For virtual reality pioneers, no rush to succeed in 2016
Palmer Luckey doesn't just want to sell a bunch of virtual reality headsets. He wants buyers to use them every day.
The founder of Oculus told a group of developers working on VR content Wednesday that the immersive medium's success should be measured by time— not necessarily money—spent on it.
"We can sell a bunch of things that will sit on a desk and stay dusty," he said on stage at the Vision Summit. "I wouldn't consider that successful. If we can make things that people use every day, that's a good sign for the future of virtual reality as an ecosystem."
Oculus' technology surrounds wearers' eyes with 360-degree views of virtual worlds that are either created inside a computer or captured with several cameras. The headset tracks a users' movement and can be used with Oculus' wand-like Touch controllers to create an interactive experience.
The Facebook-owned company is scheduled to launch the Rift headset March 28. Oculus incited sticker shock in January when it announced the consumer edition would cost $599—or $1,499 when bundled with a high-powered PC required to use it.
"We shipped a couple hundred thousand developments kits, but that's nothing on what we plan on doing this year," teased Luckey.
The first-ever Vision Summit was organized by game engine purveyor Unity, which unveiled a tool Wednesday that allows VR designers to create and manipulate virtual worlds while wearing headsets.
Luckey announced that the Rift would come with a four-month trial of a professional edition of the Unity engine, so that all Rift buyers "could be a creator, not just a consumer."
Unity CEO John Riccitiello cautioned the 1,400 attendees at the Hollywood & Highland Center that 2016 will not be the year that VR sees mainstream adoption and that the technology has been "overhyped" by the media.
"It's going to be bigger in the long run," said Riccitiello, who previously served as president and COO of video game publisher Electronic Arts.
Riccitiello projected 1 billion consumers will own VR technology in 5 to 10 years, pointing to the similar growth of such technologies as smartphones.
While VR on smartphones is now available with headsets like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear, higher fidelity experiences won't be available until the launch of the Oculus Rift, Sony's PlayStation VR and Vive from HTC and Valve.
PlayStation VR and Vive will be available later this year for yet-to-be-announced prices.
Valve co-founder Gabe Newell sent the Vision Summit audience into an Oprah Winfrey-like frenzy when he announced that all the developers in attendance would receive a free Vive system.
"You get a Vive, and you get a Vive, and you get a Vive," the veteran game designer joked.
The conference continues through Thursday with such talks as "Emotional Presence in Virtual Reality" and "VR in the Classroom."
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