Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset, has just been quantified to the tune of $74 million, a major feat for an endeavor started in the Kickstarter program. However, Kickstarter has fast become the platform of choice for raising capital for just about anything you can imagine—as long as it’s not a “fund-my-life” project.
A consumer version of the famed headset approaches reality, though the Oculus Rift people are being very tight-lipped about any release date. The maker of Doom and Quake, id Software founder John Carmack, keeps sequestered, coding like a mad dragon counting his treasure, and purportedly “having more fun than he’s had in a really long time.” He’s also given up his dual citizenship with id Software to become chief technology officer at Oculus VR full time.
What, exactly, is Oculus Rift? The simple answer: the “next generation virtual reality headset designed for immersive gaming,” as explained by the company, Oculus VR. Palmer Lucky, a designer at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, formed Oculus VR with Carmack to create a virtual reality headset that was light and affordable for gamers.
They sought funding for the project through Kickstarter; and, before long, were actually producing developers’ kits to get the unit into the hands of game designers for integration with their games. Later, they were provided to Kickstarter funders who pledged more than $300 to the project. Pledges started rolling in at a rate of 4-5 a minute for several days before trickling off.
Round A of funding quantified Oculus VR at $16 million. Round B, just six months later, led by an investment from Andreessen Horowitz, co-author of the Mosaic browser and founder of Netscape, raised $74 million. Other contributors joining him include Formation 8, Spark Capital and Matrix Partners.
Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe had this to say in a press statement: “40,000 developers and enthusiasts, as well as a number of great partners, have joined our cause and helped us bring the seemingly impossible to life.”
The possibilities of Oculus Rift go far beyond just gaming. One company, also started with Kickstarter, is already producing hardware/software called Eye Mirror, designed to be used with the Oculus Rift headset to take 3D videos. Other possibilities may well spread into areas such as education, science, and even real estate. Imagine showing homes in full 3D from any location.
However, for right now, the focus is on providing a truly immersive gaming experience. Game designers such as Chris Roberts are developing their games which will include support for the Oculus Rift. Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander series and Star Citizen is joined by such notables in the industry as CCP Games, makers of Eve Online; Gabe Newell, co-founder and CEO of Valve; and Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games and developer of the Unreal game engine. There are many others as well.
What will be the next quantified level for Oculus Rift? The $74 million allows them to hire additional staff and push the day the general community of gamers can get their eager hands on the Oculus Rift just that much closer.
Editorial by Lee Birdine