Virtual Reality is hot at Game Developers Conference

Oculus VR
Credit: Oculus VR

Yesterday I talked about Sony's announcements at this year's Game Developers Conference, and one of those announcements was Project Morpheus, Sony's prototype VR visor.

But of course Sony wasn't the only company talking up VR at GDC. Oculus VR was at the show with their Rift VR visor. It wasn't long ago the Oculus had to discontinue selling Rift development kits because it was having trouble sourcing some of the components. Well if you missed out, don't worry, a new kit is coming and Oculus is taking pre-orders now. The $350 dev kit is expected to start shipping in July, and orders will go out on a first come, first served basis.

The new kit is based on the "Crystal Cove" prototype that Oculus took to CES earlier this year. Engadget got some hands-on time with the new devkit and called it "really, really impressive."

Of course there's still no indication of when consumers are going to be able to head to Best Buy or Amazon and buy one of these things. I guess patience is a virtue and the longer we wait, the better the final hardware will be.

But wait! There's more VR news this week! GameFace was at GDC as well, showing off an Android-driven stand alone VR visor. Gameface calls it "A wireless, ultra-low latency head-mounted device for the next generation of VR Android gaming." Next generation? I guess I missed the first generation of VR Android gaming.

Anyway surely this is just some junk intended to fleece gullible users, right? Apparently not. Polygon called it "surprisingly unterrible" (I guess that's a compliment?) but noted that it is currently using the optics of the Oculus Rift:

The fact that the demo unit was using the optics from an Oculus Rift development kit was hard to ignore. [Founder and CEO of Gameface] Mason was upfront about their use of Rift hardware. "We’re not hiding that," he said. "We’re not comfortable showing off our optics until we can get some protection on them. We’ve developed a slightly different set of lenses that helps with lens barrel distortion."

We'll see what happens when GameFace has it's own optics to show off. Like all the other VR visors, GameFace is a ways off. In fact the $500 devkits won't go on sale until the end of the year.

So everyone is VR-crazy these days, right? Well what about Microsoft? Speaking to Ars Technica, Xbox Group Program Manager David Dennis said Microsoft would "...see how the VR space evolves." and:

"At this point, everything you're seeing out there is just prototypes and development stuff," Dennis noted regarding projects like Rift and Morpheus. "I think for us, it will be interesting to see how consumers respond and what experiences developers are able to deliver."

Hmm, Microsoft misdirection, or is the company really willing to wait on the sidelines to see how this all plays out? I'm guessing misdirection and that they've got some VR device in their research labs that they're playing with. Whether or not it ever becomes a real project is another question.

Before I head out, I want to circle back to Sony one last time. In addition to Project Morpheus Sony was also showing off some interesting eye-tracking technology. The Verge's Sean Hollister caught it on video:

Once again, this is just a prototype but it seems to work fairly well. There's some odd bobbing when Hollister is talking, and it's easy to question how well this would work from across the room, but just as a tech demo I found it pretty interesting. In a way it's similar to the head tracking tech included in Forza 5 for the Xbox One, but this seems more precise. Then again, Forza and the Xbox One are on store shelves now and this is an early prototype, so let's call it a draw.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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