Highlights from Oculus Connect2 Keynote

I was thrilled to sit in the keynote for Oculus Connect2 on my GearVR this morning at 10. Sent my notes around to coworkers, but am still excited so thought I’d post them here as well:

They were live streaming a 360 video feed through the NextVR app, so it felt like you were sitting both: in front row, and on stage right with a good view of the audience (some director would switch the feed back and forth).
In theory, this could be the future of attending conferences – sitting in on conference sessions, from your cubicle. (I see they also covered the recent GOP debate with this).

It did feel like being there, but I could still hear PACE people babbling, and bump into my desk, so it was kinda of like being in two places at once. Very surreal and interesting. Also, extremely bizarre to flip up the goggles and go get some coffee, while still listening to live stream audio (sort of felt like an internal dimension was moving, when it shouldn’t be).

+ Highlight was probably when Mark Zuckerberg came out and talked about why he’s investing billions in VR, and showed a 360 degree camera view demo that ties into the new Star Wars film.

Here is the twitch recording if you’re curious (1.5 hours, covering 2 keynotes): http://www.twitch.tv/oculus/v/17568817

Some quick notes/news that I think are the highlights:
(gearVR is the VR goggle based around a mobile phone)
– Samsung will be releasing the public GearVR in November for $99 (The GearVR I have is a devkit basically). It’ll work with any Samsung smartphone released this year, has some small design improvements, and ditches the top strap.
– Oculus will release a retro arcade app to recreate the feeling of being in an 1980s arcade, complete with appropriate cabinet games (Pac-man, etc. looks rad!).
– Twitch is coming to GearVR, with voice chat and avatars (the usual “living room with a screen” environment. Very curious to see how voice and avatars play into it).
– A Netflix app was released during the show (I think this will be THE killer app for GearVR. Surround sound, giant screen, no distractions. Ideal Netflix experience!).
– A Minecraft app will also be released soon (they seem to think THIS will be the killer app for wide adoption. … I dunno, it did sound compelling).

(Rift is the high end VR goggle, cabled to a PC –releasing to the public in Q1 2016)
– they’re going to start putting an “oculus ready” icon on new computers that will support the Rift hardware. Dell will have systems (so maybe we can get one, the next time one of us upgrades?). + NVidia announced last night they’ll be releasing a graphics card beefy enough to support Rift gaming on laptops (which’ll be the ideal demo station, I think! We could take it into people’s offices for optimal demo).
– their second interactive VR movie, Henry, is coming to Rift soon – and they will release all the Unreal assets and project files so developers can learn how to make similar things. (basically, imagine a movie made in Unity3D. 3D models animated all around you, using high end video game assets and 3D sound).
– “medium” is the name of Rift’s free built-in paint program. Using the Oculus Touch controllers, you can sculpt in 3D with both hands. Looks great. An artist in the hype reel said “this makes old 3D modeling programs feel like working with one hand tied behind your back” (hopefully it’ll export .obj files)
– they explained a “toybox” demo that showed how to have social interactions with people far away. It used Touch controllers to track hand gestures, and sensors embedded in the goggle cushions to track eyebrow and blinks. So you could hand something to a person in another country, wink and point at it, etc. This is what facebook sees as the future of social media.

(Michael Abrash came out for second keynote, and explained the senses we use to perceive reality, and the latest research into fooling them.)
– Abrash made an interesting point about how innovation really happens. Basically said “Innovative research comes from patiently trying out every idea you have, to see which will pan out. The idea that anyone just has a sudden eureka moment is a destructive myth that we need to stop believing.” Wonder if we can translate this into something for management’s confusion over the need to stay up to date on technology.
– there was a lot of inspiring talk about how VR represents an entirely new medium, quite separate from video games and movies. And how we can all pat ourselves on the back for being the pioneers who are defining what it can do. Wee. Hope we get in there someday! Hype!

+ Mark (coworker) noted we need some way to see what people are doing in GearVR. Like a screen on the back of your head, so others can look through. Seems like an ideal use for apple watch type hardware… maybe someday. (alternately, it would be nice if other people could walk up and hold their cell phones near you to see what VR app you’re in. maybe someday). Maybe we should make a hat or tiara for office use, so people don’t have to ask “what are they in right now?”

RANDOM THOUGHTS: (not sent to coworkers)
+ I spent most of my time daydreaming a game that would exemplify the experience William Gibson once described as an inspiration for cyberspace. Supposedly he saw people playing pac-man, and they seemed to want to be inside that screen so bad, that it made him think about that intangible space as a shared hallucination. So i picture a VR experience where you start out standing at an arcade cabinet in some dingy drug infested 80s dive arcade, and can play the same maze game level on loop. but if you lean forward and stick your head in the screen, you will actually enter the next level – where you are now shrunken down to game size, and controlling realistic versions of the same game from within the screen. just barely above them (and everything now huge). perhaps there would be some way to encourage puzzle solving where you transition back and forth. (though, the animations and sounds I picture for the transition are pretty nauseating. Tron universe entry style. hmmf.)

+ was recently daydreaming a “start screen” for any educational VR experience we make, where you are in a space with an old Orthostereogram or edison Kinetoscope box nearby. You can lean in and line up your eyes with the viewing hole to see some primitive wood blocks moving in 3D – which is a magical load screen that sets up the topic as it launches the real experience. Thematically ties into the idea of higher education being stuck in the past, while mimicking the feel of shoving your face into a viewing box hole (maybe a way for Google Cardboard apps to start. … somebody has to have done this already…

+ was also daydreaming ideas for a Suckerpunch VR game (about suffering to change your reality to solve puzzles, in place of dying or killing).

+And had ideas about turning my old superman VR idea into a superman simulator that batman is using to understand his foe. anywho. more on these later hopefully.

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