How Oculus VR is starting to change the direction of gaming (interview)

Brendan Iribe of Oculus VR at E3 2014

Above: Brendan Iribe of Oculus VR at E3 2014

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: What are the challenges in bringing virtual reality mainstream? What are the obstacles that you’re moving forward to tackle over these next couple of years?

Iribe: The elephant in the room has always been simulator sickness and disorientation. That’s one of the biggest challenges. I think we’ll get over that with consumer V1. That’ll be behind us and then there’ll be a new set of challenges. Valve built the Valve Room that you may have heard about. That’s the first experience I’ve ever tried that really cracked the code on delivering a comfortable experience. We still have a lot of work to get it there, but we will.

Now there’s a whole new set of challenges we’re looking at. That’s form factor — how to continue to shrink it down, make it smaller, lighter weight, lower cost. We need to help the ecosystem and the community build great content. If there’s no great content, there’s nothing to do. It’s more of an enthusiast nerd toy than it is a consumer product and platform. Jason’s going to be largely leading that with us and helping to get out there and support game developers making great content.

GamesBeat: It sounds like you also have to decide on how to control it.

Iribe: Input’s a big unknown. On the technology side, we haven’t announced what we are shipping in terms of input or what we’re looking at as the go-to-market for a V1 input device. Input is going to be a long-term challenge. The most natural form of input for VR is just your hands. People put on the headset and look around and the first thing they say is, “This is incredible! But where are my hands?” We want to solve that, certainly. The second thing everyone does is look down and look for their hands, for their body.

We don’t know how long it’ll take to solve that. We do try to set expectation along the way. The first challenge was making a consumer headset that everyone feels comfortable in, where you get that sense of presence. Then we go from the sense of visual presence to getting avatar presence in there, trying to master input. What is eye input, mouth input, hand input?

GamesBeat: Do you feel like you’re at the beginning of the input process?

Iribe: We’re at the beginning of the whole thing.

GamesBeat: Well, you’re pretty far along on visuals. But I’ve never seen a demo of anything except somebody else’s input device.

Iribe: Yeah, it’s just the beginning. We have been R&Ding input for a while. We’ve been trying a bunch of stuff, just like Paul Bettner’s team on the content side tried 30 different prototypes before they figured out what kind of game they wanted to make. We tried tons of input devices before we started to try and figure out which direction we might go. We’re not ready to talk about it yet, because we’re still figuring it out. I’d say we’re still working through a few of the final prototypes. But it’s definitely high on the list of things that need to be solved.

GamesBeat: I tried to control that little moon simulator today — with the hands. It’s amazing how much they’ve got the motion capture down.

Iribe: It’s inevitable. We view it as a tractable problem. Today, things like Leap and a number of different technologies are doing motion tracking. It isn’t quite good enough for VR yet, but it’s all approaching the state of being good enough. In the near term, you’ll be able to put on the headset and see your hands and feel like your body is really there. It’s not necessarily in V1, but in the near term, it will come. We’ll get the avatar in – eyes and mouth and all these different features.

We don’t like to try to solve a problem until we really get it nailed. Then we talk about it and put it out to the developers and to consumers. We won’t talk about hand and finger tracking until we think we have a great solution. Right now, what we’ve seen in the market, I don’t think they’re great consumer solutions yet. But it’s awesome to see everybody R&Ding around us and building these prototypes and developer kits to try to solve this.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR.

Above: Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

GamesBeat: Once the Facebook deal closes, do you begin anything new?

Iribe: We just continue the same path that we’re on, but we have a lot more backing behind us, a lot more people behind us. Facebook supercharged our recruiting process. We were able to ramp up. I think we have 30, 40, 50 new hires in the last few months. We put out a blog post when we announced Jason joining with a list of this dream team. They’re all top talents. Brian Hook, Neil Konzen. There are so many incredible guys. Brian Sharp. I don’t want to leave anybody out, but it’s a long list of engineers and designers and artists that are all joining us.

GamesBeat: Do you have a sense of how many people it takes to make a VR game?

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intolerable now
intolerable now

"But it is a partnership"-- look, I'm as excited as anyone about my DK2 arriving and for the eventual CV1... but let's not kid ourselves. It is NOT a partnership, they bought Oculus and you guys are employees.


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