Valve Virtual Reality Project at Steam Dev Days

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 20, 2014 - 08:35 PM |
Tagged: valve, virtual reality

Steam Dev Days was last week. At it, Valve announced a redesign of their Steam Controller and the removal of Steam Greenlight, among other notables. This was a press-free event, officially. Of course, due to Twitter and other social media platforms, everyone can decide to be a journalist on a whim. Things are going to leak out.

Other things are going to be officially released, too.

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Michael Abrash held a speech at the event discussing his virtual reality initiative within Valve. Both it and the Steam Machine project was in question when the company released Jeri Ellsworth and several other employees. After SteamOS was announced and castAR, Jeri's project at Valve, had its Kickstarter, it was assumed that Valve gave up on augmented reality. Despite this, they still kept Michael Abrash on their staff.

I would speculate, completely from an outside position, that two virtual reality groups existed at one point (at least to some extent). The project seems to have been sliced into two parts, one leaving with Jeri and one continuing with Michael. I seriously doubt this had anything to do with the "High School Cliques" that Jeri was referring to, however. She said it was "longtime staff" (Michael was newly hired around the end of Portal 2's development) and not within her hardware team.

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These are the specs that Valve has developed prototypes to.

1K x 1K per eye is about 100x less than they would like, however.

Ooo... 100 megapixels per eye.

I just believe it all shook out to an unfortunate fork in the project.

Politics aside, Michael Abrash sees virtual reality affecting "the entire entertainment industry" and will be well supported by Steam. I hope this would mean that Valve will finally drop the hammer on music and movie distribution. I have been expecting this ever since the Steam infrastructure was upgraded back in July 2011. Of course, neither server or software will solve content availability but I am still expecting them to take a shot at it. Remember that Valve is creating movies, could they have plans for virtual reality content?

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The latest prototype of the Oculus Rift uses camera tracking for low-latency visibility.

This looks like Valve's solution.

The PDF slide deck is publicly available and each page includes the script he heavily followed. Basically, reading this is like being there, just less fun.

Source: Valve
Author:
Manufacturer: Oculus

Our first thoughts and impressions

Since first hearing about the Kickstarter project that raised nearly 2.5 million dollars from over 9,500 contributors, I have eagerly been awaiting the arrival of my Oculus Rift development kit.  Not because I plan on quitting the hardware review business to start working on a new 3D, VR-ready gaming project but just because as a technology enthusiast I need to see the new, fun gadgets and what they might mean for the future of gaming.

I have read other user's accounts of their time with the Oculus Rift, including a great write up in a Q&A form Ben Kuchera over at Penny Arcade Report, but I needed my own hands-on time with the consumer-oriented VR (virtual reality) product.  Having tried it for very short periods of time at both Quakecon 2012 and CES 2013 (less than 5 minutes) I wanted to see how it performed and more importantly, how my body reacted to it.

I don't consider myself a person that gets motion sick.  Really, I don't.  I fly all the time, sit in the back of busses, ride roller coasters, watch 3D movies and play fast-paced PC games on large screens.  The only instances I tend to get any kind of unease with motion is on what I call "roundy-round" rides, the kind that simply go in circles over and over.  Think about something like this, The Scrambler, or the Teacups at Disney World.  How would I react to time with the Oculus Rift, this was my biggest fear... 

For now I don't want to get into the politics of the Rift, how John Carmack was initially a huge proponent of the project then backed off on how close we might be the higher-quality consumer version of the device.  We'll cover those aspects in a future story.  For now I only had time for some first impressions.

Watch the video above for a walk through of the development kit as well as some of the demos, as best can be demonstrated in a 2D plane! 

Continue on to the full story for some photos and my final FIRST impressions of the Oculus Rift!

GTC 2013: Oculus VR Reveals Future of Oculus Rift at ECS

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2013 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: virtual reality, oculus vr, oculus rift, GTC 2013, gaming

Update: Yesterday, an Oculus representative reached out to us in order to clarify that the information presented was forward looking and subject to change (naturally). Later in the day, the company also posted to its forum the following statement:

"The information from that presentation (dates, concepts, projections, etc...) represent our vision, ideas, and on-going research/exploration. None of it should be considered fact, though we'd love to have that projected revenue!"

You can find the full statement in this thread.

The original article text is below:

Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, took the stage at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference to talk about the state of its technology and where it is headed.

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Oculus VR is a relatively new company founded by Palmer Luckey and managed by CEO Brendan Iribe, who is the former CPO of cloud gaming company Gaikai. Currently, Oculus VR is developing a wearable, 3D, virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. Initially launched via Kickstarter, the Oculus Rift hardware is now shipping to developers as the rev 1 developer kit. Oculus VR will manufacture 10,000 developer kits and managed to raise $2.55 million in 2012.

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The developer kit has a resolution of 1280x800 and weighs 320g. It takes a digital video input via a DVI or HDMI cable (HDMI with an adapter). The goggles hold the display and internals, and a control box connects via a wire to provide power. It uses several pieces of hardware found in smartphones, and CEO Brendan Iribe even hinted that an ongoing theme at Oculus VR was that "if it's not in a cell phone, it's not in Oculus." It delivers a 3D experience with head tracking, but Iribe indicated that full motion VR is coming in the future. For now, it is head tracking that allows you to look around the game world, but "in five to seven or eight years" virtual reality setups that combine an Oculus Rift-like headset with a omni-directional treadmill would allow you to walk and run around the world in addition to simply looking around.

Beyond the immersion factor, a full motion VR setup would reduce (and possibly eliminate) the phenomena of VR sickness, where users using VR headsets for extended periods of time experience discomfort due to the disconnect between your perceived in-game movement and your (lack of) physical movement and inner-ear balance.

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After the first developer kit, Oculus is planning to release a revised version, and ultimately a consumer version. This consumer version is slated for a Q3 2014 launch. It will weigh significantly less (Oculus VR is aiming for around 200g), and will support 1080p 3D resolutions. The sales projections estimate 50,000 revision 2 developer kits in 2013 and at least 500,000 consumer versions of the Oculus Rift in 2014. Ambitious numbers, for sure, but if Oculus can nail down next-generation console support, reduce the weight of the headset, and increase the resolution it is not out of the question.

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With the consumer version, Oculus is hoping to offer both a base wired version and a higher-priced wireless Rift VR headset. Further, the company is working with game and professional 3D creation software developers to get software support for the VR headset. Team Fortress 2 support has been announced, for example (and there will even be an Oculus Rift hat, for gamers that are into hats). Additionally, Oculus is working to get support into the following software titles (among others):

  • AutoDesk 3D
  • TF2
  • DOTA 2
  • L4D
  • Half-Life
  • Warface
  • Minecraft
  • Fortnite
  • UT3
  • Hawken
  • Crysis

During the presentation Iribe stated that graphics cards (specifically he mentioned the GTX 680) are finally in a place to deliver 3D with smooth frame rates at high-enough resolutions for immersive virtual reality.

Left: potential games with Oculus VR support. Right: Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe at ECS during GTC 2013.

Pricing on the consumer version of the VR headset is still unkown, but developers can currently pre-order an Oculus Rift developer kit on the Oculus VR site. In the past, the company has stated that consumers should hold off on buying a developer kit and wait for the consumer version of the Rift in 2014. If the company is able to deliver on its claims of a lighter headset with higher resolution screen and adjustable 3D effects (like the 3DS, the level of stereo 3D can be adjusted, and even turned off), I think it will be worth the wait. The deciding factor will then be software support. Hopefully developers will take to the VR technology and offer up support for it in upcoming titles into the future.

Are you excited for the Oculus Rift?

Someone got to play with the Oculus Rift

Subject: Displays | August 8, 2012 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, virtual reality, glasses, quakecon

Legit Reviews were lucky enough to have some hands on time with the prototype Occulus Rift, the surround gaming headset at QuakeCon.  It is impossible to really show you what it looks like to game with these glasses on but everyone who tried them were amazed.  The 1280x800 resolution is actually 640x800 per eye thanks to the limits of both the HDMI standard and in an attempt to keep costs down.  As well the only game currently supporting the prototype is Doom III BFG Edition but it is still a good excuse to replay the game.  The Kickstarter project has hit its goal, though you can still donate if you wish and you can get a kit to build your own glasses for around $300 if you can't wait for them to hit retail.

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"Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality (VR) headset designed specifically for video games that will change the way you think about gaming forever. With an incredibly wide field of view, high resolution display, and ultra-low latency head tracking, the Rift provides a truly immersive experience that allows you to step inside your favorite game and explore new worlds like never before. Read on to see what we found out when we tried one in person."

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

Author:
Manufacturer: Quakecon

Introduction, Virtual Insanity and Game of Making Games panels

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Our second day at Quakecon 2012 started bright and early with expert panel discussions led by some of the gaming industry's elite game designers and programmers from around the globe. These panel discussions focused primary around the process different game studios go through to produce triple AAA titles and current developments in virtual reality headset technology. There was also more discussions about creating mods for games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and utilizing modding communities as resources to produce higher quality games.

 

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In between panel discussions, Quakecon hosted the first round of their annual Bawls chugging competition. BYOC gamers and event attendees were also able to try out a few game demos of Smite, Rise of the Triad, Dishonored, and Doom 3 BFG Edition. There were also several "quick draw" Quake Live matches to give out raffle tickets for a chance to win a new 2012 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe. 

 

Read more about our coverage from Quakecon 2012!