Well, the waiting is finally over. Pre-orders start today for both the Oculus Rift S headset (the replacement for the original Oculus Rift VR headset) and the standalone Oculus Quest, and they will begin shipping on May 21st, 2019. A lot of eager fanboys on the Oculus and Oculus Quest subReddits are no doubt bitterly disappointed that the Quest did not start shipping today, but three weeks is not too long to wait.
Of course, I placed my pre-order on the Oculus website for the Oculus Quest with 128GB of memory for CDN$699 this afternoon. Gotta have the latest gadget!
My Oculus Rift headset, which I originally bought in December 2016 and had replaced in January 2017 due to a defect in one of the lenses, is still serving me quite well and I see no need to upgrade to the Rift S at this time. After all, it’s not what I would consider a next-generation update, it’s more like a half-step upgrade. I can wait.
heat (as if you wanted to feel even hotter in a VR headset!)
Here’s their Kickstarter promotional video:
Now, my very first thought at looking at this device was: Wait, not only is the upper half of my face blocked off, you’re gonna block off the lower half, too? No f***ing way.
But it would appear that there is no shortage of geeks out there that want to add smell and touch to their VR experiences, and are willing to put their money where their mouth is (literally). On April 11th, 2019, the company reported:
In less than 1 hour after launching our Kickstarter campaign, we hit our funding goal of $20K! We are now over 440% funded and still have 28 days left in our campaign.
At the moment, only 4 days into their crowdfunding effort, the campaign has raised over US$100,000, five times its initial goal. At US$120,000, the company promises to release custom scent packs for the popular VR games Beat Saber and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR:
The Feelreal VR mask is compatible with a wide variety of current VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and HTC Vive:
Oh, and Kyle Machulis actually got to try out the device for himself at the 2018 Game Developers Conference, and he gives a complete review of his experience in this Twitter thread (warning: this is not a rave review, and the language is NSFW).
There’s an extremely interesting article on the Road to VR website, that’s worth a read. Apparently, an author writing a book about the history of VR has obtained a copy of a lengthy 2015 email that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook sent to his senior executives. (The email has been confirmed by Road to VR, a major news reporting website on VR, as authentic.)
What I predict will happen, over the next two years, is that one of the Big Five computer companies: – Alphabet/Google – Amazon – Apple – Facebook/Oculus – Microsoft
Is either going to launch their own social VR/virtual world/metaverse product, OR is going to buy one of the Big Four metaverse-building companies: – High Fidelity – Linden Lab (Second Life and Sansar) – Sine Wave Entertainment (Sinespace) – VRChat
Well, keep that in mind, and read this direct quote from Mark’s email:
The key [VR] apps are what you’d expect: social communication and media consumption, especially immersive video. Gaming is critical but is more hits-driven and ephemeral, so owning the key games seems less important than simply making sure they exist on our platform. I expect everyone will use social communication and media consumption tools, and that we’ll build a large business if we are successful in these spaces. We will need a large investment and dedicated strategy to build the best services in these spaces. For now, though, I’ll just assert that building social services is our core competence, so I’ll save elaborating further on that for another day.
The platform vision is around key services that many apps use: identity, content and avatar makerplace, app distribution store, ads, payments and other social functionality. These services share the common properties of network effects, scarcity and therefore monetization potential. The more developers who use our content marketplace or app store or payments system, the better they become and the more effectively we can make money.
It seems pretty clear to me, from this email, that Facebook is planning to step into social VR in a major way. Mark sees “social communication and media consumption” as the killer app for VR, and they want to be a part of it. Facebook, for better or for worse, wants to dominate social virtual reality the way they already dominate social media.
OK this is pretty amazing: Someone named Peter Kappler quietly created code to run Second Life in VR via Firestorm and Steam VR, and then posted the source code online. “It’s not a fully working Firestorm,” he allows on his YouTube, “there is still a lot to do. The file I posted is a source file in C++ for coders that wish to maybe work on a VR version for Second Life.”
There have been at least two other attempts to create a VR port for Second Life, but performance has not been impressive — Linden Lab had an experimental client of its own, but discontinued supporting it due to lack of decent frame rate. The demo video…suggests Kappler has come up with a fairly decent port; better yet, by open sourcing his code, he’s encouraging other developers to improve it further.
Here’s the eight-minute demo video Wagner refers to (there’s no sound):
Now, there is no guarantee that this open-source solution (which relies on SteamVR and the Firestorm viewer code) will be able to attain the high framerates required to avoid VR sickness. But it does look somewhat promising!
Second Life was never intended for VR; the platform is simply too dated to support it. Any solution will be a kludge at best. But I do find it interesting that people keep pursuing the Holy Grail of SL in VR, anyways. I wouldn’t mind trying this out myself, just to see how well it works.