Frank Azor of Dell/Alienware wants VR to reach the masses.

Above: Frank Azor of Dell/Alienware wants VR to reach the masses.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Azor: Like I said, we’re investing with Oculus. We’re all in on it. Whether it be what we’re doing now with the bundle discount—The other thing to know is that these machines will be completely turn-key. The vision of Alienware systems is that you can be focused on your gaming, not worried about troubleshooting the tech. All of that’s going to carry through these Oculus bundles. We’ll be very sensitive around how that experience is for customers. It’s going to be plug and play. Everything will work great. That’s important for us.

You guys have already integrated into what we’re doing today, and we have plans for you to be integrated into everything we’re doing around the world. Alienware and Dell have grown in the gaming space. It’s been obvious since that first meeting with you and Brendan that this is the future. We’ve spent 20 years trying to make gaming more immersive by giving you higher resolution LCDs, better graphics cards. Our content partners are developing better games, better keyboards, mice, game pads. But all these things are still evolutionary.

This experience—If you haven’t sat inside an Oculus experience, it’s the most immersive thing you’ve ever seen before. I’m thankful that you guys have done what you’ve done, because it’s not evolutionary. It’s completely revolutionary.

Our first meeting, actually, was in virtual reality. If any of you have done the Oculus Toybox experience—I thought you were an avatar, by the way. I put the headset on and you didn’t say your name, so I thought, okay, that’s what this is. You said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Hey, I’m Frank.” You said, “Hey, I’m Palmer.” This was another guy in a whole new VR world with me. I’d done a ton of VR demos, but it was always just me and the game. But for two people to be in VR at the same time, interacting—We played ping pong and threw some boomerangs. It blew my mind again.


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These guys blew my mind twice in three years. What are the next three years going to bring? It’s a little scary, but I’m amazingly excited.

Adrian Grenier (left), Palmer Luckey (center left) at a Dell CES event.

Above: Adrian Grenier (left) and Palmer Luckey (center left) at a Dell CES event.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Luckey: The good thing about virtual reality is that it’s increasing. A lot of problems are known, and in many cases the solutions are also known. It’s just a matter of engineering them, building them, and deploying them to consumers. That’s different from the smartphone industry, where people are really stretching for new ways to make them interesting and advance the technology.

There are no obvious wins for smartphones. “Obviously we need to solve that huge functional problem.” You can make the battery life better. You can make the resolution better. But virtual reality is going to be moving really fast over the next few years and the next decade.

Azor: Toybox was amazing. Everyone who’s tried this thing thinks it’s incredible. But what else have you seen? You’re working with most of the content partners out there building experiences for Oculus. Can you describe some of the most impressive experiences from the partners you’re working with that you’ve seen?

Luckey: I don’t want to play favorites too much, because some partners have announced things, some partners have yet to announce things. You’re going to see more things going public in the next few weeks. I like EVE: Valkyrie, which we’re bundling with every pre-order. CCP started developing this thing a long time ago. It was an experimental side project, and it turned into this full triple-A game, where you actually feel like you’re in a spaceship. You’re in a Star Wars-esque World War II in space fighter simulation. You feel like you’re in that fictionalized ideal space that you’ve seen in lots of fiction.

To be honest, that’s probably better than a perfect space simulation – “This is exactly how I imagined it was going to be!” I’ve been hugely impressed with that in particular, and we’re going to be announcing a bunch more stuff soon.

Azor: What do you have going on at the booth? What should everyone be lining up to see?

Luckey: At the booth we’re showing everything we’ve got. We’re showing a lot of different games, Oculus Touch, and Toybox, which you tried. We’re showing the latest version of the Rift, the final version that you’ll be getting when it ships, or very close to it. These are some of the units from earlier trade shows, not the off-the-line model. We’re also showing off Samsung Gear VR with a lot of different content.

Azor: Do you agree that 2016 is the year of virtual reality?

Luckey: It’s the first year. I wouldn’t say that 2016 is the year of VR in the same way that–Most other industries did grow over time. But 2016, people are going to look back and say that it was the start of virtual reality. It was when people started using it, when content started coming out, when there was something to do in VR and people could do it. You could never say that about any year before that.

You can point to earlier development kits and Gear VR, but those shipped in relatively small quantities to groups of people who are mostly using them to develop or experiment with prototypes and demos. It was never something that felt totally real until now.

Azor: We’re working together and making this announcement. It’s an exciting time for both of us. Talk a bit more, if you can, about what you see in the future of computing that’s powering these VR experiences. What should your partners focus on to not only provide these turn-key solutions now—What do you want to see from your partners over the next 12 months, six months, or in the longer term?

Luckey: More PCs that are optimized for VR. There are manufacturers. There are components. A lot of things have to come together to make virtual reality PCs more affordable, higher power, higher quality. It’s like when the GPU market really took off because of gaming. There was something to build these high-end graphics accelerators around. That’s what pushed the enhancement in that area. VR is going to do the same for PCs in a lot of ways.

Gaming is a big market, but it’s not big relative to, say, smartphones or laptops. There hasn’t been a big incentive for huge PC advancement in a long time. One big one was when people started being able to edit video on their laptops. That drove a lot of people to get machines that were powerful enough to do that. Or earlier than that, being able to watch videos. I remember having a hardware accelerator in a laptop to watch DVDs. That was a driving factor too.

VR is the same way. All of a sudden there will be a huge number of people who need a high-end PC, who want PCs that are even higher-end than exist in the world today, and it has nothing to do with gaming. It’ll be a much bigger market. I’m excited to see that drive the PC market and I’m excited that you guys are going to pursue that.