upon the original’s 1080p LCD display or perhaps adding in integrated audio as seen with Crescent Bay. Fans would also welcome some new videogame announcements, perhaps including some of the titles that VRFocus has speculated will be announced for the system in the near future.

That said, it’s easy to forget that GDC isn’t a consumer-focused show and that SCE will need to save some announcements for the likes of E3 in June. To that end, perhaps solid release details such as dates and prices would be best left for later in the year.

CrescentBay_1

In terms of Oculus VR, it’s a little harder to predict what the company might bring to the show. The Oculus Rift has already had a busy two months with the reveal of HRTF audio at CES 2015 and the announcement of Oculus Story Studio at the Sundance Film Festival. Teases of news of the consumer version of the kit have been dotted throughout interviews held at these events, although the company still remains tight-lipped on a possible reveal date. The company has said it will have the ‘latest prototypes’ to showcase at the event but, with Crescent Bay only just starting to settle in as the new standard for VR HMDs, will we really see an updated device so soon? It’s certainly possible and would be more than welcome, but the company will have plenty of chances to reveal the consumer kit in 2015, it might not necessarily be here.

Of course, the Oculus Rift isn’t all that Oculus VR is planning to show off at GDC 2015. The company will also continue to highlight its Gear VR, the smartphone-based HMD that was created and recently released in partnership with Samsung. It’s interesting to note that on 1st March, the day before GDC kicks off, Samsung will be hosting its own Unpacked event in which it will reveal the next iteration in its Galaxy series of smartphones. VRFocus has learned that Gear VR will be seeing a new version that supports this handset, and with both GDC and Mobile World Congress (MWC) running in the week following the event, this would be a perfect time to debut such a device.

And then there’s Valve, a company that only recently announced that it will be showcasing a new VR HMD at the show this year, labelled SteamVR. This is a hugely exciting prospect for VR fans that will know that Valve’s previous work in VR was hugely influential to Oculus VR itself. It was thought that the Half-Life developers wouldn’t be gunning for the consumer market with its tech, but that could all change. Will Valve change the game once more at GDC 2015?

Finally, there’s Microsoft. The company is very much a contender in the HMD space now that it’s revealed its HoloLens device, which allows users to interact with holograms. HoloLens is easily the most mysterious HMD right now, with only one showing under its belt. While the device will feature at Microsoft’s upcoming Build developer conference in April there’s also big hopes for a large GDC showing that will further demonstrate the potential of this intriguing kit.  It would certainly be interesting to see it pitted more directly against both the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus next week.

Hololens Apps

All of the above is only considering the major HMD manufacturers. A huge number of VR videogames and sessions will also be featuring throughout the week. VRFocus is going to be at GDC bringing you all of the latest coverage. Expect news, previews, interviews and much more from the show as it happens.