Oculus VR’s projects are steadily making their way into the public eye. Although Oculus has been unable to give an update on the release of a consumer version of the Rift headset, the company has been able to give an estimated price of $200-$400 for a retail model. Meanwhile, the partnership between Oculus VR and Samsung, which was announced in May of this year, has led to the creation of the Gear VR mobile virtual reality headset.
The future looks bright for both Oculus and the burgeoning development of virtual reality gaming. However, there are still many questions to be raised about virtual reality devices such as the Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. For instance, due to the interest and development of VR devices being so new, there is no clear answer to the question of how best to control a virtual reality game. Although many Oculus Rift demos use modified versions of traditional controllers such as the Xbox 360 gamepad, there is certainly scope to experiment with how to control VR games.
The aforementioned Gear VR headset, for instance, has been using Samsung’s own Bluetooth controller in recent demos. The Gear VR is set to launch before the end of the year, and will apparently be compatible with any Bluetooth controller, with simple games and apps also easily controllable using both headset buttons and the touchpad. However, Palmer Luckey, one of the founders of Oculus VR, has said that the use of a traditional controller may not be the way to truly have an immersive virtual reality experience.
Speaking with Polygon, Luckey discussed the nature of control in virtual reality environments. Luckey said that he did not necessarily think that a traditional controller was the right input for “rich interactions in virtual reality.” However, he did then state that a more appropriate method of control would “come down the road.”
Oculus VR is, of course, rumored to be working on how to control the Rift. In June, the company acquired the Carbon Design Group, an engineering team that was involved in the development of both the Xbox 360 controller and the Kinect. According to reports at the time, Oculus and Carbon Design Group had been working on projects together for nearly a year. Could it be that an Oculus VR-created controller could be on the cards? Luckey was asked just that, and gave an enticing reply of “when are we going to create it, or when are we going to announce it?”
Luckey did then go on to backtrack, unable to confirm that Oculus has been developing a controller. Instead, Luckey stated that revealing the development of such a device would be a “hefty commitment,” and instead said that Oculus is “doing a lot of research and development into input.” Luckey also brought up the fact that gamepads limit a player’s ability to “interact with the world in a natural way” – something that Oculus will want to improve.
It is certainly a factor in limiting the effects of virtual reality gaming. That’s not to say that gamepads cannot work in certain situations. EVE: Valkyrie has used a traditional gamepad effectively in demos, and for space combat and flight simulators there’s no reason why it would break a player’s immersion – indeed, perhaps that’s why the Rift seems to have such a prevalence of space and flight sims, and why the developers of No Man’s Sky are also experimenting with Oculus VR. Even so, there is room for improvement in terms of method of control. Let’s hope that Oculus VR has something exciting up their sleeve.