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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 9, September 2014, Posted On: 8/21/2014

Virtual Reality Looms Large In Gaming Future At Vancouver SIGGRAPH Conference

Hank Schlesinger
TAGS: SIGGRAPH 2014, visual disciplines, Palmer Luckey, amusement business, away from home entertainment, video game, Oculus Rift virtual reality system

VANCOUVER -- The recently held SIGGRAPH 2014, the 41st conference and exhibition for computer-generated visuals, attracted more than 14,000 artists, scientists, game developers and filmmakers from 75 countries to the Vancouver Convention Centre.

This year's exhibition, organized by the Association for Computing Machinery from Aug. 10 to 14, included all visual disciplines, from big-budget movies to handheld games. The must-see panel this year featured Palmer Luckey, who created the Oculus Rift virtual reality system. After selling the technology to Facebook for some $2 billion, Luckey gained near-instant celebrity in the world of computer-generated visual arts.

According to Luckey, the large-scale adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality is inevitable in the evolution of entertainment. Although a niche market for decades, virtual reality "will happen -- it's a matter of when," Luckey said.

Those sharing the panel with Luckey seemed to agree with his assessment of a virtual reality future, though they were not clear on what that future may look like. All appeared to agree that games which work on traditional screens may not translate into VR. Conversely, VR may open new categories of games.

Sony's Magic Lab's Richard Marks, who is spearheading the electronics giant's Morpheus VR system, said the current era is the "Wild West" for virtual reality with "no established genres." For instance, Marks noted, the fast movements of today's games may not work well in a VR environment. And certain glitches still need to be worked out of the hardware, such as better ergonomic design.

"I think it will be VR content and software that will drive the industry long term," Luckey said. "I'm looking forward to the point where nobody can think of more [technical] improvements and instead are thinking about compelling killer apps."

For a tour of this year's conference and exhibits, visit the SIGGRAPH Youtube channel.

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