Will Oculus Rift Be Next iPhone-Like Revolution?

In a recent interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Valve Software programmer Michael Abrash talks about the company's exploration into virtual reality. He started out actually chatting about the original Quake (1996) and how it pushed hardware changes on the Internet. Its multiplayer portion caused servers to be established, clan sites to go live, modders to create bots and Capture the Flag, and consumers to install better modems and add-in GPUs.

Oculus Rift, the upcoming VR headset, could spark a similar revolution in virtual and augmented reality applications. Abrash even compared the headset to the first-generation smartphone -- most notably Apple's iPhone -- and how it changed the way people communicated, played games and carried out their tasks each day.

"So I think if we went back to 2005 and said, 'I’m gonna give you this phone, and it’s gonna have as much processing power as a computer and a touch interface,' I don’t think you would’ve immediately said, 'Oh, these are the games that are going to end up being successful.' You probably wouldn’t have even predicted that there’d be so many people buying and turning it into such a huge market. So I don’t know what VR will turn into, but I’m pretty confident it’ll turn into something great if the hardware can be good enough.  That’s the thing that has to happen. I think [Oculus Rift creator] Palmer Luckey’s stuff will be good enough to get that started, and then it has to evolve rapidly," he said.

He goes on to offer a checklist of goals VR headsets must meet in order to change the market just as Quake and the iPhone did. First, it needs display technology that gives you an image both your brain and eye are happy with. Second, if you want to do augmented reality, you have to know exactly where you are and what you’re looking at.

"So you’ve seen iPhone apps where you can make people look silly – mess with their faces, put hats on them, whatever," he said. "Well, if I want to put a hat on someone, I have to know exactly where he is. As I move, as he moves, the hat has to do the right thing or it doesn’t work. So tracking’s a really hard problem. Both John and I talked about that. Knowing your angle isn’t that hard, because you can get it out of a gyroscope. It does drift over time, though. But knowing your position is actually very hard."

The long-term solution, he said, is something very similar to the way humans work. "Humans have this three axis center, and then your visual system corrects for that. So if we have a gyroscope and a camera, and then the camera does the correction for that, I think it’s a long-term solution. But doing that processing, I think, requires a camera that can do things fast and in a higher resolution. It also requires processing that information, and that’s a power issue, a processing issue, an algorithmic issue – these are hard problems," he added.

In addition to the visual input, VR will need haptic devices so that users can feel the experience as well. "My guess is that there’ll be some sort of form-fitting, shirt-like thing, and it’ll have some kind of percussive devices so it can tap on your chest and arms. That seems like an obvious and manageable thing. But there are so many ways that could go," he said.

To read the full interview, head here.

 

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  • Anonymous
    Iphone was a revolution? Last time i checked they just took everyone elses ideas
    26
  • gtvr
    Computer, load program Risa 1. Execute.
    13
  • dheadley
    I don't consider Apple the all time greatest innovators, but it really lowers anyones credability when they make the standard anti-Apple "they never did anything" kind of comments.

    The iPhone turned the whole smartphone market on its ear and had ALL the other manufacturers scrambling to make significant leaps in their smartphones. Before it there were smartphones, but in the US at least there were hardly any people using them with the exception on BB's for business and some at home thanks to Verizons buy 1 get 3 free sales etc.

    Same with tablets. There were tablets prior to the iPad. Years of them as a matter of fact. Intel and MS tried so many different programs to get portable computing devices off the ground. Tablet computers, UMPC's etc. and all of them combined in history were outsold by the iPad in a matter of months.

    I have never understood why people on Tech sites hate Apple so much. They make well built devices in every area they enter. Better materials and design, ease of use, smooth operation.

    Yet all you hear on sites like this are a bunch of BS comments about how they never did anything ever or the same old retelling of mis-information like these stole their OS from Xerox etc.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    Iphone was a revolution? Last time i checked they just took everyone elses ideas
    26
  • dheadley
    I don't consider Apple the all time greatest innovators, but it really lowers anyones credability when they make the standard anti-Apple "they never did anything" kind of comments.

    The iPhone turned the whole smartphone market on its ear and had ALL the other manufacturers scrambling to make significant leaps in their smartphones. Before it there were smartphones, but in the US at least there were hardly any people using them with the exception on BB's for business and some at home thanks to Verizons buy 1 get 3 free sales etc.

    Same with tablets. There were tablets prior to the iPad. Years of them as a matter of fact. Intel and MS tried so many different programs to get portable computing devices off the ground. Tablet computers, UMPC's etc. and all of them combined in history were outsold by the iPad in a matter of months.

    I have never understood why people on Tech sites hate Apple so much. They make well built devices in every area they enter. Better materials and design, ease of use, smooth operation.

    Yet all you hear on sites like this are a bunch of BS comments about how they never did anything ever or the same old retelling of mis-information like these stole their OS from Xerox etc.
    11
  • sacre
    briaireousIphone was a revolution? Last time i checked they just took everyone elses ideas


    Well, regardless of what you believe, they came out with a phone no other manufacturer was able to "compete" with for years. Hell, only for the past year or so companies have been coming out with decent phones to compete

    I bought an "HTC Touch" because I couldn't afford an iPhone, the thing was crap. Touch controls were very bad, it was small, needed a stylus for 90% of the things.

    In the end, the iPhone was ahead of its time. Maybe it did steal ideas from others, maybe not, in the end no one was pumping out acceptable phones until that little beast came out.
    -6