Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe gave his keynote address at the recently held Oculus Connect 2014 conference, its first ever developer conference in Hollywood on September 19, 2014. Nate Mitchell, Oculus VP Product and Michael Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist also gave their talks in this opening session. Below is the full transcript of the opening session.
Brendan Iribe – Oculus CEO
Nate Mitchell – VP Product
Michael Abrash – Oculus Chief Scientist
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome CEO of Oculus, Brendan Iribe.
Brendan Iribe – Oculus CEO
Wow! Good morning and welcome to the first Oculus Connect Developer Conference. It’s awesome to see all of you out there. This is a really special moment and this is a special day for everyone.
Today after just two short years of launching the Kickstarter, I truly believe that you will also join us in the belief that VR is finally ready. We have some very exciting things to tell you and show you.
We’re gathered at this time where we thought about VR for decades. We dreamed the VR. It’s been in books and movies. If you’re a sci-fi enthusiast, this is the Holy Grail. This is the thing that you’ve always imagined would finally happen. It’s not 2030, it’s not 2050, it’s 2014.
And today it is happening. Virtual reality is here. Just let that sink in. We thought about flying cars, maybe hoverboards. We thought about virtual reality and it’s now here.
There are more developers in the world creating virtual reality with dev kits than ever before. You guys – the community – made this happen. There is over a 100,000 Rift developer kits, shipped to more than 130 countries around the world. We launched two years ago – that’s incredible.
I never expected it to go this quickly. None of us did. Again, it’s because of you guys. It’s because of the dream of virtual reality and hardware and it being finally the time.
Today you and the VR community have an opportunity to come together and take VR to the next level. That’s what this conference is all about. That’s what today is all about.
Now I hope you have a lot of fun while you’re doing this. We always pride ourselves and say at Oculus, while we’re on this crazy journey, this amazing journey, one of the most important, if not the most important parts of it, is to have freaking fun. We’re going out there; we’re changing the world. We’re realizing this dream. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s embrace it and let’s do it together as a community.
We’re not 10, we’re not a 100. We’re literally over a 100,000. I think it’s 130,000 now on our developer forum. That’s incredible. There has never been a hardware platform with that many developer kits.
Together we have a chance to create something really special — something that will change the lives of the entire future of human race. It’s going to be that impactful. It really is. I didn’t believe it when we first started. I thought it was a neat science project by a 19-year old. That was potentially one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever seen. But I didn’t realize just how important this was going to be for the future.
Think about it for a second. We’ve been looking at different realities, different fantasies on 2D surfaces for over 100 years, whether it’s books, film, photos, video games — we all love video games — but it’s always a 2D surface and you’re trying to immerse yourself in. You’re trying to believe that you’re in that fantasy, in that world.
Luckily you look around and you’re reminded it’s okay, I’m not really there – until now. With virtual reality, when you put on the headset — and it’s good enough — and you’re going to see something very special today.
When it’s good enough, suddenly the back of your brain believes you are there. You now are reminding yourself, no, no, no, I’m not really there. It’s a pretty amazing experience. You start fighting this.
We went from trying to convince ourselves we’re there, to try to convince ourselves we’re not there. So we’re not all going to be running around Call of Duty, you don’t really want to be in Call of Duty. You don’t want bullets going by your head. I have a feeling we’d all be crunched down in a bunker really scared. I know I would be. But that’s what virtual reality can bring. It is truly amazing.
Oculus Mission – Virtual Reality
Our mission is to transform gaming entertainment and the way we interact. We truly believe this will happen. And yes, it did start with games and gaming and it is going to continue with games. Because virtual reality for it to truly work, you have to create two virtual cameras that are on the exact place of your eyes. You have to trick the brain that you’re there with all the movement that’s all built at the core in software and a 3D game engine. And it will continue to be. And it’s us – the VR and gaming community – that are going to make that happen.
PC & Mobile VR
To do this and to really get out there and connect a billion people, two billion people in VR, we see two categories: PC and mobile VR. These each have trade-offs, advantages and challenges.
Today on PC, you get this awesome comfort and high fidelity. And you get the sense of presence, which is the magic of VR. Using features like positional tracking, high frame rates, low persistence, incredibly powerful GPUs, you can create unbelievable worlds. You can create believable worlds.
Again this is just the beginning. It’s only been two years. Think about the beginning of PCs and two years after Steve and Bill brought PCs to the world. Think about where we are now with VR. The next few decades are going to be incredible.
With mobile, the magic is accessibility, affordability and ultimately portability. Not having that cable tethered to your head, yanking at your head is an awesome feeling. It is an awesome experience. Being able to pass around of set of VR glasses or goggles to anybody in the audience, anybody in front of you is awesome. Being able to just share it, being able to take it with you, throw it in a backpack. It is very unique.
I was recently at a Hackathon where I was able to take the mobile VR headset and just hand it around and let dozens of people try it in a room. People were blown away. They never expected it to be so good, and I never expected you to be able to do that so easily. It really is awesome.
What Carmack and the team have pulled off on today’s mobile hardware is nothing short of incredible. But again now it’s up to you guys to carry that forward and create the content and make it a reality.
So long term we do see these two categories continuing to converge, overlap but ultimately complement each other. The cell phone is not replacing your laptop. It’s complementing it and you’ll be using it for a lot of different services just like mobile VR will continue to complement PC VR. We strongly believe it’s important to lead in both to do this right. And ultimately to connect billions of people in VR.
Oculus Prototypes – The Beginnings
When we launched Oculus, our prototypes were far from consumer-ready. The early duct tape versions, hot glue, it was early days. We then added plastic, made a little more comfortable. Finally took it to China, built the DK1, shipped the DK1, slightly terrifying moment. Then we created the HD prototype, Crystal Cove and finally DK2.
On the mobile side, which started a little bit later, we got to skip duct tape, hot glue, and go right to 3D printing. We started with the holder, we glued our DK1 sensor on and we started iterating as quick as we could.
Started using a few other DK1 parts and realized that it was probably better to just go straight to a partnership with Samsung to really make this happen.
It also became clear it needed some magic. Welcomed Carmack to the picture. I never expected it to be so good. It really is pretty incredible. And now we have early prototypes of Gear VR which you’ve heard.
So today we have DK2 on the PC, positional tracking, low persistence. It really delivers a great experience. It’s not quite there yet but it is very very good. And it’s a great place to start if you’re creating content on the PC.
We also have Samsung Gear VR Innovator edition which we recently announced onstage with Samsung in front of millions of people. Just think about that. Two years after we launched the Kickstarter for an idea that pretty much never worked. One of the largest hardware companies in the world has announced it as official product that they’re going to be selling. A year or two from now it will be in every phone store out there.
Little scary but it’s going to be you guys creating the content to make this happen. We’re all in this together. We really are. This is a community. This is not 10 or 100; it is a 100,000. And all of this started with the original Rift DK1, being kick-started.
I’m really excited about the announcement that [Nural] made last night. We decided to give back to the community and fully open source the entire DK1 — all the hardware design, firmware tracker, the PCB. I can’t wait to see all the Chinese knockoffs. God, help us all.
But we do believe this is important. It’s important for the hackers and the makers out there to be able to pick this up, take that tracker, glue it on two different things, take some source code, change it, modify it. Ship it, make something awesome. All the source is on GitHub right now. Have fun, China!
Oculus History – How it all got started
So as we look back at the history of how this all got started, it’s just awesome. There really is. It’s still kind of all surreal.
I got a phone call in around June 2012 that I needed to meet this guy named Palmer Luckey. And I thought, “Okay, Palmer Luckey”, and they said, “Yeah. He is on to something awesome. It’s virtual reality and it’s finally going to work.” And I thought, “Ah, VR has never worked. I’m too busy. I’m sorry”.
Then I looked up on the internet and saw some interesting news coming out of E3 and thought, okay, uh, might as well go. Meet this Palmer Luckey. I wouldn’t want to be the guy that misses the thing that changes the world. That would be bad. Pretty depressing.
So we packed up, grabbed Michael Antonov and Nate Mitchell. We were all working together at the time. We drove up to LA, booked a nice restaurant, steakhouse, and invited Palmer lucky to meet us for dinner.
In walks, Palmer Luckey in an Atari t-shirt, shorts, and his awesome flip flops, my first thought is, “Wow, he is a lot younger than I expected”. He looked like 16, 17 at the time. I think he was 19. And I had slight concern over whether they’d actually even seed us. They did luckily. We got talking and we had this incredible evening, basically just listening to Palmer talk about the future of VR. His headset collection, his infectious vision for where this was all going to go.
We were still pretty skeptical but it was just awesome to hear him talk and we wanted to see more. We wanted to see the demo.
So a few weeks later, we met him on July 4 at a hotel in Long Beach. He lives in Long Beach at the time at his parents’ garage. So we meet him at this hotel and he walks with this little tub like the trays under your school desk, dangling wires and the circuit boards, we are looking at it going, “Okay, what – this is going to be interesting”.
He puts it all together and turns it on and at the time turns out the light, you had to hold the thing in your hand, it was like a viewfinder. But when you look through those lenses, you saw this bold new world. You saw this incredible virtual world that was believable. It was a hint of it. It felt like it. It wasn’t all there but it was there enough that it got us excited. We were hooked. We wanted to help.
This is something I think happens with everybody who tries VR. You see it, you believe and then you want to help. You want to get involved.
So within days, Oculus was born. The Kickstarter was launched and the journey had begun. Literally a few weeks after we met Palmer and saw this demo. This happened overnight. None of us expected this to go as fast as it went. Again it’s because of you guys, because of the community, because everybody rallied together.
So most of you know the story from here on now. You’re part of the story from here on now. We iterated on the hardware and the prototypes and you guys bought it. Thank you.
Really without your support, it just wouldn’t have happened this fast. So we worked across all these different disciplines. We had to recruit people for hardware, electronics. These are things we had never done before. We’re software programmers for the most part and Palmer is a hardware hacker. We had to get all these incredible disciplines together to make that Developer Kit really work.
What was awesome was everybody who was believing. Everybody wanted the sign up and get involved. We were able to recruit one of the most talented engineering teams of all time. I mean Carmack and Abrash back together again. Pretty awesome. These are the guys that brought us 3D and now these are the guys – and this is the team with you guys, the community, that’s going to go out and bring virtual reality and change the world.
When we finally shipped DK1, I can tell you it wasn’t always smooth sailing. We really didn’t know how the community would react to this. To be honest, we were pretty terrified. It had its issues. It was kind of like a lunchbox strapped onto your face, with 1990s graphics and a whole lot of motion work.
It was early days; that’s for sure. But when you used it, you saw the potential. You got excited. Everybody did. YouTube really got excited. Grandma got excited. The community rallied and VR had a second hope, a second chance. It just hadn’t worked before. The timing wasn’t right. Hardware wasn’t ready. But now it was and the community was there.
Valve – “major contributor”
But the story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning another major contributor. It really is important. This is one of the most important parts of my journey along the way.
While we were working on iterating the Rift, getting the Developer Kit out, scrambling as fast as we could to ship you something, Michael Abrash, Atman Binstock in the Valve VR team were hard at work on R&D. They were working on trying to solve the elephant in the room: motion sickness.
In September 2013, Abrash called and said, “Brendan, we have something I think you’re going to want to see”. When Abrash calls and says that, you go. I jumped on a plane right away, hopped off to Valve. Listened Abrash, Atman and their crew talk about the different challenges on how they were approaching solving them. And it was incredibly fascinating. It was a little over my head but I was trying to grab it all at once.
We spent a few hours there. It is very exciting.
Finally, Abrash and Atman let me enter a room covered with black and white traditional markers, VR wallpaper. And on the way in, Abrash said, “You know, no one has gotten sick yet. I’m curious to see what you think”. I said, “Not even you”. And he said, no.
And Michael and I are the most sensitive guys out there. Literally a few head turns and we’re out. So I was intrigued but very skeptical. Because it had still been hard for me to experience VR for long periods of time or even short period of time to be honest.
So they strapped on this kind of clunky 3D printed headset, circuit boards exposed, dangling wires. It was really reminiscent of Palmer’s prototype. A little bit better. No hot glue or duct tape.
Then came this game-changing moment – a moment that I will absolutely never forget. When I knew VR was really going to work and it was going to work for more than just enthusiasts and nerds like us, like me. It was going to work for the entire world.