As it is tradition of this little blog, I will write a full round-up of the Oculus Connect 5, the very important Oculus event that has been held in San Jose on 26th and 27th of September (2018). I have not been there, but I have read an enormous amount of sources and now I will try to provide you all the most important announcements and news from that event, included a lot stuff on Oculus Quest. If you are afraid of having missed something from the event or you have some questions on the new Oculus Quest, keep reading and let me explain everything!
Oculus Quest has been the rockstar of this event. While there have been many other news from the Oculus Connect 5, this has been the most important one and the one about which every worldwide VR magazine has talked about.
Oculus has announced its first 6 DOF standalone headset with 6 DOF controllers and its name is Oculus Quest. If in the past two years you have heard the name “Santa Cruz”, well, it is exactly that headset, but with a name more in line with standard Oculus naming (all devices’ names have one word only: Go, Rift, GearVR). It is basically like a completely standalone Rift, meaning that you buy it, start it and use it without having to rely on a phone or computer. It is completely 6 DOF, so you can move wherever you want and move your hands however you want (well, more or less, as I’ll detail later on) and inside VR, everything will be coherent with what you do. With other standalone devices, like the Mirage Solo, you have only one 3 DOF controller, meaning you have only a remote you can rotate, while with Santa Cruz you have two controllers that are like the ones of the Rift, that is it will be like having your hands inside VR.
This is everything I have been able to find on specifications:
- Snapdragon 835 VR reference design;
- Same high-quality lenses of Oculus Go;
- FOV around 95°-100°;
- 1600×1440 per eye resolution;
- 72 FPS;
- Adjustable IPD;
- 4 GB ram
- 64 GB memory in its base $399 version;
- Integrated audio (with better bass than Oculus Go integrated audio);
- 2 3.5mm jack to use your headphones;
- 6 DOF inside-out tracking of headset thanks to 4 integrated cameras (you will need to setup no external cameras in your room);
- 6 DOF tracking of both controllers thanks to the cameras of your headset;
- USB, Wi-fi, bluetooth connection. USB should have OTG enabled.
The headset is more or less like the Rift, with some improvements on comfort and design. It seems very well made and the design and the quality of the materials feel great.
The audio is integrated inside the lateral bands of the device, exactly as in the Go.
On the right of the headset there is the button to turn it on, with a light that, when the headset is on, indicates the status of the battery (it turns red when the battery level is below 30%). There is also a 3.5mm jack for earphones.
On the front there are the four cameras used to track the position of the device and the controllers. These cameras are put at the four corners of the faceplate, even if the two lower ones are a bit closer to the center. In the middle top position of the faceplate there is a led that turns on when the four cameras are on: this is like the light of the webcam of a laptop and shows if the cameras are in use.
On the left side there is the USB-C port of the device. There is also another 3.5mm jack for earphones.
On the bottom there are two things: the volume adjustment buttons and the IPD adjustment lever.
The controllers instead are very similar to the Oculus Touch and have more or less the same design, with very subtle differences and a big difference: the ring has been moved to the upper part of the controllers, to make the tracking easier and better. The buttons are exactly the same of the ones of the Touch: index trigger, middle trigger, A-B buttons, one thumbstick and one menu button. Since they are almost identical, even these controllers are called Touch controllers.
All people having tried it reported a very comfortable headset, as all headsets by Oculus. It feels slightly heavier than the Go, especially on the forehead and it is also heavier than Rift: since the headset has to contain all the processing units and the batteries, of course it has to be heavier than the Rift. Anyway, no one felt it uncomfortable. Furthermore, the headset felt firm even when people moved a lot in the Dead&Buried multiplayer demo. The headset has to fit to your head with a mechanism that is similar to the one of the Rift (those terrible lateral and top straps… I wonder when Oculus will switchto the comfortable knob of other devices…). Someone has tried it with glasses as well and went ok with it.
The controllers are almost like Touch, but they are not exactly like the Touch… they feel different. Ben Lang of Road To VR reported that he felt that they are a bit less comfortable, also because there is not the area where you can left your thumb to rest. So, they are great, but a bit less than the Rift’s Touch.
The screen is a pentile OLED, featuring 1600×1440 per eye resolution. We are at the same level of Vive Focus or Vive Pro… probably the display is the same made by Samsung. Mura and contrast are at high-quality levels and the images feel crisp. SDE is noticeable, but much less than Rift and Go. The visuals will use a new feature developed by Carmack that will help in reducing the chromatic aberration caused by lenses with almost no little computational cost.
No words have been told on FOV, but we can estimate it around 95°-100°. Framerate is locked at 72Hz, even if somewhere I read that Carmack told that there is even the possibility that they will choose to adopt a choice similar to the one of Go (60Hz and 72Hz mode depending on the apps).
Lenses are great, because they are the ones of Oculus Go, so less godrays than Vive ones. The IPD is adjustable and the sweet spot is quite big: I haven’t read any compliant on this.
The Quest features high-quality integrated audio, meaning that you won’t need to wear earphones to hear the sounds in VR, but you will listen directly to it thanks to speakers integrated in the lateral parts of the device. This has been made because with GearVR Oculus engineers noticed that people were often too lazy to wear earphones and enjoyed VR without audio. The speakers have better quality than the ones of Go, especially for what concerns the bass frequencies, that now are more audible. During the confusion of the event, people could hear the audio well, so the speakers have great quality and power.
If you want some privacy (for… cough cough porn…cough cough), you can exploit the 3.5mm audio jacks. There is one for each side of the device and you can plug your headphones in any one of them to be able to use your own audio headset with the Quest. When interviewed by TESTED guys, Oculus refused to answer to why there are two audio jacks, but hinted that a particular audio solution will be released in the future. I bet on special headphones, comprised of two separated earphones, and every one of them will be attached to its own socket on the headest, so removing and wearing the device, especially in exhibitions, gets easier.
Quest runs on a Snapdragon 835 SoC. This is the same chip of the Samsung S8 and it is not the latest available for VR: Qualcomm has already released the 845 VR reference design. This choice of using a previous-gen processor has been due to the will of keeping the price low, I guess.
Anyway, how does the Quest’s horsepower compare with the ones of Rift and Go?
Regarding Rift, there is no comparison that can be made: the Rift runs attached to a PC where you could have installed the latest RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, that is a beast able to perform an insane amount of operations per second, while the Quest is basically a mobile phone. There’s no way a game with complex and photorealistic graphics can run on Quest. NO WAY. This is a mobile headset… if you want high-quality VR, you have to use a PC.
Anyway, a game made for PC could be ported for Quest by performing a lot of optimizations: low poly environments, less lights, less drawcalls, texture atlas, and all the various optimizations stuff that, if you have developed for Gear VR, already know well. In a session, the developers of Dead and Buried have made people see the difference in visual quality of the version made for PC and for Quest. Looking at the video, you may notice that the two games looks both very very good. This could make you imagine that so all games on Quest may appear almost as on the Rift, but don’t be excited too fast: we are talking about a showcase game, where for sure Oculus engineers have worked hard to ultra-optimize the appearences for a lot of time… I don’t expect all games to have this kind of quality. But this means that we’ll have some official portings that will feel somewhat close to the game for PC. A bit like what happened with Henry ported from PC to Oculus Go by John Carmack: he used a special encoding of 5K 360 video and the experience is similar to the realtime UE4 experience on PC, even if at the same time it is completely different.
Regarding the comparison with the Go, well, the difference is the one that there is between Snapdragon 821 and Snapdragon 835, that can be summarized by this benchmark table:
Anyway, keep in mind that Oculus Quest has to use part of the power to track the environment and the controllers, so actually the gain is a bit less…. So, the Quest will be more powerful than the Go, but won’t offer performances THAT bigger than the Go.
UPDATE: a redditor made me notice that the Snapdragon 835 VR has a chip dedicated for 6 DOF tracking, so the inside-out tracking doesn’t weigh too much on the GPU performances of the device. As Qualcomm says: “6DoF motion tracking is done at a fast 800Hz rate using the integrated Hexagon™ DSP. This leaves the Snapdragon CPU and Adreno™ GPU free for computing and graphics processing. “
John Carmack said that we are at PS3 or Xbox 360 levels in terms of computational power, but again, you won’t be able to see here the same level of graphical beauty of games for PS3. The reason is simple: titles on console run at 1280 x 720 at 30 Hz, while in this headset, the game runs at 3200×1440 at 72 Hz, with high-end anti-aliasing effects (there is like a factor of 8.5x pixels that have to be rendered on the Quest). Furthermore, the console runs with 500W of power, while this little toy at 5W. This means that we are very far away from running console-like quality games on the Oculus Quest.
So, summarizing: the computational power will allow for great games on Quest, but not for games with astonishing graphics.
The tracking system of Oculus Quest is called Insights and it is an inside-out tracking technology, that is it doesn’t need any kind of external hardware or setup to work. On the device there are four cameras that analyze the environment and understand the position and orientation of the device and controllers. This is done by extracting some features from the four camera streams of the environment, mixing these data together and creating a sparse point cloud of the space around the device.
This tracking technology can theoretically work in spaces with whatever dimension (Oculus let people play a multiplayer game in a 4000 square foot arena), but the reccommended play area will be around 5m x 5m. The tracking has been optimized to work in whatever conditions, but having tried various inside-out tracked headsets, I am sure that in some conditions (low light, monochrome environments, etc…) the tracking won’t perform well. Anyway, people trying it at the OC5 were overall satisfied by the tracking, that felt like the one of the Rift. Someone reported little glitches in some particular situations (like the headset too close to a surface), but overall it performed good. It has to be noticed that Oculus has of course decorated all the enironments with textures that made the tracking work well (there were no monochrome textureless surface at all) and has set the right lighting… we have to see how the device tracking will work in the wild.
While reading the reviews of the Vive Focus on Engadget, for instance, I’ve read the journalists talking about a stable tracking with no problems at all, but then experimenting with it in the office, I noticed that there are particular conditions where the tracking gets lost, for instance when I look at a completely white wall. In this case, the headset just sees all white and can’t understand anything of the environment. So, I want to test it myself to see how much the tracking is actually reliable. For sure having four cameras with a wide FOV helps (to lose tracking you should have a very big portion of monochrome environment around you).
The tracking of the controllers is very good as well and from reviews, I got that it is slightly better than the one of WMR controllers. Anyway, it is not at the same level of the one of Rift or Vive. There are situations when the tracking becomes problematic: for instance when the controllers are too close to the headset, when they are turned completely down (this has been reported by Ian Hamilton), or when they go behind you. If we exclude these corners situations, anyway, they perform very well. Since the tracking FOV is high, you can somewhat also play archery games or other games that require you to move for some time your hand behind your head to get something.
When I tried, to make it lose tracking of the controllers you have to occlude the ring from all the cameras. That is not very easy to do unless you are intentionally posing, IMO. Sounds like it was easier for you, which seems odd. @ID_AA_Carmack if you want to send me one…
— M Chen (@machenmusik) September 28, 2018
Anyway, some problems still remain because of inside-out tracking… games must be designed to take in count that the system can’t track hands that are behind the head of the user. I’ll make two examples:
- You are in a shooting game. You spread your arms to shoot contemporarily to left and right: since the headset has high tracking FOV, everything works. But if you turn your head to look at left, the system won’t detect your right hand anymore, because it will fall behind your head. So, what to do when you plan to shoot with it??
- You are in a game where you can climb on walls. You climb at a certain point and you keep yourself attached to the wall with your right hand. Then you look at your left to look at your game environment and you make a movement with the right hand to detach from the wall and throw yourself inside the game action. But at this point your hand is not tracked at all… so how to do that?
I guess that game designers should work hard to avoid these situations that can ruin the gaming experience. Furthermore using IMU data from non-tracked controllers could help in faking movement detection in these situations.
Regarding the tracking, the positional tracking of the headset works using visible-light…so it works with RGB cameras (even if I guess that they are black and white, like all the cameras of the standalone headsets). The controllers, instead, get tracked thanks to IR light and that’s why there is not the LED-lit crown as in WMR controllers. So, we are talking about a multi-spectrum tracking tech (thanks to TESTED for this info). This also means that while controllers can be tracked in whatever light condition, the headset tracking can’t work in the dark. You need a light, even a dim one: Oculus says that if there is enough light to read a book, than you can use the Quest. They are also thinking about solutions to let you use the headset in low light environments. Anyway, if there is not enough light, you can still use the headset, but only as a 3 DOF one… so in this case, the Quest becomes like an enhanced version of the Go.
Of course there is the Guardian system, even if it is still not clear how it will be set-up for each room, considering that you should probably set it up with the headset on your head (maybe some kind of passthrough will be enabled). What is sure is that the headset will be able to remember all your rooms and re-load the Guardian configuration for each room as soon as you walk into it. The system will recognize the environment thanks to its visual features and this means that there will be no need to re-set your Guardian boundaries each time you want to use your device. The number of rooms that the device can remember is currently 5.
Going on stage at OC5, Andrew Bosworth showed a prototype of Mixed Reality done with the Oculus Quest. In this prototype, that he said is something in a prototypical stage (so won’t be available with the Quest soon), you could see the world as something like a smudged black and white painting, where the edges of the world around you are black and the rest is all white. While in this artistic sight of reality, it is possible to do some operations with the real world, since you somewhat see it: for instance, he was able to type with his real keyboard while in VR. Then, he was able to summon some virtual reality windows to do stuff in VR (like typing a text note) and then also chose to move to a completely virtual reality space to meet other people thanks to Facebook social technology. Imagine this as the menu and windows of HoloLens, but from inside a VR headset, or actually an MR headset.
Facebook stresses how mixed reality is and will be important and I think I know the reason. It’s easy: we all know that the future will be wearing an XR glass all the day and of course Facebook wants to be the leader that day. This is why in its Facebook Reality Labs, they are doing a lot of R&D on augmented reality. So, they should transition at some point from pure VR to VR/AR and the Quest is the ideal device for that. It is standalone (as HoloLens and Magic Leap) and has cameras through which it sees the environment. So, it can become the first Oculus MR headset and this will mean developing for it also a MR operating system, as the one of HoloLens where you can put objects and windows all over your room. Of course this is not ready yet and the fact that they have not two frontal RGB cameras, makes difficult creating a true screen-through AR headset, but Facebook can work in creating the foundations for next-gen.
For sure you know that I’m a fan of mixed reality with VR headsets: on the Vive Focus I’ve already worked in creating different visualization modes, like for instance this ASCII filter.
And then I made with Enea Le Fons the sound-reactive app Beat Reality that makes you see your reality as pumping at the rhytm of music.
So I love this idea of MR with a VR headset and I’m happy that Facebook is betting on it. Modifying the reality is cool.
But as I’ve said, given the four cameras positions that are not in line with the user’s line of sight, it is not possible to obtain a passthrough stream: so, some kind of MR is possible, but some other kind is not. Carmack has said that they are also working to see if they can mix the images from the four cameras to obtain two reconstructed streams from the point of view of the eyes, but it is hard.
4 Oculus Quest cameras could be used for pass-through video says @ID_AA_Carmack, but "the cameras are not where your eyes are. Everything is offset a little bit," adding "we have a lot of technology work going on" to help, though it that work is not guaranteed to ship. #OC5
— Upload (@UploadVR) September 27, 2018
Regarding the available artistic black-and-white pass-through that hightlights the edges of your environment, it is an experimental feature and it is not clear if it will ship with the headset. Who has tried it has said that it is a 3D one and that it is nice and accurate, but has also some glitches, especially when you move.
Yeah that's true actually I forgot about that. It was very blurry and undefined, almost like looking at a smudged painting of the real world
— David Jagolanterns 🎃 (@David_Jagneaux) September 27, 2018
3D, it basically redraws the world in black and white like a painting
— David Jagolanterns 🎃 (@David_Jagneaux) September 27, 2018
Continue talking about MR, during the Dead and Buried demo (where people played multiplayer matches in a 4000 square feet arena), everyone was astonished by the mapping of the real and virtual world: there were cages splattered all around the arena and in the virtual world you could see the same cages of the real world, in exactly the same position. Another person with an iPad in hand was able to follow the gameplay of all the players,
maybe thanks to some ARCore magic thanks to Oculus insight inside-out tracking technology running on the iPad (this means that Oculus tracking technology can also work on other devices!).
I asked John Carmack about this feature and he kindly answered that it is not that the headset can map the environment in realtime and add the cages in the right places, it is just that the virtual world has been modeled exactly in the same way of the real world and then there has been an initialization phase when the real and virtual world have been matched together. Very very cool, but nothing that we had not already seen other times.
The great thing of the Dead And Buried arena is that it shows that in the future will be possible to have local multiplayer games with the Oculus Quest. In the arena, people were able to play 3 vs 3 matches and everyone could see all the other players. This means that all players shared a common reference system and could play in the same space virtually and physically.
How was this possible? In the same way it is possible in HoloLens, ARCore and ARKit: basically the various devices analyze the world and extract features to perform the tracking… then they exchange the data about these features and realize how is their relative pose. For instance if the Quest of player 1 sees the table of the kitchen at its coordinate (0, 0, 0) and the Quest of player 2 sees it at the coordinate (2, 0, 0), since the table in the physical world is at the same place, the systems of the two players can understand that the Quest 2 is 2 meters on the right wrt Quest 1 and so they will be able to register their relative positions and then play together in the virtual same space.
This multiplayer feature will most probably not available at launch: Oculus says that all these features are experimental… but I bet that as soon as they will polish it, they will release it in Oculus SDK.
If you want to read more about how Oculus developed the Dead and Buried demo, read this official post.
In the same Arena Quest demo, Oculus let users look down and see a prototipical full body avatar of themselves. Oculus has confirmed that cameras were able to detect some features of the body of the users and so the system was able to reconstruct locally an approximation of the pose of the (lower part of the) body of the user. This is amazing and opens up a lot of possibilities. For sure the position of the cameras of the Quest makes this task easier (two of them look down, so they often see your body)… and all the full body tracking algorithms of Facebook AI department know what to do with the images of these cameras.
It is of course an experimental feature (it won’t be shipped with Quest), but since I am a big fan of full body VR, I am already hyped by this possibility.
Anyway, all the analysis for tracking happens on the device and not on the cloud (obviously, latency would be enormous otherwise!).
Oculus has always been very smart in offering a development environment that is almost the same whatever is the device you are developing for. For instance, in Unity, the Oculus Utilities plugin is the same for PC, Go and GearVR. Things won’t change with Quest and so Oculus developers will already know how to develop for it.
Furthermore, being the controllers of the Rift and the Quest almost identical, every game made for Rift can be ported with Quest with just few clicks (on Unity it is only a matter of switching Build platform). This will favor more portings from Rift to Quest. Of course this easiness is true only on paper: when porting a game from PC to mobile you have to perform a whole set of optimizations to make it work smoothly.
The full documentation of Oculus Quest development SDK will come out in 2019.
We don’t know the estimated battery time and the opinions on the web are quite different: one guy on Facebook talked about batteries in headsets of demos swapped every hour, while another one on reddit talked about batteries lasting very long (like 4 hours). Oculus has said that aims at a battery duration that is in line with Oculus Go, so we can expect a battery life of 2-3 hours, that is for sure not fantastic nor terrible. Of course battery life will depend on the experiences the user will run.
We have no info on the UX of the Quest, since no one has been allowed to see it. So we don’t know if it will be like Oculus Go and Gear VR or if it will feature a complete social environment like Oculus Rift. I bet in something like the former in the beginning, with a switch to the latter if they manage to optimize the Home environment for mobile.
The Quest will have a companion app for smartphones (iOS and Android) that is the same used with the Go. And exactly like with the Go you will need it for its first setup. After that, you may continue using the app to manage your installed experiences and the settings of the device.
Connection to PC
Oculus Quest features an USB-C port and someone started hoping that it could be possible to connect the headset to the Virtualink port of the upcoming RTX 2080 graphics cards to use the Quest as a tethered headset. This tethered mode would make the Quest the first hybrid tethered/standalone headset.
Actually Oculus has not announced anything like that and maybe it won’t announce that in the future, too. As I’ve said in my previous prediction post:
Regarding the use of Virtualink to connect the Santa Cruz to PC, I don’t think it will happen, for mostly three reasons:
There was a debate on it on Reddit and people more skilled than me told me that doing a compromise between a tethered headset and a standalone headset would produce a device that works rather well in both situations but that would need compromises and so it wouldn’t be optimal in neither situation. And Oculus wants to release optimal products, not decent ones;
The marketing will be all based on freeing you from the cable. A wired option would be confusing at the beginning for customers;
If the Santa Cruz can work as a Rift, no one would buy a Rift anymore and Oculus has said a bazillion times that it believes in its PC line.
I see more probable that a third party like Riftcat produces a hack for that than that Oculus will release an official solution in the short-term future.
UPDATE: Carmack confirmed on Twitter that the Quest can’t work connected via Virtualink and hinted on Twitter that they are experimenting on Wi-fi streaming
We did not add any dedicated hardware to act as a PC display (it was debated a lot), but we have a research project going to see what we can do with maxing out WiFi streaming. No promises…
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 30, 2018
Oculus Quest will launch with 50+ titles. Among these titles there are very popular VR gaming franchises like for instance
- SuperHot VR
- Dead and Buried
- The Climb
- Rec Room
- Face Your Fears 2
- Robo Recall (this has excited me: playing Robo Recall without having the hassle of the cable will be fantastic!!)
Furthermore, thanks to a partnership with ILMxLAB, a new Star Wars experience is coming as an Oculus Quest exclusive: “Vader Immortal: a Star Wars VR Series”. There will be three episodes of this Star Wars saga and the first one will be available at Quest launch. This little saga will have a story that is inserted between episode III and episode IV of Star Wars and for sure will make all Star Wars fans hyped. Star Wars is a very popular brand and for sure this, together with the great form factor of Quest, will help Quest in selling well.
Content will be curated in a console-like fashion: this will mean that, at least at the beginning, Oculus will publish only high quality titles on Quest store.
A lot of people wonder what happens if they already own a game in the Rift library and want to enjoy it on Quest. Quest has its own Oculus Store… so, will have people to buy the game again? According to Nate Mitchell, maybe: Oculus will let every developer choose if giving for free on Quest every game whose PC version has been bought for Rift (and viceversa), or not. I hope that this will happen
Other notable stuff:
- Carmack said that Quest for its users will be 80% gaming and 20% media consumption. From current analytics, instead, the Oculus Go has been 80% media fruition and 20% gaming;
- He also said that the Quest is somewhat competing with the Nintendo Switch, being both portable gaming devices. Honestly, I don’t think that at the moment the Quest can compete with the Switch, but maybe in the future…
- He also mocked all the marketing stunts with videos of people running and jumping with quest: people are lazy and love to spend their time seated, so all these crazy movements most probably won’t happen all the time. This is something in line with what Dabo of Langzou VR told me: “we want room scale VR, but in our lives we spend most of our time seated”;
- During demos at OC5, people were given colored Quests. Oculus has said that the Quest will be shipped only in black color and that the colored versions were special for the OC5 to distinguish people of different teams in the 3 vs 3 action game. Anyway lots of people liked it, so who knows if some company will start selling colored covers…
- Regarding the multiplayer game arena, Oculus has said that it was a mix of experimental features developed in the labs and so it was more a research project to push VR to its limits than a showcase of a product. So maybe we won’t see soon Quests used in LBVR centers;
- Carmack has said that hand tracking on the Quest will be theoretically possible, but the problem is the computational resources: hand tracking is heavy and the Quest has not that much horsepower to handle that plus the games. So we don’t know if it will be added. On the Vive Focus (that has a 835 chipset as the Quest), I’ve seen that the gesture tracking technology has optimization problems because of the limited computational power;
- Oculus has said that the device that has been showcased to journalists may still have some little changes and tweaks from here to the official launch. Anyway, these can be only minor changes.
Price and release date
The headset will come in “Spring 2019” and this makes me think that it will be released during the annual F8 conference.
The price is $399 USD for the 64GB edition. When asked about other possible editions, Oculus has answered that they are still thinking about it.
Will this make VR mainstream?
According to various sources, 2019 will be the year when VR will take momentum and this headset comes out in 2019. The form factor is neat and the price is affordable: people want a VR device that costs less than $500 and this is perfectly in line with expectations. Also the content will be amazing.
In my opinion, Quest is the standalone VR headset to beat at the moment. It is just great in everything and this is the reason why I’ll buy it on Day 1 it will be put on sale and like me, a lot of other VR enthusiasts will do the same. It has the right characteristics to go mainstream.
BUT, I don’t believe Quest will make VR mainstream. When the GO came out, everyone started saying that it would have made VR mainstream, but it didn’t happen. Oculus itself estimated some million sales and, according to companion app downloads analysis performed by Heaney555 on reddit, we are maybe at 1 million downloads. That’s great, but it’s not mainstream.
People don’t know what VR is for: that’s why they don’t buy VR devices. Furthermore, as Palmer Luckey said in an interview to WIRED, we are not at a quality level that is satisying for the average consumer:
A lot of people insist on price, but if the VR available today were as good as The Matrix, price wouldn’t be the issue. It’s going to be a combination of better software and better hardware. Right now free isn’t cheap enough for most people.
So IMHO the Quest won’t become mainstream because:
- The average consumer wants to enter the Matrix, wants realistic VR and on a graphical level, Quest is a step back from tethered PCs like Rift or Vive. Furthremore, the SDE is clearly visible (this is not Pimax), the tracking doesn’t emulate perfectly the hand and doesn’t even always detect the hands, etc… For us techie this is normal, but when I make people try VR they always expect something a la Ready Player One and remain disappointed by the current hardware limitations.;
- It has a console attitude: I don’t like at all the Quest being defined the next-gen console. I want a widespread VR that is useful in everyday life, not a plastic toy that is only good to play some games and go into Facebook Spaces. To sell more, companies are marketing VR devices as gaming devices. When presenting the launch titles, Oculus has only talked about games. What about other apps? Creativity, productivity, etc…? I’ve seen that National Geographic and Sketchup are working with Quest, but this has not been underlined. People do not know what VR is for and if we answer only with “gaming”, most people won’t be interested. Furthermore, this limits VR usage to our free time moments. IMHO this is wrong on so many levels: XR should be pervasive in our lives and we should make people understand its enormous possibilities (gaming included, of course);
- The price: $400 is cheap to be a VR headset, but anyway it is not an amount of money that people spend lightly. Yes, people spend $1200 for an iPhone, but we can’t live without a smartphone anymore and Apple is a brand that make people feel cool. This is not the case for Oculus Quest (and all other VR headsets).
For these reasons, I predict some millions sales: the Quest will attract VR enthusiasts like me and tech enthusiasts that weren’t able to buy a VR device before, because of the high costs of a VR-ready PC. It will sell very well, but it won’t attract all kind of people. It’s a step forward on the right path, but not the final step. Anyway, for me is enough… year after year we’ll arrive to mainstream VR 🙂
There has been some space for news on Oculus Go, as well.
Oculus is very satisfied with Oculus Go sales and also of usage statistics. They have been beyond expectations. While Gear VR has sold more, people often used it for one or two days and then put it on a shelf. With Go, instead, there is far more user retention. This is for sure also because Gear VRs were given for free, while people buying a Go bought it on purporse.
Soon, Oculus Go users will be able to cast the content they are seeing to a mobile phone or a TV thanks to a feature called Casting. Carmack promised it some time ago and in the near future we’ll be able to enjoy it. This will make VR more social: while I am playing with the Go, my friends will be able to see what I am seeing on the phone and have fun with me. This will help a lot also people making demos in exhibitions: this way it will be possible to guide better the users playing our experiences in Oculus Go.
Carmack said that they also thought about putting an LCD screen on the faceplate of the headset to let surrounding people see what the user was seeing but then they abandoned the idea.
Soon, Youtube app will be available for Oculus Go users. This is a great news for people that like to enjoy 360 videos or 180 3D videos inside a VR headset. Currently there are something like 800,000 VR videos on Youtube, so this adds a lot of content to enjoy to Go users. Great move, Oculus. Release date is unknown, but it is said to be close.
Oculus Venues line-up
It has been unveiled the fall line-up for Oculus Venues, the application that let you enjoy events and shows in VR, as if you were in a big theater together with all other VR users. The content includes a lot of cool stuff of all genres (comedy, sports, music, etc…). Thanks to strategic partnerships with NBA, MLB basketball and such, people with a Go will be able to enjoy their favorite sports as if they were at the stadium, from whatever position of the world (even if actually Oculus puts some region locks on some streams on Venues). Amazing.
As you can see, since Oculus has noticed that people on Go mostly enjoy media, it is amplifying a lot the media offering.
Oculus Go will feature USB OTG (On The Go), that is that technology that lets you attach devices to the USB port of your mobile device. For instance, thanks to USB OTG, it is possible to attach a USB camera to your smartphone (provided that you have an adapter) and use it in your app in place of the integrated camera.
Thanks to this technology, it will be possible to use USB storage memories with USB-micro support to enlarge the storage capacity of the Go. Filesystem should be FAT32, so files can’t be larger than 4GB. Regarding the maximum allowed total size of the memory, we don’t know. Carmack has verified that a 128 GB memory stick works, though.
I tested a 128GB
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 27, 2018
Chromatic aberration correction
If you have read my review of the Go, for sure you remember how I described that this device shows chromatic aberration near the edges of lenses: this means that you see the R, G and B channels separating as in a rainbow. Well, Oculus has found a way to correct this issue with almost no computational overload and will roll-out this update this fall. That’s awesome!
While talking about the Go, Carmack said various things:
- It was initially just a side project of Quest;
- He expected to ship the Go with a 4K display, but smartphone display manufacturers haven’t been able to match his expectations: display resolution is growing too slowly;
- In his opinion, more comfort and a better battery times are two priorities to make the Go more compelling for people. Lots of Go people complain because of the short battery time and this is a “happy problem” for Carmack, because this means that a lot of people use the Go and want to use it for a prolonged period of time;
- Carmack doesn’t like that the Go controller drifts and doesn’t even like the back straps of the Go;
- They are thinking about solutions on how to avoid the display to ruin because of the direct sun light;
- Oculus Go might add little cursor trails with quadratic bezier curves to ease selection process (thanks Mati for having spotted this!);
- Oculus 64GB version has sold more than 32GB version;
- Oculus will enable a “Low power mode” to stretch battery duration a little more;
Nate Mitchell has said that Gear VR is still a priority for Oculus. Let me frame this statement better:
The name Gear VR has never been told during the OC5 conference and given the attitude of Samsung (that is thinking about a standalone device, according to rumors) and Oculus (that is betting on Go and Quest), I think that it is going to die in 2 years at maximum. In the meanwhile, Oculus will continue to ship all the software improvements of Go also to Gear VR users, since the two systems are almost identical and Gear VR users are still a lot (Gear VR is still the most sold Oculus device). But sooner or later, especially when Oculus will start investing more in mixed reality, the Gear VR will become less and less supported.
Rift has falled a bit in the background during this conference. There have been NO hardware teasing regarding PC VR and no mention of the Half Dome prototype. For sure Oculus prefers the mobile form factor, because:
- it is the one that sells more and make more people enter VR (hence enter Facebook Spaces);
- it gives Facebook full power: on PC, Oculus has to abide the rules of Windows operating system and the popular Steam store. Then there is ReVive, that breaks the rules of Oculus Exclusive titles. On mobile, Oculus can control everything, from hardware to software and can follow only its own rules. And people will be forced to use the Oculus Store;
- Facebook is used mostly on mobile phones, so mobile is something that Facebook likes;
- Mobile is the form factor that will lead to Facebook AR glass, so it is the road to follow.
Oculus for sure is still committed to PC VR, but IMHO it is not its priority anymore. The price of the Quest itself, 399$, that is the same of the Rift will make people buy the Quest instead of the Rift. Yes, there are people that still want the full power of PC, but they are not the majority and so the Quest will start eating Rift’s market shares.
Rift 2 Release date
We don’t know anything regarding a Rift 2 release date: Abrash made predictions for VR in 2022 and so people started thinking about a Rift 2 in 2022. IMHO that would be a crazy move… no one would buy a Rift 1 in 2021, considering that a lot of interesting PC VR headsets like Pimax are entering now the market. It is more probable that a Rift 2 will be released in 2019/2020 and the Rift 3 (if any) in 2022/2023. I guess that Abrash was making predictions about PC VR in general, even if his talk was a lot around a headset too much similar to the Half Dome prototype. So, this an interesting conundrum: will the Half Dome be the Rift 2 or Rift 3? Was he hinting at a Half-Dome release in 2022? And when will we see the next-gen Rift?
Apart from this, Oculus has made some announcements on the software side of Rift.
Oculus Rift Core 2.0 out of beta
Oculus Rift Core 2.0, the evolution of Oculus runtime that transforms your Oculus Home in your personal place in the metaverse and that has introduced Oculus Dash, will exit its beta stage and will be distributed to all Oculus users.
Furthermore, all the Home and Dash ecosystems have been ultra-optimized, the UX has been made better and have been introduced new features, like for instance:
- Full social features: finally we’ll be able to meet our friends inside Oculus Home and do stuff together. It will be also possible to share our display with our friends, so that it will be possible for instance to watch Netflix series together;
- Custom developer items: the developers of the various Oculus games could produce some clothes and collectibles that you will obtain in your Home only if you reach some game achievements. Then you will be able to decorate your Home with these collectibles or to wear them on your avatar. For instance, if you’ll watch an NBA match with Venues, you’ll get an NBA jersey;
- Custom asset import: you can import your own 3D models inside Home, also the ones featuring skinned animations!
- Experiments, a new way for Oculus to test and iterate on upcoming Dash features. You can try virtual desktop pullout panels, wristwatch, and other experimental features right now. To enter this particular beta, just toggle Experiments via the Settings Tab within Dash.
Thanks to Facebook powerful AI, now avatars offered by the Avatar SDK will be able to show eye movements, lips movements and face micro expressions. Of course there is no sensor tracking all these features, but using AI on what are you doing, how you are talking and who you are talking to, the system will be able to emulate them in a satisfying way. This update will make social interactions in VR more realistic and less strange. It will be rolled out later this year.
Oculus has developed a new set of APIs that developers of 2D Desktop applications can implement inside their applications so that they offer a VR mode. So these developers shouldn’t develop a dedicated VR app, or rewrite completely the software, but they can use these special APIs to offer a special view in VR for the app. These apps with a VR view mode will be called Hybrid Apps.
For instance, a 3D modeling app like Blender, could be used easily on a 2D screen as we always use it… but then, when the user wants, he can put the headset on and see immediately the same app, but in VR. There will be the 2D part in the background, as in Oculus virtual desktop and a special part of it in VR. So, for instance, all the UI will be in 2D on a virtual screen, but the 3D model will be in 3D in VR in front of the user. So, for instance, when modeling for VR games, artists could use their favorite applications like Blender with mouse and keyboard and then enter in VR to see how the assets feels in VR and to add the final touches in a fine way. All of this would happen seamlessly, without special commands or opening other apps… just by putting on and off the VR headset.
Oculus is experimenting with this with a closed set of selected partners, like Allegorithmic Labs (that has made the Substance Painter application). If you are interested in implementing this in your app, contact Oculus.
When asked about developing a wireless adapter for Rift, Oculus answered it has no official plans for it, and advised to buy a third-party solution (TPCast).
The Oculus mobile app now supports Rift, too. You can use it to discover events, connect with friends, and browse the store right from your phone. You can even buy and remote install games to your PC on the go.
IMHO it is not that useful, anyway every new feature is always welcome.
The ASW (Asynchronous Space Warp) technology that is useful to help us in having great visuals in VR games even if our PC is having some problems in rendering all the frames, is going to be updated to version 2.0, with improved performances. The release date is “soon”.
Incredible work! Well done.
Will we see this in 2018, or is it coming early 2019? pic.twitter.com/VSxs4Ikp17
— H555 (@Heaney5555) September 28, 2018
Here you are some info about new games for the Rift.
- Ready At Dawn has announced Lone Echo II, with a very cool trailer (that is available also in 360)
- Echo Combat will introduce new Combustion map and new Capture Point mode. It is slated to launch on November 15 for $9.99
- Vox Machinae has been launched!
- Space Junkies enter Closed Beta 2 and will release later this year.
- There is a new trailer for Defector that will launch in 2019.
Strangely, we got little info on Stormland (they only announced a 2019 release) and on that AAA game that Oculus is developing together with Respawn Entertainment.
As I had predicted in my previous post, Facebook has announced a high-quality camera for shooting 360 3D movies, made in collaboration with RED. its name is Manifold. The camera has terrific specs and it is based on a reference design for high-end cameras designed by Facebook some time ago. Regarding the specifications, these are incredible:
- 16 RED(R) Helium 8K(R) Sensors arranged to allow full 360 6DoF capture
- Record raw from 16 cameras running 8k @60 fps simultaneously
- Custom Schneider 8mm, F4.0, 180 degree fish eye lenses
- Single SMPTE 304M cable for power, control and data
Camera Control Unit and storage device may be up to 100 meters from Camera Head
- 5, 12g SDI outputs for monitoring or third party stitch processing
- Multiple third party storage device choices providing 1 hour or more record time
- Front of lens ND filters available
- Quick release handles for maneuvering and setup
- Web app based control interface for flexibility of user interface device choice
- SDK provided for post processing
I think you have noticed that little sentence in the beginning: “allow full 360 6DoF capture”. Yes, this is a camera for volumetric videos, videos inside which you will be able to move a bit, for an enhanced immersion. That’s amazing.
If you want to watch a sample video shot through this camera, featuring some 6DOF movements, here you are:
We don’t know the release date and the price, but for sure this is something for very high-end productions… I bet that for sure it won’t cost less than $50K. Someone also predicts a price close to one million dollars. For sure high-quality 6DOF videos aren’t cheap to be filmed. We’ll see.
Michael Abrash did a very interesting talk about his future perspectives for VR. He said that some of his previous predictions have been fulfilled faster than he expected while some others are still lagging. In general, anyway, he didn’t get too far from reality.
His talk has been very interesting, as always. For instance he said that adding a 4K display to Half Dome is something absolutely straightforward.
/u/Heathree made a great job in summarizing his predictions in this reddit post (that I invite you to read because it includes all the most important quotes from Abrash). Thanks to him, I can report Abrash’s predictions of in a readable timeframe:
Within 3 years or already possible
4k x 4k per eye displays (eye tracking useful for this)
140 degree FOV (eye tracking useful)
varifocal with Deep Focus (eye tracking needed)
good audio propagation algorithms
truly accurate HRTF (possibly)
good hand/finger tracking
within 4 years
foveated rendering with AI filling in missing pixels
eye tracking that works across the population
high quality mixed reality
life-like avatars (possibly)
no less than 4 years
mixed reality that will start to have a “major impact”
waveguide VR displays (maybe, exact timing not specified clearly)
within 10 years
high(er) quality mixed reality through converging AR and VR headsets
useful haptic hands
Impressive. I advise you to watch the full talk, of course (it is the last talk of the keynote of Day 1… you can find the video at the end of this article).
UPDATE: on reddit, user /u/cmdskp has expressed some legit doubts on the prediction of Abrash regarding 4K*4K displays:
4Kx4K per eye would require (reliable) eye tracking for dynamic foveated rendering and so won’t be possible to render a total of 8Kx4K @90Hz without, within 3 years. No way, Jose!
Especially, considering the render target has to be ~1.4x higher each side for lens distortion correction. So, 11200×5600 @ 90Hz(with a greater FOV you have to compensate with even more). Nope! Not going to see that widespread, done brute-force within 3 years!
I’ve scattered the most important things said by John Carmack on the various Oculus devices in the previous parts of this post. At the end of this article I will just link you the video of its unscripted talk, so if you want to hear him, you can.
First generation over
Oculus has said that with Oculus Quest, it considers over the first generation of VR headsets. Now there are:
- Rift for premium tethered experience;
- Quest as the high-quality mobile platform;
- Go for entry point VR;
From now on, Oculus will work on Gen 2, iterating these devices to their next evolutions.
Notice that there has been no mention on Gear VR…
One billion people in VR
Last year, Zuckerberg has come out with this bold statement that he wants one billion people in VR. At OC5 he said that we are something like at 1%. Next year I guess he will say that he is like at 2%. You are not performing well, Zuck 😀 😀 😀
New Oculus mission is “Defy distance”, that is making people from all over the world get more connected. Oh, this seems a lot the vision of Facebook social network. The new dream of Oculus seems now “One billion people inside Facebook Spaces”.
I don’t know… for sure Facebook money is helping a lot the ecosytem fostering content and technological innovations. But it seems that the purpose of its devices in the end is just becoming make us play and get social, exactly as it happens with Facebook social network now… and as I’ve said, this seems a bit reductive for VR in my opinion. I really hope that it is just a wrong impression of mine…
I made some predictions before Oculus Connect… how well have I performed? Well… not that bad… 6 out of 10… and I have been the only one predicting the launch of a 360 6DOF camera!
Here you are the full videos of the two keynotes
And that’s it! You have survived until the end of this 8000+ words post and so here you are my most sincere congratulations! I hope that this post has helped you in satisfying all your curiosity around Oculus devices. Since you are here, please share this post and subscribe to my newsletter to show your appreciation.
See you next year with another monster post for Oculus Connect 6! Will Oculus announce a new PC VR headset?
(Header image by Oculus)
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