While Oculus Rift’s first anniversary tended to focus on that achievement, actual high-end virtual reality (VR) in the marketplace for 12 months, alongside lessons learnt about what VR is, how it works and what can be achieved, the second year is very different. Year two is about change, adaption if you will. Changes not only to the marketplace but the industry as a whole, attitudes to VR are evolving, and what people actually want to gain from the technology.
Diversity is a big goal, whether it’s through initiatives like VR for Good or VRFocus’ own VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI), companies like Oculus not only want more people involved in VR they really need them to be from a wide range of backgrounds. This can have lots of benefits, from helping individuals to whole communities, yet on a videogame level this mixture encourages originality of ideas, avoiding repetition and stagnation as various cultures, experiences and desires combine.
Yet change comes in many forms, and while the Oculus Rift has served its time well – likely to do so for a little longer – The continual march of technology will leave it behind eventually. And it’s to standalone devices that Oculus is turning to next with the Oculus Go, an all-in-one headset with no wires, a 3DoF controller, and no need for a smartphone. The bet is to make VR more accessible and user friendly, so you don’t need the right smartphone and a compatible headset, you don’t need an expensive PC and a dedicated area in your living room. Just a head-mounted display with clean lines and everything built in. Demoed for the first time in public at the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018 the Oculus Go impressed VRFocus with its quality screen and comfortable fit.
Oculus Go is due out this Spring yet it’s not the only headset the company has in development. There’s also Santa Cruz, another standalone unit with a few more features than Oculus Go. The main one being inside-out tracking, a technology enabling the user to avoid bumping into real world objects. Rival HTC has already deployed its version Vive Focus, and Lenovo along with Google have created the Lenovo Mirage Solo. Oculus has some catching up to do with it most likely to reveal further plans at Oculus Connect later in the year.
The advancement of headset technology is obviously very important for the industry as a whole, yet within that there are many facets to consider, audio, visuals, interaction, duration, comfort. All of which need to be addressed to make VR more appealing to the masses. Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg showcased a rare sneak peek behind the doors of Oculus Research, revealing work on some VR gloves.
What will happen in the next year, two years, five years is unknown, with the VR buzz of 2016 definitely dying down somewhat. With Ready Player One due to arrive in theatres this week maybe all that’s needed is a Hollywood blockbuster helmed by Steven Spielberg to ignite public interest in this technology.