Everyone has a great story to tell from trying Oculus Touch for the first time, but Alice and Oleg might have the best.
I heard about these two semi-anonymous VR fans during the Develop: Brighton conference in England this week. Anna Sweet, head of development strategy at Oculus, shared their short but amazing story during her ‘Evolution of Genre in VR’ keynote talk. It was a short talk that accurately summed up some of the best VR experiences going right now and hinted at what’s to come, but it’s this tale that really stuck with me.
Oleg is a developer that went to check out an early look at Oculus Touch, the upcoming position-tracked controllers due to launch later this year. Anyone that’s experienced that demo for themselves will recall the room; a small square with padded walls and a foam mat to stand upon. Alice, meanwhile, is the member of the Oculus team that would be guiding Oleg through his first experience. She was in a completely different room, with her own pair of Touch controllers and her own Rift.
The experience on show was Toybox, one of the best examples of what you can do with Touch. It’s a 10 minute experience designed to introduce you to the controllers simply by letting you interact with a number of different items, be it toy robots, fireworks, or laser pistols. Alice would pick up objects and show them to Oleg, lighting fireworks with flames and then firing them off in the direction they pointed them in.
Throughout the course of the demo, Alice and Oleg could talk to each other over microphones, but could also “see” each other represented as a floating blue head and a pair of similar-looking hands. When one of them talked, the jaw of the head would fluctuate to simulate talking. It obviously wasn’t accurate lip syncing but every head and hand movement they made was precisely replicated within the experience.
Oleg finished his demo up and left his room without ever meeting Alice face-to-face. As far as either of them knew, they’d never see each other again and wouldn’t even recognize each other if they were to pass by in a room.
Or so they thought.
Later that night Oleg was at a bar, getting a drink. A woman entered, walked across the room and stood next to him, ready to order. Oleg paused for a moment, recognizing the way she carried herself. He looked at her and asked “…Alice?”
Alice stared back and asked “…Oleg?”
No, I’m not going to go on and say the two became star-crossed lovers or anything (though they could, I have no idea); the point of the story is that these two were able to recognize each other from a short ten minute virtual meeting in which neither of them saw the other’s real face. Granted they’d have heard each other’s voices, but through the simple mannerisms they conveyed in VR they were able to communicate enough of themselves to the other that they could trigger a link in the real world.
That’s pretty a pretty amazing demonstration of both the power of Touch and social VR. Even with this early iteration of the tech in a simple prototype experience is enough to allow you to really bring yourself into a virtual world. That has incredible potential going forward across a wide range of potential applications.
Imagine what we’ll see when these tools get into the hands of millions.