Ocu­lus puts gam­ing in fo­cus for VR gear


Face­book-owned vir­tual re­al­ity firm Ocu­lus aimed squarely at video game lovers on Thurs­day as it un­veiled Rift head­sets that it will begin sell­ing early next year.

Ocu­lus showed off Rift along with a daz­zling ar­ray of games promised to be ready at launch, the ex­act date of which was not dis­closed.

“In vir­tual re­al­ity, you are go­ing to find your­self re­mind­ing your brain that this is not real,” Ocu­lus chief ex­ec­u­tive Bren­dan Iribe said dur­ing a me­dia event at a stu­dio space in San Fran­cisco. “It is a par­a­digm change.” Ocu­lus did not dis­close pric­ing for Rift, which will come with an Xbox con­troller due to an al­liance with con­sole maker Mi­crosoft.

“The op­por­tu­nity for us to bring our wire­less con­troller to ev­ery Ocu­lus user at launch is in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing for us,” Xbox di­vi­sion leader Phil Spencer said at the event.

“We be­lieve we will be able to cre­ate state-of-the-art vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences on the Ocu­lus on top of Win­dows (com­puter op­er­at­ing sys­tem).”

Com­bin­ing Xbox con­trollers with Ocu­lus is a win for Mi­crosoft and Ocu­lus, ac­cord­ing to Gart­ner an­a­lyst Brian Blau.

The al­liance raises the po­ten­tial for Ocu­lus vir­tual re­al­ity gear to synch with Xbox con­soles as well as across the range of de­vices that will be pow­ered by Win­dows 10 com­puter op­er­at­ing soft­ware set for re­lease later this year, the an­a­lyst said.

Spencer said that vir­tual re­al­ity “ex­pe­ri­ences” would be built on top of Win­dows, but didn’t go into de­tails. No men­tion was made of whether Ocu­lus would work with Xbox con­sole games.

“I think this does more for Mi­crosoft and PC (per­sonal com­puter) games than any­thing they have done in years, in terms of ex­cit­ing new things,” Blau said.

Mi­crosoft has promised that ap­pli­ca­tions writ­ten to work on Win­dows 10 ma­chines will be at home on Xbox con­soles.

‘How to get peo­ple im­mersed in

graph­i­cal sim­u­la­tions’

Ocu­lus founder Palmer Luckey also showed off a “Touch” ac­ces­sory that will let peo­ple es­sen­tially reach into vir­tual worlds to ma­nip­u­late ob­jects or is­sue com­mands with ges­tures.

“You need to be able to pick up a gun from a ta­ble, fire it, and throw it away with­out even think­ing about it,” Luckey said.

“You can light ex­plo­sives, pull ro­bots limb from limb, punch gar­den gnomes ... lots of cool ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Ocu­lus promised hands-on demon­stra­tions of ti­tles promised at a ma­jor Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo (E3) event next week in Los An­ge­les.

“There was al­ways this dis­tance be­tween play­ers and the game,” said Ocu­lus stu­dios head Ja­son Ru­bin.

“Vir­tual re­al­ity lets you step through that win­dow; fi­nally we can cre­ate worlds that feel real. 2016 is go­ing to be an ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble year for gam­ing.”

Ocu­lus said the head­set will hit the mar­ket in the first quar­ter of next year.

Early ver­sions of the head­set, de­signed for im­mer­sive gam­ing and other ap­pli­ca­tions, have built a strong fol­low­ing among de­vel­op­ers and has won praise from an­a­lysts for lim­it­ing the mo­tion sick­ness which af­fects users of vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) gear.

“Im­mer­sive tech­nolo­gies have a lot more to of­fer than video games, but it is a great place to start,” said Gart­ner an­a­lyst Blau.

“Game de­vel­op­ers know how to get peo­ple im­mersed in graph­i­cal sim­u­la­tions bet­ter than any­body; it is nat­u­ral to think they will be first in line to cre­ate con­tent.”

‘It is a great day for the vir­tual

re­al­ity mar­ket’

Face­book last year bought Ocu­lus for some US$2 bil­lion.

Face­book co-founder and chief Mark Zucker­berg said ear­lier this year that the ac­qui­si­tion of Ocu­lus was a long-term bet that mak­ing the so­cial net­work’s of­fer­ings more im­mer­sive would pay off in the fu­ture.

He sug­gested that the vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy could be ap­plied to var­i­ous of­fer­ings of the world’s big­gest so­cial net­work.

Blau ex­pected the vir­tual re­al­ity mar­ket to be fiercely com­pet­i­tive, with play­ers in­clud­ing PlaySta­tion 4 con­sole maker Sony and its Mor­pheus gear Mi­crosoft’s aug­mented re­al­ity gear HoloLens, but be­lieved Ocu­lus would be among the sur­vivors.

“It’s a great day for Ocu­lus; it’s a great day for Face­book, and, hon­estly, it is a great day for the vir­tual re­al­ity mar­ket,” Blau said at the event.


Ly­dia Penn, left, and An­drew Penn take a 3D en­gine jour­ney with the Ocu­lus Rift­pow­ered Gear VR head­set at the Penske Wynn Fer­rari Show­room at Wynn Las Ve­gas at the Shell V-Power NiTRO+ Pre­mium Gaso­line event on Mon­day, June 8 in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada.

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