Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Will Oculus Rift Be Next iPhone-Like Revolution?

By - Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun | B 28 comments

Valve talks about what needs to be done to jump-start virtual reality like the iPhone did with the smartphone sector.

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.

 

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

Discuss
Display all 28 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , August 24, 2012 9:49 AM
    Iphone was a revolution? Last time i checked they just took everyone elses ideas
  • 13 Hide
    gtvr , August 24, 2012 12:45 PM
    Computer, load program Risa 1. Execute.
  • 11 Hide
    dheadley , August 24, 2012 10:27 AM
    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.

Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , August 24, 2012 9:49 AM
    Iphone was a revolution? Last time i checked they just took everyone elses ideas
  • 11 Hide
    dheadley , August 24, 2012 10:27 AM
    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.

  • -6 Hide
    sacre , August 24, 2012 10:35 AM
    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.

  • 7 Hide
    Draven35 , August 24, 2012 10:36 AM
    So do they have a magic cure for the vertigo you get from using VR headsets for long periods of time?
  • 10 Hide
    Swolern , August 24, 2012 10:45 AM
    Ill buy it, but it needs to be high resolution. I can imagine huge pixels inches away from my face, no thanks.
  • 5 Hide
    killerclick , August 24, 2012 10:48 AM
    Of course VR is the future. Maybe not this specific product, but as soon as something good enough appears, it'll be curtains for clunky displays and touchscreens. They might as well try to integrate motion sensing into this straight off.
  • 5 Hide
    mavikt , August 24, 2012 11:12 AM
    A stepping stone to get to VR, would be the stereoscopic 3D solutions with glasses available today (like nVidia 3D vision).
    And then of course you would need software support.

    So, I urge for "Valve Software programmer Michael Abrash" to also work towards GETTING THAT AIM FIXED in Counter strike!
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , August 24, 2012 12:06 PM
    god i hope so...

    i hope that the next gen of consoles support this from day 1, so this can get mass appeal, something that if it was pc only probably woundnt happen.
  • -1 Hide
    g00fysmiley , August 24, 2012 12:41 PM
    sacreWell, 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 competeI 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.


    i was using pal phones long before the iphone and when the iphone came out it was a toy compared to my treo .. it had apps i had programs for actual work and productivity ... sure it wasn't seen as fun or sexy but i assure you pretty much apple said hey look at blackberry and palm lets so that but try and make it hip... they didn't and have never really been anythign but a marketing company the ipad also was not thier invention tablets have been around for years i bought my first tablet in 2002 it had windows xp, i had just started college and it looked neat it came in handy but was terrible on batterylife but it was still a touchscreen functional tablet

    as for the article whiel this may catch on other companies already make things similar just look at myview but it woudl be enat if it caught on
  • 13 Hide
    gtvr , August 24, 2012 12:45 PM
    Computer, load program Risa 1. Execute.
  • 0 Hide
    alex m , August 24, 2012 12:54 PM
    The iPhone came out to do smartphones right. The market was already there, they just were the first ones to do it right. I do not see much VR displays out there, unless you consider 3-D TVs to be the same thing. This product looks certainly very good, and will most likely get the ball rolling on wearable displays.
  • 1 Hide
    syrious1 , August 24, 2012 3:01 PM
    ok, so I played VR back in the day at sixflags, it was pretty cool at the time. However, I don't think VR will take off unless they do something drastically different, VR looked cheesy even back in the 90's
  • 2 Hide
    g00fysmiley , August 24, 2012 3:33 PM
    alex mThe iPhone came out to do smartphones right. The market was already there, they just were the first ones to do it right. I do not see much VR displays out there, unless you consider 3-D TVs to be the same thing. This product looks certainly very good, and will most likely get the ball rolling on wearable displays.


    sony hmz-t1, vuzix iwear 920 all the myvu products... there's hundreds
  • 9 Hide
    CaedenV , August 24, 2012 4:11 PM
    VR has one particular issue to contend with that will keep it out of the popular markets: The hardware itself.

    Phones have taken off because of 'good enough' hardware and a 'good enough' interface being tied to a device that you can easily pick up, and easily put down. It is socially acceptable to have something in your hands that you are messing with, while doing something else (sitting on a train, waiting in line, carrying on a conversation, driving... doh!), because you can easily switch between reality, and the reality presented by the device in front of you. With PC gaming it is less easy to switch between the game and reality, but still manageable. But VR, true VR, requires you to gear up for it, section off a block of time to dedicate to it undisturbed, and then immerse yourself in that for a while without having to worry about any social consequences. I am not saying that there is not a market for that (personally I would love to have one even with the limited amount of time I have to use such a device), but the devices that sell in popular markets are the ones that either promote more social interaction (like phones and consoles), or are at least compatible with social interaction (like a TV).
    I think that augmented reality platforms like google glass is more the direction to go, and over time something more like a contact lens, or even an eye replacement would be the direction to take as very few people want to wear a bulky head-set that detaches them from the world entirely. I just do not see it becoming socially acceptable to have a physical object over soneone's eyes. It provokes a stigmatic reaction by others who are arround (the #1 reason people wear contacts instead of glasses, and why hardly anyone wears sunglasses in public spaces), and they are simply too heavy, not high enough quality, and simply not 'real enough' to make them desirable in the first place.

    On top of all that they suffer from the issue that plagues computer animation. Computer animated films like toy story took off because they do not at all try and look like reality, the brain understands this as being a different environment and deals with it on a separate level. But then you have shows that to try and mimic reality (most notably the early 3D version of The Polar express), where the brain compares it with reality and then rejects it out-right. So too we understand a TV screen or monitor as being a separate reality, and so the brain (over time) reacts to framed visual stimuli differently than it does with immersive stimuli (not that kids, and people who do not grow up with TV react differently to TV at first). When something is inaccurate in a 'traditional' screen environment then we gloss over it and it does not bother us. But when we are immersed into an environment then all the sudden game physics and environment manipulation becomes a big deal. Games start to look very empty because of the relative lack of detail, and we feel vertigo and other odd feelings when we get different stimuli from our other senses.

    Point being; there are a ton of other issues than simply having the right head-set. VR needs to work just as hard on environmental and haptic feedback to make a game truly immersive for those of us who like and want it, and they need to find ways to make the hardware disappear to make it socially acceptable for mass markets.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 24, 2012 4:36 PM
    Iphone was not the first smartphone. There were windows mobile devices that did everything the iphone did around for years before the iphone got released. And as we see in the ongoing apple vs samsung court battle that most of the innovations on the 1st iphone were pirated for other tech companies that allowed apple in to look at what they had. Much the same way Steve Jobs & bill gates got around to making there 1st products back in the 80's.
  • 0 Hide
    dennisburke , August 24, 2012 4:57 PM
    They might as well add 7:1 surround and a mic while they're at it. And if it integrates well with a keyboard, mouse, and games I might be interested.
  • 1 Hide
    alxianthelast , August 25, 2012 2:32 AM
    I just wrote about this :) 

    It would be interesting for AR to work but it would have to have no discernible latency. And for it to have object recognition or display everything as an overlay for what you should be seeing if the HMD wasn't there.

    Imagine driving with an Oculus Rift as your GPS (in a self driving vehicle) with all kinds of overlays about traffic, road surface conditions, etc being relayed to you from other vehicles nearby.. and reminders for things you need to do (pick up dry cleaning etc). It would be really interesting.
  • 0 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , August 25, 2012 6:56 AM
    g00fysmileysony hmz-t1, vuzix iwear 920 all the myvu products... there's hundreds


    What do you mean "even back in the 90s"? lol Have we been going backwards technologically from then. Man the technology we had back in the 90s was shite compared to now.
  • 0 Hide
    alxianthelast , August 25, 2012 11:06 PM
    That's partially accurate.. There have been HUDs and HMDs for a while but because the applications to support them were shite (and still don't offer much 3D content) they've not yet taken off. While the push to 1080p was easier to justify because families can use an HDTV at the same time (and production costs for HD content has become at least affordable enough to support it).

    Example, the game Magic Carpet was supposed to be great with an HMD.. but who was going to drop hundreds of dollars on that? Versus setting up a home theater with a big screen and surround sound for watching 2D movies and playing 2D games in HD.

    BUT now that mobile phones could power HMDs with graphics comparable or greater to consoles.. there's all kinds of justification for HUDs and HMDs. If Nintendo was on the ball they could have made the Wii U controller an HMD and conventional controller with a touch pad, or stuck with motion controls (but that could be dangerous when you can't see your surroundings). Imagine how much more traction Wii U would have if you could play 4 player VR/AR games without a TV (and are all sat a safe distance from each other (or are connected to your friends over the internet)?
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , September 3, 2012 7:44 PM
    Maybe. Depends what the target customer is. In this case, PC gamers, while plenty, are not as numerous as to inspire a revolution. Google glasses, on the other hand, WILL be targeted at everyone that uses a camera/phone/GPS right now, because they will integrate all these in wearable devices.
Display more comments