Today the Oculus Rift unveiled a few new key aspects of the ever evolving VR headset, and with E3 just around the corner, the Daily Reaction crew is discussing each of the major announcements and what that could mean for Sony’s Project Morpheus.
Dan: Now that E3 is just a few days away, we really are going to be expecting some big news to hit the industry on an almost daily level. Today, Oculus Rift unveiled the first look at the new design of the VR headset, and a pair of removable headphones that will come with it. Honestly, when I first heard that it would come with built-in headphones, I was immediately turned off, as inclusion of such needless hardware would do nothing but drive the cost up for anything that would actually improve the experience.
Anyone who is looking to join the VR market when it kicks off early next year is already having to consider how much of an investment they will have to make. For the Oculus Rift, gamers are going to have to already have a gaming PC that is capable of running the games they want to play, the games themselves and on top of that, there will need to be the cost of the Oculus Rift headset itself. If the included headphones are worth anything, they would need to be able to recreate a soundstage of an at bare minimum ~$100 pair of headphones. Adding that to the cost and the now included Xbox One controller, and you are starting to see where I am going with this.
Cost is really going to be the determining factor for the future of VR, and it is starting to feel like the early adopters are going to be footing the bill for needless hardware. Microsoft’s inclusion into the Oculus Rift’s market strategy is an obvious push to keep their name relevant in the VR space, and help give Sony’s Project Morpheus a bit more competition. But, unless Microsoft is giving away their controllers at no cost, the price of the Oculus Rift is only going to go up the more things being added to it.
As an alternative option, oddly not said to be included, are the new Oculus Touch controllers that are said to take your VR experiences even further. Using a number of sensor and its interesting design, the Touch will allow players to be able to pick up objects in a virtual space, as well as perform specific hand gestures in real life that can be mimicked in a virtual space.
Looking at just a few of these announcements it is easy to see that Oculus and Microsoft are posturing the Rift as competition for Sony’s upcoming Project Morpheus. The Oculus Touch is already seeming like the lead dog for interface designed hardware, especially when we consider that the PlayStation Move controller is pretty much all Sony has to work with at this point. But, given what I have seen so far, I am not terribly worried for Sony, especially if we take into account Microsoft’s other big announced feature.
Chandler: I’m so glad you left this feature for me. It’s going to be a fun one to talk about. I have to say, when I first saw the announcements of Oculus partnering with Microsoft, I saw it as things really coming to the ring with the VR competition. Xbox One will have the capability to stream to the Oculus, as it is a Windows 10 device! My first thought was “this is why Microsoft has been so quiet about VR with Xbox.” Of course, my initial impressions were gained by reading Twitter while on a break at work, so imagine my surprise when I read into it more.
VR is all about immersion. That’s the selling factor. Oculus’ own event spent the first 10 minutes or so trying to get that across. They talked about watching a dinosaur break through a roof, and roar at you, but being able to easily turn away because it was on a flat screen. It’s not real. You are a viewer, not a participant. They then went on to sell VR as actually being there. You aren’t just observing an event anymore. You are part of it! As someone who has experienced VR, I can vouch for this. It is the most immersive games experience I have ever had, tricking all of your senses into believing this virtual reality.
So Microsoft will have VR now too? Not quite. There’s a big reason Sony’s headset is wired. Latency. You don’t want to turn your head and have even fractions of a second delay. It would break the experience. So streaming games to Oculus from the Xbox One for VR purposes would be impossible, at least if you wanted to actually have an immersive low latency experience. No, instead, it works a bit like remote play on PS4. The game gets streamed to the Oculus to basically be used as a screen for playing your games. Here’s the part where it gets a bit ridiculous folks…
It’s not just projected onto the screen of the Oculus, but onto a virtual TV screen that is in a virtual living room that you can actually use the Oculus to look around in. Still not following me? Let’s roll the clip.
Everybody that I have talked to that has watched that video has spoken in half sentences afterwards. “What did they…? Why do…? I don’t see…” I’ll say what we’re all thinking. I have a perfectly good living room that I can play my games in. I can already look away from my TV. I don’t need a headset to do that. This is creating a literal virtual version of what is actually reality. It’s not immersing you in the game. It’s immersing you in the fact that you are indeed in a room playing a game, nullifying the point of VR. It reminds me of that Futurama episode where the theme park has Skeeball, Virtual Skeeball, and Virtual Virtual Skeeball.
What’s next? DLC living rooms to play your games in? Change the chair or couch that you are sitting on? I want VR, and I want VR to do well. But I want VR in order to escape from reality, and to immerse myself fully in a virtual world, which Morpheus has already proven to do. We’re guaranteed to see a ton more on VR from both parties at E3 which may change some things, but for now, Oculus remains a Morpheus competitor as a PC VR device only, and a laughable parody of VR on the Xbox One.