As UploadVR turns one year old, we look back at the year in VR

by Will Mason • November 13th, 2015
And what a whirlwind it has been

As I sit here typing this it is hard to believe it has been a year for us already. When I made my first post, I had no idea what UploadVR would become. To be perfectly honest with all of you, when we first started the company we weren’t building a publication, nor were we building a media company, we were building a community. And we have never looked back.

Over the past twelve months we have seen seismic changes in the VR landscape, some we expected, others we didn’t. It has been a continuous whirlwind of news and breakthroughs that have led us to the path we are on today, the path to consumer adoption. The road to VR has been long, and paved with many pitfalls, but as we prepare for its arrival with the launch of the first ever consumer ready HMD later next week, it feels like a great time to look back at all that has transpired over the past year.

But before we dive in I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone in the community who has been so incredibly supportive of our efforts over the last year. Without you guys, I wouldn’t be living my dream today. I look forward to the many years ahead, and seeing where this industry takes us all. It’s been a wild ride, but we are just now arriving at the top of the roller coaster.

Now let’s take a look back at this year in UploadVR.

November 2014

Butters-southpark

Oculus gets the South Park bump, and UploadVR begins. My first post proved to be the catalyst for many more. We followed it up writing about Oculus hilariously responding to customer service tickets as ‘Steve’ in reference to the episode.

3D Head surfaces, and is so ridiculous we wondered if it was actually a Magic Leap directed hoax.

December 2014

magic-leap-fps-weta-labratoryIn one wild week, Oculus acquired Nimble and 13th Lab (Still no finger tracking coming to us a year later), the first Gear VR released, VR indie darling Crystal Rift passed it’s Kickstarter goal, and much more.

Demonstrating its use beyond gaming, virtual reality is used to help with Alzheimer patient care.

We found out that Magic Leap and Weta Workshop are collaborating on a FPS for their technology (which we got to see in video form a few months later)

Rothenberg Ventures announced RIVER the first VR accelerator program.

January 2015

CresentBayDemo

I got my first hands on with the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype, 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.”

Alki David, the CEO of 3D Head, sat down with me on the show floor of CES the night before it opened for one of the most hilariously candid interviews of my young career. (Seriously, if you haven’t listened to this, you should.)

OSVR announced its open source VR HMD at CES

Nozon debuted PresenZ, a solution that adds interactive parallax to 360 CG video

We went to Sundance and met Jane Fonda and Adrian Grenier and of course we introduced them to VR.

We went hands on with Oculus Story Studio’s ‘Lost’ at Sundance, and loved it!

Rothenberg Ventures announced the inaugural RIVER class.

February 2015

dunk-contest-vr-nba

Max Planck, from Oculus Story Studio, gave us an extremely candid and controversial interview wherein he said “May is close,” in regards to an announcement for the Rift as well as a number of other things he probably shouldn’t have said. Palmer Luckey took to reddit to say there was “a lot of incorrect information in this article,” and that Max was a “new hire making a lot of mistakes.” Interestingly May ended up being the month where Oculus took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt and announced a release time frame of “Q1 of 2016”…. Just saying there….

The NBA experimented with VR at the All-Star Game, hinting at big things to come (looks like those things are finally starting to come through now).

Facebook announced they are developing versions of their apps for VR.

Intel researchers pointed to new method of ‘smart rendering’ for virtual reality that will make games run faster

Valve announced the HTC Vive.

Oculus announced the Mobile VR Game Jam, a number of titles from which will debut later this month with the consumer edition of the headset

March 2015

HTC-Valve-Vive-e14394981474283

I went hands on with the HTC Vive for the first and second time (in a living room setting no less). Taking my first steps in VR was a mindblowing experience that led me to write: “Five minutes. That’s all the time I got inside the new HTC and Valve collaboration. Five seconds. That’s all the time I needed to be convinced that this was the best VR experience I have ever had. Period. Bar none. “ Since then a lot has changed but the first couple times I had a chance to try the Vive still rank among my favorite VR experiences. Army crawling on the ground through that first demo is to date one of the goofiest things I’ve done as a reviewer (thanks for the suggestion there Cymatic Bruce).

Samsung Debuted the Gear VR for the S6, and followed that up by announcing a retail debut later in the month.

I argued that the PlayStation VR, which debuted a new Morpheus prototype at GDC, could very well be the best selling HMD of them all in the opening salvo. (And I still believe it will)

I go hands on with MindLeap’s MindMaze, an incredibly cool HMD that combines VR with medical grade brain machine interfacing, and have a fascinating discussion with their CEO about the future of brain based haptic devices.

Mindmaze-HMD

 

Matthew Terndrup dove in deep on how Valve’s Lighthouse system works.

Softkinetic’s co-founder told us he is “100 percent” sure they will solve positional tracking by the end of the year… no updates on that progress yet.

Disney showed off an advanced eye capture technique that could help us cross the Uncanny Valley.

April 2015

Apple-VR-Prototype2

We got a lot of people pretty pumped for an Apple HMD on APRIL FOOLS.

 

Ryan Damm tries to answer “What the bleep is Lytro doing in VR?” and basically gets it right on the money.

I joined the VR Mile High Club and found some flaws in the system which have since been addressed, namely a way to pause head tracking so you can watch movies on the plane.

GearVR-on-a-plane

Ryan Damm gave us an in-depth look at NextVR’s technology stack (which just led them to a $30.5m raise).

In one of my personal favorite posts from the last year, I take an in-depth look at How Virtual Reality is Going to Humanize Social Media by bridging the gap between in-person and online communication.

humanize

Matthew Terndrup dives deep into the long standing relationship between psychedelics and the virtual reality industry and how it has helped build the industry we see today.

Jaunt got an influx of Lucasfilm talent.

Microsoft showed off Windows Holographic and Hololens publically for the first time at Build.

May 2015

Congratulations to Oculus' "A-Team"

“Palmer’s A-Team” pulled it off, Oculus finally announced the consumer version of the Oculus Rift. Unfortunately, based on the requirements for it Apple users were left hanging out to dry. Oculus wasn’t done in May either, as they announced the acquisition of the computer vision company, Surreal Vision, which “will lead to VR and AR systems” and Brendan Iribe gave us our first hinting at price which he said will be in the $1500 range, including the PC needed to power the Rift.

 

In what was a fairly significant personal moment for me, the love of my life had a chance to finally try the Crescent Bay and her words after still echo in my mind today, “I understand now”. That moment for me validated everything I had done for the industry in the six months prior. (In an even more fun twist, she was so inspired that she ended up joining a VR company herself)

Apple acquired augmented reality giant, Metaio – and hasn’t said a word about it since.

Google announced big VR plans around Jump at Google IO, and we dive in deep to discuss the technology.

Sony-MorpheusWe finally got the chance to go hands on with PSVR (then the Morpheus), which we said at the time “is more than good enough to be a massive commercial success.”

Wearality passed a $100K Kickstarter goal for some pretty cool 150/180-degree FOV lens technology.

OTOY announced real world still light field captures, our own Ryan Damm dove deep explaining the technology and his hands on impressions.

New Deal Studios, the Academy Award winning VFX house behind Inception, Interstellar, and many more titles shifted a large portion of its focus into VR.

Palmer Luckey confirmed on stage at SVVR that Oculus won’t be blocking you from side loading porn onto your Gear VR or Rift.

June 2015 Oculus-Rift-CV1-announced

Oculus held their “Step into the Rift” announcement event where they unveiled the Oculus Rift on stage to a selection of journalists (myself included). The announcement included the unveiling of Oculus Touch (codenamed Halfmoon), details on the new Constellation tracking system, and a partnership with Microsoft that will bundle Xbox 360 controllers and improved Windows 10 support with the Rift. In addition to the big event, Oculus announced the winners of the Mobile Game Jam and the French dominated the competition and Story Studio teased “Henry” for the first time.

Later that month at E3, I had a chance to finally go hands on with the Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers, and once again had my mind blown. Raising the bar again, especially when I found out that room scale tracking is possible (but not recommended) on the Oculus Rift.

I mean, just look at that smile.

I mean, just look at that smile.

I got my first glance at Penrose Studio’s “The Rose and I” and it instantly became one of my go to demos for VR newbies.

We got our first glimpse into the Star Wars VR experiments being done by Industrial Light and Magic’s new ILMxLabs.

FOVE passed their Kickstarter goal for an eye-tracked VR HMD and promised to include Lighthouse based tracking with development kits shipping in 2016.

NextVR showcased a live stream of the US Open, the first ever multi-camera broadcast in VR.

Crytek began their big push into the VR space, stunning us with a gorgeous demo of their upcoming title Robinson: The Journey.

Jaunt VR announced NEO, their professional grade VR camera.

July 2015

Pebbles-interfaces-cube

Oculus acquired its fourth, and biggest, major computer vision company Pebbles Interfaces. I dive deep into what this means for VR (Hint: Big things)

Palmer Luckey said Oculus is already working on the second version of the Rift, ahead of the first’s release.

We took a deep dive look into the AR and VR investment landscape (and oh, how much it has changed since then)

Virtual reality made a huge splash at the San Diego Comic Con.

Stephen Spielberg joined the Virtual Reality Company as an advisor.

Prior to the Presidential debate making its way into VR, I dove in on some of the ways in which VR might influence next year’s big Presidential Election.

Magic-Leap-Youtube

A screen capture from Magic Leap’s office demo video

Magic Leap, the mysterious AR startup, announced that they have “moved past the R&D phase”

The NFL arms race began as Patriots, Buccaneers, 49ers and Cowboys signed up for VR training.

I embarrassingly shed a tear or two during the awesome showing of Henry in my detailed hands on (FULL OF SPOILERS).

Nokia unveiled the OZO, a new camera for VR.

August 2015 Void-access-granted

In a moment that I will never forget, I finally had a chance to step into the Void, the Virtual Reality Entertainment center in Salt Lake City Utah. In the review I mentioned that the demo was the first to ever bring me to a point of “true presence” in VR by mixing real world mapping with 4D effects leading me to dub it “the most immersive experience in VR today” a statement I stand by still.

We rounded up all the major VR HMD specs in one hand-dandy place.

We had a chance to see some pretty incredible VR research at SIGGRAPH, including some favorites like a light field VR display, object tracking in VR, and facial recognition inside an HMD.

HTC revealed there are over 1000 developers working with the Vive on VR software.

Palmer Luckey appeared on the goofiest looking Time Magazine cover in a long time, and the Internet predictably went bananas.

palmerluckeytime

They were either idiots or geniuses, the jury is still out…

Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, stopped by for a fireside chat to discuss Project Sansar.

Cloudhead showcased “Blink” a new locomotion technique for VR, we had a chance to try it at PAX and walked away very impressed.

We got an exclusive look at OTOY’s incredible light field demos on the HTC Vive.

Rick and Morty fans rejoiced when we broke the news that Justin Roiland, the show’s co-creator, announced he was planning “several” titles for the HTC Vive.

September 2015

Oculus-CV1-Oculus-ConnectThe highlight of September was undoubtedly Oculus Connect 2 which delivered us a ton of news. A $99 consumer Gear VR, Netflix and Minecraft in VR, “Oculus Ready” PCs, and a whole bunch of new Oculus Touch demos to try. We even caught John Carmack raw and unfiltered on the show floor. He dished on why we don’t have positional tracking (those darned researchers) and the potentially strained relationship between Oculus and Google. But it wasn’t just Oculus news.

We finally learned what the cameras on the front of the HTC Vive are going to be used for, and that they will be shipping on the final version of the device (which still remains a mystery).

Sophia Dominguez catalogued the efforts being made to enable content creators to make content for VR.

We watched, amazed, as one of the greatest Disney artists experienced drawing on the Vive for the first time, showing us the great potential of VR as a new artistic medium.

Sony announced the Morpheus’ official title, the PlayStation VR. Matrix fans around the world let out a collective sigh.

We went hands on with Ion VR, a headset that actually has some potential to compete with the Gear VR.

October 2015 Oculus-toybox-battle-ray-guns-oculus-social-metaverse

In an awesome interview with Palmer Luckey, we learned about an upcoming social SDK and why social VR is so important to Oculus, that despite fears to the contrary Oculus and Facebook will not be doing anything ad related on the first generation of the Rift, what the advantages are of the Rift’s custom lenses, and the fact that Oculus is working on eye tracking technology for future generations of the Oculus Rift.

NextVR live streamed the first ever Presidential debate in VR, to mixed reviews. They followed that broadcast up later in the month with the first ever live broadcast of an NBA game in VR with the Golden State Warriors season opener, which was much more well received due to the nature of the content.

A courtside seat with NextVR

A courtside seat with NextVR

We pondered why now is the most important time for virtual reality.

We got a release date (Q1 2016) and price ($3000) for the Microsoft Hololens developer kit.

Bono fades in during the performance of "Song for Someone"

Bono fades in during the performance of “Song for Someone”

Apple finally stepped into VR with a U2 music video they produced in conjunction with Vrse.

Magic Leap showed us an awesome new video as the company is “preparing to ship millions of things,” they may also be preparing to receive a lot of extra cash, if the reports are true.

We broke the news that The New York Times had partnered up with Google for one of the biggest VR consumer pushes to date, as the companies delivered over 1 million cardboard viewers, along with interesting content, on November 8th.

8i, a company capturing live humans in an incredible way, announced a major $13.5 million funding round.

We found a computer vision chip that might solve a lot of problems for VR going forward.

November 2015

A rendering of Lytro Immerge

A rendering of Lytro Immerge

Lytro announced the most advanced camera for VR yet, the Immerge.

We got a pair of big $30m+ funding announcements from NextVR and CCP Games.

YouTube finally added support for Stereoscopic 3D 360º videos

The Chinese Internet Titan, Tencent, unveiled its VR project, causing waves in the Chinese market.

We learned Google is working to standardize Android hardware across devices, which could help a much better world for mobile VR.

The Gear VR finally opened up for pre-orders, beginning the age of consumer VR.


And that’s it, the past year of UploadVR in a quick blow by blow account. Whew!

There are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered going into the next year of VR, when will we finally see the real HTC Vive? How much will these HMDs end up costing consumers? What will the initial adoption figures look like? Who will be “king” of the first round of hardware? And many more.

2015 allowed us to set the pieces up on the board, in 2016 we finally get to play the game.

 

 

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