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Oculus Rift Needs To Move Past Gamers

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Oculus Rift gave its pre-E3 press conference yesterday, and that”pre-E3″ thing isn’t just a minor note. The Virtual Reality company and Facebook property made one thing very clear yesterday: Oculus Rift is a gaming property, pure and simple.  

Their press conference was something that anyone who has watched an E3 press conference would have been very familiar with: the company debuted some hardware, announced a partnership, talked about experiences, and then showed off some games. We saw Eve: Valkyrie, a survival sim from Insomniac, and an interesting third person RPG with a character twist. All in all, perfectly fine, but, I have to admit, a little disappointing. This platform can be about so much more than games, and it’s time we started seeing some of that.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve played my share of Oculus games, demos, etc., and it’s a wonderful platform for video games. Games will always be one of the central pillars of modern VR, but they won’t be the only thing, and eventually, I’m not even sure that they’ll be the biggest thing. Communications, social media, education, therapy, virtual tourism, art, journalism — the list goes on and on. I interviewed one person planning to let people rent 3D cameras to put at weddings and other events for far-flung well-wishers, another  developer is mixing an Oculus with a wind tunnel to give the illusion of flying, another is trying to adapt “Ulysses.” The gender-swapping “Machine to be Another” remains one of the most bizarre and brilliant uses of VR I’ve seen yet.  And this stuff is just getting started.

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And yet, Oculus seems insistent to remain within the relatively narrow confines of traditional games. CEO Brendan Iribe appears to at least have an answer to this problem, though it’s not entirely encouraging.

“We’re letting the ecosystem right now take care of all the non-gaming [content], and there’s a huge amount of it out there,” he told Re/Code. “There’s over 700 different pieces of non-gaming content on Oculus Share.”

I agree with Iribe: this is exciting tech and people will jump on it whether Oculus emphasizes it or not. But you don’t get to be the market leader in what could be a world-changing field just by hoping other people do it. There’s competition in the VR space, and there’s only going to be more as time goes on. Somehow, I don’t think the crown will go to the platform with the best version of Eve: Valkyrie — the leader in this space will be the first to truly show us the ways in which VR can change the way we interact with other people and live in the world. Games will be part of it, but they aren’t close to the whole picture.

Oculus Rift has a lot of name recognition right now. For many, the Rift is basically synonymous with modern VR. But the broader public isn’t excited about VR because they want to play a third-person RPG. And that matters. This is important technology. This could be incredible, world-changing technology. But the company I saw give an E3 press conference the other day isn’t the one to lead that charge.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/