This is the year that virtual reality enters living rooms. And the excitement was palpable from audience members at the VR/AR Vision Summit 2016 conference as they cheered at developer jargon and clapped enthusiastically for VR's closest thing to a rock star, Palmer Luckey.
The creator of the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift announced that the Rift package now includes a four month trial of Unity Pro as well as sharing a few personal insights on a vision of a future where virtual reality is the norm.
As VR headsets begin shipping out this year, the tech will become even more accessible. Luckey referred to his hope for a "virtual cycle" where developers create, consumers buy and hardware manufacturers continue to perfect their devices. The Rift itself has gone through many iterations and he hinted at higher resolutions, wider field-of-views and better ergonomics as improvements to look forward to.
Sure, techies and early adopters are all on board but who's to say the average family will be ready? In the case of Oculus, expensive PCs will need to be fitted with the proper innards for the high-end headset to run properly.
Oculus, along with HTC and Sony seem prepared for this. One whole selling point is around Oculus Ready PC bundles where everything is outfitted without the need to install additional components. Still, Sony has a real edge here. Dr. Richard Marks, director of the PlayStation magic lab, reminded everyone during the Vision Summit conference that 36 million PS4s are already "VR ready."
The amount of units Facebook and Oculus will move won't define success for Luckey. Rather it's "the dollars spent on content and hours spent in content" that he believes will demonstrate whether VR will stick. Luckey recalls the early days of consoles and peripherals that didn't work but says that in order for the Rift and VR to succeed, everyone must keep doing their part.
"Ecosystems only really work when everyone in the chain is successful," he said. "If we can make something that people use every day, that's a good sign for VR as an ecosystem. That means developers are going to be successful. It means developers make more money, and I make more money."
The release of the Samsung Gear VR has been a good test run but he wouldn't spill the beans on the numbers and only stated "we've shipped a lot of units." As we've seen with the music, film and art industries, it's apparent VR isn't simply for the gaming crowd and Luckey was pleased to find that many Gear VR users have been attracted to VR experiences as much as games. Luckey's belief that content creation will help fuel the virtual cycle is so strong, a four month trial of Unity Pro is now part of the Oculus Rift package.
"We want everyone to be a creator. Something like 90% of projects on Gear VR are made using Unity," he said. The free trial is probably a push for devs to use Unity as their main tool but it's nice to see that he believes the average consumer can also create VR.
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