Investment, Technology and Content Are Why Oculus is Leading VR

After a tumultuous launch and stiffening competition, the announcements at Oculus Connect 3 put Oculus back in the lead.

In a series of important announcements at today’s Oculus Connect 3 event, Oculus had a veiled message to its competition: we’re still leading in the VR space.

First, the revelation of the $250 million Oculus has quietly been spending on content, securing exclusive and non exclusive deals to bring AAA titles to the VR platform. This amount dwarfs HTC’s previously announced $100 million VR accelerator, and is positively massive when we take into account the further $250 million Oculus pledged for the year ahead. With another $10 million pledged respectively to education and diversity-focused initiatives, Oculus positioned itself as the primary investor in the VR content creatrion space.

We then got an impressive look at Facebook’s vision for Oculus Social, including a live demo that demonstreated an impressively seamless melding of face-tracked avatars, 360 photos and video, in-game object creation and multiple interaction modes, facilitating a continuous multi-modal user journey the likes of which we have not seen in any of the existing social VR spaces. The avatars theme was further bolstered by a separate demo of a new customisable Avatar system (with 2 billion customisation combinations) that will allow Oculus players to maintain their virtual identity across all supported games.

When speaking of content, Oculus delivered a veiled dig at the HTC Vive with a reference to the hundreds of Oculus titles, existing and upcoming, that are “not just tech demos, but actual AAA games,” a reference to the prevalence of short, often unpolished fare that’s increasingly making up a considerable proportion of content on the Steam marketplace for the HTC Vive.

These announcements were followed by some impressive sneak peeks at Touch and Touch content, including a number of unannounced titles and the confirmation that three content creation tools, Medium, Quill, and Kingspray, would be released with the new motion controllers on December 6. And yes, the new controllers, with improved tracking and hand pose detection, would come with official room scale support, an optional third tracking camera for $79, and Guardian, the safety-zone alert equivalent to the HTC Vive’s Chaperone.

But perhaps none of these news were as compelling as the reveal of a decreased minimum spec for the Rift (a somewhat unheard of reduction of hardware requirements after the launch of a product), thanks to the introduction of a new technology called Asynchronous Spacewarp. The new technique complements the existing Oculus software platform’s Asynchronous Timewarp, doing for positional shifts what Asynchronous Timewarp did for head rotation and ensure flawless frame rates across all VR content and in a majority of situations.

The addition of this technology to the Rift’s software platform made it possible for Oculus to reduce the Rift’s minimum hardware requirements to a PC running GeForce 960 GPU or equivalent, bringing high quality VR in range of a $499 PC. Since hardware cost is the single largest hurdle to the democratisation of VR, this is a big deal indeed, lessening the gap in total cost of ownership between traditionally expensive PC VR and the cost of a console-based solution like the PlaystationVR.

With today’s announcements (of which these are but a few), Oculus fired a clear salvo in the Vive’s direction. It demonstrated the value of doing things right, rather than doing them first. Today Oculus didn’t just close the gap with its competition; it retook the lead and accelerated away.