- Oculus is going social, with full-body avatars that let you meet, greet and play games together
- We are getting a custom umbilical cord connecting the Oculus Quest to a VR ready PC over the USB-Type C protocol
- Social media hub called Horizon is now a thing, so welcome to the VR version of your Facebook wall
- One giant leap forward for VR, we now have hand tracking that’s a progressive step forward. Not perfect but getting there.
Mark Zuckerberg has some massive ideas about Virtual Reality, and he is not shy about letting us know. A shining example of this would be the just concluded Oculus Connect 6 where we heard and saw some very interesting things about what Oculus is up to and their plans for the future.
Oculus hosted the first day of Oculus Connect 6 on September 25, and VR fans from around the world tuned in to hear the latest news regarding all things Oculus.
The biggest news of the day is Oculus Link, which allows you to connect your Quest with a PC via a USB-C cable to access Rift content, but Oculus made several splashes, including announcing Horizon which is a social hub for VR, hand and finger tracking for Quest, and some very mouth-watering games.
Oculus Connect 6: A Link to PC
Let’s start off with The Oculus Link: it is an upcoming software update that allows users to connect a cable from the Oculus Quest to a VR-ready PC. With it, you can play PC VR games on your Oculus Quest with ease.
At the event, users could get a first-hand experience on the technology as there were two booth setups for the Link. In one, you were able to play Asgard’s Wrath and in the other Stormland. In both booths, there was a 5 meter (about 16-foot) USB-C to USB-C cable.
Trying out the Agard’s Wrath demo gives a very playable experience. One will notice some video compression before starting the game in the Oculus Rift Home environment, but not so much during the game.
The Oculus Link software is set to arrive in November. To use it, you will need a compatible USB 3 cable. Oculus will also release its own optical fiber USB-C cable later this year.
The company looks like it’s developing its own huge social hub for the Oculus platform. It will allow users to create avatars (Virtual representations of themselves), meet each other in virtual worlds that users can create, and play games together or just hangout.
Like Facebook, you will be able to message the people you meet there and create groups for activities all from within the program.
Of course, in the typical facebook fashion, this huge social experiment is only available on Oculus products, so not exactly a huge amount of people will be using it. This doesn’t stop some users feeling that they are part of an exclusive community.
But with time and more widespread adoption of Oculus products, this should see steady population growth.
Full-Body Codec Avatars
Oculus is intent to make the real world and the AR/VR worlds converge in a more meaningful way than ever before.
Full-body avatars look surprisingly lifelike and should help make the AR glasses and Live Map projects even cooler and increase usability. VR can still be considered to be in its startup phase and Facebook wants to be one of the VR leaders.
These avatars are intended to look photo-realistic. Facebook Reality lab’s Micheal Abrash said it is very important to convey emotion in a social VR experience. So, they’ve doubled down on making photorealistic virtual faces for their Codec Avatars.
This work will ultimately help us seamlessly overlay virtual objects on top of the real world and enhance our experience of daily life.’
In March, the research division released a series of videos displaying lifelike floating heads called ‘Codec Avatars’. This technology allowed users to virtually converse with one another, as their real facial expressions were replicated on VR faces in second-by-second detail.
Facebook said the project could one day ease the loneliness of long-distance family members, friendships or relationships by simulating what it feels like to be in the same room – and the firm is getting closer to making this happen.
Now, the technology is able to measure facial expressions in real-time, as well as produce a full-body avatar, as the firm noted, ‘body language is critical to our ability to communicate‘.
‘While you won’t find this technology in a consumer product anytime soon, we imagine a future where people will be able to create ultra-realistic avatars of themselves with just a few quick snaps of their phone cameras and animate them via their headsets,’ Facebook Reality Labs shared.
Oculus Connect 6: It’s time for Hand Tracking!
But the story doesn’t just end there, we also got treated to Oculus’ announcement that they are adding hand tracking to the Oculus Quest, and you won’t need to buy anything extra for it. They are going to use the inside-out tracking cameras that are already on the headset to track your hands. This means that once released, you’ll only need to update your headset’s software to be able to use it.
During OC6, users were able to try out one of the hand tracking demos. One such demo was a room-scale Wizard’s experience. Everywhere around the user were tables with interactive magical objects. There was stuff to touch, pinch, hold or throw. At some point, users’ hands even transformed into Octopus tentacles, which some say were a strangely immersive feeling.
The hand tracking technology could seemingly track each finger accurate enough. Though, some users did notice a couple of limitations. Moving one’s hands over or close to each other caused my hands to disappear. The tracking also seemed to have a slight latency. The game was still playable, and it is worth noting that this could improve over time with software updates as Oculus has done in the past with its other tracking technology…
Oculus Connect 6 is an event we are not going to forget anytime soon and some announcements we heard leaves some anticipations in our hearts that we would like to see fully implemented. But the general takeaway from this event is that to Facebook, Oculus Is a platform they wish to bring into the Social VR fold.