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VR vs. Shuffling The Deck (Part 1) – Pathfinder

Oh Oculus, I was so hoping to get through the rest of the year without having to do yet another article about the latest twists and turns of your company. It seems to have been a minor theme throughout 2016, as I’ve gamely attempted to point out some of the great work you’ve done and why everyone should get behind you despite your innate ability to constantly be upstaged or undermined often from within. I was happy to round of things for the year with your atypical fluff pieces that journalists put out saying how much 2016 had met or failed to meet expectations. Before I inevitably start telling you all what needs to happen in 2017.

I’m still going to do that of course, but any plans have kind of fallen by the wayside here and I thought I’d at least have a good moan about it before we getting on to the meat and potatoes of the whole thing.

So, if you’ve not been paying attention to the news it has been announced that Oculus’ CEO Brendan Iribe decided to step down from his role and instead will now be working on the company’s relatively new  internal department working on all matters PC VR. Iribe himself has cited a desire to, in effect, get his hands dirty again and be more involved with the nuts and bolts of the project.

Brendan Iribe

“You do your best work when you love what you’re working on. If that’s not the case, you need to make a change. With this new role, I can dive back into engineering and product development. That’s what gets me up every day, inspired to run to work.”

A brave move in my opinion. since in doing this Iribe is voluntarily giving up a big chunk of power within the company to go back to doing what makes him happy. But let’s not put aside that this also means Iribe does not have to explain the company’s direction, he’s not the one ultimately responsible (leaving Facebook and Zuckerberg out of the equation for a minute) and no longer has to explain actions of those within the company or have to validate its direction of it. Which after 2016’s trials and tribulations might well be considered a blessed relief for him.

It is still a vitally important role though, make no mistake. One of Oculus’ big problems is both the reality and the perception of needing very powerful PCs in order to run virtual reality (VR) hardware and software. The reality, is that yes VR-ready PC’s still need to become cheaper and more of an industry standard and that PC VR needs to become more accessible. And the perception, in that nothing has changed to address that matter since 2015, when in fact a great deal has changed. Cast your mind back to Oculus Connect 3 (OC3) earlier in the year.  Within a Rocky Balboa-style comeback of announcement counter-punching following a rough few months in the run-up to the event, Oculus revealed a reduced minimum specification and they had expanded the partners they were working with to make PC VR (including laptops) “more affordable than ever”.

This battleground is doubly important with the news of PlayStation VR’s sales success, a figure alleged to be nearly equal to or even greater than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive combined depending on who you listen to. Such a disparity in sales figures was always on the cards of course, with the hardware install base of the PlayStation 4.

As mentioned above, its not like Oculus isn’t working on changing both the perception and the reality of the situation for PC VR. In fact, they really should be getting a bit more credit for the work they have been doing. But it’s now up to Iribe to continue that work; He is now PC VR’s pathfinder. He must truly lead the charge in doing what is necessary to make VR-ready the norm as quickly as possible. Again, that’s something that will happen. It is an inevitability of time. But I hope we now hear from Iribe and the team on the matter more frequently than just at Oculus Connect.

You know Oculus needs to make this work? Maybe they should hire that really enthused guy who talked about the work that was being done at OC3. If I could only remember that guy’s name…

min spec oculus rift

No, it escapes me.