The Oculus team has announced that they have “joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world” in their blog, but the truth is that Facebook is going to be buying Oculus for approximately $2 billion USD. According to the official press release the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014. The reaction to this news by the community is mostly negative and you can easily figure out why. Initially Oculus was a gaming oriented VR-capable device and most if not all people that have backed up the project have done so because of that promise. Now with Facebook buying the company as it clearly sees the potential in VR in the future, the things will undoubtfully move away from the gaming side and will most likely focus on the use of the VR hardware for the next level of social platform or what you may easily call Facebook 2.0. Even with The Facebook CEO reassuring that gaming will continue to be the main goal of the project for now, people still feel cheated:
Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.
But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home. This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
Yes, VR does have a lot of potential and apparently Facebook knows that and the fact that Oculus was way ahead in achieving really immersive and affordable VR experiences, way ahead of competition, so they have acted in doing what is the best thing if they wanted to get into VR now. Facebook certainly can afford to do a deal like that and has the financial resources to really do something great with VR technology, however the most serious concern is that they will use all of that only to integrate the technology in Facebook. Things could’ve been better if another company with more interest into gaming such as Microsoft or Sony has made the deal with Oculus instead of Facebook. Sony has just recently announced their alternative of Oculus that seemed a lot like a copy of the Rift, but not yet to technologically advanced, but now they may actually get ahead of Oculus if gamers decide to back up their product instead of Oculus Rift. We’ll see how the final Sony product will compare to the new Oculus Rift, but it will may not come as a surprise if Sonny announces that their Project Morpheus will become a new top priority for the company.
Now, looking at the Oculus Rift just from a gamers’ perspective is probably not right anymore, even Oculus is not talking about the Rift as a gaming only device, but as a VR platform with many possibilities. The fact that Facebook may kill most of them in order to bring users to the next level by integrating Virtual Reality experiences in their social network still remains highly possible, even when Mark Zuckerberg says that they will not kill the original idea and the team at Oculus will remain the same. We’ll see how this will turn out, if it will be for good or for bad. The fact is that Facebook is a social media and their interests are mainly there, not games, or not games in the way that people like to experience with the Rift. Instead of providing the best VR experience that consumers want, Facebook may actually deliver the “best experience” the way the want it to be and force you to either accept it this way or not use it at all.
I have personally pre-ordered the new Oculus Rift DK2 the moment it was announced without even thinking twice about it, however if the deal with Facebook was announced before the pre-order was put on the website I might have thought about it before hitting the order button…
Oculus has announced the DK2, the second development kit for the Oculus Rift, already available for pre-order at $350 USD and shipping in July. The second development kit features many of the key technical breakthroughs and core elements of the consumer Rift including a low-persistence, high-definition display and precise, low-latency positional head tracking. The new DK2 isn’t going to be identical to the upcoming consumer version of the Rift, however it will be very close to what you should expect from the final consumer model. All the content developed using DK2 will supposedly work with the consumer Rift.
The new DK2 uses a low persistence OLED display to eliminate motion blur and judder, two of the biggest contributors to simulator sickness. Low persistence also makes the scene appear more visually stable, increasing the potential for presence. The new high-definition 960×1080 per-eye display (Full HD OLED screen split into two) reduces the screen-door effect and improves clarity, color, and contrast according to Oculus.
The new Oculus DK2 is supposed to also come with integrated precise, low-latency positional head tracking solution using an external camera that allows you to move with 6-degrees-of-freedom and opens up all sorts of new gameplay opportunities like peering around corners, leaning in to get a closer look at objects in the world, and kicking back on a virtual beach. Precise positional tracking is another key requirement for comfortable virtual reality; without it, an enormous amount of your real world movement is lost. Time to pre-order… total cost was $486 USD with the shipping to Europe and taxes added to the price of the unit.
The 25th annual meeting of the Stereoscopic Displays & Applications (SD&A) conference, part of the IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging 2014 symposium, brought together researchers and practitioners of 3D capture, display, processing, and perception from around the world.
Topics of the more than 75 oral and poster presentations spanned: the design and applications of stereoscopic 3D displays, autostereoscopic displays, quality assessment, depth map processing, and human factors. Of particular interest were two keynote presentations. Jeff Joseph, producer of World 3D Film Expo, discussed the history and lineage of numerous early stereoscopic films. Gordon Wetzstein of the MIT Media Laboratory offered inspirational recommendations for new directions in 3D display research, grounded in the combination of fast computation, optics, and mathematical optimization.
This year’s Discussion Forum was a candid inquiry into the state and prognosis of 3D in entertainment. Moderated by Lenny Lipton, panelists included: David Cohen (Variety Media, LLC), Barry Sandrew (Legend Films, Inc.) and Chris Ward (Lightspeed Design, Inc.). One question that the panelists explored was, “If the audience must pay a fee for to see the 3D version of a movie, will they expect significant use of stereoscopic effects?”
Every year, SD&A attendees have the opportunity to catch up informally over a special SD&A Banquet dinner. For our 25th meeting, we enjoyed fine dining at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Union Square while reminiscing over the conference’s history. One treat was that Conference Chair Andrew Woods (Curtin Univ.) – who attended virtually via live video link from Australia – enumerated the depth and breadth of the most frequently-cited SD&A publications over the 25 year history of the conference.
The SD&A conference also presented its annual awards in stereoscopic cinema, 3D technology, and best use of stereoscopy. The stereoscopic cinema session is always a big hit, with contest entries judged by Bernard Mendiburu, Julien Flack, and Lenny Lipton. Winners received a copy of the SD&A DVD-ROM which contains over 1,500 technical manuscripts in the 3D sciences.
The SD&A 3D Theater Best of Show Award in the Live Action category was awarded to: “Soir de Fête” by David Robert (France).
The SD&A 3D Theater Best of Show Award in the Animation / CG category was awarded to: “Morpheos Trailer” by John Hart (USA).
The SD&A Award for Best Use of Stereoscopy in a Technical Presentation was awarded to: “Stereoscopic cell visualization: from mesoscopic to molecular scale,” by Björn Summer, Christian Bender, Tobias Hoppe, Christian Gamroth, and Lukas Jelonek of the Univ. Bielefeld (Germany).
The SD&A Award for the Best Technical Demonstration by a conference author was awarded to the zSpace System of zSpace, Inc., in conjunction with the presentation “Description of a 3D display with motion parallax and direct interaction,” by Mark Flynn and Jerry Tu.
Finally, the conference experimented with a unique activity for SD&A’s Silver Jubilee: a “Magical Mystery 3D Bus Tour” of prestigious Silicon Valley companies engaged in stereoscopy, organized by committee member John Stern and Andrew Woods. Conference attendees enjoyed impressive technological demonstrations at Intuitive Surgical and NVIDIA Corporation, such as a tele-operated laparoscopic surgical system, and the advanced rendering feats behind the real-time animated human, “Digital Ira.”
Many of the technical presentations at SD&A 2014 were recorded and these will be made available via the conference website over the next few months as processing is completed. The technical manuscripts from the conference will be published in the conference proceedings volume which will be available in April:
Woods, Holliman, Favalora (eds) (2014) “Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XXV,” Proceedings of SPIE-IS&T Electronic Imaging, SPIE Vol. 9011, San Francisco (February 2014).
Planning for the 2015 Electronic Imaging and SD&A events are already under way, and will be held during the week of 8-12 February 2015, in downtown San Francisco.