It might seem like the Oculus Rift has been bandied around as the next big thing in tech for years now, but this week’s Connect 2 event demonstrated that its retail release is finally on the horizon.
With that in mind, Oculus made sure to have plenty on show to convince those on the fence that virtual reality is about to become very real. New hardware, software and infrastructure was all detailed — and, put together, it looks like a very enticing package.
It remains to be seen whether Oculus can get virtual reality off the ground in quite the manner that they hope to. However, based on what the company has shown at Connect 2, everything possible is being done to make Rift the success that it needs to be to bring VR into the mainstream.
Samsung Gear VR Update and Pricing
The Gear VR headset, a collaboration between Oculus and Samsung, was released last year as an ‘Innovator Edition’ for $200. Seemingly satisfied with what was learned from that endeavor, Samsung announced today that a new version of the device will launch this November for just $99.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting people to experience VR with regards to the larger success of the medium. It’s very difficult to explain the appeal to someone without having them try it out for themselves, but a $99 price point and compatibility with Samsung’s flagship smartphones makes it very accessible.
The Gear VR headset might not be able to compete with the Rift, but it’s a great way to shepherd the uninitiated into the wider world of virtual reality. Properly marketed, this could be the perfect piece of kit to help VR take hold with mainstream audiences.
Oculus Arcade for Gear VR
Of course, good hardware is nothing without compelling content to make it worthwhile. Virtual reality offers up plenty of scope for brand new video game experiences, but the Oculus Arcade looks set to repackage old games in a new and novel way.
The service will allow users to enjoy classic arcade titles in a virtual environment. It’s not clear yet whether this will involve digital quarters — perhaps tied to your real-world credit card — but the prospect is sure to be appealing to fans of retro games looking to take a dip in the VR pool.
Oculus Ready PC Program
While Samsung Gear VR will offer an entry-level gateway to virtual reality, making full use of the Rift is going to require quite a powerful computer. With that in mind, Oculus Ready is a new initiative designed to ensure that it’s as easy as possible to purchase a rig beefy enough to work with the device.
The Oculus Ready stamp will be adorned on the packaging of computers that will play nice with the Rift straight out of the box. A list of companies including Alienware, AMD, Nvidia and Asus have already pledged their support to produce systems set to be released as part of the program.
Enthusiasts will still opt to build their own computer, but this is an important move in broadening the reach of the Rift. It’s been made very clear that Oculus isn’t just targeting hardcore gamers and PC experts, so offering a stock option for anyone looking to invest in a Rift-ready rig is a very smart choice.
There are no specific details on what sort of pricing these systems will adopt, but the company say some models will be available for less than $1,000.
In recent years, the idea of pre-release demos of video games in development has been broadly expanded by early access programs. Crowdfunding sites have certainly had a hand in popularizing this practice, but Steam Early Access has made it a very potent option for any PC developer looking for exposure and user feedback.
Oculus has previously offered a similar program via the Oculus Share developer portal. Now, that’s being repackaged and renamed as Oculus Concepts. This will be the first port of call for developers looking to give running previews of their content before it hits the Oculus storefront for its official release.
Part of the appeal of virtual reality is the expanded toolset that developers have at hand to use creatively. Providing a platform for these ideas to be shared is a great way of spreading that exciting new content around, and displays a canny understanding of the realities of modern game development. It might not be a Steam-killer, but it’s certainly the right tool for the job.
Virtual reality and video games seem to go hand in hand — but the Oculus Rift is being positioned as something more than just a gaming peripheral. The headset, particularly when used in conjunction with the Touch controller, offers a plethora of possibilities beyond gaming.
To emphasize a commitment to more unusual projects being developed with the Rift in mind, Oculus Medium was showcased in today’s keynote, and is available for attendees to try out for themselves. Using the Touch controller, users can sculpt their own virtual creations with an impressive degree of control.
It’s an interesting tool in its own right, but it’s also a beacon for what limitless potential for the Rift. This isn’t just about video games or 3D movies — it’s a platform that can be used to build just about anything, so long as the developers working on the project are up to it.
Medium will perhaps produce some intriguing creations in of itself, but it’ll be interesting to see what it inspires from other developers. The Touch controller isn’t just for games, it’s a whole new input method that will hopefully be the key to some unique experiences in the near future.