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Developer kit for the Oculus Rift - the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.
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Crystal Cove Debut, CES Recap, and Steam Dev Days

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January has been an incredible month for virtual reality. Between the debut of the Crystal Cove prototype, numerous awards at CES, Valve’s VR demo, the inspiring Steam Dev Days presentations, and an amazing reception at the Sundance Film Festival, it’s becoming clear to the world that virtual reality is on the horizon, and it’s going to change everything.

The Crystal Cove Prototype

Starting with CES, we revealed a new Oculus Rift feature prototype, codenamed “Crystal Cove”. Crystal Cove is the most immersive and comfortable hardware that we’ve shown to date, and demonstrates two key features that we’ll be including consumer Rift: positional tracking and low persistence.

The result is a powerful sense of presence -- the magic of being completely convinced that you’re actually someplace else.

Positional Tracking

We’ve said before that precise, low-latency positional tracking is a requirement for great VR since the virtual world can be accurately synced to the player’s real world movements. Crystal Cove introduces a new 6-degrees-of-freedom positional tracking system, resulting in a much more comfortable and immersive experience.

It also opens up completely new opportunities for gameplay that would be impossible without position data (eg. peeking around corners or out windows, examining an object from multiple angles, and dodging bullets a la ‘The Matrix’).

Crystal Cove’s positional tracking system is optically-based, with an external camera tracking LEDs on the the headset. By referencing the LEDs on the headset against a virtual model of the headset, it can determine the Rift's location in physical space. The system was designed by the Oculus team, with a custom vision pipeline that we’ll continue to optimize and build on.

Low Persistence

Crystal Cove also incorporates “low persistence” display technology, which we see as another major breakthrough for VR.

Low persistence delivers the most comfortable and natural experience yet by eliminating motion blur and judder, which also increases the visual stability of the scene. It doesn’t sound very flashy on paper, but it makes a huge impact on immersion that can only be appreciated once you see it firsthand.

By driving a modified OLED display at a high refresh rate and only illuminating the pixels on the screen for a tiny fraction of each frame length, low-persistence eliminates the outdated display data that your eyes would normally see between frames.

If you’re interested to learn more about the technical and physiological details that make low persistence so key, Michael Abrash at Valve has a great blog post explaining the technique in more detail: http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/down-the-vr-rabbit-hole-fixing-judder/

We’d like to throw a special thank-you to Valve for their collaboration and support in developing the tech behind Crystal Cove.

UE4 Strategy VR and EVE: Valkyrie

We showcased two demos on Crystal Cove: Unreal Engine 4 Strategy VR and EVE: Valkyrie, both optimized for positional tracking and low persistence.

UE4 Strategy VR is a tower-defense game, where players take on the Lava Lord in a match-up that pits waves of dwarves against their arrow, cannon, and flame towers. The demo is perfect for showcasing positional tracking, where players can actually lean over and into the board to get a better look at the scene, or peek around a wall to look at oncoming attackers.

A huge thank you to the amazing team at Epic Games, particularly Nick Whiting, Alan Willard, and Nick Donaldson, who designed, built, and optimized the demo from top to bottom for CES!

 

The EVE: Valkyrie demo was built on an early build of the game that was originally shown at Gamescom. Valkyrie continues to be one of the hands-down, best Rift experiences, and we’d like to thank the entire team at CCP for making such a great game. We’re looking forward to Valkyrie’s bright future!

Highlights from CES

It's truly hard to capture the excitement and momentum around Oculus at CES, but Crystal Cove was a huge hit at the show, taking home more than 10 awards, including Best in Show from Engadget (the official awards for CES), the Verge, and Wired.

Winning Best in Show marks a huge victory for VR, especially being selected from thousands of incredible products at the biggest consumer electronics show in the world.

Photo courtesy of Engadget. A few of the press highlights from the week:

"I Wore the New Oculus Rift and I Never Want to Look at Real Life Again" - Gizmodo

"Mere Words Can't Do Justice To How Awesome The New Oculus Rift Gaming Headset Is — And I Don't Even Like Video Games" - Business Insider

Steam Dev Days

After CES, we headed to Steam Dev Days in Seattle, where thousands of the industry’s best game developers gathered to discuss the future of Steam and VR.

Palmer gave a talk, providing his top suggestions for aspiring VR game developers in 25-short minutes. All of the talks were recorded, and Valve has said they’ll share them in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for the video in a future update.

Michael Abrash also gave a powerful talk on the future of virtual reality that you can read here: http://media.steampowered.com/apps/abrashblog/Abrash%20Dev%20Days%202014.pdf

The inspiring start to his talk:
"Compelling consumer-priced VR hardware is coming, probably within two years.
It’s for real this time – we’ve built prototypes, and it’s pretty incredible.
Our technology should work for consumer products.
VR will be best and will evolve most rapidly on the PC.
Steam will support it well.
And we think it’s possible that it could transform the entire entertainment industry."

- Michael Abrash

We couldn’t agree more.

Valve also shared their VR tech demo with developers at the show. We’ve tried it, and it really is one of the best VR experiences in the world. As Palmer mentioned during his talk, their demo sets the bar for virtual reality “presence”, and we intend to deliver that quality of experience to the world with the consumer Rift.

Building the Future

If you're interested in being part of that future, building and shipping the world’s best consumer VR platform, we're always looking for the brightest engineers in:

Computer Vision
Software Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Web Services

...and just about everything else too.

There’s a lot more exciting advancements ahead for VR in 2014. Thanks again for your support -- We're just getting started, and none of this would be possible without you.

We’ll see you in the Rift!

-- The Oculus Team

Fostering the Oculus Ecosystem

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Over the last year, we've seen the Oculus community create some of the most innovative and compelling VR experiences in the history of the medium. It’s been inspiring to see so many of these projects and teams go on to raise investment from the community and venture capital groups to build something special. And this is only just the beginning.

One of the key components for truly awe-inspiring virtual reality is great content. At Oculus, we’re constantly looking at new ways to support Oculus developers, foster the ecosystem, and truly fuel the future of virtual reality. One of our long-time, favorite ideas has been to actually fund and publish Oculus games, applications, and experiences ourselves by providing additional support and resources for key developers building the games and content that we believe will define the platform. 

We’ve been working quietly, behind the scenes with a select group of amazing developers on this new publishing initiative. Now, we’d like to introduce you to a new team member who'll be leading this effort full-time!

Welcome David De Martini!

 

We're thrilled to introduce David De Martini, our new Head of Worldwide Publishing!

David brings an incredible amount of game development and publishing expertise to Oculus. David was formerly at EA, where he worked on a huge number of games and franchises, including NASCAR, March Madness, Tiger Woods PGA Tour (2002-2006), and The Godfather. Eventually, he moved to EA Partners, EA's co-publishing arm dedicated to publishing games developed by external developers, where he worked with top development studios around the world to create hit games like Rock Band, the Crysis series, and Titanfall. 

David will be leading Oculus’s publishing initiative, providing Oculus developers additional resources to help them achieve their vision. This means new opportunities for key developers for direct support from Oculus, and ultimately, more great content on the Oculus platform. 

Please join us in welcoming David to the team! We couldn’t be more excited to have him. 

We'll have more news on the publishing initiative and some of the key developers that we're working early next year. Stay tuned!

New Blog Post: “Help! My Cockpit is Drifting Away!”

Steve LaValle has written a new blog post on magnetometers, sensor data, and the science behind drift correction in the Rift. If you've ever wondered why your virtual reality cockpit will sometimes begin drifting away, and what we're working on at Oculus to address it, this post has your answers.  

“It turns out that the Rift Development Kit similarly suffers from yaw drift error, which is a steadily growing error in the estimated “forward” direction. Fortunately, the sensor board inside the Rift contains a magnetometer. Determining which way your Rift is facing ought to be as simple as reading the magnetometer values to obtain a virtual compass arrow, right? Like most research pursuits, however, the quest to solve a problem leads to several waves of confusion and further enlightenment. In this post, I will explain how we correct yaw drift error in the Rift. The key for me, at least, was to shatter my belief in the perfect compass, and understand what a magnetometer, the real sensor, is actually trying to measure.” 

You can read the full post over on the Oculus Blog or via this direct link.

Quick Shipping Update

We're finally shipping development kits within 3-5 days of the order being placed! It certainly took us longer than expected to reach this point, and we appreciate everyone's patience as we worked to get here. 

If you're interested in purchasing additional Oculus Rift development kits or the Oculus Latency Tester, you can learn more at oculusvr.com/order.

VR Jam Shirts Shipping

The VR Jam shirts are now shipping out to teams who submitted a build for each of the jam's milestones. If you were on one of these teams, you should receive your shirts within the next few weeks, depending on region.  

Thanks again to all the teams for making VR Jam 2013 such a success!

Happy Holidays from Oculus!

It's been an incredible year, and we owe an enormous thank you to you, the community. We wouldn't be here without you.

We wish you all the best this holiday season, and we'll see you in 2014!

-- The Oculus Team

Onward to the Metaverse!

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Over the last 16 months, we’ve grown from a small team working out of our apartments and garages in California to a global team of nearly 70 top engineers, game developers, designers, and scientists. We’ve built groundbreaking new hardware and software, bringing the seemingly impossible to life. We’ve seen over 40,000 developers and enthusiasts join the cause and build innovative content that’s captured the imaginations of people everywhere. One thing has remained constant: we’re as dedicated to delivering on that vision -- the promise of the Metaverse -- as the day we started.

An engineering company like Oculus requires substantial capital. We’re building the best team, designing new hardware, manufacturing millions of units, and developing great games, apps, and experiences. We’re always looking for new partners to help us change the world.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve closed a $75MM Series B investment led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). a16z shares our passion and vision for the future of virtual reality and is one of the best venture capital firms in the world, guiding transformative technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Skype and GitHub. a16z joins Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, Formation 8 and Founders Fund, which have all invested additional capital.

Marc-Andreessen

VR has the potential to revolutionize the way that we live, learn, play, communicate, and much more. As a community, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.

With this new funding, we’ll be investing heavily in future R&D, expanding our hardware manufacturing and distribution operations, developing the world’s premier VR platform, and recruiting more competitively than ever before. It also means we’re designing and publishing more incredible VR content -- the types of games, applications and experiences that will define the platform.

The right venture capital firm, investor, or board member can bring incredible value to a company – opening new doors, bringing a wealth of business and technology expertise, and creating otherwise impossible opportunities. As part of the investment, Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon will be joining our board of directors. Please welcome Marc and Chris to the team!

Marc wanted to share a few words with the community:

"I first worked in 3D interactivity and virtual reality over 20 years ago at the University of Illinois. I've been actively following VR ever since. Like the iPad delivered on the Newton's vision of tablet computing 20 years later, Oculus delivers on the potential of VR that we saw but couldn't realize at the time. We believe Oculus will not only alter the gaming landscape but will redefine fundamental human experiences in areas like film, education, architecture, and design. Oculus is at the tip of the iceberg of its potential, and we're incredibly excited to help them change the world."

Interested in changing the world? We’re looking for the best and brightest engineers for Irvine, Dallas, and (soon) San Francisco. Check out the Oculus Careers page for more details.

Thank you again for making this possible. Now, onward, to the Metaverse!

-- Brendan, Palmer, John and the Oculus team

Virtual Reality's Bright Future

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With so much happening across the industry, we wanted to take a moment and share some of the exciting VR-related news from the last few weeks!

Gaming Insiders Summit and NVIDIA Tech Event

Last week, the team attended the Gaming Insiders Summit, where Brendan gave a talk about the future of virtual reality, and the NVIDIA event in Montreal, where John Carmack participated in the announcement of their new G-Sync project (we’re very excited to see people getting serious about improving display performance in PC gaming).

John with Jen-Hsun Huang (NVIDIA), Tim Sweeney (Epic Games), and Johan Andersson (EA DICE). Image courtesy of Engadget.


One of the key topics we discussed was the latest progress around reducing simulator sickness (akin to motion sickness).

We’ve said before that delivering the most comfortable VR experience is a key focus here at Oculus, and tech advancements are bringing us closer to the Holodeck. Luckily for us, Brendan has always been very sensitive to visual errors, which makes him an ideal subject for testing the latest demos. At Gaming Insiders, Brendan talked about using a new VR prototype at Valve, which combines ultra low latency, precise head and positional tracking with low-persistence visuals for one of the most immersive and comfortable experiences ever. We can't share all the details yet, but we're taking the insights we've learned from that demo and applying them to the development process to make the consumer Rift even better.


We’ve also talked about the potential for mobile VR, especially for experiences like VR Cinema and games with creative visuals that don’t require a high-end graphics card. John summed up our vision extremely well during his Engadget interview:

"The way I believe it's going to play out is you will eventually have a head-mounted display that probably runs Android, as a standalone system, that has a system-on-a-chip that's basically like what you have in mobile phones...


A standalone VR headset is the future of VR, especially as mobile computing continues to rapidly advance. Bringing VR to an open platform like Android will pave the way for completely new experiences. The Oculus Android SDK is up and running internally, and we’re working on core optimizations for mobile chipsets now.  Stay tuned for more news on this front!

Next-Gen Rift Dev Hardware

In John's interview with Engadget (which you can watch below), he mentions a second Rift development kit.

To clarify: we’d like to ship a new development kit before the consumer version that provides near identical features that developers can build on and test against for the Rift’s launch. That said, we have no plans to announce a new development kit this year. The timing of a new dev kit is tied to the launch of the consumer Rift, and we’ll keep the community posted.

Also, we're working to ensure that content built using the current Rift development kit is compatible with new Oculus hardware, though there will be some integration required to take advantage of the new features, especially for the best experience. 

Marshall Cline Joins Oculus!


We’re excited to introduce Marshall Cline, our new VP of Platform. Marshall is a world renowned software architect, engineer, PhD., and author of the legendary C++ FAQ. His work was an early inspiration for Brendan and Michael when they started in the games industry. Marshall is heading up development of the Oculus platform, which means he’s responsible for all the web services powering your virtual reality experience. Please join us in welcoming him to the team!

Rift in the News

In case you missed it, the Rift was featured on the Today Show, where Matt Lauer tried the Unreal Engine 4 Elemental demo on the 1080p HD Prototype live on national television!

Images courtesy of Kotaku.

The Rift also won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award and a Golden Joystiq Award for Innovation of the Year! It’s a huge honor -- Thank you for making these possible!

Image courtesy of Popular Mechanics.

Finally, if you’re in the Boston area the weekend of Nov. 2nd, join us for a VR developer meetup! A few of us will be there talking about the Rift, virtual reality, and hardware development. You can find all the details here.

We hope to see you there!

-- Palmer and the Oculus team

Latency Tester Pre-Orders Now Open!

Minimizing latency is the first step toward great virtual reality. In March, we announced the Oculus Latency Tester, a tool we developed to help content creators build better virtual reality games by enabling them to quickly and precisely measure motion-to-photons latency from any point in their game pipeline.

We're pleased to announce that the Latency Tester is finally complete and we’re opening pre-orders starting today at www.oculusvr.com/order/latency-tester/! If you have Oculus Store Credit from the Kickstarter campaign rewards, you can apply it to your pre-order purchase.

Measuring latency of your game is crucial to developing the best possible virtual reality experiences. With the latency tester, we’ve been able to reduce the latency of all Oculus demos and integrations, identify potential rendering improvements more quickly, and uncover secretly buffered frames in different engines and GPUs. It can also be used to test your development environment for optimal latency testings to minimize latency (e.g. graphics card settings, Aero disabled on Windows, etc).

We’re really happy with the final product, and we've used it internally to benchmark and optimize latency across all platforms. If you want to learn more about how the guts of the Latency Tester work, you can read the original announcement post here: http://www.oculusvr.com/blog/more-tools-for-great-vr/.

If you reserved your spot in line for a latency tester, please use the same email address at checkout to claim that reservation! Those reservations will place you at the front of the order queue. You must claim your reservation by Sept 30th at 11:59pm PT or your spot will be handed to the next person in line.

We manufactured a limited quantity to start, and we’ll make more based on demand. If you have questions about the Latency Tester, head over to the Oculus Developer Forums and let us know. We hope you love it as much as we do!

GDCE, Gamescom, UNITE, & PAX

We spent the second half of August catching up with developers and gamers around the world at GDC Europe, Gamescom, UNITE, PAX Dev, and PAX Prime.

Palmer and Nate spoke at GDC Europe about why VR will drive content innovation and some of the key challenges facing VR game developers today. If you’re interested to learn more, Gamasutra provided a thorough recap of the challenges portion here.

On the show floors, people lined up for hours to try the latest demos from the community in the HD prototypes. Based on our back of the envelope estimates, we demoed Hawken, Unreal Engine 4, Blue Marble, Undercurrent, iRacing, Proton Pulse, Super Mega Mega, Lunar Flight, First Law, and AaAaa! to over 30,000 people.


The front of the line to try iRacing in the Rift at Gamescom.

The Gamescom booth team getting the word out about virtual reality and the Oculus Rift.


Flying a high-powered mech through the city streets of Hawken...

A special thank you to everyone that waited hours to see the latest demos -- We appreciate it!

Expanding the Oculus Team

We’re looking for more super-talented engineers to help build the best VR platform in the world. In particular, we’re looking for the best and the brightest in the following areas:

If you think you’ve got what it takes to build the Metaverse, let us know! You can apply to any of the above positions, plus many, many more, at careers.oculusvr.com.

IndieCade and VR Jam 2013

We’ll be at IndieCade next weekend (Oct. 3rd - 6th) talking to developers, showcasing the VR Jam 2013 winners, and hanging out with the community in our back yard. Congratulations again to tell the VR Jam finalists and winners!

We’re giving two talks at the IndieCade festival this year:

- Laird is giving a talk on team building and leadership in the video game industry Thursday at 9am PT.
- Palmer and Nate are presenting on virtual reality game design Saturday at 4:30pm PT.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, stop by the festival and say Hello!

As always, you can keep up on the latest Oculus news on www.oculusvr.com, www.facebook.com/oculusvr, or by following @oculus on Twitter.

Thanks,

-- Palmer and the Oculus team