The Future Of Oculus Rift, According To The Man Who Invented It

The Future of Oculus Rift, According to the Man Who Invented It

If anyone knows what's going to happen to virtual reality it's Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR and inventor of the Oculus Rift. So I asked him.

Looking way, way into the future Palmer sees a very different kind of Rift to the current set up full of wires and straps. "In the long run these headsets aren't even going to be plugging into PCs, they're going to have dedicated chip sets on the headset itself that are able to render a lot of different experiences. So when you can do that and you can make an easy user experience, you can make content that the average person is interested in, not a first-person shooter".

For the time being however there's a reason behind the game heavy content driving the tech: "the games industry is the only industry with the tools and the talent to build immersive 3D real time environments," explains Palmer, something that will change, but not how you might expect. "As time goes on it's not so much that VR is going to expand to other industries, it's that the games industry is going to expand to do things in other industries. Whether it's architecture or virtual holidays or film, the people that are making games, or making VR games today, are going to be doing these types of thing in the future".

The Future of Oculus Rift, According to the Man Who Invented It

As this future approaches he sees a near technological stablemate joining forces. "Virtual reality and augmented reality are going to end up using a lot of the same technologies and probably converge into the same hardware. And it will probably get to a point where it's something you can wear all day everyday. That's going to take a long time though".

To give you some idea of how long before we're all wandering around with augmented VR headsets like a terminator with Skype you only have to look at the key interface for the Oculus Rift: the human eye. "We need to be about 10-15 times higher resolution before we're maxing out the capacity of the human eye," Palmer points out. The screens required to achieve this virtual reality holy grail are years away. "There are limits but we're not even close to them," he says. "We have a long time to go".

"There are limits but we're not even close to them. We have a long time to go"

Another popular idea often mentioned in the same breath as VR is the idea of motion control or body tracking, but as far as Palmer's concerned "no one has created a good solution yet". Although that doesn't mean he and Oculus VR aren't looking into the idea. The issue is that "it's not as fast or precise as it needs to be for virtual reality" he explains. "It's going to take some time but we've been putting a lot of research and development into virtual reality, and with body tracking, hand tracking, finger tracking. All these things that you need to actually make it feel like your body has been transported into to the virtual world and to be able to interact with it in a natural way".

So while that sci-fi future is a while off, what are Palmer's immediate plans? "Keep shipping DK2s to the developers and continue working on the consumer product and try to get it out the door as fast as possible". When that illusive consumer unit is going to be out is still unannounced but Palmer does confirm a previous interview quote where he said he would be disappointed if it wasn't out before the end of 2015. "I did say that," he agrees. "We've got a vague idea". He also mentions that the current DK2 is the final dev kit Oculus plans to release before the consumer version.

The Future of Oculus Rift, According to the Man Who Invented It

While there's no date to talk about yet, the final form of the consumer device is something Palmer's sure of, stating the final device is "higher frame rate, higher resolution, smaller, lighter, cheaper". One thing it won't be just yet though it 'in the shops'. "We'll definitely be selling it on our website but I don't know about retail," he states. "Retail's kind of pointless for certain products, especially ones that are targeting hardcore gamers used to buying things online".

That's not to say the Rift won't end up as a ubiquitous product eventually. "We see one in every home," thinks Palmer, "just at launch we need to be realistic. The people who are going to be buying this initially are going to be gamers, probably hardcore gamers, and they're going to be the ones with PCs most capable of running it. As time goes on it will become more and more mainstream, but at launch we're going to be targeting that core. Basically let's target it to the people whom we know are going to be buying and then let's go for the people who are going to take some convincing".


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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


Comments

    One in every home? I love VR, and am an Oculus developer, but I just can't see that happening.
    Very few products make it to that ubiquitous status. Phones, TVs radios and furniture.
    Evenwith really very popular items like game consoles, no one brand has made it even vaguely close to being in every home.

    Even if the Rift, right now, today, was half the weight, 2x the resolution and ran on batteries and was truly wireless, I can't see them selling more units than, say, PS4 & XB consoles.
    There is this feeling amondst gamers that VR will steamroll every form of entertainment in the future, but I honestly can't see why that would be the case, even if (and this is a huge if) there were enough content developers out ther capable of creating content.
    VR content is magnitudes more difficult and expensive to create, especially in a non-games space, and once people get past the initial WOW! that you get when you first try it, they will want deep, engaging content to keep coming back, and that takes serious time, and mega dollars worth of investment.
    It also takes a lot more committment for the customer, I have a family of six, am I going to shell out for 3 or more HMDs? Unlike normal gaming you can't easily eat or drink or do other stuff while gaming. Being completely immersed also takes a level of commitment toi the entertainment, like sitting in a cinema vs watching something on the TV.

    I still see VR as potentially reviving video game arcades, being used for one-off experiences, and potentially for training, like driver and pilot training etc. but can't see it cracking mainstream once the intitial wow factor wears off.

      Well it is certainly possible to have one VR per home that is not only made by oculus. It can potentially be as big as TV that almost all household have one, I think that is the point he was trying to make. So far we know valve and Sony is involved in making more VR and once it catch on you can expect TV makers to incorporate the technology into the TV like 3D television.

      I agree in the short/medium term, but I get the impression Luckey is thinking a bit further down the road. Half the weight, 2x the resolution and running on batteries? What if it were almost as light as a pair of glasses, 15x the resolution and you never needed to take them off as they're transparent when not in use? That's where they'll be eventually, probably not in for many decades, but the tech will get there one day,

      I have no doubt that VR will remain a niche gamer thing for many many (many?) years. But I also have no doubt that in the eventual future everybody will have their vision augmented in a way that allows seamless VR/AR experiences.

      I feel like we've had this conversation before, deja vu!

        As light of a pair of glasses isn't going to happen unless there is some physics breakthrough that can replace lenses with something else, and immersion requires blocking out the real world and taking up your entire field of view. You can't do that with something like glasses, you have to physically block out the light and wrap as far as the fov goes.
        The other issue is the screen densities required. 15x the current density means unimaginably small pixels, and what investment will drive that?
        Currently, VR has gotten lucky that mobile phone/tablet screen development has meant that massive fabrication plant investment has already been done, resulting in screens being available far cheaper than would otherwise be the case.
        However, there is little need for much higher pixel densities on phones/tablets than is currently available, so who is going to build multi-billion dollar screen fabs for the unproven marketplace that is VR? Even Facebook doesn't have pockets deep enough for that. Currently Samsung is interested as it will help differentiate their phones in the marketplace, but I can't see them ramping up to even triple the current density when the only foreseeable market for that tech would be VR.

        Last edited 29/12/14 8:49 pm

          Haha wow, that took a long time for you to respond!

          It's funny looking back at people's predictions for technology in the past, they never even get close to the orders of magnitude improvements that are made. There are so many quotes by people involved in that field, people actively studying that technology, and their estimations are comical. From internet speed to memory requirements, and now display technology. You might be right, but there's lots of very smart people and many billions of dollars working towards proving you wrong. To be clear, I'm talking about many decades in the future, possibly not in my lifetime.

            Exactly Puck, what this other guy/girl fails to realize is that the casuals will continue to fund screen technology in mobile / tablets, and when wearables start coming out they will fund that too. The hardcore also fund this stuff of course, but the casual market puts a lot more money nowadays in 'designer' technology than they did in the past, because technology is becoming more and more embedded in our lives.

            Yeah, if we are talking outside of our lifetimes, then maybe there will be some optics breakthroughs that would make this stuff possible, but I am talking about the hype that everyone is buying into that VR will be in every home, and will kill TV and gaming etc. in say the next two decades. It would take multiple breakthroughs in fields where there isn't even a hint of leaps of this kind of magnitude, let alone them being invented, and then becoming commercially viable/affordable, and then being integrated into VR, and even then, it being so attractive to people that everyone would want one in their home. Not every home even has a computer or TV.
            Some areas of tech seem to hit a wall at certain points. Home computers never really got much past 4GHz for a single processor, I see pixel densities having some serious physics issues unless some as-yet-unconceived tech is invented, and then it would take a long time to become viable, and would need a market willing to pay to happen at all.

            There are hundreds of millions of dollars flowing at the moment, but I don't see that continuing, I'd like to be wrong on this BTW, but most of the tech breakthroughs have happened because of tablets and phones, and the billions invested in those technologies. They will still want processot and graphics power increases, but not really display density, otpics etc. so that investment would have to come from elsewhere, VR isn't a big enough market for that money to be invested in it alone, so where is it going to come from is what I keep wondering.

            Last edited 30/12/14 10:00 am

          In my imagination, the long term solution would be to either draw the image in the eye, rather than display it on a screen, somehow negating the requirement for a bulky, light-proof box to be strapped to your face, or perhaps they would bypass the eyes altogether by stimulating the ocular nerve directly.

          The big questions with those two (likely to be very far off if not impossible) solutions would be the cost effectiveness, of course, and the public's willingness to accept something that directly interferes with your senses in such a way. With the current light-box scenario it's very easy to tell that you're in a virtual environment - it's literally sitting on your face. The less physically cumbersome the solution the closer we get to "Running Man", "The Matrix" or "Inception" possibilities where you no longer know what is real.

      This is why you're a developer, not an Entrepreneur like Palmer Luckey. Thanks for commenting, leave the entrepreneurship to the entrepreneurs and we'll leave the developing to the developers.

        :) Good answer.
        I have been involved in VR since the 80s and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go. I was one myself in '87. I think oculus will be successful, but the hype-train of VR in every home isn't going to happen, and the masses of content to be developed somehow and the cost of doing it are stumbling blocks that I can't see being overcome in the next 20 years, if ever. Developers are having trouble coding for the current gen consoles, let alone VR and the budgets required for good content are huge and increasing, how would a developer ever recoup the costs?
        Seriously, the amount of work required for good quality VR experiences are massive, and the budgets are going to be difficult to swallow, especially if the market is more fragmented/less focused than the current console market is.

        Last edited 29/12/14 8:43 pm

          It's not that much work - mainly making sure the user interface is suitable and that the FOV is reasonable. That the Rift has support has been enabled in games by fans in their spare time with no more cost than a Rift dev kit supports this. The problems with VR has mostly been the hardware.

            For a game that is already fariyl suited to VR, for say driving and Flight Simulator games, I'd say you are mostly right (but it is not an optimised VR experience still) but for everything else, it takes a truckload of extra work to make the game work well enough for the experience to have wide appeal, and not just to hardcore VR experience junkies (like myself).
            Also, if you just bolt VR onto existing games, it won't sell widely, you want better VR experiences, and many of those wouldn't translate as well into a non-VR version, if you know what I mean.
            People keep touting there will be these amazing educational VR titles, travel titles, experience titles etc. but who will develop these? They would cost typically similar amounts to blockbuster games if ther are going to be great experiences, and I can't see anyone outside the porn and games industry investing that much money in a title that may or may not sell enough to recoup the investment.

            Last edited 30/12/14 9:58 am

    Dont u mean Mark Zuckerberg is now the owner of it since he forked out that large sum for it :(

    When is this thing becoming a reality? It seems to just be something you read about forever and ever...

      what do u mean. you can buy developer kits. that are fricking awesome! its basically time to just wait for people to start developing the software, and then the games to get it going

      You can jump over to their site and buy one now.

    I'm hanging out for Dev kit 3. if it doesn't come by January next year. ill bite the bullet and get a current Dev kit 2. nothing but rave reviews on it.
    The only issue is when you cant see keyboards etc while using the Oculus so unless you are super amazing at no look typing whilst loosing entire vision even to peak, plus the rift removes where u r spatially. so a few "integration" issues still remain

      Controllers definitely seem to work better than kb/m - something that you can instinctively access all the buttons without looking.

      The Dev Kit 2 is amazing, and light-years ahead of the first one. But it's still not something I'd recommend anybody get unless they're specifically developing for it, it's just not there yet.

      Last edited 16/08/14 10:42 pm

      There will be no devkit 3, Oculus have stated this many times over. The next product will be the release item.

    Pixel density and fps are going to be irrelevant once a better BCI is developed. I'm just thankful that Oculus exists as a stop gap until then! (and I hope I'm alive when it happens).

    Also, if you're worried about the size limits of the lenses, you should check out Avegant Glyph. They're working on a whole new display tech (virtual retinal display) that eliminates the screen door effect while shrinking the display to a thin blade over your eyes. 90% infill per pixel. Compare that to around 30% in OLED displays like the DK2 and your 4k tv.

    Like @puck said, there ARE a lot of smart people AND billions of dollars ALREADY proving naysayers wrong. It's not helpful to imagine limits on a budding technology. Spend that energy creating high quality content and streamlining the process for others to do the same!

    Glad to see that they are going to target the PC gaming community at launch for this. I am a part of that group, and I plan to have one arrive at my door on release day 1. Very excited!

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