Oculus VR like Valve employees so much that they are getting into the habit of making them ex Valve employees. They’ve recently added Aaron Nicholls to the team, who will apparently be working out of Bellevue R&D with Atman Binstock, who used to work for Valve and became Oculus VR chief architecht in March. A year earlier and Tom Forsyth had started the trend of being ex Valve, now Oculus.
Then of course there is Michael Abrash, who is the new Oculus VR chief scientist and used to work for Valve. In the blog post welcoming Michael Abrash to Oculus VR Michael gets more than a little excited about the possibilities of the future of virtual reality. A little too excited to be honest, but you’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true. The problem of course about dreams about virtual reality is that in traditional fiction and film, they are more like nightmares than dreams.
In the blog post Michael says :
Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash, and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime.
The good thing about the blog post is that it attempts to move the discussion away from the murky acquisition and back to the concept of virtual reality. This is a noble and important move because the technology trumps the controversy. Michael says:
You get the idea. We’re on the cusp of what I think is not The Next Big Platform, but rather simply The Final Platform – the platform to end all platforms – and the path here has been so improbable that I can only shake my head.
I have to say he sounds a little too excited there, the platform will evolve and so will the technology, the holodeck is not just around the corner and there are going to be many swings and roundabouts before people are able to truly immerse themselves in virtual worlds. However, the excitement in Michael’s post is most definitely to be welcomed, this is after all a technology people have been hoping and waiting for.
There are problems ahead, Hamlet Au over at New World Notes recently highlighted a potential problem : Does Virtual Reality Literally Make Most Women Sick? That post links to a post from Danah Boyd : Is the Oculus Rift sexist? The issue is nausea and this isn’t an off the cuff post from Danah Boyd, there’s real research there. Danah concludes that more research is needed, which is hopefully where funds for VR projects will come into play.
However with Oculus VR, there’s the Facebook angle. In most VR type stories and films, Facebook would be “The Corporation”. They wouldn’t be the good guys, they’d be the guys with power, the ones who know everyone’s secrets and use them for power and influence, so when Michael Abrash says :
That’s why I’ve written before that VR wouldn’t become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn’t be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.
That worry is now gone. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.
This is where the alarm bells start ringing.