OC4: Oculus’ Nate Mitchell On VR Hype — ‘Expectations Got Ahead Of Themselves’

by Ian Hamilton • October 12th, 2017

Nate Mitchell is one of the Oculus co-founders and continues to be a key leader at Facebook defining the product strategy for VR going forward. While he works closely with the Rift team, he’s also keenly aware of VR’s evolution over the last five years as he’s part of a small group of Oculus executives who helped create an enormous rush of interest in VR when they sold their startup to Facebook in 2014 for roughly $3 billion.

This acquisition set off a wave of investment in VR that saw numerous startups funded alongside giants like Google and Microsoft dramatically stepping up efforts to build out VR headset strategies. This year, though, public sentiment around VR entered a gap of disappointment and the market found itself in the trough of disillusionment. Oculus hasn’t helped in dispelling this sentiment because the company hasn’t released official figures about the sale of its flagship Rift.

“We did build up a lot of hype, and we really believe in all that hype — the potential for VR, VR as a computing platform. This is going to be a transformative thing,” said Mitchell. “We always said…this is a decade-plus journey that we’re on. But everyone’s expectations got ahead of themselves, maybe not Oculus, but definitely in the media.”

In Mitchell’s view, just because not everyone has a VR headset yet doesn’t mean the technology is a failure.

“Our goal is to continue growing the ecosystem of users and developers every single year,” he said.

Oculus announced a pair of standalone all-in-one VR headsets at Oculus Connect this week, the first of which (Oculus Go), is priced starting at $199 to introduce people to VR without phone or PC needed.

“We think that will be, over time, almost a step function change in the types of people and number of people who get into VR,” Mitchell said. “Now it’s not gonna necessarily be more than Gear VR because Gear VR is cheaper.”

I also found Oculus CTO John Carmack surrounded by developers pinging him with questions and asked him how big he expects sales to be for Oculus Go. He echoed Mitchell’s assessment, suggesting expectations for the headset to fall between Rift and Gear VR sales. Earlier this year, Samsung said it sold more than 5 million Gear VRs. It should be noted Gear VR sells for around $129 but it is often bundled free with the sale of Samsung phones.

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  • mirak

    There is no reason for VR/AR to not succeed, when you realise it can replace from a mobile phone screen to a cinema screen.
    We are all about screens, since the first cinemas, and then tv, and now everyone has a screen.
    Even a watch is a screen now, books are screens, photos albums are screens, music partitions are screens, everything, and VR/AR can replace all that.

    I watched a movie with a gear vr, I don’t even need to take my tablet now.

    • johngrimoldy

      I no longer go thru the trouble of setting up my video projector if watching a movie alone. Simple VR Player is astounding.

    • Smokey_the_Bear

      I agree, but watching a movie in VR isn’t as good as my 65″ 4k HDR TV. When I bought the Vive, I thought I would never buy a TV again, but it’s resolution was to low, I sold it, and bought my big screen. I have the Samsung Odyssey pre-ordered, I’m hoping with the resolution bump, it will be more enjoyable to watch a movie in.

      • RFC_VR

        yes it was poor on my Vive, but Youtube VR on Daydream View with Pixel XL is a real treat to behold. QUAD HD with 534ppi on AMOLED panel is sweet for watching videos whether ‘virtual cinema’ screen or 360 …

      • mirak

        Not yet no, but this will go fast.
        The need for extremely high dpi is new for mass market.

      • Michael

        Honestly, I want to recommend the Pimax alongside the Odyssey. The Pimax will really fill your vision and help immerse you, also it has a lovely resolution bump.

  • Miguel Brandão

    That’s because Oculus Rift sucks compared to HTC VIVE

    • polysix

      Lol. Had both. Rift kills Vive. Vive will be dead soon janky POS with awful sde , ergonomics, software and bad controls. You are living in 2016 pal. Real vr fans moved over to rift in the sale and dumped Vive.

      Had dk2 Vive psvr and rift. Rift is almost gen 1.5 compared to Vive. Only thing vive does well is tracking. Lol

      • mellott124

        To each his own. I have both as well. Even have Gear VR and Daydream. Vive is better in my opinion due to tracking. End up using it 90% of the time. Still have my Oculus through and use it time to time on exclusive content. Even have a 4 camera setup and still think Vive is better. They’re not going anywhere.

        • Punk0

          I can’t deal with the Vive paddles. The sticks on the Touch controllers make all the difference to me. I was very disappointed that the Knuckles controllers are going with the track pads as well. I was hoping to make my next headset a second gen Vive (if there ever is one). As you said, to each his own.

        • polysix

          No problem. You just have really bad taste and a low threshold for quality. Each to their own indeed. 😉

          Zero tracking issues with rift here btw.. are you in a warehouse or a typical real users room? Also three cam setup is often better than four. Why u would forgo all the rift positives for tracking that is only marginally better when in giant rooms I don’t know. And I had tons of jitter with my Vive tracking. Rift is rock solid.

          • CLPettigrew

            @polysix:disqus fanboy troll

      • 12Danny123

        Agreed. Vive is not competitive enough. It’s very much a Microsoft and Facebook war at the moment.

      • Miguel Brandão

        Thank you for your opinion, but your argument is full of logical fallacies, such as True Scottsman, which inclines me to think it would be hard to have a factual discussion about this with you (apologies ahead for the ad hominem).

        Actually addressing your points, Vive’s software does suck in my opinion but the controllers and ergonomics are amazing.
        About clarity/sharpness/speed, I guess that would be more related to your setup and game development than the headset itself, no? I just confirmed that both have the same resolution, field of view and refresh rate.

        Even a simple game like Zombie Training Simulator is an amazing experience on the HTC Vive!

        You are right about the fact that I have never tried Rift, I was merely posting a inflammatory remark, but since it doesn’t have native room scale tracking and I’m not sure how good it’s a major point for me, I don’t play sitting VR.

        On a closing remark, Valve has contributed a lot more to the VR landscape with the advent of OpenVR and there are some hints that there was ‘collaboration’ between the development of both kits, although I wouldn’t base my argument on that. Also I would like to state that I am a Valve fanboy so the bias is explicit. In the end, both kits are likely to provide a great experience and it is, as you said but without derogatory remarks about quality and taste, to each is own.

      • Virtual Gamesterz

        You just said bad controls, than refer to the vive does well is tracking, try doing some VR wireless, oh I forgot you cant with your Rift sorry, when you can then really speak up. Always somebody crying about something, or try to bash other equipment, years ago we never had any VR , only like 30 deg fov now we have 110 and soon 200, and always people complaining.

  • Mike Hamner

    Well, here is the real issue as I see it. VR gives you a killer new kind of experience with emersion but for that step forward it takes a few steps back. VR headsets have a much lower resolution then competing products. When you have a population that is used to seeing high resolution images they aren’t going to be satisfied with a much much lower resolution when there is more compelling content on other high resolution platforms AKA HDTVs. If there was superior content in VR that wasn’t banking primarily on the experience but more so on the content itself then the technology could perhaps overcome the downsides of resolution. Also, VR is very clunky and isolating. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ill spend hrs in my headset but I’m a loner, most people aren’t . They aren’t going to isolate themselves from there friends and family just to play sub par games with sub par resolution. the resolution has to come much closer to to peoples expectations for VR for it to succeed. there has to be incredible AAA games to make people like my wife who isn’t interested in wearing my headset for the reasons I just stated to give it another shot. Now, I understand that game developers are in the business of making money and there isn’t enough of a install base to justify investment in making the kind of AAA games that people want to play and that will drive sales but if these games aren’t developed then once again there is no incentive for people to spend the money to put up with sub par graphics and resolutions. its a classic chicken and egg situation. this cycle has to be broken for vr to succeed. in order to do that I believe that a company or companies with a vested interest in the tech has to kind of throw themselves out on a limb and be a loss leader. put out the headsets and fund the games development at loss for the near term. that’s how it happened in the early days of 3d gaming when it first emerged. Sony and Microsoft produced there consoles and funded first party content at a loss in order to develop the ecosystem, this then payed off years later through royalties on game sales. “If you build it, they will come” to quote a old movie. that’s the only way to beat the chicken or egg stalemate. this proposition is not an easy sale for shareholders when traditional game sales are doing well. The xbox and ps4 or doing just fine right now. but if you look to the future there’s not a lot of places they can go from here. the major consoles are now pushing 4k resolutions with HDR at near photo realism. in 5 years or so where are they going to go when people want a shiny new game console. 4k is about the limit for visual acuity for a reasonable sized display at reasonable viewing distances. I don’t see any alternative to prevent the stagnation of the games industry accept for a change of content platform. that’s where vr may actually be more essential to the games industry’s sustained viability than most would care to admit at this stage. I think the Game industry had better take the loss now in the short term now to develop the new platform for tomorrow’s games in order to sustain the long term viability of there business and that means building the VR industry so its ready day 1 when the bottom falls out of traditional gaming. Lets not have another game industry crash like we did in the late 70s and early 80s. what do you say.