“2016 was not ‘The Year of VR.’ It was the year of the start of VR.” — Kotaku
This year, we went from prototypes and dev kits to shipping consumer VR to the world. Millions of people stepped into virtual reality for the first time—and this is just the beginning! With more than 700 made-for-VR titles available on the Oculus mobile and PC platform and new experiences launching every week, we expect the community to continue growing hand-in-hand with its robust ecosystem.
As we head into the new year, let’s take a look back on some of the exceptional VR journeys that changed how we view and interact with the world.
Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks, Felix & Paul Studios
This was the year that the first sitting President starred in a VR experience (after Bill Clinton took us to East Africa in 2015 for the first film in the Inside Impact VR series). Once again, Felix & Paul paired a cultural first—Barack Obama joining the world for a tour of Yosemite—with technical innovation, including a new VR camera, software, and a post-production process to film timelapses in spherical 3D.
The Unspoken, Insomniac Games
We invited gamers, streamers, and esports professionals to visit Oculus headquarters and go head-to-head in The Unspoken at IEM Oakland. While competitive gaming has a history as long as gaming itself, this was the first time that people stepped inside an urban, underground world to cast spells with their own hands in VR.
Nomads, Felix & Paul Studios
From Mongolian yak herders to Borneo’s Bajau people, Nomads took us around the globe to explore ways of life beyond a western framework. Not only did the series give Felix & Paul the opportunity to modify their VR camera rig to film underwater, it also let the Maasai virtually explore the world beyond their ancestral home of Kenya. Just as cell phones have rapidly evolved from luxury consumer goods to a nearly ubiquitous commodity in developing nations, we saw a glimpse of VR’s powerful ability to connect the world in new ways.
Notes on Blindness, ARTE Experience
Making good on the empathic promise of VR, Notes on Blindness combines audio diary recordings with an interactive, highly stylized narrative to convey a sense of what it might feel like to be blind. While Nomads collapses physical space to put divergent cultures in conversation, Notes on Blindness combats ableism through a powerful reminder of something many of us take for granted.
In the Eyes of the Animal, Marshmallow Laser Feast
In a similar vein, Marshmallow Laser Feast took Thomas Nagel’s infamous question to heart and answered what it’s like to be a bat. Showcased at this year’s Sundance, In the Eyes of the Animal started as a VR installation featuring Rift headsets in the woods and worked its way up to include 3D-printed bat ear replicas to help simulate echolocation. You can check out scenes from the experience in 360 video on YouTube, playable on Gear VR.
Follow My Lead: The Story of the 2016 NBA Finals, NBA
We went courtside with the NBA as the Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Golden State Warriors to win their first ever championship title. This groundbreaking mini-documentary lets the magic of presence take center stage as you follow the action of a nail-biting comeback story in a way that wasn’t possible a year ago. Not only did Follow My Lead give fans a front-row seat to a historic event, it opened up access to something most of us could only dream about before. Thanks to VR, our relationship to the cultural events that shape our world will never be the same.
Finally, the Touch launch on December 6 brought our hands into VR. With 54 titles available on day one, people were able to enter and engage with a wide variety of immersive worlds and social environments like never before. The Climb let us dial-in and dyno while factoring in actual reach lengths, opening up the world of rock climbing to an entirely new audience. Superhot VR blurred the line between slo-mo and swift action so we could problem solve in bullet time. And whether playing pool in Sports Bar VR or tagging walls in Kingspray, the gestural communication enabled by Touch combined with Oculus Avatars to up the ante of social interaction in VR.
The Road Ahead
It’s been a wild ride, and we can’t wait for the next wave of incredible VR content. Here are just a few titles coming to Rift in 2017 that have us on the edge of our seat:
We’ll also see the much-anticipated release of Wilson’s Heart from Twisted Pixel and Oculus Studios. This psychological thriller inspired by film noir and classic monster movie horror lets you star in a narrative-driven VR adventure.
All four titles were built from the ground up to take advantage of the game-changing motion controls and haptic feedback of Touch, taking hand presence to the next level.
From indigenous peoples and world leaders to celebrities, artists, and more, 2016 has shown us VR’s ability to impact lives on a global scale. Thanks to the entire community for all of your support. If the past 12 months are any indication, 2017 should be mind-blowing.
Happy New Year!
— The Oculus Team