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Oculus Home as a legitimate app

Orogogus
Level 3
Does Oculus have any plans to expand on Home and make it more of a full-featured experience instead of what's basically a storefront and loading screen?  I made this post on the Steam forums, too, since it's something I'm really interested in and I'm hoping one of the two parties has some kind of plan in this direction.

I feel like there really ought to be a VR home-building app, and it would be natural for this to be Oculus Home or SteamVR, but it’s not. SteamVR at least lets you change environments and create them externally, but there’s no interactivity or customization in the app. Some of the most immersive, “wow” moments I’ve had in VR are when a game or app just puts you in a more or less regular room, like Fearless, The Visitor, Hulu, the computer room environments in Virtual Desktop, etc., and I think it’s something that people could latch onto as *the* VR app. I believe Facebook is putting their social emphasis on chat rooms, but I think that misses the mark for a lot of people who don’t just want a place to hang out, but would be social if they had something in common to build around – MMORPGs hit on this need, then Minecraft, and I believe VR could easily be next.

A start would be to provide some items for people to place around their rooms – static, non-interactive objects at first. Furniture, rugs, wall posters and paintings. Seasonal items like Christmas trees, Thanksgiving and Halloween decorations. Regular releases that get people to check in every now and then. Collectible items like stuffed animals, flags, stamps, world currency. Holders like shelves, cases, cabinets. Let us save our virtual homes and come back to them. Just be releasing stuff every week (and don’t neglect the organization and UI; redesign it when it gets unwieldy, and look into making it entirely user-configurable).

Then introduce more dynamic objects. Clocks, lights, gimgaws. Newton’s cradles, drinking birds, toy catapults, slingshots. Board games. Release, release, release.

As that matures, open up user creations (like Steam Workshop) and as people are creating their own objects, move into functionality. Create a timekeeping widget with code that people can incorporate to design digital alarm clocks, stately grandfather clocks, watches, toggleable holographic displays and voice activated time reports (“Oculus, what time is it?”). Music playing code that lets people stream music or play from their stored libraries and control it from virtual iPods and record players. Vehicle controlling code that lets people create tiny RC racers, full-size tanks or toy velociraptors. Combine that with virtual camera code to create quadcopter drones that output to holographic displays. Phones, televisions, email, weather reports. Make a widget for the storefront – maybe people want to see VR and nothing else, or maybe they want the full catalog. Maybe they want it to show up on a virtual computer screen, or maybe they want the current floating display.

See what companies are game to have their goods recreated in VR. See if users will want to bring their branded computer equipment into their VR home – Fractal Design cases with LEDs and windows, authentic computer monitors with accurately recreated bezels and stands, joysticks, HOTAS setups and steering wheels from Thrustmaster, Saitek, Logitech. In the kitchen, will GE, Frigidaire and KitchenAid want to see their refrigerators, mixers and microwaves in everyone’s home? In VR you don’t have to worry about storage, and a lot of this stuff will probably be free.

I mean, you kind of have to worry about storage. Once the list gets so big you don’t want to place everything directly from a unmanageable list. Think about a shopping cart/virtual inbox interface so people can buy things separately and then think about what goes where.

Keep building on the functionality. Multiple rooms. Exteriors: lawns, rock gardens, exotic scenery – wizard towers, satellites orbiting Saturn, underwater bases and volcano lairs. Shared neighborhoods to let people congregate with their friends and show off their creations. Avatars: clothing and accessories. Closets and hangers to store them, more widgets to let you switch immediately from fall to winter wardrobes. Pets! Dogs and cats and hamsters and birds and dinosaurs and made up animals. Fish in tiny fishbowls and plastic cups, three story aquariums with sharks and weird lantern-fish and octopi. A billion pet-related products. Cooking, home construction, gardening. Bigger and bigger environments, so people can start installing gondolas, zip lines, shuttle services – not because you need transportation, but because it’s cool to sit there and watch everything go by.

Start thinking about community events. Send each other presents that show up for people who have stockings or Christmas trees set up, with bonus gifts from Oculus to random recipients. A contest for the best Halloween decorations or Thanksgiving spread. Trick-or-treating to see other people’s setups and hang around with other people in costume. Christmas caroling. An Oculus Day to show off the latest creations in a giant mansion. Themed contests for recreating scenes from favorite books, movies and TV series.

If this whole thing became popular, Oculus could branch into being a provider of VR solutions. Maybe Hasbro has a new line of Transformers and wants to demo them without going to the time and expense of setting up a physical convention – they could talk to Oculus and have a team work with them to design an appropriate environment and mockups. Or someone wants to teach a class online, and needs Oculus to implement woodworking and the materials and tools needed. Themed cosplay conventions. 

I bought into VR on the PC because I was sure Oculus and Valve had all this in mind already, and more. It’s kind of disappointing that it’s not here yet, but I’m still excited and I’m just hoping that someone has the vision to realize the potential and put it in our hands. VR’s not just some games and movies, it’s a chance to build and have and see things that we can’t in real life. SteamVR and Oculus Home are the obvious places to start, and sooner would be better than later.

But to get started, what Oculus Home needs right now is an environment with persistence -- I modify it and it's saved and I can come back to it.

Start with something like this, the computer room environment in Virtual Desktop's workshop: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=635052335

Just a regular room that people will relate to and can think of as "their" room. Then start implementing features, one at a time.

First give us a few different desks and chairs and let us move them around and rotate them. 

One or two floor lamps and desk lamps. 

Options for the walls -- paint and wallpapers, paneling. Baseboard options.

Flooring -- wood laminate, tile, granite, linoleum, carpet. Rugs and mats.

Popcorn ceilings, tiled ceilings, no ceiling at all with the day or night sky looking in. Crown molding.

Chairs: Regular chairs, folding chairs, office chairs. Sofas, couches and recliners, beanbag chairs, corner sofas, massage chairs.

Posters and paintings. Advertisements for Steam games and peripherals. Fine art. Bonus if users can choose a picture frame, import an image file and resize it at will, then hang it on the wall.

Computers and TVs, video game consoles, receivers, things that people have in their real homes.

And then you start thinking about different rooms and fantasy locales, multiple rooms, exteriors and interconnectivity between users.

It's a snowball rolling downhill. Once it gets started there are just more and more things that can be added and the possibilities become obvious, but it needs that seed. I don't think Oculus and Valve should leave this to apps like BigScreen, Virtual Desktop, LightVR or whatever. It's going to step on some toes, but this needs money and commitment behind it.  Just throwing money around isn't going to make VR applicable to regular people; it's not a question of getting enough games and movies. VR should be about regular people being able to create and shape their own realities, and that starts with giving everyone a room that they can personalize.
15 REPLIES 15

Comic_Book_Guy
Level 9
Indeed it needs a lot of work. Mainly, what is the deal with it's social feature/s ( or lack there of. What dang good does it do to have umteen friends when you have no way to contact them. Really stupid.

kzintzi
Level 10
there are some good ideas here, and I think that we've all thought about walking up the stairs to look at that other room..

I've been assuming that extra social features are coming with whatever version gives us the social interaction stuff that was announced at Oculus connect, and I've been assuming that the conference room and other things are integrated into the home environment - if they're not I'm going to be a little bit sad because there is some awesome opportunities there.. I'd especially like to be able to goto the windows looking out on the other apartments and see other people in there walking around (assuming there is a visible switch on either the room, and/or individual items of content in there - I wouldn't want my porn collection visible by the guy next door :tongue: )
Though you are more than slightly incoherent, I agree with you Madam,
a plum is a terrible thing to do to a nostril.

Orogogus
Level 3
The Oculus Connect presentation showed chats and parties taking place in new rooms, I think.  They could change the environment (they had a Mars one, I think) and they could play cards, show videos and resize the video window.  I thought it was... okay, I guess.  I personally don't feel it's going to light anything on fire.  It's for a crowd that just wants to hang out and watch some movies and shoot the breeze, while wearing headsets.  It's entirely possible that I'm the weird one and there's a whole lot more of them than there are of me, but I just didn't find it exciting.

My feeling is that it would be a lot more effective to give people enough customization that they can get together and build something, and have a sense of shared achievement.  Again, Minecraft is my model -- giant blocks and pixels for miles, but it's sold a jillion copies because nothing else lets people join forces and really build something together.

Let users create their dream rooms and houses, then invite friends over.  Let us decide what works for us as a chat environment -- maybe it's an elevated platform on a mountaintop with glass tables and wine, maybe it's an office next to a cubicle farm, with a wipe off board and teleconference props.  As much as possible, get away from canned games and implement objects that naturally lead into gameplay -- equipment to play golf or croquet, fireworks, a shooting range, water rockets, RC toys, skis, snow.  When we have our own yards, let people set up giant catapults and trebuchets and fling random objects into the distance.

As individual constructions mature, start tying them together into opt-in neighborhoods -- pinging someone to ask to join their room might ring a doorbell or use a doorknocker, or maybe it sets a bunch of dogs barking.  Look into joined constructions -- people might want to work together to build a luxury mansion, a museum of flight, a water park, or a recreation of their college campus.

Until customization is put into users' hands, I feel like VR is still going to be tech demos more than an experience in and of itself.  VR should be an enormously creative force, but without personalization I think the social aspect is going to be more like electronic tour groups and tech demos than the vibrant cyberspace that cyberpunk authors had in mind.

Orogogus
Level 3
Touching again on why Oculus and Valve should be putting effort into this:

When details about PSVR started coming in, I expected things were going to shape up more or less the way they did.  Sony, having more experience competing in the games field, was going to use its connections and its sense of what was important to lock up a bunch of exclusives, timed or otherwise, and it was going to have a cheaper, technically weaker platform with a library that would appeal to more gamers than the Rift or the Vive.  Valve might whip out Half Life 3 or a new killer game, but I doubt it.  Facebook/Oculus can throw money at publishers to try to lock down some strong exclusives, but I think the cost of entry leads to a smaller audience, making it a tough sell to companies making AA and AAA games.  There would just be too much money involved.

I expected all that, and I bought a Rift and built a new gaming PC anyway -- I'd only had laptops for the past 15 years -- because the PC still has advantages over consoles beyond just power, and I was hoping that Oculus and Valve would see that and capitalize on those strengths.

Modding is the most important one.  Sony could easily give its users some rooms and release some gimgaws to sprinkle around inside, making a VR Animal Crossing, but the end goal should be for people to be able to get into this themselves, not just cosmetics but functionality.  Bethesda's games, like Skyrim, enjoy popularity not only on the strength of their base game, but on the plethora of user-created mods.  If Sony released pets for VR you'd expect a few cats, a few dogs, maybe some lizards and birds.  On the PC you'd expect people to create a hundred different breeds of cats and dogs, you'd have people reskinning them to be rabbits and raccoons and koalas and chinchillas and dragons and billy-bumblers.  You'd immediately see collars, leashes, scratching posts, cat trees, food and water bowls, dog whistles, litter boxes, fetch toys, pet costumes.  If the tools are there, you'd see behavior modifications to make animals more clingy, to make them jump up on the furniture or not, to come when called, to follow commands and do tricks, to jump up in your lap, to run around the house like crazy, to speak English, and more.   Bethesda just tried getting some mods onto the consoles this year and I think that effort crashed and burned.  The PC can make its users a strength in a way that's just not typically available on a consoles. 

The second strength is distribution.  Sony and its competitors are notoriously slow and inflexible to release expansions, downloadable content and indie titles.  Everything has to go through rigid testing and certification, then get approval from executives and it all takes months.  The polished storefront comes at the cost of flexibility and speed.  Valve on the other hand has trading cards and hats, it has Workshop, it has the early access program.  It gets stuff into people's hands.  Further, Steam runs seasonal events, it has at least two sales a week (also note the browser extensions and third party sites that enhance its interface and make up for its dire shortcomings.  Modding!).  Oculus should adopt that model and think about how it can create enthusiasm with a constant stream of things going on.

In the beginning things will probably be too chaotic, but later on a publicly visible project timeline is an advertisement for why people should get invested in your platform instead of anyone else's.  Today we have user-customizable rooms.  Next week there'll be some more desk and table options, maybe some chairs.  The week after that we'll have lamps and computers.  Next month there will be family rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, plus Thanksgiving-themed decorations.  The month after that has televisions and a Christmas event.  In January rooms can connect to each other and there's exteriors that you can see through windows and it's Oculus Home 2.0 or whatever.  Then there's weather, then model railroad sets, then there's pets, etc., etc.

I don't know if this needs to be said, but it would be another giant PR blunder to not let in Vive users.  Ideally, you'd also want to let in PSVR users and people with no VR at all, to get as many people as possible to buy in to the vision.  The headset won't make anyone "the" VR company.  If everyone comes to Oculus for its VR experience the way nearly everyone goes to Steam for PC games, then it will become ludicrous for companies like Capcom and DICE to ditch Oculus the way they do now.  The rewards are too great to be small-minded at this stage.

A third strength is media access.  I don't really know what the PS ecosystem is like, but on the Xbox I found playing music and viewing pictures an awkward experience, both built around a model that works kind of okay for watching movies and TV shows.  I don't really expect PSVR to build its media experience beyond... well, beyond what the Vive and Rift have now.  Go into some app, you get a cinema view and watch things on a giant screen, maybe you get to choose from some prebuilt environments.

I think Zuckerberg's chat presentation where he pulled up a movie and then made it bigger touched on what's possible on the PC that you wouldn't expect on a console.  On the PC you expect that you can just go to YouTube and copy the link and open it in its own window.  Or pull from your folders of images, sound files, etc. to create posters, sound effect triggers or music on command.  In the early days of CD-ROMs, there were several "games" that were just collections of rooms where you clicked on things to see what kind of effect it would have, kind of like children's toys.  You'd expect people to create those kinds of experiences to share with little more than the media they have on hand -- walk down a hallway and the Star Wars Imperial March starts playing.  Press a button and doge memes pop up out of thin air.  Museums made of nothing but resized images and captions.  Lots of "Also sprach Zarathustra."  Copyright infringement for miles; I guess that's a problem to be solved with takedowns.

Again, I believe in the Rift and the Vive because I see far more potential for what I think of as an actual VR experience on the PC.  I'm starting to worry that Oculus and Valve don't see that potential, that games, movies and chat rooms are the limit of their ambition -- that they're just going to engage in a long war with console VR for games exclusivity, counting on better technology to win people over instead of leveraging the real strengths of the platform.  As I've gone on about at length, that starts with putting creative power in the hand of regular users and not just developers, and the first step is a persistent room and some stuff to keep in there.

Orogogus
Level 3
More evangelizing, even if no one's listening:

SteamVR is kind of a mess right now, it's the PC interface directly ported over with the ability to replace the background, environment and camera/controller skins.  But Oculus Home is worse, designed for consoles with no customization whatsoever.  It's a carefully curated interface made to run a race that I think Oculus is going to lose.  If Oculus and Valve treat their VR products as just another console, I see Sony cleaning up with a cheaper product and superior industry experience & connections.  The PC Master Race card probably won't play well in a field a thousand times smaller.

But this is about the interface.  Right now everything in the storefront and library is a random jumble.  There's a division between games and entertainment and apps, and it's clearly designed for selling.  An apps store, basically.  Compare this to the World Wide Web, which completely transformed the way we get information.  If I want to find a bus route or check out what happened at Connect, that information is a Google search away (side note: there certainly was a lot of no Connect coverage whatsoever in the Rift, wasn't there?).  If Oculus wants VR to be that kind of disruptive technology it needs to think about putting more power in user's hands, not just finding games and apps to sell another 100 headsets.

No one's going to put on a headset to check bus routes, that's not what it's for.  But look at the Mayfair Patio Playground app in the Oculus store.  It doesn't let you do much besides spawn furniture and move it around.  I played with it for an hour anyway, admiring the lake, the moon behind the trees at night, spawning a chair army, and so on, but that's neither here nor there.  The point is, this kind of advertising portal is just tossed in next to Showdown and Mythos of the World Axis.  At best it's going to be like the mobile app stores, where companies throw something together just to get their name out there, then call it a day.

What Oculus should be going for, at this early stage, is something that engages people in the virtual world.  Maybe you can drive around and see an Ikea showroom, then go inside.  Maybe you sign up to receive catalogs in your virtual mailbox.  You activate the catalog and you're transported to the showroom.  And then maybe companies treat VR as a legitimate advertising medium and not just a novelty.  A GE store might have demos of its refrigerators and ovens, highlighting features with popup text and/or narrations, and with VR alcoves for you to visualize your kitchen.  Bookstores that have virtual books with actual covers and sample text.  Restaurants where you can see the menu, the food and the seating layout.

Later this would go through an actual search engine, after everyone and their brother has a VR presence and it's impossible to sort through it all, but right now VR is still in the pre-Google, pre-AltaVista phase where something like the old Yahoo categories is still relevant.

The goal is to convince other companies that they're establishing a footprint in the new virtual world that's seeing so much monetary investment, and not just dropping an app in a crowded, disorganized storefront.  VR needs to be relevant to companies who aren't selling VR, and as long as Oculus' idea of the user home page is a store, that won't be the case.

Internet speeds are going to need a big old boost, though.  Even that low-rent Mayfair experience was nearly a GB.  I certainly hope there's a special hell for the people in charge at Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner.

Orogogus
Level 3

The Oculus Store is bad for VR adoption
and it’s only going to get worse.

I think PC VR is
going to be in a bad place next year as PSVR gets more of the strong
exclusives and leaves the Rift & Vive fighting over scraps.  Maybe one or both sides have secret weapons
in the works (although, I seriously hope it’s not just chat rooms) but I think the
storefront is going to drag the Rift down more than Oculus thinks.



Steam has a terrible
UI, but it has the saving grace that somehow everyone going up against it
manages to make something even worse. 
The Oculus Store isn’t even one of the better attempts.  With maybe one or two dozen titles on display
it might manage to get the job done, but it’s rapidly getting unwieldy.  New releases easily get lost – I feel like
Oculus doesn’t even try to get free content into people’s hands – there are no
categories or tags, there’s no return policy, you can’t choose which drive to
install to, there’s no review functionality (Oculus seems happy to offload this
onto these message boards, which is absurd), there’s no interaction with people
on your friends list, there’s no gifting, achievements have text going out of
bounds even though there’s one resolution, etc. 
It’s an experience that looks like it was designed to run on a
console.  So none of that is good.  How does Oculus imagine this is going to work
if it ever takes off and people have libraries with a thousand titles like
people do on Steam?



But that’s peripheral
to the fact that mandatory startup into the storefront is bad.  The first thing that happens when you get
past the start screen is someone’s trying to sell you something.  That’s not a good look for VR, especially
when it’s worse than Steam and the big titles are running to PSVR.  People don’t generally boot their computers
directly into Steam – Oculus shouldn’t be thinking about making Home into Steam,
it should be Windows.  When I boot up
Windows, it goes into an environment that I set up, from the background to the
desktop icons, Start Menu and taskbar shortcuts, tray icons, mouse sensitivity,
sound levels, custom sounds, and so on.  Oculus
should be thinking about accessing that kind of customization to get people
invested in their VR environment, so people don’t associate VR with a
storefront.



Look at how we
demo the Rift to people.  We navigate to
the library, then to the Introduction to Virtual Reality or the Dreamdeck or
whatever, and then help someone put on the Rift and then tell them to start the
program, or we awkwardly start it for them while they’re moving the view
around.  It would be a lot more effective
if these shortcuts were a spinning globe or hologram or something that we could
tell people, “Find the globe and press the button,” or “go through the glowing
door” (side note: I really hope Oculus doesn’t listen to the people telling them
the gamepad doesn’t suck out loud for VR, because it really kind of does.  Touch needed to ship months ago).  Regular users should have the option to have
a model Sidewinder on their desk that boots into Elite, or a little mountain
goat, etc.  The fact that achievements
didn’t release as virtual trophies in a trophy case doesn’t speak well to
Oculus’ vision and imagination for VR.



You want people to
put on the headset and feel like they’re booting up an OS and actually switching
to VR, not just loading up a Steam also-ran. 
 Put them in a room where there’s lots
of object interaction and it feels natural, and give people lots of options to set
it up just the way they like – not just being able to add furniture and
doodads, but how the system interacts with the user.  New releases might show up in an inbox tray, come
in through a mail slot by the door, or on a Steam style splash page on the virtual
computer screen.  Pushing an inflexible,
canned interface on people is playing the console game that I think Oculus can
only lose.  Give the audience options to
explore, let it mature and step back to see what Oculus can do to enhance that
experience instead of trying to dictate one narrow vision.



For a long time I’ve
been amazed at Apple’s success, because it seems like their products are only
good because everyone else is determined to suck.  I always felt that anyone could have scooped
the iPod or the iPhone, but all the competition was committed
to some terrible design or the other until Apple swooped in with a product that people actually want to use.  Don’t be those guys!  Just throw the whole thing out and brainstorm
on a blank slate – who does Oculus want to sell VR to, what are those people
expecting out of it, and what should Oculus be offering them?  If the whole endgame was just a gaming
machine and media center, then Oculus should probably have just gone to Sony to
begin with.

JED44
Level 8
You know what I always wondered? Why isn't there a VR aspect to these forums? Or a vr version of them anyways. Like alt space that you can access within home.

kzintzi
Level 10

JED44 said:

You know what I always wondered? Why isn't there a VR aspect to these forums? Or a vr version of them anyways. Like alt space that you can access within home.


aren't we getting a VR browser soon? :smile:

Though you are more than slightly incoherent, I agree with you Madam,
a plum is a terrible thing to do to a nostril.

JED44
Level 8

kzintzi said:


JED44 said:

You know what I always wondered? Why isn't there a VR aspect to these forums? Or a vr version of them anyways. Like alt space that you can access within home.


aren't we getting a VR browser soon? :smile:



I have no idea honestly. I have mainly been looking at game developments and updates recently. (is it supposed to be similar to the few desktop apps that have come out? ) Though I think it would be pretty neat if one could just put on the rift and join a room for these discussions. I would have  thought  that would be one of the first paradigm shifts of VR