Everything You Need To Know About Oculus For 2020

Beat Games joined Oculus Studios this week and it got me thinking about what this could mean for the VR industry. The mighty makers of Beat Saber have been a beacon of light for so many indie developers within the community. One cannot help but see the cloud of uncertainty emerge around what this move could mean for the Platinum selling game and the virtual reality eco-system in general.

To be worried or not to be worried?

The fundamental factor behind this uncertainty is that Oculus is now owned by Facebook. They bought Oculus for around $2 billion on 25th March 2016. Facebook has received a lot of negative press coverage for their ways of working for some time now. Their tech giant dominance means that many VR apps are non-accessible unless you log in using a Facebook account or profile. There are subtle signs of Facebook methodology if you pay close attention. For example, when you attend any live events via Oculus Venues you will be presented with data gathering/marketing probing questions that are purposely designed in a fun format. The Oculus Quest Guardian scans your real world environment so you can create your safe playing boundary. It also remembers your boundary if you play in the same space. Even if you switch the headset off and on again a while later. Just how much is recorded, kept or even used elsewhere is not known. I can appreciate why there is a nervousness associated around the Facebook Oculus brand.

My VR selfie with John Carmack during the VR Awards 2019 streaming event in AltSpace.

Change is coming.

John Carmack (Chief Technology Officer at Oculus) won Lifetime Achievement Award for VR from the VR Awards 2019 last month. He said he ‘really hasn’t been satisfied with the pace of progress we’ve been making’ with virtual reality during his acceptance speech. John is another voice of guidance within the industry and one of the key drivers who helped lift the Oculus start-up out of the starting position in the early days. The industry respects John and listen intently to his teachings. Two weeks after that speech he announced he was stepping back from being CTO of Oculus.

In August this year Nate Mitchell, the last remaining core founder of the Oculus start-up, left Oculus. The year before Brendan Iribe left. 2017 Palmer Luckey left. Jack McCauley left in 2015. The Facebook acquisition happened in 2014.

The message has been consistent over the years. Source Oculus YouTube channel

The History of the past

One way to consider the future is to review the past. I have attended historic press conferences via virtual reality but only remember a handful of bullet points worth noting. I wanted to know if Mark Zuckerberg had mentioned anything specifically on the theme of Oculus content eco-system and what it would be like for users using Oculus in the future. I researched the historic Oculus Connect (a conference for Virtual Reality Developers) and made some interesting discoveries. The most obvious is that Mark has never deviated from highlighting the importance of presence in virtual reality experiences and games. If you are new to VR, this means believing that you are in a different environment because of its believe-ability. You feel like you are really in this space/world/environment/scenery that you are seeing through your virtual reality headset. That is presence.

Facebook Horizon – changing the ‘o’ but not to the Oculus logo. Source OC6 livestream screenshot

Another theme is the eco-system. Mark has spent time each year going into details of this vision. He believes that experiences should be people centred, the apps should not resemble icons on a smartphone and instead be an open space for people to explore, connect together, build/create and play games. I believe this is the purpose behind the OC6 announced Facebook Horizon. Horizon is a new social experience that is due next year. The quality of the ‘realism’ is questionable, however, a social experience is always welcomed. The avatars look similar to those from Facebook Spaces and that sadly closed down last month. ‘Facebook‘ Horizon made me raise an eyebrow but to be honest, on reflection, it makes perfect sense. Building Social technology platforms is Facebook’s bread and butter. It’s what they do and they do it well with reportedly 2.45 billion monthly active users. It has taken Facebook a long time to reach that number and I presume this is why the Oculus goal of ‘1 billion people in virtual reality’ has no delivery date. During OC5 Mark said that for success there is a ‘threshold of 10 million users on any given platform at the same time for the ecosystem to explode’. Interesting isn’t it. You would be forgiven for thinking that you would need the pull of a platinum selling VR title to create that level of users on your platform at the same time to meet that success threshold…

The evolution of Oculus Headsets (HMDs). Source: Oculus YouTube channel

Technical evolution

Aside from the most obvious Head Mounted Display (HMD) evolution from the Original DKI – DK2 -Rift – Go – Rift S – Quest headsets. There have been other improvements along the way. The Oculus Quest was their first standalone headset and recently saw the ability to link it to a PC for a wired VR experience. Meaning the Quest became a Rift. Which is totally awesome for Quest owners and users. Next we will have the hand tracking thanks to the Oculus Quest inside out trackers. The demo from OC6 showed the ability to move individual fingers and your real world hands are your controllers. Many have said that this hand tracking is quite basic in comparison to the Leap Motion AKA UltraLeap. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. I’m particularly interested in this side of the technology too because many elderly people who are living with dementia has quite restricted hand motion therefore struggle with a controller. So, I can see practical uses for this advancement as well as the better quality of presence.

Let’s not forget the promise that any tech improvements will be compatible across all new devices too eg Quest 2, 3, 4 etc. They really are fine tuning the machine. Most shockingly is the the next wave of input ‘where you can just think something to make it happen’. Now, this sounds pretty futuristic but CTRL-Labs (who have also been acquired by Facebook Oculus) have already developed the technology and the dev kits have been dispatched this year. This is exactly the sort of thing that quantifies as ‘shaping and improving the underlying platform’ (Mark, OC6).

Making Virtual Reality work the same way we function in the real world. Source Oculus YouTube channel

What does it all mean?

Well it means that the open Metaverse that we all dream of is going to be like the walled Truman Show set. It will appear open but in actual fact it will be restricted within Facebook’s walled garden. Am I wrong? I hope so but earlier this year Virtual Desktop was prohibited from allowing Oculus streaming services through their app. Many devs were frustrated and vocal about the number of Oculus Quest applications being rejected. Thus bringing Side Quest to life for an alternative route for content. The success criteria for Quest content was extremely high and not clearly transparent at the time. New users were frustrated at the lack of content and some even returning their new headsets because of it. Thankfully the popularity and excitement during the launch months of Quest & Rift S was more positive than negative but it is still a reminder of when the doors were closed.

A rare look at the future roadmap of Facebook Oculus. Source Oculus YouTube channel

augmented & virtual reality will be the next computing platform

We won’t expect to see a new Oculus virtual reality headset anytime soon but perhaps we will see more unfolding in augmented reality hardware next. I found the image above with the future projections splashed out that struck me as completely undervalued and forgotten about. With Oculus Quests selling out almost as fast as they are being made then it is obvious that content is king. If you have that influx of users coming in then it makes perfect sense to open up a virtual landscape to host everybody for games, socialising, events, creating, learning and utilise the power of the people to help shape what that looks like. For the people, by the people. It’s very smart. Obviously they will have taken their learnings from Facebook Spaces and other apps such as the photo share to Facebook as demonstrated during OC3 in 2017 where Mark was an avatar and his wife Prescilla was at work in the real world and called him, he answered the video call whilst in VR, took a selfie and shared it on FB. Therefore demonstrating the seamless interactivity between the Zuckerberg infrastructure. Plus demonstrating the various levels that virtual reality was at 2 years ago.

Next year is all about churning out virtual reality content for the community. Monetisation is still an area that needs to evolve in the industry but that could be about to all change too… Whilst the VR devs & community are hard at work then maybe Facebook will focus on growing the augmented reality eco-system instead. They have already opened up Spark AR for content creation in August this year and my gut tells me 2020 will be more AR driven focus because the VR side knows the brief and just needs to deliver it.

If you want to learn more about how to build then check this out or join the Design, Develop and Deploy course by Unity and Oculus (thoroughly recommended!). Don’t want to be a VR dev? No problem, other areas to train in so that you don’t miss being at the front of the wave is: VR testing, graphics, modelling, optimisation, marketing are all skills that will be required going forward. The list is endless: educating, demo’ing and advocating are important skills too.

Definitely consider this free course if you wish to ever make a VR application/experience/game

VR Awards 2019 – The Virtual Reality Event Showcase

Gratitude to the organisers, hosts & sponsors for bringing these awards to the community

The VR Awards was held in London on 11th November 2019 and I had the privilege of being there… in virtual reality thanks to AltSpaceVR! I will share my video footage with you as soon as I can.

An excited me attending a VR Awards ceremony whilst in virtual reality at AltSpace VR!

Rising VR Company of the Year

Winner: Fable Studios

Finalists: KageNova, Immotion, HOLOGATE, Maze Theory, Periscape VR, Lume, Enduvo and Atlas V

VR Education & Training of the Year

Winner: Working At Height by Vodaphone and Make Real

Finalists: Breaking Boundaries in Science by Filament Games, IsReality by Isbank, Virtual Training Ship Simulation (VTS) by Orka Informatics, Training: Replace low valtage fuses without life-threatening skills by Nanopixel & Fluvius, BODYSWAPS by Somewhere Else, Class VR by Avantis Systems, DHL: Gamification of the Cargo Loading VR Training Process by Immerse & DHL, Exoplanet Explorers 2 by Engine House VFX and Mighty Masters by MOYOSA Media

VR Healthcare of the Year

Winner: Fundamental Surgery

Finalists: GE Healthcare: Increasing training opportunities for radiographers through VR by Immerse, Oxford Medical Simulation by Oxford Medical Simulation, Augmented Baseplate Shoulder Simulation & Patient Specific Planning by Precision OS Technology, Fear of Heights (clinical acrophobia) by Oxford VR, VR for Psychosis Research and Treatment by Virtualware & King’s College London

Love that social vr events allows you to customise your event location like this! Allowing your audience to interact with your theme like this is fantastic!

VR Enterprise Solution of the Year

Winner: Virtualware Immersive Room by Virtualware by VIROO

Finalists: Lloyds Resilience & Vitality by Make Real & Lloyds Banking Group, MixCast VR Marketing System by Blueprint Reality, Autodesk VRED – VR Collaboration by Autodesk, Athena by Goodpatch and VR Command Center by Elara Systems

VR Social Impact Award

Winner: The 100% – Maggie’s Story by Springbok Entertainment

Finalists: Dementia Yn Fy Nwylo I / First Hand by Galactig, Anne Frank House VR by Force Field Entertainment, X-Ray Fashion by Vulcan Productions, RSA Consequences by BBDO DUBLIN, Children Do Not Play War by VILD Studio, Ghost Fleet VR by Vulcan Productions, Common Ground by East City Films, Mercy by Oculus For Good & Mercy Ships and The Right Choice – ICRC by Visualise, Don’t Panic & ICRC

Standing beside some of the most innovative immersive companies

Innovative VR Company of the Year

Winner: Emblematic Group

Finalists: Make Real, Fundamental Surgery, AmazeVR, Backlight, SpinView, Ballast Technologies and Avantis Systems.

Out of Home Entertainment of the Year

Winner: War Remains by MWM Immersive & Flight School Studio

Finalists: Ralph Breaks VR by ILMxLAB & The VOID, VRSlide by Ballast Technologies & Wiegand.Maelzer, Golem VR by DIVR, Chained: A Victorian Nightmar by MWM Immersive, Curse of the Lost Pearl: A Magic Projector Adventure by Dreamscape Immersive, FaBIOS Fantastic Fun Factory by Holocafe, Sol Raiders by Zero Latency, Arizona Sunshine LBVR by Vertigo Games & Jaywalkers Interactive, TOYLAND : CRAZY MONKEY by Ymagis & Backlight Studio, Beyond Medusa’s Gate by Ubisoft Blue Byte and HUXLEY 2 – THE ADVENTURE BEGINS by EXIT Adventures

VR Marketing of the Year

Winner: The Infrunite Slide by Oasis Pocket Adventure

Finalists: Porsche “Hall of Legends” VR Experience by UDG Ludwigsburg, Nerdindustries & Porsche, Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 Invitations by Qualcomm Technologies, S 1000 RR VR by NUMENA & BMW, Ledvizor VR-presentation spac by Proektmarketing +1 & Ledvizo, VR experience for Santos de Cartier launch by LR Studio & Cartier, Lone Echo II: Trailer Experience by Ready At Dawn and Ford ‘WheelSwap’ VR by Happy Finish, H+K Strategies & Ford

VR Film of the Year

Winner: Wolves in the Walls by Fable Studios, Third Rail Projects and Oculus Story Studio

Finalists: The Bond by Axis Studios, Crow: The Legend by Baobab Studios, Cycles by Walt Disney Animation Studios, The Great C by Secret Location, Lucid by Breaking Fourth Limited, Traveling While Black by Felix & Paul Studios, Aripi by Simpals Studio and Grenfell: Our Home by Parable, Channel 4 & 59 Productions

VR Experience of the Year

Winner: Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1 by ILMxLAB & Oculus Studios

Finalists: Awake by Start VR & Animal Logic, Curfew: Join The Race by REWIND & SkyVR Eleven Eleven by NBC Universal & Digital Domain, The Scream VR by Cinétévé Experience & ARTE France and Where Thoughts Go by Lucas Rizzotto

This photo will be a historic tribute one day showing us how far we have come with VR Headsets

VR Hardware of the Year

Winner: Oculus Quest by Oculus/Facebook

Finalists: Reverb VR Headset by HP, Rift S by Oculus/Facebook, Teslasuit by VR Electronics, Vive Pro Eye by HTC and XTAL 5K HMD by VRgineers 

VR Game of the Year

Winner: A Fisherman’s Tale by Innerspace VR & ARTE France

Finalists: Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs by Resolution Games, ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission by JAPAN Studio & ASOBI Team, Blood & Truth by Sony London Studio, CREED: Rise to Glory™ by Survios, Falcon Age by Outerloop Games, FREEDIVER: Triton Down by Archiact, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice VR Edition by Ninja Theory, PROZE: Enlightenment by SignSine, Shadow Point by Coatsink , Transpose by Secret Location and Vacation Simulator by Owlchemy Labs

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: John Carmack

Yeay! Standing beside an incredible pioneer and creator or the virtual reality movement! The outstanding, one and only John Carmack
A selfie with all of this year’s winners – sorry my big head blocked quite the section out…

Well there you have it, an amazing achievement for all nominees, finalists and winners. Congratulations everybody! It’s inspiring to see the industry growing further every year.

Showcasing VR October 2019

I love October! The ever changing colours of the leaves high upon the trees or low on the ground fill me with so much joy at this time of year. A tree making the transition to its autumn colours reminds me that change occurs one leaf at a time. A timely reminder as those dark nights start to set in and when you may question if your efforts will ever start to become noticed. Well, if you can relate then I say to you, keep going!

This has been another action packed month for me but let’s start off with some fantastic news!

We’re now officially a Top Blog!

We feature in the Top 75 Virtual Reality Blogs & Websites to follow in 2019!

Can you believe it?! We’re not even last, not that last is a bad position in this case but I automatically figured that’s where we would sit. Suzanne Showcasing VR is ranked at 55th position on a list with all the major players and my role models such as Road to VR, VR Scout, VR Focus and my good pals Tony with The Ghost Howls and Tom with Virtual Perceptions! It’s such an honour to be featured alongside such high prestige, it really is. I would like to thank Anuj Agarwal for including us and for thinking so highly of us too 🙂 Make sure you go check out the full list because it is a fantastic resource for keeping up to date and hearing from so many different perspectives in and around virtual reality.

Being a Special Guest on a VR chat show!

A dream come true appearing on Steve Bambury’s #CPDinVR event as a special guest

I love Steve and everything he does for VR Education. I’ve regularly attended his events for the last few years now and learn so much from them every time I am there. His guests are always inspiring and engaging so to be part of his last show was a massive compliment to me. I featured alongside some remarkable pioneers in the industry and will share the recording on this blog as soon as it becomes available. Check this video out to give you a flavour of the epic’ness of these events: Steve speaking with the one and only Godfather of VR himself, Tom Furness

Check out Steve’s YouTube channel & subscribe to see more like this – or better yet come along to his event next month in VR []-)

Learning To Build VR Content & Experiences

I parked aside the Blender course because the Oculus & Unity course that I mentioned last month started. I’m only on Unit 3 of the Design, Develop & Deploy course, which is about 3-4 hours of the way through and my oh my… I 100% recommend this course to EVERYBODY who is interested in developing a VR app, game or experience! This course covers EVERTHING. We’re talking the pre-production, through to marketing, developing, the Oculus approval process (which is valuable insight in itself as so many developers have voiced their frustration at having work being rejected for the stores). This course is approx 23 hours long, it’ll take me longer because I’m note taking along the way. It’s in beta mode and it’s all FREE!!! You learn through pre-recorded videos but there is a community around this course on Unity that you can interact with, connect with tutors, ask questions etc. Definitely check it out, sign up and see you in class soon []-)

Completed TTA lessons & coursework

Learning Business Skills

The Transformative Technology Academy that I mentioned last month is now finished. We learned loads about how to create a successful technology for good business. It was an intense 4 weeks so I have had my head down a lot this month – if you follow me on Twitter you will have noticed a significant drop in my tweets. This was why. It was a great use of time and so much to digest. Your have virtual lessons to attend, mentor sessions, live pitch sessions then there’s the community side too with personal 1:1 meetings, sharing & learning as a group. I’d recommend this to anybody interested in starting up a company that uses tech to improve humans/society. Again it’s a free initiative which is amazing especially when you are learning about the inner workings of famous tech companies from their founders & CEO’s! Here’s the link again for good measure.

I managed to find some time to complete a site refresh for my start-up company, Pivotal Reality. Now is the time to be brave and push myself forward and let the world know what it is I do! Then came a bit of bad luck… I broke my Samsung S7 phone! Yes I know it’s an old phone but it was the only phone I can use alongside the Samsung 360 camera as a kind of preview mode before filming. I was working on a project to film a children’s home that one of our elderly residents grew up in and wanted to see again but couldn’t visit it because of mobility restraints. Luckily I had filmed enough to complete this project for her 🙂 But I’ll be on the market for a new 360 camera so please let me know what you would suggest. I was probably long overdue an upgrade to be fair anyway because my videos were not as clear & detailed as I would have liked. I like the look of the Insta360 or perhaps the Vuze but need to do my research and budgeting to see what would be best. If you use any yourself and can tell me your thoughts on any 360 cameras then I would be so extremely grateful to hear those from you 🙂 Thank you

Raising VR Awareness

Team Meetings in VR

Team meetings in Virtual Reality have become a bit of a regular thing for me at my day job. My boss is super cool and has the patience of a Saint listening to me harp on and on and on about virtual reality… Well he’s only gone and upgraded from a Samsung Gear VR to an Oculus Quest!!! Totally skipped out the Oculus Go that he initially planned and went for it. He’s not looked back. Buuut, this means that we can explore various Social VR locations, we previously always used AltSpace VR for our meetings for accessibility eg we could both log on to that cross devices/using different branded/makes of headsets. We tried Rec Room and he beat me at basketball so I’m not that keen on going there again… ha! Kidding! We’ve started to dabble in how to create your own Rec Room spaces. I want to check out Facebook Horizon so perhaps that could be our next location. It’s worth noting that if you love VR and want to introduce it into your business but feel like there’s not really a use case yet, VR Meetings is an easy one to pilot to give it a go 🙂

VR Content I Have Tried This Month

I sadly didn’t have much time to be in VR this month at all because of all the lessons I was to attend outside of my full-time day job & family life. Not making excuses but it has been a demanding month. I only really have 2 experiences that I tried out (aside from Steve’s customise VR Chat Show) was an immersive storytelling experience called AfterLife and Stunt Runner in Rec Room.

Interactive ‘you can choose the path to follow’ story experience

Afterlife was an exciting concept and I was most psyched about the possibilities of choosing your own path/story based on decisions that you made in the experience. I knew it was going to be heart-tugging story and if you watch the video you will learn why I was nervous about it being especially raw for me to play. If you do decide to play this then make sure your headset it fully charged ahead of playing (especially if you are using an Oculus Go to avoid overheating), sit down/do not stand and for heavens sake try moving the controller around more often than I did… ha!

Had the honour to be taught how to scale Stunt Runner by a Pro []-)

I accidentally stumbled across Stunt Runner in Rec Room. This is a cross between Ninja Warrior & Total Wipeout but in virtual reality. I was just messing around with the obstacles outside and having a bit of a giggle to myself tbh but this guy was flipping all over the place. I saw that he and another went through to a door and thought sure why not. Headed in and was put in front of a starting line with these guys ready to race. I sooo wasn’t ready for this but couldn’t back out now. We were off! Running along beams, scaling rope ladders, dodging moving parts, bouncing on trampolines and occasionally falling to our doom, ok that was just me.. and it was quite frequently rather than occasionally. This one guy was like the Flash! I didn’t get it, I was running as fast as he was but was falling a lot or getting hit by the moving obstacles until I seen him do it. A sneaky wee mario like short cut route. They must’ve felt sorry for how rubbish I was or perhaps they sensed I knew, I did try to follow them but fell so perhaps they saw all that lol! We did about 4 rounds or so of different courses and then the 3 of us teamed up. DrPovertyShoes spent so long with us and showed us how to do double jumps, triple jumps, where to jump jumps. DrPoveryShoes was amazing and such a cool wee person. They managed to beat their own personal best whilst with us so I said to take a selfie, glad I did or I wouldn’t have been able to shine a light on them like this.

What’s happening in November?

Virtual Reality Day is on Saturday 23rd November so I will be sure to write a post about all the publicised events that you can join. I haven’t signed up to do anything yet but I will definitely do that. I was disappointed that there wasn’t anything irl (in real life) based in Scotland and had hoped to arrange something this year but didn’t have a lot of interest at the time of approaching folks. It would be cool to host a Social VR hopper and just bounce about the various platforms. I might do something like that and livestream it as I imagine there should be a lot of people hanging around the different venues this year! I wonder if any of the 1st time virtual reality users/owners are even aware of this day? Make sure you help spread the word this year so folks know about it.

I’ll also be checking out Facebook’s Horizon and researching some Escape Room experiences so stay tuned for videos and written content on those soon.

I’m still waiting on further news about the FeelRealSensory Mask but it should be with me to test and show you by the end of this year at the latest. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

What will virtual reality smell like I wonder?

Thanks so much for sticking with me & reading this month’s blog. I hope you found it interesting? Have great fun Trick or Treating (Guising or Galoshan in Scottish terms) this Halloween!

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