Posted Fri Jun 6, 2014 at 01:12 PM PDT by Brian Hoss
Can VR make major waves at the 2014 E3?
After picking up steam over the past few years, 2014 has been the year of Virtual Reality, at least from a business standpoint. This trend has been fueled in a major way by the popularity of Oculus Rift, but the $2 billion acquisition by Facebook hasn't been the only major VR related transaction or announcement. Multiple companies, like Virtuix and Survios, have managed to attract millions in funding . Even Sony has stepped forward to reveal their Project Morpheus.
And so while Microsoft's Kinect and Nintendo's Wii successor, the Wii U, haven't had the best year, this new thrust of VR is still on the rise. For myself, I have the original Oculus dev kit, and the gyro tracked, stereo 3D is impressive, whether it's in the unofficial (sorry Notch) 'Minecraft' mod, 'Minecrift,' 'Half-Life 2,' the 'Seinfeld' inspired Jerry's Place, or even the fascinating 'Titans of Space.'
Playing 'Minecraft' with Oculus Rift is like an all-new game. Creepers and Skeletons are truly frightening when you turn your head and spy them around the corner. The head tracking is finicky, but works well enough to play. That said, it's a little exhausting on the eyes, even in two hour sessions. I was sitting in front my PC playing one night, vision isolated in the Oculus Rift. I was sneaking around away from my carefully dug out shelter, trying to avoid some enemies that had collated around the corner, when a cat walked across my desk and brushed my arm. Talk about a harsh tension break.
What I have yet to see though, is either the new Oculus DK2 or Sony's Project Morpheus in action. I expect that will change at E3, as I have some demonstration time scheduled with some VR developers. There even seems to be a sizeable VR area in the West Hall. As I was finishing up arrangements this week, I began talking to one such developer, Brandon Biggs, of First Rule and formerly of Survios.
Coming fresh off of the Silicon Valley VR 2014 Consumer VR Conference and gearing up for E3, Brandon is part of a VR movement that sees the Oculus Rift as only the beginning, one piece in a virtual reality puzzle that needs to track the hands as well as the eyes. While many are quick to write off VR as having never worked or now just being some Zuckerberg money pit, Brandon sees wide open opportunity that contrasts with his years as a AAA game developer. "I shifted to my own thing, big crazy plan... If I fail I will fail hard but I'm trying big while the market is brand new... Though VR is a small community at this moment, it is about to blow-up big time."
Since the Facebook acquisition, Oculus has continued to pursue serious talent, but not unlike big free-agent signings in sports, it takes more than big names to make a game, not to mention a whole platform. But even if the newly gathered staff are sitting around high-fiving, there are developers out there working to bring VR home. And that is something that I want to see at E3. I've heard VR developers talking about this E3 as the real next-gen event, as opposed to last year. I can't wait to find out if there's any truth to those words.
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