It's been two months since Razer introduced its OSVR initiative, which aimed to put VR in the hands of any developer or customer by making it completely open source. Since then, OSVR gained more traction, picking up support from companies such as LeapMotion, Sixense, and Gearbox Software, and is even being used as a secondary tool for devices such as 3DRudder. Outside of the companies Razer also created an Academia Program so that eligible universities could get their hands on a few Hacker Development Kits of OSVR. Now, Razer is announcing more partners in OSVR, bringing the total number of supporters to 50. Additionally, the company updated the OSVR platform and the development kit to keep the device up-to-date for all of its developers.
The list of partners is a mix of developers and manufacturers. Some are simply making content for VR; others are coming up with their own versions of a head-mounted display (HMD); and some, like 3DRudder, see OSVR as an accompaniment to their own devices. New and notable HMD partners include Vuzix, Seebright, and CastAR. These companies not only work with VR, but try to use it in different ways such as testing it on mobile devices, tables, and walls.
The list of developers continues to grow in OSVR, but obviously, the bigger brand names always lend credibility to new devices. This time around, Ubisoft is joining OSVR's list of partners. In a way, the move seemed obvious since Ubisoft announced last month that the PC version of Assassin's Creed: Rogue would support Tobii's Steelseries Sentry Eye Tracker device. With the game's main focus on the player using a device called the Animus to look into the past, using something like OSVR makes sense and could add more immersion into the story.
With backing from Ubisoft, OSVR is going to eventually catch the eye of other big developers, so the company needs to ensure that OSVR can give developers the best features to keep up with today's gaming needs. Even though it's still in its alpha stages, OSVR now includes a plugin for the Unreal Engine 4. Although the fact that Unreal Engine 5 is now free could mean that it's coming fairly soon to OSVR. Other improvements include a "distortionizer tool," which allows the user to estimate optical and chromatic distortion in HMDs. Developers will find this useful to make their games work on not just one custom OSVR device, but multiple versions as well.
But perhaps the most interesting update is the new interface. It will now allow video streams from color cameras, IR cameras, and depth sensors. This opens the door for OSVR developers since the interface can now support augmented reality (AR), face recognition, and hand tracking. All of these features have been around for some time, but to put them all in one HMD or software platform is a very ambitious move on Razer's part.
For the physical device, or the Hacker Development Kit, Razer has updated it to version 1.1. It now features a 1080p OLED display, which provides lower latency, better adjustments for optics, a more comfortable facemark to fit faces of different shapes and sizes, and the ability to support 1080p video. New modules for the faceplate have also been added, such as an IR-LED module that can be used for positional tracking, and a dual-camera module that can be used for positional tracking and AR.
Additional improvements include the use of OSVR with a wireless video link, the option to connect to smartphones via the SlimPort or MHL standard adapter, and most importantly, the ability to convert standard video in real-time. It's a general update that is not only tuned for game developers, but also for those in the production industry. Razer wants to attract entertainment companies as well as other industries to provide any type of content in OSVR.
With all these upgrades, Razer told us that OSVR supports a multitude of HMDs from companies such as Oculus, castAR, GODHEAD VR, Sensics, Vuzix, and more. While Razer does support the Oculus Rift DK2, it doesn't support the new kit, Crescent Bay, which we saw at CES. However, Razer told us that it's working to support all software kits in the future. The amount of supported HMDs is promising, and since OSVR is open source, it works well with any HMD in the market.
Even with all these adjustments and upgrades, Razer is still keeping the price to $199 with a release date in June 2015. In the meantime, the company is still focused on trying to get as many partners on board as possible for OSVR. In just a few months, the support for OSVR has been slowly coming in, but notable partners are jumping on the OSVR wagon. If Razer can keep the momentum going, it will be interesting to see where OSVR ends up by the time E3 rolls around in June.
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