Oculus CEO: Why AR isn't good enough yet

Brendan Iribe talks about why Oculus isn't exploring HoloLens-style AR right now
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Oculus VR's CEO, Brendan Iribe, has some clear ideas on the state of both virtual reality and augmented reality. Most companies have picked sides - Oculus (and Facebook), HTC and Valve firmly in the VR camp, Microsoft over in AR and some - like Google, Samsung and Sony - straddling the two.

Read this: VR versus AR - which is the future?

But Iribe essentially believes that AR isn't ready to provide an experience that can match VR yet. "Longer term we believe there will be a huge AR market but there are huge roadblocks to overcome," Iribe told Wired UK at Gamescom. "Will it take a year or ten? A lot of that revolves around field of view. A small floating window breaks the feel of immersion in augmented reality today. As that unlocks it'll become a lot more popular."

This is exactly the problem faced by HoloLens - and Google Glass before it - so Iribe is right to pick out this problem with AR. But he also points out that it's difficult to trick us into believing that 3D objects are holographic.

"You have an incredible perceptual system that can detect when things aren't quite right," he said. "Matching the lighting of the real world through the glasses is incredibly difficult. We want our glasses to look like the glasses people wear today, instead of walking around with computer glasses. They have to deliver an absolutely amazing experience to get people around that block. Big helmet visors aren't going to be something people want to walk around with. In your own room it's okay, so for VR it's a non-issue."

Augmented VR

Plenty of hurdles for AR devices to overcome, then, but will Oculus users have no interaction with the real world while they are wearing future Rifts? Iribe sees a third option - augmented VR. Oculus engineers who came from working on Kinect are now tasked with building 3D reconstructions of the gamer's real world surroundings for VR.

Read this: Early impressions of the Oculus Rift headset

"I think you'll see an in-between of augmented VR where you scan in the real world but it's all rendered in 3D with non-transparent glasses with mounted sensors," said Iribe. "It won't show you video [using pass-through cameras] because that won't be comfortable, but it'll scan in local space. You could put on your glasses and see it look very like the real world; you'd be able to see your hands, pick up objects or drink a bottle of water. You can interact with things naturally because they're really there.

"As augmented VR starts to be realised, you'll see more of a blend with portable VR where you can walk around in VR. It'll be a future that we're very focused on - VR then augmented VR."

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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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