The virtual reality (VR) marketplace is booming with new developments and exciting possibilities. To present the newest advancements, Facebook will be holding the Oculus Connect 4 (OC4) event in San Jose, California, on October 11–12, 2017. Engineers, developers, designers, and creatives will come together from around the world to see the latest from Oculus and explore the newest technology. Industry leaders will share ideas and best practices around the new applications and technology.
For many, VR is all about gaming, and there will certainly be a wide array of gaming-related advancements on display. Last year’s Oculus Connect event featured the launch of new games that helped make the Oculus Rift the leader in gaming VR platforms. This year promises to bring more of the same, as updates are revealed for existing games, trailers are unveiled for upcoming games, and other games that have been in development will finally announce release dates. OC4 will set the stage for VR gaming conversations for the better part of the next year.
With the $2 billion purchase of Oculus by Facebook in March 2014, venture capital available for VR companies skyrocketed and so did the number of gaming applications developed since then. With Facebook’s dominance in the social media marketplace, one would expect a dramatic rise in new social VR capabilities and integrations. This includes the release of software development kits (SDKs) and social interaction tools to make it easier for developers to incorporate VR and Oculus Avatars into the platforms. According to VR Head’s Everything we expect to see at Oculus Connect 4, “It wouldn’t be shocking to see Facebook Spaces come to the Gear VR [Samsung’s mobile VR headset] in some capacity, but Oculus has also made it clear the goal is to make sure every app has access to the Oculus Social Tools.”
An exciting development from Oculus is their support for mixed reality (MR), where users can stream themselves inside their VR experience for others to enjoy. At OC4, Oculus will demo “how to use the Rift SDK’s new mixed reality capture support, which includes a tracked camera, in-game lighting, and more.” The demo will also include a tutorial for “how to add mixed reality capture to your Unity, UE4 [Unreal Engine 4], or native app.” With this ability to easily set up a camera in-game and show your audience what you’re seeing in VR, streaming becomes much less complicated, and other avenues open up, such as being able to stream directly to Facebook and other sites. The interactivity and immersive nature of VR can thus expand even more to reach a viewing audience, and VR eSports will be a growing field to keep an eye on. VR Head speculates that it’s “likely we’ll see a short tournament streamed directly from Oculus Connect 4.”
Gaming and social VR applications attract widespread attention, but educational and commercial applications will play a major role in the technology becoming ubiquitous. Practical applications for training and commercial use are leading the growth in a related technology, Augmented Reality (AR), which puts the real world into a virtual application. Both VR and AR allow for interactive experiences that can be employed for various purposes, such as highly efficient job training (similar to flight simulators for pilots), enhancing in-school learning, customer exploration of products (such as virtually decorating their own home through AR), and even charitable applications. The possibilities of VR and AR technology are endless, limited only by imagination — and this year’s Oculus Connect 4 event is sure to offer something for everyone.