Virtual reality, goggles and all, attempts return

Mar 29, 2013 by Derrik J. Lang
This publicity image provided by Oculus VR shows a virtual reality headset. The virtual reality headset, the doodad that was supposed to seamlessly transport wearers to three-dimensional virtual worlds, has made a remarkable return at this year's Game Developers Conference. After banking $2.4 million from crowd funding and drumming up hype over the past year, Oculus VR captured the conference's attention this week with a virtual reality headset that's more like a pair of ski goggles than those bulky gaming helmets of the 1990s. (AP Photo/Oculus VR)

It's back. The virtual reality headset, the gizmo that was supposed to seamlessly transport wearers to three-dimensional virtual worlds, has made a remarkable return at this year's Game Developers Conference, an annual gathering of video game makers in San Francisco.

After drumming up hype over the past year and banking $2.4 million from crowdfunding, the Irvine, Calif.-based company Oculus VR captured the conference's attention this week with the Oculus Rift, its VR headset that's more like a pair of than those bulky gaming helmets of the 1990s that usually left users with headaches.

"Developers who start working on VR games now are going to be able to do cool things," said Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey. "This is the first time when the technology, software, community and rendering power is all really there."

While VR technology has successfully been employed in recent years for military and purposes, it's been too expensive, clunky or just plain bad for most at-home gamers. Oculus VR's headset is armed with stereoscopic 3-D, low-latency head tracking and a 110-degree field of view, and the company expects it to cost just a few hundred bucks.

In this March 25, 2009 file photo, Video game enthusiasts attend the Game Developers Conference, in San Francisco. The schedule for the 2013 GDC held March 25-29, illustrates the dramatic changes that have reshaped the gaming industry in recent years, an evolution that's as much about business models as it is about pixels. GDC organizers have added a summit on free-to-play games, planned talks on topics like crowd funding and micro-transactions and coordinated panels with such titles as "Making Money with Mobile Gaming" and "Why Won't FarmVille Go Away?" (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

A line at the conference snaked around the expo floor with attendees waiting for a chance to plop the glasses on their head and play a few minutes of "Hawken," an upcoming first-person shooter that puts players inside levitating war machines.

Attendance was also at capacity for a Thursday talk called ": The Holy Grail of Gaming" led by Luckey. When he asked the crowd who'd ordered development prototypes of the technology, dozens of hands shot into the air.

"There's been a lot of promise over several decades with the VR helmet idea, but I think a lot of us feel like Oculus and other devices like it are starting to get it right," said Simon Carless, executive vice president at UBM Tech Game Network, which organizes the . "We may have a competitive and interesting-to-use device, which you could strap to your head and have really immersive gaming as a result."

Sony and Microsoft are reportedly working on similar peripherals, as are other companies. Luckey contends that the innovations Nintendo made with its Wii U, Sony is planning with its upcoming PlayStation 4 and Microsoft is likely tinkering with for its successor to the Xbox 360 don't seem like enough.

In this March 25, 2009 file photo, Video game enthusiasts attend the Game Developers Conference, in San Francisco. The schedule for the 2013 GDC held March 25-29, illustrates the dramatic changes that have reshaped the gaming industry in recent years, an evolution that's as much about business models as it is about pixels. GDC organizers have added a summit on free-to-play games, planned talks on topics like crowd funding and micro-transactions and coordinated panels with such titles as "Making Money with Mobile Gaming" and "Why Won't FarmVille Go Away?" (AP Photo/Ben Margo)

"We're seeing better graphics and social networks, but those aren't things that are going to fundamentally change the kind of experiences that gamers can have," said Luckey.

A growing list of high-profile game makers have sung the device's praises, including Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, "Minecraft" mastermind Markus Peterson, id Software's John Carmack, "Gears of War" chief Cliff Bleszinski and Valve boss Gabe Newell.

Valve is planning to release a VR version of its first-person shooter "Team Fortress 2" for the Rift, but Luckey is hoping that designers in attendance at this week's conference begin creating games especially for the doodad.

"The doors are already open," noted Luckey. "People are already telling us things they want to do with the Rift that they can't do with traditional games."

Luckey said prototype versions of the technology are being distributed to developers now, and he anticipates releasing a version for consumers by next year.

Explore further: Apple computer sells for record $905K in NY

More information: www.oculusvr.com

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krundoloss
3.4 / 5 (10) Mar 29, 2013
I think they would do well to go ahead and make VR headsets capable of augmented reality as well! Just imagine, going out into a field or somewhere and fighting aliens with your friends, where you all see these virtual targets and move around in the real world! That would be truly amazing, and you could get exercise at the same time! And it would be as easy as adding a camera that captures the world around you, then overlays the game on top of it. It seems like a truly new and unique experience whose time has come.
bottomlesssoul
5 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2013
Consider face recognition at a party, I'm terrible with remembering faces. I imagine I've been mingling and bump into someone I spoke with an hour ago, a camera snapshots the scene identifies all the faces and compares it with previous recordings and replays the clip where they say their name.

Or the camera scans the barcode of a can you hold in a store and you get this terminator-esque collection of advice and warnings about allergies et al.

Endless when you think about it.
Simonsez
5 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2013
Consider face recognition at a party, I'm terrible with remembering faces.

You would also look like a complete dork if you're at a party and the only guy wearing a VR helmet. If everyone is wearing one, though... VR PARTY!

Seriously though, if they want to raise the necessary amounts of funding to really kick this off into "future tech" realms of virtual reality, all they need do is switch priority from the video game experience to the pornography experience. Money will pour in from everywhere, and much faster than even the most hardcore gamers would.
ShotmanMaslo
2 / 5 (4) Mar 29, 2013

Seriously though, if they want to raise the necessary amounts of funding to really kick this off into "future tech" realms of virtual reality, all they need do is switch priority from the video game experience to the pornography experience. Money will pour in from everywhere, and much faster than even the most hardcore gamers would.


There are already plans for this:

http://www.sinful...dex.html

I think Oculus Rift will be truly groundbreaking device, all the pieces are there. Good virtual reality is so long overdue its not even funny..
robweeve
1 / 5 (4) Mar 29, 2013
Half Life and Portal.........and how about a redo of Riven
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2013
I think they would do well to go ahead and make VR headsets capable of augmented reality as well! Just imagine, going out into a field or somewhere and fighting aliens with your friends, where you all see these virtual targets and move around in the real world! That would be truly amazing, and you could get exercise at the same time! And it would be as easy as adding a camera that captures the world around you, then overlays the game on top of it. It seems like a truly new and unique experience whose time has come.

Interesting. You'd have to get the game to adapt to whatever the real terrain is, which would be an interesting challenge.

Amusing thought: what would be the impression of someone outside the game, no headset, when encountering players engaged in play.
Aloken
not rated yet Apr 09, 2013
I think they would do well to go ahead and make VR headsets capable of augmented reality as well! Just imagine, going out into a field or somewhere and fighting aliens with your friends, where you all see these virtual targets and move around in the real world! That would be truly amazing, and you could get exercise at the same time! And it would be as easy as adding a camera that captures the world around you, then overlays the game on top of it. It seems like a truly new and unique experience whose time has come.


It was done in the 90s (a quake 1 mod), minus a depth camera to capture the world. Locations had to be modelled before playing.