Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 1, 2012.

Update #53

Introducing Michael Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist

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The Path to the Metaverse

I'm tremendously excited to join Oculus, and when I think back, it's astonishing how unlikely the path to this moment is. I've told most of the parts of this story before, but never all together, and the narrative, now spanning twenty years, just keeps getting more remarkable.

Image credit Steve Grever, PC Perspective

Palmer, Michael, and John @ QuakeCon 2012

Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash, and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime. Around the same time, I saw the first leaked alpha version of Doom. I knew John Carmack from exchanges on the M&T bulletin board a couple of years earlier, when both John and I were learning how to write 3D graphics code, so I sent him mail saying how blown away I was.

John replied that his mother lived in Seattle, and maybe we could get together next time he was in town. Eventually he came by to visit, and we had a good conversation, in the course of which he asked if I'd like to come work at Id; being in the middle of shipping the first couple of versions of Windows NT, I politely declined.

In late 1994 or early 1995, John let me know he was going to be back in town, and asked if I wanted to have dinner. We met at Thai Chef in Bellevue. I knew he was going to try to hire me, and I knew I was going to say no. But he didn't get around to doing that until after he had talked for a good two hours about how he was going to build cyberspace, and by that time it was hard for me to imagine doing anything else. John was as good as his word, and Quake was the start of a world of connected gaming that thrives to this day.

Quake was seminal and high-impact – it's amazing what a team of ten mostly untrained twenty-somethings in the Black Cube in Mesquite, Texas, managed to accomplish – but it wasn't the Metaverse. It was still, in the end, images on a screen, not Hiro Protagonist literally fencing for his life. And so John and I went our separate ways, John to continue to refine what he had created, and me to wander through a series of interesting projects that, in the end, always left me wishing for the pure focus, intensity, and impact of those two years working with John.

Fast-forward fourteen years. I'm at Valve – which started its existence by licensing the Quake source code – looking for the next big platform shift, and I conclude that it's augmented reality. Thanks to Valve's unique structure, I'm able to start working on that, along with several other interested people, including Atman Binstock, who I recruited over coffee at St. James Espresso in Kirkland; Atman is thinking about moving to Paris and writing a debugger, but finally decides to join up. John, meanwhile, is poking at virtual reality, seeing if it's finally feasible. He sends me mail on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Quake's release, saying that he has a feeling that something really big is just around the corner, something bigger than anything that's happened so far. He's talking about VR.

Then two things happen at about the same time. On one path, Palmer develops his first VR prototype, John and Palmer Luckey connect, Oculus forms and its Kickstarter is wildly successful, DK1 ships, and John becomes Oculus CTO. Meanwhile, I read Ready Player One, strongly recommend it to several members of the AR group, and we come to the conclusion that VR is potentially more interesting than we thought, and far more tractable than AR. We switch over to working on VR just as Palmer's homebrew project is morphing into Oculus.

From that point, both VR paths have been pretty well documented, Oculus's in this blog, in the press, and all over the Internet, and Valve's in my blog and talks. The end result, a year and a half later, is a VR system that can create a sense of presence – the feeling, below the conscious level, that you really are someplace. This is an experience that no one except a few researchers using awkward, hugely expensive equipment had ever had, but within the next couple of years it should be available in a comfortable form factor at a consumer price. In the space of two years, a relative handful of people at two companies, none of them VR experts at the start, somehow managed to resurrect VR from the trash heap of technologies-that-never-were and make it the most exciting technology around.

What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years, Steam Dev Days 2014

That wouldn't have happened if Palmer hadn't developed his prototype. If John hadn't been investigating VR at the right time. If they hadn't run into each other. If I hadn't been looking for a new platform. If Palmer hadn't met up with the right people to form Oculus and build DK1. If the community hadn't been so overwhelmingly supportive of VR and the Kickstarter. If Atman had decided to go do a debugger instead. If a team hadn't assembled at Valve, done a bunch of hard work to show that low persistence, excellent tracking, and a well-calibrated and well-tuned system enabled presence, and shared that knowledge with Oculus. If I hadn't come across Ready Player One at the right time. Heck, if I hadn't come across Snow Crash all those years ago, or the Doom alpha, or known John from the M&T bulletin board, or if I hadn't known Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington from my days at Microsoft, in which case I would have had no reason to help them license the Quake source code...

You get the idea. We're on the cusp of what I think is not The Next Big Platform, but rather simply The Final Platform – the platform to end all platforms – and the path here has been so improbable that I can only shake my head.

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place on Tuesday. A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it's engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach. For example, there are half a dozen things that could be done to display panels that would make them better for VR, none of them pie in the sky. However, it's expensive engineering. And, of course, there's also a huge amount of research to do once we reach the limits of current technology, and that's not only expensive, it also requires time and patience – fully tapping the potential of VR will take decades. That's why I've written before that VR wouldn't become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn't be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

That worry is now gone. Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.

It's great to be working with John again after all these years, and with that comes a sense of deja vu. It feels like it did when I went to Id, but on steroids – this time we're working on technology that will change not just computer gaming, but potentially how all of us interact with computers, information, and each other every day. I think it's going to be the biggest game-changer I've ever seen – and I've seen quite a lot over the last 57 years.

I can't wait to see how far we can take it.

- Michael

www.oculus.com/careers


Update #52

Oculus Joins Facebook

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We started Oculus with a vision of delivering incredible, affordable, and ubiquitous consumer virtual reality to the world. We’ve come a long way in the last 18 months: from foam core prototypes built in a garage to an incredible community of active and talented developers with more than 75,000 development kits ordered. In the process, we’ve defined what consumer virtual reality needs to be and what it’s going to require to deliver it.

A few months ago, Mark, Chris, and Cory from the Facebook team came down to visit our office, see the latest demos, and discuss how we could work together to bring our vision to millions of people. As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

Most important, Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more.

This partnership is one of the most important moments for virtual reality: it gives us the best shot at truly changing the world. It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, allows us to publish more made-for-VR content, and lets us focus on what we do best: solving hard engineering challenges and delivering the future of VR.

palmer_john_brendan

Over the next 10 years, virtual reality will become ubiquitous, affordable, and transformative, and it begins with a truly next-generation gaming experience. This partnership ensures that the Oculus platform is coming, and that it’s going to change gaming forever.

We’ll see you in the Metaverse!

– Palmer, Brendan, John and the Oculus team


Update #51

Announcing the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 (DK2)

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Since the launch of the Oculus Kickstarter, we’ve been focused on building the best virtual reality platform. The original development kit was a strong starting point that showed the world a glimpse of presence, but its shortcomings prevented it from delivering great VR.

Almost exactly one year after shipping the original dev kit, we’re pleased to announce DK2, the second development kit for the Oculus Rift!


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.

DK2 isn’t identical to the consumer Rift, but the fundamental building blocks for great VR are there. All the content developed using DK2 will work with the consumer Rift. And while the overall experience still needs to improve before it’s consumer-ready, we’re getting closer everyday -- DK2 is not the Holodeck yet, but it’s a major step in the right direction.
 

Like the Crystal Cove prototype, 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 high-definition 960x1080 per-eye display reduces the screen-door effect and improves clarity, color, and contrast.

DK2 also integrates precise, low-latency positional head tracking 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. We’re looking forward to seeing the new experiences the community creates now that positional head tracking is a core element of the platform.

We’ve also included updated orientation tracking, a built-in latency tester, an on-headset USB accessory port, new optics, elimination of the infamous control box, a redesigned SDK and further optimized Unity and Unreal Engine 4 integrations.   


All in, DK2 delivers a massive leap forward in terms of the quality of the VR experiences you’re able to create and enjoy. The consumer Rift will be another major step beyond that, but in the meantime DK2 brings the world closer to great consumer virtual reality than ever before.

Even with all these changes, we’ve tried to keep the price as low as possible. DK2 will be $350 at launch and you can pre-order the hardware, reserving your spot in the queue, starting today at www.oculusvr.com/order. We expect to begin shipping the first batch of DK2s in July, and we’ll ramp up production based on interest.

 

GDC 2014

We’re debuting the second development kit this week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco with EVE: Valkyrie by CCP, UE4 Elemental Defense by Epic, and a new demo, UE4 Couch Knight!

 

Couch Knight was built by the team at Epic Games to showcase the positional tracking and basic avatars in a setting with shared presence. The tech demo juxtaposes a realistic scene with two cartoon knights, controlled by the players, who burst to life and battle throughout the room on couches, shelves and even the players’ avatars.

The players’ head movements and position are actually mapped to the avatars using UE4’s inverse kinematic system, which makes for a taste of a social experience. A huge thank you to the team at Epic for bringing Couch Knights to life! If you’re at the show this week, be sure to swing by the booth and check it out.  

What’s Next?

We’re deep into development on the consumer Rift. We have a lot more planned, including improvements to comfort, resolution, tracking, software, ergonomics, optics, industrial design, and the overall experience.
 

Virtual reality is going to continue to evolve rapidly in the coming years. There’s no cutting corners or ‘good enough’ when it comes to VR; the consumer Rift needs to be perfect and we’re dedicated to getting it right. We’re moving as fast as possible and promise it’ll be worth the wait.

The passion of the VR community is what has made all this possible, from the Kickstarter campaign to the hundreds of games and experiences we've seen so far. And this is still just the beginning.

We truly believe virtual reality will change the world -- Thanks for being part of the journey with us.

-- The Oculus Team


Update #50

Welcome Atman Binstock, Chief Architect

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We’re thrilled to introduce Atman Binstock, Oculus’ new Chief Architect!

Atman was one of the lead engineers and driving forces behind Valve’s VR project, creating the ‘VR Room’ demo that garnered so much excitement at Steam Dev Days. Prior to Valve, Atman led several projects at top companies in the industry, including RAD, DICE, and Intel.

Atman and the Valve VR team helped prove simulator sickness could be overcome and a true sense of "presence" could be delivered. He helped set the bar for consumer virtual reality and is dedicated to making sure Oculus delivers the highest quality VR experience.

Atman wanted to share his start in VR with the community:

“Just over two years ago, Michael Abrash and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Kirkland. He was trying to convince me to come work on AR and VR with him at Valve.

At the time, I was trying to wrap my head around two questions: ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why now?’ Michael did a good job of explaining that a confluence of technologies was developing that could make compelling virtual experiences possible, but I still wrestled with ‘Why me?’ After all, if the technology was really ready, surely people more capable than me would figure it out.

But Michael convinced me that this was basically the myth of technological inevitability: the idea that because technologies were possible, they would just naturally happen. Instead, the way technological revolutions actually happen involve smart people working hard on the right problems at the right time. And if I wanted a revolution, and I thought I was capable of contributing, I should be actively pushing it forward.

I signed up.

Two years later, we’ve solved some of the basic problems, proven great VR is not only possible but truly magical, and now I want to bring it to the world. I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity -- We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible, and I can’t wait to discover what’s next!”

 


Image courtesy Serenity Forge.

Atman will be spearheading the new Oculus R&D team based in the Seattle area. We’re looking for exceptional engineers to help research and develop the future of virtual reality. If you’re interested in working with us, please visit oculus.com/careers or email careers+seattle@oculusvr.com.

End of Rift Development Kit Sales

We’re quickly running out of stock for the Rift development kit, so we’ve shut down sales in most regions. A handful of the hardware components are no longer being manufactured, and as a result, we’re ramping down production and distribution of the original kits.

 

We never expected to sell so many Rift development kits and the fact that we’re close to being sold out after 60,000 kits is nothing short of incredible -- Thank you for your support! We’ll have more news on this soon, so stay tuned! 

GDC, PAX East, and E3

We just wrapped up SXSW in Austin where we did a live Q&A panel and the first public demo of the Crystal Cove prototype since CES:

CNN - “SXSW: Demo of 'Game of Thrones' on Oculus Rift wows virtual reality fans”

Wired - “How It Felt to Experience Game of Thrones Through an Oculus Rift”

Palmer, Ryan and Nate on the SXSW panel, “Exploring the Future of Virtual Reality with Oculus”:

 
The team is heads-down in the run up to GDC 2014 next week. We’re giving two talks at the show, along with hosting a booth on the expo floor (with 20 demo stations!):

Working with the Latest Oculus Rift Hardware and Software
Michael Antonov and Nate Mitchell - Wednesday, March 19th @ 11am - 12pm

Developing Virtual Reality Games and Experiences
Tom Forsyth - Thursday, March 20th @ 2:30pm - 3:30pm

If you’re at the show, make sure to stop by and say Hello! And just in case you missed it, here’s Palmer’s talk from Steam Dev Days in January:

We’ll see you at GDC!

-- The Oculus Team


Update #49

EVE: Valkyrie, Open Source Hardware, and the Best Practices Guide

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The intersection of transparency and open collaboration between Oculus and the development community often leads to amazing content and inspiring breakthroughs. Today, we’re excited to share a few great examples.

Oculus Co-Publishing EVE: Valkyrie

First, we’re thrilled to announce that the first Oculus co-publishing project is none other than EVE: Valkyrie, making Valkyrie an exclusive Oculus Rift launch title.  

EVE: Valkyrie, developed by the team at CCP Games (creators of EVE Online and DUST 514), is one of the first AAA games designed exclusively for the Rift. The project, initially called “EVE-VR”, was born from a small, passionate team within CCP who supported Oculus during the Kickstarter campaign. 

Since its debut at EVE Fanfest last year, Valkyrie has been a brilliant showcase for the power of VR and hands-down one of our favorite Rift games. At E3 2013, Valkyrie came away with a half-dozen awards including Best Game of E3 from PC Gamer and Most Innovative Game from IGN. Valkyrie was also a key part of the award-winning Crystal Cove demos at CES this year.  

The original EVE-VR team.

“We strongly believe the best VR experiences are going to be the ones built from the ground up for VR, and we've kept that in mind whilst developing Valkyrie.

We wanted people to really feel like they were there - to sense the vastness of space, feel the confined area of the cockpit and get that adrenaline rush as you see an exploding fighter whizz past your head.

In a very short amount of time this passion project became a full fledged CCP project which we're now working on in Newcastle. It's hard to believe how far we've come in a year!”

-- CCP EVE Valkyrie team members Robert Clarke, Programmer, and Sigurður Gunnarsson, Senior Programmer 

We couldn’t be more excited for the future of Valkyrie, and we're thrilled to help CCP bring the best possible made-for-VR experience to the Rift. 

We’re looking for more great developers to partner with on made-for-VR content. If you’re interested in potentially teaming up, email us at publishing@oculusvr.com to learn more!

Open Sourcing the Latency Tester

A key part of the Oculus culture is a drive for openness. We believe that making Oculus more open and transparent will ultimately accelerate and improve virtual reality technology for everyone. 

As part of this effort, today we’ve released the Oculus Latency Tester as open source hardware. This includes the firmware as a CooCox project, the schematic and board layout in Eagle, STLs of a 3D printable enclosure, and documentation of the interface. The entire package is available to view, download, and fork in a GitHub repository.  


The Latency Tester is now under permissive licenses that let you freely use, modify, distribute, tear apart, and even sell the project or pieces of it to your heart's content. The firmware, excluding vendor libraries, is released under the Apache 2.0 License. The schematic, board layout, and enclosure are available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0. These licenses make working with the Latency Tester source as convenient as possible. 


The Latency Tester contains a Cortex M3-based microcontroller, a digitally interfaced RGB color sensor, and a 3 digit 7 segment display. Testing the latency of the Rift is just one use case. You could build a display color calibrator, an ambient light detector, a general purpose tester of video game latency with external trigger input, or a myriad of other projects with a little hacking on the firmware or hardware.  


The files are available for you to build your own, but if you don't want to break out the soldering iron or toaster oven, you can order a Latency Tester here. A new production run was just completed and will be shipping out shortly. 

We’re always looking at open-sourcing other aspects of the Oculus hardware and software stack that can be useful to the community. We’ll keep you posted on future developments!

Best Practices Guide



Photo courtesy Dave Oshry.

At Steam Dev Days, Palmer announced that we’ve released the Oculus Best Practices Guide, a collection of suggestions and basic guidelines for developing VR content. The guide is the result of months of research, prototyping, and testing by the Oculus team along with key members of the community. 

If you’re interested in developing VR games or experiences, we highly recommend giving it a read. Here’s a very brief section from the introduction for inspiration:

“VR is an immersive medium. It creates the sensation of being entirely transported into a virtual (or real, but digitally reproduced) three-dimensional world, and it can provide a far more visceral experience than screen-based media. Enabling the mind’s continual suspension of disbelief requires particular attention to detail. It can be compared to the difference between looking through a framed window into a room, versus walking through the door into the room and freely moving around.”

You can download the guide now from the Oculus Developer Center here: http://static.oculusvr.com/sdk-downloads/documents/OculusBestPractices.pdf

The Best Practices Guide is an ever-evolving document, and we’re always reviewing and adding emerging insights from the developer community. If you have suggestions, let us know by emailing bestpractices@oculusvr.com!

What’s Next?

The team will be at a ton of upcoming events, including at IndieCade East, SXSW, and GDC. If you’re at one of the shows, swing by and say “Hi”. Brendan and Palmer are also giving a talk on the future of virtual reality on Thursday at 2:30pm PST from DICE, which will be livestreamed at http://www.twitch.tv/DICE.

Finally, as always, we’re recruiting the best and the brightest, especially: 

- Senior 3D Artists and Modelers
- Senior Animators
- Senior Gameplay Engineers

...to help us build next-gen VR content! 

You can find all the latest opportunities for Oculus’ Irvine, San Francisco, and Dallas offices at www.oculusvr.com/careers

Hope to see you soon!

-- The Oculus Team


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