Valve to talk VR at GDC 2013

Valve to talk VR at GDC 2013

Valve programmer Joe Ludwig's 'What We Learned Porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality' will explore the efforts of several employees over the last year to get the game to run in virtual reality goggles.

There's a lot of questions regarding obstacles when making games for VR, hopefully Valve has some new answers to share with developers.


Oculus Rift first-hand impressions at CES

Oculus are currently at CES showing off the Rift, and I thought I would gather all the new impressions videos and interviews that come out of the show. I will update and add videos to this article as they come out.

Videos added January 11th: Techhive, Techcrunch, Untitled Network, Rev3Games

The Verge

First a short interview, with some footage of the rift in action.

The Verge also dedicated a good 10 minutes on their "Top Shelf" show to the Rift, with Palmer Luckey himself as a guest. (Starting 19 minutes into the show)

The Verge lovefest for Oculus continues on The Vergecast After Hours, where Joshua Topolsky and his co-hosts goes to extreme lengths to praise the Rift, comparing the experience to various drug experiences. (Starts about 35 minutes into the show)



A short overview of the Rift, with some demo footage


Engadget (en Español)

A short overview of the Rift, with some demo footage (in Spanish)


Laptop Magazine

Good video of how a journalist gets introduced to the Rift by Oculus. Best quote: "Holy Cow" (Austrian)

Good video of how an austrian journalist gets introduced to the Rift by Oculus.


Philip DeFranco

Philip DeFranco hates VR, but loved the Oculus Rift. (About 5m45s in)

c   ##IGN "The first time VR has been done right"

Lengthy interview with Nate Mitchell, Oculus VP of Product.



Another positive impression. I am still waiting for someone to say anything bad about the Rift... (Link to the video if the video doesn't play)



Another on-stage demo and interview with Palmer Luckey


Untitled Network

Interview with Palmer, followed by a demo. Spoiler alert: Positive impressions.



Anthony Carboni tried the Rift at PAX, and got another go at it at CES, and has a quick interview with Palmer.


Oculus update on the tracking sensor

Oculus update on the tracking sensor

Speaking of latency, Oculus has just posted another update on their Kickstarter, this time regarding their own tracking solution.


The magic number for latency in VR

The magic number for latency in VR

At the risk of turning this blog into a fanpage for Valve's Michael Abrash, I can't help but link to his latest article on the subject of VR/AR, this time tackling the importance of low latency. He makes some estimates of how low latency is needed, as well as delving into what has to be done to bring latency down. I highly recommend giving it a read if you haven't already.


Oculus Rift and the Virtual Reality Revolution

Oculus Rift and the Virtual Reality Revolution

Great in-depth interview article by Matthew Handrahan, that gives an excellent overview of the Oculus story so far, with the perspective of Palmer Luckey himself.


Oculus announces delay and shows off dev kit

After 3 weeks of silence Oculus finally posted another update. It was a mixed bag of a lot of interesting new information, and some disappointing news regarding a delay of the previously estimated shipping dates.

Let's go over the big points

Shipping schedule

The original plan was to get the initial kickstarter dev kits out by December, but now the first batch of dev kits are expected to reach people in mid-march at the earliest. Oculus cites various reasons for the significant delay in the schedule, the most relevant one being the that due to the overwhelming demand for the headset they needed a way to reliably mass-produce large quantities of the headset, requiring a lengthy initial period for their factory to make the injection mold tooling they will use to produce the Rift. As you can see from the schedule below they expect actual mass-production of the kits to begin in early February.

Production schedule for the Rift dev kits. Click for bigger version.

They also needed a new screen, as the screen they used for their prototypes went out of production, and they've moved from using a third-party tracking sensor to building their own.

According to the schedule, most kickstarter backers can expect to receive their kits from the middle of March. The kits will be shipped out in the order people pledged or pre-ordered, so if you pre-ordered after the kickstarter, you'll most likely have to wait until late April for the kits to arrive.

However, if your were one of the 100 people who got in at the $275 level, Palmer Luckey has said that they plan on taking the initial pre-production batch at the start of February, and, assuming they work, pass them straight on to the first 100, who were originally expected to receive them in November.

The screen

The prototypes they've been taking around the world so far have been using a 5.6" display. They intended to use the same display for the dev kit, but found out it had been discontinued, so they started looking for a new screen.

They ended up going with a 7 inch screen, which does add 30g weight compared to the previous display, but makes up for it by improving response time, switching time, contrast, and color quality. From the update regarding switching time:

The improved switching time of the panel actually alleviates most of the motion blur people saw in earlier prototype demos.

The resolution is the same as before at 1280x800, but the field of view will stay mostly the same, probably due to a change in the optics used. Nate Mitchell, Product VP at Oculus, said "the field of view is slightly improved, but it’s the difference is only a few degrees, which isn’t particularly noticeable to the average user!"

The sensor

In the prototype they used a third-party tracker from Hillcrest Labs, but have since taking steps to make their own. It's been known for while that they hired Nirav Patel after seeing his work on the Adjacent reality tracker, so that's most likely the basis for their new sensor.

In the last update, Oculus gave a sneak peek of their new sensor, and they've now given some more details. Besides featuring a refresh rate of up to 1000hz, which is several times the rate of their previous tracker, the new sensor also adds a magnetometer to the accelerometer and gyroscope, which will allow for even more accurate head tracking, as well as help reduce drift for the other sensors.

The SDK, Developer Center and engine integration

Oculus reaffirms their intention of getting the SDK out, and launching the Developer Center before the rifts are shipped, although they do not give a timeframe for when this will happen. Unreal Engine demo running with rift support They showed off Unreal Integration saying it was in a "completely playable/usable state", while saying Unity integration was underway.

We’re working closely with Epic and Unity on integrating support for the Oculus Rift in the free versions of their engines and will keep the community posted on the progress.

The Future

The Oculus update signs off by promising upcoming updates with detailed information regarding the sensor, screen, display controller, and the headset itself, and also on "exciting" features planned for the consumer model that didn't make it into the dev kit.

We look forward to more updates, and in the meantime here's some pictures of the (almost) finalized dev kit design.


Abrash on screen resolution for VR

Abrash on screenresolution for VR

Valve's Michael Abrash has another post about VR, this time delving into the relative importance of screen resolution.



Gameplay from "Europa" by Quick Fingers

Billed as a space exploration FPS game, Europa was initially developed in 7 days as part of the 7DFPS challenge by Tom Jackson (Quick Fingers). The premise of the game is the player having crashlanded on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, hopelessly stranded and left to explore this unknown world.

He is now working on turning it into a full game, and with an Oculus Rift devkit on order he plans to incorporate Rift support for it.

The video above is gameplay footage from the upcoming game, but if you want to try the concept demo you can download it for either PC or Mac here


SBU Demonstrates Largest Resolution Immersive Visualization Facility Ever Built

SBU Demonstrates Largest Resolution Immersive Visualization Facility Ever Built

A four-wall display made out of 416 displays, totaling 1.5 billion pixels. Damn.


Google Glasses gets some competition from Vuzix

Google Glasses gets some competition from Vuzix

At $999 I'm gonna hold out a little longer to go AR. Still beats the $1500 Google is asking for, though.


A Leap in interfacing

While the Oculus Rift has sparked a revival of the virtual reality dream, there is another side of the equation that remains to be solved. Control interfaces.

There's various reasons why traditional controls are not optimal for VR gaming. Immersion definitely takes a hit if you have to handle a gamepad to do anything other than enjoy the view. And that's if you can even find the controller after putting on a headset that blocks out the real world. And while a seasoned gamer will have no problems feeling their way around a gamepad, even less people can work a keyboard for an extensive period of time without seeing the keys.

Unless you're playing a vehicle sim, where specialized peripherals are perfect, you really want to do away with hardware input entirely. This is where the upcoming gadget Leap Motion is showing a lot of promise.

It's like touch without touching

The Leap is a little gadget the size of a small candy bar that tracks your hands and let's you control your computer using hand gestures. It's like a very focused Xbox Kinect, letting you track individual finger movements within an accuracy of a fraction of a millimeter.

Leap tracks your movements down to a 1/100th of a millimeter

When the Leap was announced in May with a suggested retail price of 70 US dollars, it almost sounded too good to be true. The tech seemed too awesome to be that cheap, and many people were skeptical about their ability to make it available by this winter as they promised.

But they seem to be right on schedule, with developer kits already being shipped out to a selection of the 40,000 developers who have applied for one. The company has already demonstrated a range of uses for the Leap available out of the box, but allowing developers to program for the device will allow for limitless applications of the new tech. Leap Motion have said they expect to have shipped up to 5000 devices to developers by Thanksgiving.

Developer version of the Leap, showing the two cameras used to track motion. Source:

Leap Motion also recently hired a former Apple Director, Michael Zagorsek, as their new VP of Product Marketing. Zagorsek was responsible for interactive marketing for every product launch at Apple since the first iPhone, and will be a key player in reaching out to both customers and developers for the Leap.

Is it a good fit for VR?

So it can track your fingers, but how does that translate to gaming controls? Obviously you can't just swap out your regular controls for any game and be on your merry way. With just a Leap on a desk, you're also locked in to only having your hands tracked within a certain area, and then you're back to the keyboard problem of not seeing where your hands actually are.

Is that finger loaded?

But Leap Motion are not only planning to sell their little gadget to end-users, they are also trying to work with OEMs to implement their technology in other devices. This is where the possible application for the Oculus Rift seems very interesting.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey recently had a chance to test the Leap himself and posted a quick impression on the MTBS3D forums:

it is very sweet, much better than I thought it would be. Silky smooth, latency is imperceptible to even my trained eye, and the precision is phenomenal.

Not only a ringing endorsement, but you have to wonder whether some substantive talks were had during this meet and greet between gadget startups.

David Holz, founder of Leap Motion, also chimed in on the thread, answering questions:

How restrictive is the 8 cu.ft. volume? Will people naturally wander out of that area with an HMD on?
The Leap FOV is larger than the Oculus FOV. Given proper mounting you should be able to have your hands tracked before they even enter your virtual peripheral vision.

Mounting? Who said anything about mounting? Is that what you and Palmer were discussing, David? Ok, to be fair, the previous questions were riddled with the concept of mounting this to the Rift, but again I wonder whether this was mentioned as a real possibility when Palmer visited.

In the countless Rift hands-on videos, you'll often see the reviewer get lost in the immersion and actually try to look at their hand. If you have an Oculus Rift with Leap sensors attached to the front, you would actually be able to put your hand in front of your face, and have the game render a virtual hand.

Person shown suffering from "forgot I'm in a game" syndrome. Source:

There's also no reason it would be limited to just tracking hands. Leap Motion have already shown how they can track tools like pencils. Put a gun in your hand, and you'll be able to aim realistically while seeing a virtual reproduction of the gun in your hands.

Will we see a partnership between Oculus and Leap in the future? Personally, I really hope so, because both of these techs gets my mind spinning with the possibilities for the future of VR gaming. Optimally the issues of positional tracking and movement need to be solved, but let's take it one step of the time.


Ski goggles from Oakley with AR

Ski goggles from Oakley with "augmented reality"

It's really the most obvious first step for AR. You already have giant goggles strapped to your face, might as well put some real-time information in there.


A future for singleplayer FPS?

A future for singleplayer FPS?

Michael Plant question whether the evolution of singleplayer FPS shooters has become stagnant in the wake of multiplayer blockbusters like COD and Battlefield.

He does give this nod to the Oculus Rift:

Perhaps Palmer Luckey’s ‘Oculus Rift’ headset might go some way to making us feel integrated, certainly surveying the scene with a twist of the neck, rather than a flick of the thumb, would help. But ultimately it’s the gameplay that must evolve.

I think he is really underselling just how significant VR will be for the singleplayer FPS genre. It won't just be a great new way to experience the games, it's going to bring about the very innovation that Plant is longing for in the genre.


Successfully Kickstarter-funded Strike Suit Zero announces Oculus Rift support.

Successfully Kickstarter-funded Strike Suit Zero announces Oculus Rift support.

While it was public knowledge that the developer, Born Ready Games, had pledged support for the Oculus Rift kickstarter, no plans of support for the headset had been announced. But when Oculus themselves publically announced their support for Strike Suit Zero, it was reasonable speculation about whether they were simply returning the favor, or had even more reason for wishing them success.

Well, after Strike Suit Zero reached their goal of raising $100,000, they made an update to announce that they will not only make a Rift-compatible version, but if any pledgers threw in a dollar extra, they would get access to a Rift-ready beta released early next year.


Oculus gives a quick update from their new office

Oculus gives a quick update from their new office

After a month and a half of silence, Oculus finally made a new post on their kickstarter page, talking about their new office, showing pictures of their new tracker as well as an early 3D printed Rift prototype.

Once again, they tease upcoming "surprises". Let's just hope it won't be another month before the next update.


This week in pixel packing progress: 7inch WQXGA screen

This week in pixel packing progress: 7inch WQXGA screen

They also showcase a 5inch 1080p screen.


Virtual Reality Technology of VIRTSIM

Defense contractors never seem to make the coolest games, but they do make some very interesting VR tech. For a hefty price of course. (via Mote & Beam)


Montas launches funding campaign on indiegogo

Montas launches funding campaign on indiegogo

Montas is a first person survival horror adventure game that focuses heavily on immersion, atmosphere, story and interactivity.

The Australian-based indie developer Organic Humans promises "full compatibility with the Oculus Rift".


Oculus Rift: can indie developers save virtual reality?

Oculus Rift: can indie developers save virtual reality?

An article from Edge, delving into the role indie developers will play in shaping the success of the Oculus Rift


Yet another spacethemed game for the Rift

Yet another spacethemed game for the Rift

The list of sci-fi space games looking to add support for the Oculus Rift grows larger by the day, and latest addition is a new Kickstarter project by Zero Point Software, a Danish indie developer company, called "Interstellar Marines: Prologue"

Several backers were asking about Rift support, and this was the response by the developers:

Regarding the Oculus Rift ... well, here are the facts! :) The honest truth is that we couldn't afford to support Palmer's Kickstarter campaign when it was active (it was that or food) and we're just so grateful that he made it. However .. with the resent "success" of our Steam Greenlight campaign, we been able to purchase a dev-kit from Palmer the traditional way and rest assured that we'll make sure that the immersive experience of Interstellar Marines will be the home away from home for all Rift owners! For the love of the game, Kim