There were two real big stories when it comes to virtual reality at GDC, those were the obvious presence of Oculus at GDC as well as the ridiculous fact that they had a line that was over an hour long. This line was just for a chance to play around in Hawken using the Oculus RIFT virtual reality headset.
I had the unique chance of not only testing out the Oculus RIFT back at Nvidia's GTC and get the EPIC Citadel Demo, but I also had the opportunity to check it out at GDC with Hawken and Sixense's MakeVR application, which is the most promising non-gaming application of the hardware. Oculus' VR headset has gotten quite a bit of attention as a result of their Kickstarter campaign and support from various big-name game developers. The real truth of the matter is that people are getting excited about Oculus' headset and it's helping bring VR back to the masses with a $300 developer device. This device is not intended to ship to consumers, but is already an affordable start to bringing VR to the masses.
The line at Oculus' two booths, yes they needed one booth space just for the line
What's really interesting is that developers will actually be able to get their hands on VR for once and it won't be a closed ecosystem. Oculus wants people to develop for the device and make VR once and for all a viable technology for all. If the developer device's price is any indication of a consumer version, there's a very strong likelihood that the consumer version will be the same price, if not cheaper.
Everyone that I've talked to said that they had a great time playing around with the Oculus RIFT VR, especially when they had a chance to play Hawken. Messing around inside of EPIC's Citadel demo was cool, but playing Hawken with it is FUN. Another really interesting, and I think groundbreaking use of the RIFT is Sixense's application called MakeVR. We got a private demonstration of this application and there is no doubt in our minds that this application can enable the next age of 3D modeling and printing.
This application got me thinking about so many things, including how well it would integrate into people's current 3D modeling pipelines and the fact that there's potential to have multiple users using this application at the same time. It also opens the pathway to people that have never modeled before to start making 3D models for their own 3D printers. In the past, I used to do all of my 3D modeling in CAD and then I had to print everything out and do it by hand. Now, with 3D printers, you can just export your files and watch the magic.
Simon Solotko of Sixense says quite eloquently, "With MakeVR, Sixense is making it easy for anyone to do professional 3D computer aided design. My 8 year old can do 3D CAD with MakeVR. There is no way she could use Maya or 3ds Max. The 3D CAD engine in MakeVR is professional grade and the ability to easily navigate makes it well suited to simultaneously creating multiple objects – to rapidly constructing entire virtual worlds”
At the time of filming, MakeVR was not officially showing off their Oculus RIFT demonstration, but they did give us a sneak peek of it. What was really interesting was not the fact that they had gotten the Oculus RIFT integrated with their Sixense controller and MakeVR, but rather the speed with which they did it and the realism that it helps create for the user. It now allows the user to understand the scale of the things that they are building and to experience the models instead of just see them. Furthermore, the speed with which Sixense was able to enable Oculus' solution should be a testament to Oculus' own feasibility with developers as it only took two weeks to port to.
When you combine the fact that the MakeVR application is compatible with CAD applications and has one of the most unique and usable controllers and support for one of the most unique and immersive displays, I really believe that you have a potentially winning solution. They are currently in their pre-kickstarter mode to enable certain features within MakeVR like the ability for in-engine physics and the addition of certain types of materials, all of which take time and resources.
While I do not know when their Kickstarter will go live, it should be relatively soon and they even have a video made up to show you what they can do and plan to do. We're really interested to see how users will be able to combine MakeVR with Sixense controllers and Oculus' RIFT headset to enable the most immersive experience for consumers and creators, ever.
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