Oculus Connect 6 kicked-off yesterday with their first of two keynotes this week. The first is usually used for the bigger announcements for Oculus VR platforms, and this year was no different, with a number of key announcements for the Oculus Quest and the Oculus platform as a whole.
$20 million spent on Oculus Quest Store
Mark Zukerberg started things off by announcing that the Oculus Store has earned over $100 million across Rift, Go and Quest platforms, with 20% of this being helped along by sales on the Quest after only four months of its release. This makes out that the Quest has sold $20 million in software sales in its first four months, which is pretty good going for such a niche device.
Rift games on Quest via Oculus Link
Coming this November, Oculus will be bringing their own Virtual Desktop-like sofrtware to the Quest in the form of Oculus Link. Simply connect a USB-C cable from your Oculus Quest to a VR-capable PC desktop and stream the entire Rift library to your Oculus Quest headset.
Oculus plan on selling their own cable with increase bandwidth to the Oculus, but any USB-C able will also work just as well. We should hear more about Oculus Link as we edge nearer to its release in November.
Hand tracking on Quest
The biggest new, for me, was that Oculus will release hand tracking on the Oculus Quest early next year. Considering all this is being done on a mobile hardware, Oculus promises that it will not compromised on the CPU and GPU cycles of the mobile hardware of the Quest.
With hand tracking on the Quest, you can opt to use you hands to interact virtually without the need for controllers. This will depend on the app or game you are playing on the Quest, but it will at least be great to be able to interact with menus in Oculus home without picking up a controller first.
Games like shooters will still feel better by holding a physical controller instead of creating a pistol shape with your hand, and more so for two-handed devices and weapons. Exploration games that allow pulling of leavers and pressing of buttons will be great to see with full hand tracking. It will also be great to see what other developers are able to come up with when using this technology.
Facebook Horizon social platform
To enhance social interaction in VR, Oculus announce that it is working on a new social hub called Facebook Horizon. On the surface it looks like it will be very similar to Rec-Room and AltspaceVR in that players will be able to socialise, create and play with friends old and new in a virtual world that will expand and develop over time.
A video trailer of the experience was shown in a comical way that showed the ability to converse with friends, build with them and play games together in a VR space. The avatars shown were also a drastic improvement to the avatars currently on the Oculus platform, and there is no doubt that these will transition over into the Quest experience too, in such applications like Oculus Venues and Oculus TV.
Facebook Horizon will launch next year with an invite-only closed beta being available towards the end of the year and into early next year.
Passthrough+ coming to the Quest
Oculus will be bringing the enhancements from the Rift S passthrough to the Quest in the form of Passthrough+. Releasing as close as next week, this will improve visuals from the Quest optical lenses. Passthrough will be improved with better processing of the cameras to give you a more realistic, stereoscopic view of the world around you, all whilst you are in the Quest headset.
Passthrough on-demand is also coming soon, that will allow you to enter into passthrough mode by double pressing the Oculus home button to enter into passthrough mode and double press the button again to take you back into the game. This is great when talking to others in your area without the need to remove or lift the headset off your head and stop people from snatching that last slice of pizza – apparently.
Oculus Go apps and upgrades on Quest
Oculus announced that from next week there will be over 50 Oculus Go apps and games available on to the Oculus Quest. They also announced that within the year, anyone who has purchased Oculus Go apps and never got around to purchasing the game on the Quest, they will be upgraded for free to the Quest version.
More performance for developers
Oculus announced that they will be bringing new tools for developers to enhance and monitor the performance of their games on the Quest. Support improvements for Vulkan with other game engines, such as Unity, will also be coming later this year, all of which will see drastic improvements to games on the Quest, making them reach better visuals that can be as close as their PC counterparts of the same game.
Chat and Events coming to Oculus
Oculus announced improvements that they will be making in the social and community space. With the inclusion of chat and events, players can connect with other members in VR and in the Oculus App to chat and arrange events.
Media consumption simplified
Oculus will be making some major updates to its Oculus TV app on Quest. They want to make this app the one stop shop for consuming and inviting friends and family to watch with you, all under one Oculus app on Go and Quest.
Services such as Amazon Prime Video VR, Redbull TV, ShowTime, Sling, Oculus Venues and many more TV and media services will be available all via the one Oculus TV app. This way you can have one app to consume media and this will be available to anyone already with a Go or Quest to allow you to invite and share the same media experience.
New games coming to the Quest
In a later section of the keynote, we looked at games coming to the Oculus platforms. For the Quest, we had a showreel of new and upcoming titles that will be coming to the mobile VR platform. This showreel included the following:
- Snow Drift (Survival / Adventure)
- Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul (Horror / Adventure)
- Pistolwhip (Shooter / Rhythm)
- Arizona Sunshine (Zombie / Shooter)
- Half+Half (Already available)
- The Room VR: A Dark matter (Adventure / Explorer)
- Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted (Horror / Adventure)
- Last Labyrinth (Adventure / Horror)
- Luna (Puzzle / Explore)
- Space Channel 5 VR (Music / Rhythm)
- The Fisherman’s Tale (Adventure)
- Red Matter (Already available)
- Echo VR (Adventure / Explorer)
- Stress Level Zero Project 4 (new title in the
- Audica (Rhythm / Shooter)
Director of Content, Mike Verdu, stated that there were 100 games slated for release before the end of the year with many more coming in 2020.
Star Wars Vader Immortal Episode II released
That’s right, the surprise game announcement was that Star Wars Vader Immortal Episode II is available to download now on both Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest.
This latest episode picks up where Episode I left off, with you learning new force powers, interacting with new characters and huge monsters. There is also a newly improved Dojo 2.0, where you can practice your new force power skills and the new ability to throw your lightsaber at enemies.
The new Respawn Game is…
The new highly anticipated VR game from developers Respawn is Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, a return to their roots of 20 years ago and the revival of the Medal of Honor franchise.
Future of VR
Like previous keynotes, the show ended with a talk from Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Facebook Reality Labs, a driver in VR technology and products for Oculus. In his speech we learned about their desire to reduce the display system technology, making it smaller and more accessible.
We also saw new ways to capture facial emotions whilst in the headset, including areas outside the headset, thanks to increased cameras. Mix this with their improved digital representation of your physical body and you have a highly immersive, socially accepted way of displaying avatars of the future, within VR.
Overall, OC6 contained a decent level of announcements for us Quest uses. Its games announcements were of no real surprise, however, I am sure bigger titles will be revealed at other dates or saved until next year. But to sell more units over the upcoming holiday period, Oculus really need to build confidence for existing and future owners that there are a continued and steady stream of new and exciting titles on the platform.
Finger tracking will be a technological breakthrough on the Quest that helps reduce the friction people experience in VR. With finger tracking, you can use apps without the need of controllers to interact with interfaces and I am sure some games will also adopt finger tracking over the use of controllers. Some games will still require you to hold a controller, for use of its extra buttons or locomotion.
One worry for the Quest is with Oculus Link. It is great for PC users to use games on the Quest without a need for a Rift S headset, however I hope developers don’t just settle for this and do not attempt to port directly to the Quest. I am sure sales will still be limited if developers opt for this view, and that porting to the Quest is still required to really make increased sales of their games.