Santa Cruz, the prototype of the headset stand-alone virtual reality of Oculus. — OCULUS
From our correspondent in California,
A total freedom of movement in an imaginary world. It is the holy Grail of virtual reality. A dream imagined by science-fiction, the metaverse of Snow Crash to the Oasis of Ready Player One. But the reality is far from being the height of the hype, and the accumulated sales of the three leaders (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR) have not exceeded three million copies in 18 months, according to several estimates. At the conference, Oculus Connect, this week, Mark Zuckerberg has asked for patience and announced that the prototype Santa Cruz, 100 % self-sufficient, would be put into the hands of developers by 2018. After a demonstration of 15 minutes, the huge promises appear for the first time held.
Presence and empathy
“Bogo, come here ! “. The adorable baby dinosaur made his shy, hidden behind a plant. Thanks to spatial sound, is understood to be the time her little cries and advice of the employee of Oculus. To catch an apple, just lean over and press the trigger on the controller Touch, to tighten her fingers virtual. The gentle creature is approaching to bite the fruit. He scratches his head, and the vibrations provide a physical sensation convincing.
— Oculus (@oculus) October 12, 2017
Cartoon and colorful, this imaginary world is not a feat to chart, but it gives the impression of walking around in a world of Pixar. It walks in freedom… Until a blue grid indicates the border of the matrix, near the wall of the show room. “Will look, Bogo ! “She brings the branch as a champion. And is done in by a false start, confused as a real puppy. This empathy, this feeling of presence, that is the real magic, indescribable, virtual reality.
After this Tamagochi luxury, place to action. The zombies of Dead and Buried pass to the assault. We shoot, we dodge, we decrease, we scream. First with a little trepidation but very quickly, the walls are forgotten. We remove the helmet with a smile. And without the urge to vomit.
The best of both worlds
This makes all the difference with virtual reality mobile (Gear VR from Samsung and Daydream of Google), is that one has the benefit here of “six degrees of freedom” (left-to-right, top-bottom and front-to-rear). Suddenly, every move is transcribed with fidelity in the virtual world, and the nausea of the players sensitive to motion sickness (motion sickness) seems to disappear. Unlike the Rift or the HTC Vivid, no need to install terminals to the corners of the room. The tracking is inside-out, with sensors built into the helmet. And moves around without fear of taking the feet in a cable.
A lot of questions
The new boss of Oculus, Hugo Barra, acknowledges that Santa Cruz carries a graphic chip on mobile. But he explains that with optimization, the system may display graphics compelling, even with less polygons : “We want to propose the feeling of the Rift wireless. “In practice, textures are likely to be less rich, but with lenses and a screen newer than the Rift, Santa Cruz offers an image less pixilated.
The tracking will work there as well at home as in the show room, covered with a carpet to the contrasting patterns ? “That’s the goal, but it is currently at the prototype stage “, says the former Google and Xiaomi. The helmet will be put in the hands of developers by 2018 and marketed then to an unspecified date.
What about the autonomy and overheating, and especially of the price ? According to Barra, Santa Cruz should be between the Oculus Gb ($200) and the price of Rift at launch (699 dollars). The objective is to propose a device for the ” general public “, he says. With Microsoft, which has just unveiled a half-dozen helmets, and Google is also working with HTC and Lenovo on standalone solutions, this second wave of virtual might be the right one.