11:17am PT by Carolyn Giardina
Oculus Connect 3: Disney, 'Blade Runner 2049' Virtual Reality Content on the Way
Facebook-owned virtual reality developer Oculus revealed a flurry of new content coming to VR, including projects based on Disney characters and experiences based on the upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049.
Also Thursday at the Oculus Connect 3 VR developers conference in San Jose, Oculus revealed that its anticipated Touch handheld motion controller for the Oculus Rift VR headsets will be available on Dec. 6 for $199 (preorders begin Oct. 10, bundled with two experiences, VR Sports Challenge and The Unspoken). And, it announced hundreds of millions of dollars in virtual reality content creation investment, as well as new product features and future development plans during a news-packed keynote.
"[Virtual reality] is really happening ... more than a million people are using VR products," said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which bought Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. "We’re here to make VR the next major computing platform."
On the content side, the biggest Hollywood news included Oculus' collaboration Disney, which may offer VR content by year's end; as well as the partnership with Alcon Entertainment’s newly formed Alcon Interactive, which will make VR experiences based on Blade Runner 2049 starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling and directed by Denis Villeneuve. The Blade Runner VR experiences will be exclusively distributed on the Oculus platform around the October 2017 release of the film. (In related news, entertainment lawyer Dan Offner will serve as interim head of Alcon Interactive.)
During the keynote, Zuckerberg confirmed that Oculus has already spent $250 million in the developer community to produce VR content, and committed another $250 million to fund additional content. He added that to generate more educational VR content, a $10 million education fund has been launched. Later in the keynote, Oculus committed $10 million to fund a new diversity program and continue investment in programs like VR for Good and the Diverse Filmmakers Project.
During the keynote, Oculus unveiled new features and products including Oculus Avatars, a feature that lets you customize your VR identity (available for Rift at Touch launch and for mobile-based VR in early 2017); Oculus Earphones for Rift, available Dec. 6 for $49; Oculus Parties, which lets you start a voice call with up to eight people in VR; and Oculus Rooms, a meet-up area for up to eight users (Parties and Rooms will ship for Samsung Gear VR, the mobile phone-based VR headset developed with Oculus, in the coming weeks). For Rift, Oculus' $599 headset that requires a supported and tethered computer, a wider range of Oculus-supported laptops are now available.
Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe revealed technical developments such as "asynchronous spacewarp," which is effectively aimed at enabling lower-cost VR through a wider range of hardware.
Zuckerberg emphasized that VR is "the perfect platform to put people first. ... That doesn’t mean every experience will be social, but we should build software and experiences that follow the way the mind works." He used his time during the keynote to demonstrate some prototype developments while urging the community to start the "next phase" by building quality software experiences.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who has been the subject of some recent controversy, didn't appear during the keynote. Several developers that work in the VR industry had said they are pulling their support of the Oculus Rift after learning that Luckey had contributed funding to a group of Donald Trump supporters behind anti-Hillary Clinton memes; Luckey had since apologized.