Last week I attended the 5th Oculus Connect Conference held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. This two-day conference is held annually during the fall, which showcases the new virtual reality technology from Oculus. It was my second time attending, and it felt even better than the last one.
During the Keynote address, Zuckerberg announced a wireless headset that doesn’t need a cell phone, and an external computer. The Quest, a standalone headset with 6 degrees of freedom, touch controllers and is a potential game-changer for the VR industry. If you are familiar with the Rift and the Oculus Go, the Quest would be a marriage of the two. The Quest is scheduled to come out this spring and will be $399, and a lot of the Rift titles will be available on the Quest. While unfortunately, I was not able to try it, the feedback that I heard from others was positive. The tetherless aspect of the headset creates a more immersive experience and doesn’t feel confined. While the graphics capabilities of the headset are not as high as the Rift, they are good enough and don’t hinder the experience. Plus the optics, as well as the sound, have improved from the Oculus Go. On the downside, the Quest is reportedly top heavy and a denser headset than the Go, which I find the Go to be more substantial than the lightweight Rift. Since the Quest has four inside out cameras on the front of you, if you move the controllers behind you, you could potentially lose tracking. Hopefully, they will make these adjustments before it launches in the spring and add tracking on the strap. I can see much potential with the Quest, such as eSports, education, businesses, medical, engineering, set design; the list goes on. The possibilities are endless, and for the price point, it could substantially increase VR users. Considering that the Quest will be the price of most gaming consoles, without the need of television or home set up.
Walking around the conference was lovely, I felt like a kid in a candy store seeing people putting their full body into the Quest. The well-orchestrated design layouts and theme of the different experiences were terrific. It was a pleasure hearing eSports commentary and cheers as competitors go head to head playing Echo Arena and Onward. Seeing the VR community connect, share laughs, smile, and have a good time, warmed my heart. I enjoyed watching people play the Dead & Buried Quest experience in a large arena and seeing their digital avatars battle each other on screen. I can see more VR arenas being built specifically for the Quest, kind of like skate parks, or soccer parks, but with a sports stadium vibe.
While I was at the conference, I tried a few experiences like The Void - Star Wars Secrets of the Empire, which is a full sensory VR experience. You are an undercover Rebel fighter disguised as a Stormtrooper, as a user you get to interact with your teammates fully, feel, and smell the environment around you. It was a fantastic experience, and I would encourage others to try it at one of the nine locations.
Another experience I tried was the Wolves in the Walls a VR adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book and created by the company Fable. The audience explores parts of Lucy’s house to try and find hidden wolves in the walls. It was a more intimate experience, and Lucy’s performance felt pretty lifelike. The environments and character designs were beautifully portrayed. Overall it was an enjoyable VR experience.
I also played a multiplayer combat experience called Conjure Strike by The Strike Team. It's an engaging multiplayer experience, which you can play as a different rock like characters that have different classes like an Elementalist, Mage Hunter, Earth Warden and more. The multiplayer session I had played was similar to capture the flag game. One player has to push a box toward the other side while the opposing player stops the player. It was a fun experience similar to that of Overwatch but in VR. The multiplayer mechanics were excellent, but some of the controls felt foreign to me. Overall it's an engaging game that seems like it would be popular amongst most VR users.
While I didn't get to play as many demos as I would have liked, I enjoyed the ones I experienced, especially The Void. It was the most immersive experience I tried, the few things I would change is to update the headset and enhance the outside temperature and wind strength.
I'm looking forward to more development put towards, the Quest and I'm optimistic about the future of VR. As a team member at The Danse, I am excited to work on projects utilizing immersive technology such as virtual & augmented reality. Also, to work in an industry, the is ever changing and improving. It’s nice coming back to the Oculus Connect Conference and see the community excited about the future of VR.
- Kathryn Hicks
Loved seeing our clients at ACFAS in Nashville this year! It was great seeing our work all over the booths as well! :)
Myth: VR is just for gaming
The truth is, many industries are seeing very useful, practical applications for virtual reality in training, education, marketing, and visualization. Surgeons are being trained using it, the travel industry is using it to entice would-be vacationers amazing locations, and architects are using it to walk through building ideas without even a foundation being poured in real life! These are just a few of the super cool things being done in VR now, and the industry is just getting off the ground. It’s very exciting to think about what we’ll be doing with this technology in the years to come.
Myth: VR is just another passing fad
This just isn’t so. While the growth of this industry is a bit slower than predicted, it is indeed growing.Major game companies are putting serious effort into creating games and hardware specifically for VR. Additionally, various industries are seeing the great potential in what VR can offer, and are deeply investing in R&D as well as full-blown implementation.
Myth: VR is expensive and unobtainable
On the consumer side, just about everyone who would be interested in VR has a smartphone. For less than $20, anyone can pick up a quality Google Cardboard headset and slide their iPhone or Android device right in, download any of the great apps available, and be in VR.
On the enterprise side, Google Cardboard can also be used. Additionally, fully immersive setups with beefier graphics and control options can be implemented for as little as $2,000-$3,000 per workstation. This includes VR-ready PC, controllers, and the HMD (head-mounted display). Software will be an additional cost, but when compared to traditional simulators and other methods of content delivery, there can be significant savings when going with VR.
Myth: VR will turn us all into couch potato zombies
This is far from the truth. The best VR experiences, both in gaming and in enterprise applications are the ones that take advantage of full body immersion- Cycling applications that use actual stationary bikes, training simulations that let you actually walk through environments and perform tasks with your hands, or games that let you become sword-swinging hero battling your enemies.
Myth: VR has major motion sickness-causing issues
While it’s true that there are a small group of people that are hyper-sensitive to immersive environments, the hardware technology and software techniques have come a long way in the last couple of years. Quality head-tracking, higher frame rates for content, and various development techniques are why we’re seeing very little queasiness now. If you’d had a bad experience with VR in the earlier development days, it might be worth giving the newest technology another look.
Myth: 360 video is VR
The difference between the 2 is the level of immersion. In a true virtual reality experience, you are fully immersed in the experience using an HMD (head-mounted display), and not viewing the experience on a screen (as you are with a 360 video).
Myth: AR and VR are the same thing
AR (augmented reality) is not fully immersive. With AR, you are enhancing or augmenting your real life environment. Digital content is layered over real life. An example of this would be you looking at your car engine with digital directions for how to change the oil is layered on top of it.
Virtual reality replaces your real life environment. In real life, you may be sitting in your living room, but when you put on the HMD (head-mounted display) you are suddenly on a space ship or in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest.
Myth: VR is a recently developed technology
In actuality, the concept of VR has been around for decades. The actual term “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier in 1987, but there are cases of the technology being used as early as the 1960s. Ivan Sutherland has been credited by many as the first person to develop a virtual reality head-mounted display system. It was called The Sword of Damocles and was created in 1968. Another VR pioneer, Morton Heilig, created one of the earliest-known multi-sensory machines, known as the Sensorama, in 1962.
Myth: VR is only for tech-savvy people
VR is for anyone! It’s useful in job skills training, classroom education, experiencing new places, gaming, and so many other great applications. To use VR software, (in most cases) you just need to be able to follow simple instructions for setting up the hardware. You also need to be able to perform simple tasks on a computer or smartphone (as simple as checking email or navigating a webpage). To experience great content that developers have already produced, you don’t need any special technology or coding skills at all! There’s nothing to be nervous about!
This has been one of the funnest projects we've ever had the opportunity to work on. It definitely got us in shape too! In fact, Nick, our lead developer owes his ability to shred the slopes in Colorado last winter to this game!
The game is designed to deliver workouts to K-12 students in schools. These workouts consist of various exercises (lunges, squats, jabs, and many others), a trail run, and even an obstacle course in which kids have to run, jump, punch, and kick their way to the finish line! The game can support up to 6 players at a time, so there is bound to be some healthy competition between the little athletes!
Paired with a robust LMS, teachers will be able to track progress over time and determine how quickly they're able to ramp up difficulty and further tune fitness levels of their students.
For more information and videos about this game, please click here.