The Oculus Rift Kickstarter page (and various other places) announced today that John Carmack is joining them as their new Chief Technology Officer. John is one of the biggest names in the industry of 3D gaming, having been on the forefront of technology with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, and Rage. The fact that he’s interested in Oculus Rift shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, and in fact everyone I know that has had a chance to see the technology in action has been impressed. I wasn’t able to get there at CES 2013, but I know Brian stopped by—he mentioned that the transition from the Virtual Reality environment back to the real world was disorienting, in a good way (i.e. it was much better VR than we’ve seen in the past).

Of course, this isn’t the first time John has had anything to do with Oculus Rift—he was the first developer to get the Oculus running with a 3D game (Doom 3). In a statement to the community he writes, “I have fond memories of the development work that led to a lot of great things in modern gaming – the intensity of the first person experience, LAN and internet play, game mods, and so on. Duct taping a strap and hot gluing sensors onto Palmer’s early prototype Rift and writing the code to drive it ranks right up there. Now is a special time. I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today; probably by people reading this message. It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!”

Just to be clear, John isn’t leaving id Software for this new position; he will continue his work there, as well as with other companies/projects. It’s also interesting to look at the last id Software release, Rage, and think about what John might have to say regarding gaming performance of the Oculus Rift. Rage basically made itself useless as a benchmark by targeting a maximum frame rate of 60FPS, and it would dynamically adjust quality to hit 60FPS as best as it could, generally succeeding even on relatively low-end hardware. For Virtual Reality, I can see having a constant 60FPS stream of content being far more important than getting additional graphics quality, so hopefully John can help other developers realize that goal.

As for the Oculus Rift, with many (over 17000!) development kits having now shipped to the community, as well as showcasing the 1080p HD version at E3 2013, we’re getting ever closer to the final hardware. The 0.2.3 SDK is also available, and besides the $2.5 million from the initial Kickstarter campaign, Oculus Rift has brought in a significant amount of additional funding over the past year. There’s still no official release date, but given the progress from the last year I’d expect to see the first consumer release within the next year, and very like before then. I’m sure they’d love to get on shelves before Christmas this year, but whether or not they can manage that remains to be seen.

Source: Oculus Rift Blog

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  • A5 - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    I'll be surprised if the 1080p model is at retail next year. I'm thinking mid-2015 is more likely from what they've been saying.
  • WhitneyLand - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    One interesting is how may non-gaming uses could be practical. I'd use one just to walk along a beach in Fiji and listen to the waves.
  • Rezurecta - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Kinda indicates how important audio implementation would be.
  • todlerix - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    If they can do the audio right it will have a much more important role than audio does today. Virtual surround sound on headphones with the VR as well would be incredible. Hopefully they can pull it off.
  • JeffFlanagan - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    You're very right about the audio being important.

    Even when playing games in a home theater, well done surround-sound leads to the greatest immersion. They'd do well to build surround-sound into the release version so people don't have to run an additional cable to their head for sound.
  • Krysto - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    They should use whatever LG G2 is using for audio. That would be sweet.
  • Dentons - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Oculus needs to ship their consumer product, NOW.

    Not because I want one, but because the market does. The product is in huge demand. The developer models are clearly 'good enough'. The pricing is clearly 'close enough'. When each of those metrics line up, it is time to ship the damn product, no matter the imperfections.

    Clearly, those in charge at Oculus want the consumer model to be a more perfect product. That's a very bad mistake, one that has doomed countless tech companies before them. Perfect or not, if a product is functional at a reasonable price point, it's not time to wait for improvement's, it's time to ship.

    Oculus is hot now. They have mindshare today. Who knows what will have the public's interest in 6 months, let alone a year or 18 months. Not me, and certainly not them.

    Their iron is roasting hot, they need to strike.
  • orionismud - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    I have a developer prototype, and I can assure you that it's not ready for prime time.

    The screen is too low res to be usable in all but the simplest games, but more importantly, the software support is lacking. As of now, you can play TF2 and HL2, but anything else requires a lot of painful setup time to get working at all.

    Another big problem is the immersion itself. It feels so real that you get motion sickness pretty quick, because what your eyes and ears are experiencing is very different from what your inner ear is experiencing. I can play games for hours and never get any motion sickness, but I could only handle about 5 minutes of the OR before feeling sick. I'm sure I'll get used to it over time, and I'm already up to about 15 minutes, but that's going to be tricky issue for them to deal with.

    That said, it's still awesome and I will definitely buy a higher res version for as much money as they want for it. It's like being in the future. If you've seen 3D TV and 3D monitors and been unimpressed, you'll still want to check out the Oculus Rift.
  • psuedonymous - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    There are some essentially solved problem for Oculus: smearing on pans is solved with lightboost-style backlight pulsing. Oculus have a 1080p prototype model they've shown off a few times, so they've either found a supplier of HiDPI LVDS panels (or possibly eDP smaller than 10.1"), or made a DVI-MIPI controller. The remaining major issue is positional head-tracking (current tracking is orientation-only). Sixense's Hydra has seen a massive boost in popularity (think hundreds to thousands of percent depending on how big your moving average window is), and have shown mockups of a prototype 'Hydra 2' with an obvious spot for 1-2 clip-on tracking modules (think head and torso tracking).

    End if this year is possible for a second developer preview of a finalised first-gen product, with sometime mid 2014 for a consumer release not an unreasonable estimate. The first devkit was mainly delayed by supply issues (there simply weren't enough of the 5.6" panels in existence to fulfil all the orders they got).
  • Guspaz - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    My experience with my dev kit says they're VERY far from being good enough. It doesn't work properly for people with myopia, for example (swapping out lenses helps, it doesn't fix it), there's no consumer-ready software available, there are a ton of usability (and reliability, like the foam glue falling off) fixes needed to the physical design, the lack of positional tracking for head movements is an issue...

    If they shipped the dev kit as a consumer product today, it would be a disaster, and kill off VR for the next decade. The devkit is impressive for giving demos, not for everyday consumer use.

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