Oculus held their second annual developer conference, Connect, on Thursday and had some incredibly exciting announcements about all the latest gadgets and innovations in virtual reality. The Facebook-owned company has been at the forefront of virtual reality technology, pushing hard to create a platform that will allow the real world to blend seamlessly with the virtual world. For the first time, Oculus is making strides to make their devices affordable and available to consumers everywhere.
Oculus announced the newest Gear VR headset, compatible with Samsung's 2015 flagship Galaxy smartphones, for mobile VR. The headset will work with Samsung's Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge +, Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. The headset, jointly developed by Oculus and Samsung, is "22% lighter and more comfortable to wear than the previous generation." Improvements have been made to the touchpad on the side of the headset and promises "an expanding universe of premium content, games and videos." Of course, the best part is the price; the Gear VR headset will only cost $99 and will launch globally in November of this year. When they say they want to make VR a possibility for everyone, they mean it! And I will be first in line for this device; I ordered my Note 5 today! I'm not kidding...I really did.
Oculus also gave us a peek at what developers have been working on for the Gear VR headset. Oculus Arcade was announced boasting partnerships with SEGA, Warner Brothers Midway and Bandai Namco Entertainment. Games like Sonic The Hedgehog, Gauntlet, Spyhunter and PAC-MAN will be available at launch with more to come later.
Also announced were partnerships with film studios 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate. Titles like The X-Men, The Hunger Games and Pulp Fiction will be available. The headset will be compatible with Facebook's new 360 recorded video support. Twitch will also be supported in Gear VR with chat capabilities and personalized avatars for friends. And rejoice binge-watchers; Gear VR is now compatible with Netflix! Hulu, Vimeo and TiVo will also be available with Gear VR.
On the much awaited Oculus Rift front, units will be finally be shipping in Q1 of 2016. The headset will also come boxed with an XboxOne controller, which Oculus themselves deem, "one of the best controllers in the world."
If finding a compatible PC is your concern, beginning next year, ASUS, Dell and Alienware will be equipped with NVIDIA graphics cards, Intel processors and be available to bundle with Rift headsets for purchase. The program, called Oculus Ready, will make it easier for gamers to choose the PC that's right for them and know the device is optimized for use with Rift due to a small sticker on the device sporting the Oculus logo. And if mom and dad are shopping for a new PC for the kids and want to make sure they get what they need, it's a pretty useful program. Trust me, after working in tech retail, people need all the help they can get when shopping for a new PC.
Another exciting addition to Rift is the arrival of Minecraft to the headset. Minecraft Windows 10 edition will be available for purchase in the Windows Store and the Oculus store beginning this Spring.
A large focus of the conference addressed the social future of VR and the ability to connect in ways we can't through traditional video games and social networking sites. With Oculus Touch, the handheld controllers allow users to feel the virtual environment like never before, tricking our brains into truly believing we are in the presence of another person rather than a simple avatar made up of light and pixels. It makes one wonder about the future of relationships in Oculus. Will we be able to meet someone in one of the social "rooms," go on dates anywhere in the world (or universe) we choose and share a goodnight kiss (or more); all without leaving our homes? It is an interesting prospect, for sure. And a discussion for another time.
Until then, I can't wait to get my hands on Gear VR! And it is incredibly exciting to see where the developers can take us! You can watch the full keynote on the Oculus Twitch channel.
Do you plan to get an Oculus? Are you excited for VR? Drop us a message below and we can chat!