Butterflies and bullet trains: Oculus Rift’s emotional demos will kick you in …

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Butterflies and bullet trains: Oculus Rift’s emotional demos will kick you in the heart.

This is it. Although it seems like a no-brainer this news is peculiar on a couple of levels, the first being that Oculus Rift support was added for free by Doom creator John Carmack.The Windows 10 version of Minecraft will be compatible with the Oculus Rift headset, according to a Microsoft representative that took the stage at today’s Oculus Connect 2.

But do look at it, because it’s the product of 10 minutes in Oculus’ new tool Medium — a remarkably natural sculpting system that uses the company’s Touch motion controllers.—At yesterday’s Oculus developer conference here, I got some hands-on time with Oculus’s newest virtual reality hardware and software, from the Rift to the Gear VR and Touch. Microsoft, who now owns everything to do with Minecraft, didn’t pay him for the work, but as the head technology guy at Oculus VR he felt it was important enough to be worth his time. ‘I think [Minecraft is] the single most important application that we can do for virtual reality, to make sure that we have an army of fanatic, passionate supporters that will advocate why VR is great,’ he said. ‘This is why you want to do some of it every single day. Medium was announced yesterday at Oculus Connect, and it’s not just one of the first official Rift demos to use motion control, it’s the very first to offer some kind of creative experience. On stage, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe said that “every platform has to have a paint app, and this is our paint app,” which positions Medium a little bit like MS Paint.

Over the last three years I’ve flown spaceships and waved at aliens, batted UFOs out of the sky with my elephant trunk and watched military training exercises. Valve’s competing SteamVR platform already includes a third-party app called Tiltbrush, a three-dimensional painting system whose brushes can create things like stars and fire alongside more traditional materials.

Everybody that work on that at Oculus and Facebook, you all have my deepest thanks for making this happen.’ The other reason it’s weird is because Minecraft creator Notch was originally working on Minecraft VR Edition for Oculus Rift, but stopped when Facebook bought company Oculus VR for $2 billion. Now, back to ignoring Quiet because D.D. obviously is much better.” Interestingly, Persson had been vocal about his dislike for the social media service, Facebook, which now has a partnership with the game. So I guess it’s appropriate that for a last hurrah, Oculus showed me some of the most ambitious Rift experiences in development—an epic subway battle, a huggable hedgehog, and a complex sculpting tool.

Tiltbrush and Medium’s control schemes both use the metaphor of a virtual palette and a virtual brush, but everything in Medium is made of a material that looks and behaves more like clay. As with Toybox, Oculus assigns someone to join you and explain the system’s tools, appearing as a disembodied pair of hands and a featureless head — it’s always a little surprising how expressive these simple features can be. You can see his reaction to today’s news in the tweet below, with the reference to Quiet and D.D. implying he finds playing Metal Gear Solid V more interesting. The Minecraft announcement was made at a Oculus Rift press event last night in the US, where they were showing off the Oculus Touch controller and the new Oculus Medium virtual sculpting tool.

You can use the second trigger on either hand to grab and move them, and pulling or pushing with both hands is the equivalent of “pinch to zoom” in a touch interface. (In otherwise empty virtual space, it’s also perfectly reasonable to assume this is inflating or shrinking the object. That’s apparently not the case, since the underlying mesh stays the same.) There are a few simple variations — you can create square or round clay, and pressing a button on your other hand pulls up a color wheel. But soon after things started to click, some combination of whirring backgrounds, rapidly changing physics, my novice level of control over maneuvering the headset and the weight and heat associated with simply wearing the Rift, led to my feeling, well…sick.

Medium is organized so that you select a tool by using the non-brush controller, and you tweak the settings of that tool by hitting the analog stick on your brush hand. As a final touch, you can move or change the intensity of a spotlight placed above your creation, which gives the whole environment a gallery-like feel. It’s not totally clear how you can export these objects for outside use, but the lighting can make a big difference when you’re capturing pictures of sculptures from inside Medium.

It’s completely mundane, but it’s also surreal to close one eye and adjust your position to get the right shot — it starts feeling like your eyes are literal cameras. Here, for example, is a piece made by digital artist Bay Raitt: At this point, it’s hard to say whether Medium will make a viable tool for serious 3D modeling, or how much time non-artists will want to spend in it, once the initial excitement has worn off. Instead of the overwhelmingly immersive worlds created for the Rift, Gear VR games tapped into what all the most popular mobile games have in common: They’re easy to pick up and play. Or you can teleport towards an enemy, hit him in the face with your pistol, throw it to the side, and steal his rifle out of his hands and shoot the three guys behind him.

And it all culminates in a battle against a massive flying robot which fires rockets towards you—rockets which you, of course, snag on their way towards your face and return to sender. Of course, running games off a mobile app means sound and graphics aren’t up to the standards of the Rift, but the portable, $99 Gear is a device with a very different mission statement than its big brother.

The Gear is meant to be used socially, with lobbies that you and your friends can sit in while watching streaming content, and even Netflix integration. While a neat trick, and exciting to try out, ultimately, if given a choice between watching a movie or League of Legends livestream in a virtual room, or my real room, I will always choose the one that doesn’t require me to wear goggles.

Adjusting to not only being in this world, but also getting my hands positioned on the controllers properly was a chore, even with someone helping out. Having your hands in the game with you not only makes for a more immersive experience, allowing you to interact with the world around you, but in my time with the hardware, it also made the transition from the real world to the virtual one less jarring and disconcerting.

The fact that learning where the buttons are is the most difficult part of using Oculus Touch is phenomenal and speaks to the refined haptics experience. It’s the first time this has happened to me (though I’ve teared up once before), and I quickly learned crying doesn’t mix well with “having a thing strapped over your eyes.” There’s something magical about Henry though: Eye contact. Again, the buttons and triggers took some getting used to, but once you master them, it’s easy to pluck a bullet out of mid-air, teleport across the map, and flick it back at your enemy.

It’s a small thing I don’t necessarily think of in normal games or in daily life, but having Henry glance over at you as the story unfolds—seeing the joy in his eyes when he finds friends, or the fear when a blue spirit flies around the room—it connects you to the character. I haven’t seen Henry on a normal screen obviously, but I don’t think the fourth-wall breaking would be quite as poignant or effective on a normal TV screen/monitor. We then got to see a series of actual, real world sculptors use the software, paired with Oculus Touch, to create simply astounding pieces of virtual art. In what is a recurring note, the actual button and trigger controls were admittedly somewhat confusing, and I only barely had the hang of them by the time I was finished.

I have no doubt—or, even if Medium doesn’t catch on, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before other artistic/creation software hits the Rift. With the newest additions to its lineup, however—portable, affordable VR and real, working haptics—Oculus is making steady, sizable steps toward the future it is so excitedly hyping. And they’re quality experiences—while Henry, Bullet Train, and Medium still feel more like proofs of concept than full-fledged software, we’ve come a long way from the demos I used to mess with on the original dev kit. Valve and HTC currently has better hardware with the Vive, but has showed next-to-nothing as far as games and software is concerned—and we’re only two months away from the Vive’s launch.

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