A couple months ago, during our E3 coverage, I predicted that we would see mass VR announcements and demos during the show. Sadly, the VR announcements at E3 were mostly covered a few days before the show at the private Oculus announcement. There really wasn’t much else, and Valve/HTC were essentially no-shows.
Fast forward to the end of August, and Virtual Reality is finally center stage! During PAX Prime, virtual reality was on full display. Oculus had a massive booth on hand where fans could come sign up to try out the various demos on the Rift CV1. This is the first time that members of the public have had a chance to test out the latest iteration of the Rift. Previously, it was only available to members of the press and industry insiders. Oculus was also showing off a number of GearVR demos as well.
For the duration of PAX Prime (Friday through Monday) the company was booking 10 sessions per hour, starting at 9am and stretching well into the evening. The touch controllers also made an appearance at the show. This was limited to closed showings for press members which AYBOnline was unfortunately not permitted to attend, though our very own Jake Carewick had the chance to try out the public demo, and wrote a report about the experience which I encourage you to check out.
HTC was also in attendance, and their presence was much more pronounced. The company has been embarking on what it calls the “HTC Vive Wold Tour”, and has been travelling around North America and Europe letting the public test out the Vive VR headset, along with the Lightroom room-scale motion tracking system. The demo machines are installed inside a Semi trailer, and hopeful fans can line up for a chance to try it.
The company is only able to accommodate a small number of people per day, as the demo experience runs a full 20 minutes, and cycles through a set of different experiences through that timeframe. The world tour truck was situated outside of the PAX show, and open to the public.
To mitigate the lineups, and likely intense demand, the company set up a second Vive experience just for guests with PAX passes. This demo was set up much the same way, but it also featured 2 new games that were never shown before. PAX attendees were the first in the world to try it out. Cloudhead games was also at the event showing off its upcoming the The Gallery, and showcasing the company’s motion sickness prevention software.
Also on display at PAX was Sony’s Project Morpheus. To my knowledge, this is again one of the first public trials of the headset. According to Jake, this one is showing a lot of promise. He even suggested that it would be the headset to get if it ends up supporting PC.
All told, just between the major players, there were 28 playable VR demos at PAX Prime 2015, and that doesn’t include some of the smaller independent developers that showed up with their wares.
We’re Getting Closer
We’re now closing in on virtual reality in the consumer market place and marketing teams are finally starting to kick in to high gear. It’s going to be slow adoption for most people, but the word needs to get out there, and people need to try out VR to get this tech to sell. More and more live demos can be expected in the coming months and well into next year.
Oculus Connect 2 is happening later this month, which is as good a time as any to reveal the retail price of the headset, and an opportunity to launch pre-orders while all-eyes are on them. HTC has said multiple times now that the company will be revealing more details, along final retail hardware sometime in October. With a small number of retail headsets shipping this year, pre-orders for Vive are also expected to be announced at that event.
It’s finally happening. Virtual Reality is almost here and I’m so excited I can’t contain myself. You can bet I’ll be ready and waiting with my credit card in hand for orders to open on both headsets. At this point, it’s just a matter of who can get me a headset sooner, but I haven’t ruled out both yet. We’re a maximum of 7 months away from that, if both companies are going to make good on mass deliveries for Q1 of next year.
Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Editor for aybonline.com. He knows a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. The opinions in his columns are his and his alone, but you are free to have them.