2015 was an incredibly busy year for VR, with a ton of investment and a whole bunch of innovation. It has certainly kept us very busy here at UploadVR. As we look forward to consumer VR’s coming out party in 2016, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the year that was. We already took an in-depth look for our first birthday back in November, but we wanted to highlight the posts that you, our readers, loved most this year – as well as some of our own personal favorites.
UploadVR’s Top Ten Posts of 2015
At E3 this year we had the chance to finally go hands on with the “engineering sample” of the Oculus Rift CV1 (Consumer Version 1). We were thoroughly impressed by the improvements that had been made in the six months since we got our hands on with the previous prototype, the Crescent Bay, especially in terms of the optics and ergonomics.
In November, Lytro announced the world’s first true live action light field 360º camera, the Immerge. This was seismically big news because light fields are likely the next generation of capture technology because they enable a lot of things that aren’t possible with standard video, such as positional tracking within a ‘lightfield volume,’ and depth of focus.
At CES 2015, one of the hottest pieces of technology was the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype, which had been previously showcased at Oculus’ first ever Connect developer conference. The Crescent Bay offered a number of significant improvements over the second development kit (DK2) such as a vastly improved display and much better tracking. It was my first experience with this level of virtual reality technology, and as such my reaction was… colorful:
How’s the display, you ask? Un-be-fucking-leavable. Seriously, this thing was so crisp and clear that in the 10-15 minutes (it was so immersive I completely lost track of time) of demos I tried it provoked more audible “Holy shit’s!” than the South Park episode with the shit counter. Seriously, I think the demoer was enjoying watching me as much as I was enjoying demoing, but I digress.
Oh how times have changed.
As the Gear VR became the first consumer VR device to hit the market, we knew that there was one thing that a lot of people were going to want to try, porn. Because, well, human nature. But we also agree with what John Carmack mentioned at GDC that “every Gear VR has been on at least ten heads.” It is inherently a sharable technology. We just wanted to help people avoid having their grandparents stumbling upon things that might shock them.
At E3 this year we learned a lot from talking with Palmer Luckey, but perhaps one of the most intriguing things was that the display that was shown at E3 on the ‘engineering sample’ of the Oculus Rift was not the final one. In fact Luckey told us “the display technology should actually improve significantly between now and launch.” At the time we speculated, rather wildly, that it could mean a fabled 4K display. That seems to be unlikely, but just how it has improved still remains a mystery. We will likely find out more about these changes when we see the final version of the CV1 at CES 2016.
When we first had a chance to experience the HTC Vive at GDC it was in decidedly controlled conditions – a specifically designed demo room that did not necessarily provide a look at how the headset would perform in a consumer’s home. But a few weeks later we were invited to come to the home of one of the first developers of the headset to test it in a more natural setting. It was also our first chance to experience a number of the pieces of content that were a part of the initial reel. All of these provided great insights as to how well the headset truly performed.
Steven Spielberg is one of the biggest names in all of Hollywood so when we found out that he had joined the Virtual Reality Company as an advisor, it was big news. Spielberg is currently directing a film version of Ready Player One (a book that has become required reading at Oculus) which is expected to have some VR tie ins.
Altspace, a social VR platform, was the first to unofficially bring Netflix to VR. The update allowed for users to watch Netflix shows together in a social environment by syncing users browsers together. Official Netflix VR support came at Oculus Connect 2 a few months later, but it still does not have any social support.
One of the biggest questions of the year for Oculus was what would their answer be to the HTC Vive’s and Playstation VR’s (at the time still called the Sony Morpheus) hand tracked controllers. We finally got our answer at the CV1’s unveiling event in June, but it wasn’t until E3 that we finally actually got to play with them for the first time. The controllers stood out from the others with an ergonomic design that let them melt into your hands.
When one of the biggest companies in a multi-billion dollar industry gets into VR it is big news, especially when that company is built around people having sex with eachother on camera. VR porn allows a safe place for people to explore their fantasies, and that is something that KinkVR is all about. With a decidedly hardcore offering of free content, Kink.com made a big splash in 2015 that they intend to expand on in the next year.
These stories may not have made the top ten in terms of viewership but they stand out as some of our personal favorites from the last year.
The Void was the most incredible thing that I experienced all year. An amazing mix of technology and magic from a collection of theme park veterans, The Void provides an experience that is unmatched by anything you can have at home. The first ‘Virtual Entertainment Center’ will be opening this month.
In the last number of years social media has become a huge part of our daily lives (just this year over 1 billion people logged onto Facebook in a single day) but that has come with some potential cultural pitfalls. In this post Will Mason – who majored in human communications, and wrote his thesis on anonymous online human interaction – takes an in-depth look at how social VR could positively impact society going forward.
Google Cardboard typically takes a lot of flack within the enthusiast community, we take a look at why that should not be the case and why Cardboard is an important part of VR’s path to the mainstream.
Mobile positional tracking is one of the most important technologies in AR and VR. When it is solved we won’t need to be tether to a computer anymore to experience truly immersive virtual worlds. So when Ian Hamilton spotted John Carmack giving a hallway talk at Oculus Connect and saw others filming him, he popped out my phone, started streaming on Periscope and waited 15 minutes to ask the question. And boy did Carmack deliver a straightforward answer.
At CES 2015, a company made the bold statement of calling themselves the ‘Oculus Killer’ while positioning a booth right behind Oculus’ own. That company, 3D Head, seems to have more than likely been a joke on the VR community by an eccentric billionaire named Alki David. We had a chance to sit down with him at CES in what ended up being one of the most hilariously entertianing interviews of the year.
Ryan Damm contributed a lot of amazing posts this year to UploadVR, but this one was his best prognostication of the year. In this article, published in Apri, Damm correctly predicted not only the fact that Lytro was working on a light field camera for VR but also pretty much nailed exactly how they did it.
2015 was a fantastic year for VR, we can’t wait to see what amazing stories emerge in 2016.