Oculus VR today announced that the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will support a new type of input device called Oculus Touch.
Oculus Touch consists of two small controllers, one for each hand, that include traditional buttons and joysticks, haptic feedback, and motion sensing. In short, they are very much like the motion controls that Valve and HTC unveiled at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year, which allow you to reach out into the virtual world and interact with items intuitively.
Valve's controllers made for the most compelling virtual reality experience I have had yet. Oculus needed to create something comparable, and though we won't get to try Oculus Touch ourselves until E3 next week, it looks like Oculus has caught up with Valve, and then some.
Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey said that that the Oculus Touch controllers will also be able to track specific hand gestures, like pointing and giving a thumbs up. Luckey didn't say if the device will allow you to give someone the middle finger, but one can only hope that this vital gesture will be included in a device that's meant to support social interactions in virtual reality.
The other really interesting news Oculus announced today is that the Oculus Rift will come with an Xbox One controller. As Luckey explained, the Oculus Touch was made to support future virtual reality games, but at the moment, a traditional controller is still the ideal way to control the games that will launch alongside the Oculus in the first quarter of 2016.
Head of Xbox Phil Spencer was on stage to announce a partnership between the two companies, and while it was incredibly exciting to hear him say that the Xbox One will be able to stream Xbox One games to the Rift (which would have been a great way for Microsoft to finally enter the VR race), the ability is not as cool as it sounds.
Halo 5 won't magically turn into a virtual reality game when you stream it from your Xbox One to the Oculus. Instead, it will just let you play it on a giant screen inside of a virtual living room. This seems like a silly feature that not many players will use, as you're not getting any of the virtual reality "presence" magic, and your real TV has a much higher resolution than the one rendered inside the virtual living room.
As we've said before, the main challenge ahead of Oculus and virtual reality in general is good games. Oculus knows this, and it brought out some heavy hitters to put its audience at ease.
CEO of CCP, developer of Eve Online, was on hand to show the company's spaceship game Eve: Valkyrie again, which seems like one of the most promising virtual reality games to date. David Adams, CEO of Gunfire Games, showed off very little of Chronos, a role-playing game built for virtual reality. The most impressive developer to take the stage was Ted Price of Insomniac Games, which has a history of fantastic PlayStation-exclusive games. Insomniac is now working on a third-person horror adventure for the Rift. Price didn't show much, but the name alone is a nice get for Oculus.
In addition to well-known developers, Oculus announced that it will invest $10 million in helping independent developers make virtual reality games. (That $10 million isn't breaking the bank considering that Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion.)
Finally, we got a look at Oculus Home, which is how you'll access all of this virtual reality content. Oculus Home lets you browse the Oculus store, connect with friends, and do all the other things you'd expect from platforms like Steam and Xbox Live in 2D. The difference is that Oculus Home will have a virtual reality version as well, which will even let you sample some games in virtual reality previews before you buy them.
With the exception of the Oculus Touch, everything about the consumer version of the Rift is pretty much what we've expected. It's smaller, lighter, and according to Oculus, more comfortable. It's wrapped in fabric now, which seems lush, but also absorbent.
It will come with the wireless Xbox One controller, as well as a discreet camera and stand you will need to place on your desk or somewhere to track your movement.
Oculus said that we'll be able to try everything it showed today at E3, so we'll be able to tell you if any of it feels as good as it says then.
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