Windows Mixed Reality and Oculus GO

When we were preparing our Virtual Reality Specialisation I was betting that we would have a major new product announcement in the first week that would change everything. I was wrong, it wasn’t until the second week!

Its obvious that keeping our MOOC up to date will be hard as new VR products are being announced all the time and they are all pushing the technology. That is why we have focused more on the fundamental concepts of VR that will continue to be valid.

Since the launch of the course there have been two announcements that I think are significant.

The first is Windows Mixed Reality. This is Microsoft seriously entering the VR field. You can see the video of the announcement on youtube:

Windows Mixed Reality Announcement

If you don’t have access to youtube, here is the product page:

Windows mixed reality

This announcement is interesting because it is a new important player in VR, but it is also interesting for 2 technical features. The first is that it is “mixed reality”, that means a platform for both VR and Augmented Reality (AR). We don’t talk much about AR in this course. The reason is that, though many talk about them in the same breath, and they are often described as a continuum, we believe that they are actually very different media, AR is very much about being in the real world with extra virtual stuff, while VR is about transporting you to another world, that makes creating for the two media very different (NB that is our view point, there are plenty of experts who would disagree). That is also why I’m not really including Apple’s AR announcement in this post as it is not VR, and not at all immersive (it is just viewed on a phone screen. Having said that Microsofts take on combining the two in a single device might be interesting (and is a development of their work on the HoloLens, which we do mention in the course).

The other technology innovation is that they claim to have inside out tracking. This is a technique that allows you to track your head in VR without external sensors and so makes a position tracked headset that is completely self contained. As Sylvia describes in the first course Introduction to Virtual Reality, this one of the features that everybody is trying to do, so it is a big win if Microsoft does it first.

On the software side, there isn’t that much that is very new an exciting, mostly stuff we’ve seen on oculus and VIVE. They do have the ability to have 2D office type apps in VR, but I’m not very convinced of that idea. When I get excited by the potential of VR my first thought isn’t about checking my email in VR. I think that standard laptops and touch screens will be better for these basic tasks for many years and VR makers should concentrate on things that make VR unique (but I could be wrong).

The other big announcement was at Oculus Connect, which is Oculus’ annual conference. They announced several things but the most interesting is Oculus GO. This is the youtube of the full announcement:

and this is the product page:

Oculus GO

(and there is also a lot of good stuff in the full Oculus Connect conference playlist)

Oculus go is a fully stand alone headset. As far as I can tell it is a version of GearVR that doesn’t need a separate phone. So in terms of functionality it is nothing new, but it is a very accessible VR device. While GearVR is cheap you have to buy an expensive phone to go with it, and you may not want to get a Samsung phone. I’m an iPhone user, and while I think that Android phones are equally good, it would be a hassle for me to change platform. The Oculus GO doesn’t require me to change phones and it is amazingly cheap at $199. It’s not out until next year.

Oculus also teased their Santa Cruz inside out tracking demo, which is exciting but still doesn’t have a release date (and it looks like Microsoft got there first).

Both announcements talked about many other things, including a lot about social VR, which I find exciting, so they are both worth watching.

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