The VR industry has exploded recently thanks to the Oculus Rift development kits released at affordable consumer prices. Soon after Sony announced their Morpheus VR headset.
Indie developers were drooling with the relatively simple implementation of the Oculus development kits into the Unity3D environment, with Unity showing official support for the product.
I happen to be a proud owner of the Oculus Dk2 development kit, which I have enjoyed thoroughly over the past year. Being the original, and worked on by legend John Carmack, I thought that the Oculus would be the be all and end all for VR gaming. The Facebook acquisition of Oculus left a sour taste in many game developers mouths, as the products focus was suddenly diluted.
In my opinion the DK2 did not completely live up to the hype, in part due to performance issues on even the highest end PC’s and some resolution/ screen clarity issues – as a result it’s been collecting dust on my shelf for some time now.
Now we have HTC announing that they are working on a virtual reality headset called the Vive – with gaming company Valve.
The headset sounds amazing, and on paper at least, exceeds the offerings of both the Oculus and Morpheus in their current forms – offering higher screen resolution and refresh rates.
The key points of difference:
1) Positional tracking. A larger sensory spacial awareness is a core part of a creating an immersive experience.
The Vive uses two wall mounted sensors that as well as 70 internal sensors to track your position within a room, allowing it to detect the difference between crouching, jumping, leaning, and 360 degree turns.
This is massive, as it has been one of the clear limitations of the Oculus. Quite often when using Oculus VR, accidentally moving out of the short view of the sensor breaks the experience. Which is a problem when riding a VR roller coaster, or fending off a shark attack.
2) Hand tracking. Yes that’s right, the Vive comes with hand position sensors in the form of a wi-chuck remote. In the case of Oculus, if you want hand tracking support, you would have to buy a 3rd party kit, and hope for the best, as firmware updates could effect compatibility. So with this consideration, a complete package including headset and hand tracking sounds like a godsend.
Now for the clincher.
The partnership between Valve and HTC is a very interesting one. Valve won’t be getting bought out any time soon as Oculus did, so their commitment to VR for gaming is solid. Oh, and then there is the fact that they OWN STEAM. I mean holy sh@t! If this isn’t the perfect company to be pioneering VR for gaming then I don’t know who is. It makes complete sense to me.
Valve and HTC have the advantage as they have been able to learn from Oculus’s mistakes and challenges as well as monitoring community feedback.
So lets see what happens over the next 12 months, will the Oculus consumer version finally drop? What will it feature to stay in the race with the Vive?
Either way, its big news for all Indie developers worldwide who are interested in immersive gaming.