Sunday, 5 August 2012

Gaikai is Backing the Oculus Rift - What will OnLive do About Virtual Reality?

The Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles are the latest hit on Kickstarter and the project has already amassed $1,273,783 in pledges from 5,245 backers in only 4 days, which is way beyond their $250,000 goal. They still have 26 days to go on Kickstarter. The device created by Palmer Luckey is being endorsed by such games industry greats as id Software legend and creator of the 3D first-person shooter genre John CarmackValve's Gabe Newell and Michael Abrash, Epic's Cliff Bleszinski and others.

The Oculus Rift promises to revolutionize virtual reality and head-mounted displays with a wide field of view, ultra low latency head tracking, high resolution displays and the most important factor will of course be the very low price point of the device compared to other very expensive head-mounted displays.

Here are the technical specifications of the Oculus Rift developer kit which may get improved by the time the dev kit ships in November or December:
  • Head tracking: 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) ultra low latency
  • Field of view: 110 degrees diagonal / 90 degrees horizontal
  • Resolution: 1280x800 (640x800 per eye)
  • Inputs: DVI/HDMI and USB
  • Platforms: PC and mobile
  • Weight: ~0.22 kilograms
The developer kit will include a copy of Doom 3 BFG Edition, the first Oculus-ready game and the Oculus SDK. In addition the Unreal engine and the Unity engine will get integrated with Oculus. The consumer version of the Oculus Rift will have even better specs when it ships next year.

On the Oculus Rift Kickstarter page is a promotional video that includes many endorsements by the aforementioned games industry greats. You can also watch the video below. Prominently featured among the endorsements are two well known personages from cloud gaming company Gaikai, them being chief product officer of Gaikai and former Scaleform co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe, and Scaleform's former co-founder and chief technology officer Michael Antonov who was brought over to Gaikai by Brendan Iribe.

Palmer Luckey emphasized that the Oculus Rift has ultra low latency head tracking. Low latency is paramount for cloud gaming and the Oculus Rift will also greatly help to immerse gamers into game worlds streamed by cloud gaming services. No wonder the interest from Gaikai. One other company is lately also very interested in stereoscopic 3D gaming and virtualy reality. Sony was very active in producing stereoscopic 3D displays the last years and they've also produced some great stereoscopic 3D games for the PlayStation 3Sony is also selling the HMZ-T1 personal 3D viewer virtual reality goggles that cost $799.99. These are meant more for movie enthusiasts, as they only have a 45 degree field of view and no head tracking. Gaikai was recently acquired by Sony, so no wonder that both share similar interests.

The question is near what will Gaikai's big rival in cloud gaming OnLive do about virtual reality? OnLive has recently been in the news because of a partnership with another hit project on Kickstarter, the OUYA Android game console. OnLive will come pre-installed on the OUYA when it launches. A while ago OnLive Founder and CEO Steve Perlman already mentioned that his startup incubator Rearden is working on a virtual reality system. The project is about an optical laser system that projects video directly onto a human retina, it's similar to the systems they use in fighter jets, but for home entertainment and way more capable. They are working on capabilities like full human eyesight resolution, and full horizontal and vertical field of view of humans. He didn't say if the users would have to wear the system on their heads or if they will be able to project this laser from farther away.

Here is an excerpt from the DIDO Wireless White Paper that Steve Perlman co-wrote, "Eventually—and unlike everything else written, this remains to be demonstrated, but I’m confident it is achievable—there will be no physical display screen, speakers or input device, but rather we’ll see, hear and interact with a panoramic 3D experience that can be all around us whenever and wherever we want it to be, all created and transmitted reliably and instantly from the cloud."

This excerpt is quite telling of the direction that Steve Perlman and his companies are working on. Steve Perlman has also multiple times said that he is working towards making the holodeck from Star Trek a reality.

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