Oculus CTO Says Virtual Reality "Content Needs the Most Attention" at Connect Conference

During his keynote, topics included Oculus' Netflix deal and streaming quality.
John Carmack

While there’s plenty of attention on virtual reality technology at the Oculus Connect 2 developers conference, Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack emphasized that virtual reality “content needs the most effort” during his Thursday keynote.

During the opening keynote, which preceded Carmack's talk, Oculus announced that its Oculus Cinema — an app designed to allow a user to view content in a virtual movie theater — was being relaunched as Oculus Video in conjunction with new content deals. Among them, Twentieth Century Fox and Lionsgate will provide movie content for the service, which can be rented or purchased on the Oculus Store; a new Netflix app will allow VR users to access the Netflix library; and streaming services including Hulu, Twitch, Vimeo and Tivo are also planning to offer streaming content.

Carmack asserted that these content deals would make Gear VR a successful platform, and discussed a few of them. “One of things on my list was Minecraft," he said, citing a game deal. "On the video side, there are branches on the tree that are important — short downloads, and we hit that point with Vimeo; download movies, [for which] we have studio deals; and you also want a paid streaming service for content. Netflix was at the top of the list."

“I watched the entire season of Daredevil, testing it on Gear VR,” Carmack chuckled.

Oculus' parent company Facebook is also part of the VR strategy. "We have people working on panoramic content in Facebook," Carmack said. "I’m of the opinion that panorama in 2D is sort of [a] gimmick. The content really only comes to its own in VR. What we want to have soon is the ability to find this content on Facebook and view the content in VR.”

Another research project, "view-dependent streaming," is exploring how image quality might be improved in VR. “We have about one-eighth the resolution we’d like to have,” Carmack said. “We can do 4K, 30 frames per second [in 2D] and it looks pretty good. But if you want 60fps for movement, then you cut the resolution in half, and it starts to get blurry. And if you want stereoscopic, it’s half again.”

During his talk, Carmack projected gaming would come to represent a little less than half the time people spend in VR and he opined that animation is “highly underutilized” in VR game development. “It’s a tragedy how much work goes into the artistry that’s not appreciated,” he said. “Animation is something that I want to see much more, big, in our face — something occupying the stereoscopic sweet spot. There’s great potential in VR.”