On July 1st, I blogged about the new Oculus Rift project viewer designed to support both the DK-2 and CV-1. The release, coming almost two years after the initial project viewer was made available, had been long anticipated among Oculus Rift HMD users in SL, and so the response was initially enthusiastic in terms of people downloading it.
Unfortunately, as I subsequently reported, thanks to feedback from TTech, Ai Austin, Rai Fargis – who raised BUG-20130 on the viewer (still open at the time of writing, although that may change) – and others, the new project viewer had more than a few issues with it, and was seen as something of a step back in terms of general usability.
Now it seems that the Lab have – for the foreseeable future, at least – decided to cut their losses in developing Second Life viewer support for Oculus Rift. Posting in the Oculus CV-1 forum thread, Oz Linden announced:
Thank you for experimenting with our Oculus Rift Project Viewer and offering your feedback. Unfortunately, the Project Viewer that we recently made available didn’t meet our standards for quality, and so we’ve now removed it from the Alternate Viewers page.
By definition, Project Viewers aren’t ready for primetime. The purpose of these experimental Viewers is to share with you the earliest possible version of what we’re working on, so that you can see what we’re up to, help discover problems, and provide feedback. In this case, though, we’re not ready for that, as those of you who tried it have seen.
We can’t say at this point when or even if we may release another Project Viewer for experimenting with the Oculus Rift in SL.
We want to prioritise our development efforts around initiatives that we know will improve the virtual world and bring more value to SL Residents, and due to some inherent limitations with SL, it may well not be possible to achieve the performance needed for a good VR experience. (In fact, this is one reason why we’re creating Project Sansar a new, separate platform optimized for VR).
We greatly appreciate the interest in trying SL with the Oculus Rift and are grateful that several of you took the time to try the Project Viewer. We regret that the quality was not up to our standards, and we will of course keep the community posted if we release a new Project Viewer for VR in the future.
Providing support for high-end HMDs within Second Life was always going to be problematic; most of the content found in-world is unoptimised (and our avatars even more so), so producing the means by which the viewer could comfortably meet the levels of performance required for such HMDs, such as a consistent frame rate of at least 75 fps (DK-2) or 90 fps (CV-1), was always going to be doubtful.
However, the Lab has remained reasonably bullish through about trying to offer an acceptable level of HMD support within Second Life – albeit it with caveats. For example, speaking at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday July 1st and just ahead of the Oculus Rift project viewer appearing, Oz said that offering HTC Vive support at some point for Second Life was something the Lab “would like to be able to do”.
So what went wrong?
Well, we don’t actually know. Interestingly, most of the issues experienced with the new project viewer weren’t performance related, but focused on general usability: as UI problems, rendering issues, image resolution problems, etc., all of which had been acceptable on the previous release of the Oculus rift project viewer. Whether these point to something being fundamentally wrong with the viewer build, or whether there have been some intrinsic changes to the Oculus SDK software (the latest version of the viewer have leapt forward significantly in SDK support when compared to the last viewer) which are not limiting options for integrating it into the viewer is hard to say.
All we do know is that from Oz’s forum comment, it would seem that fixing the problems which have been encountered would seem to be a non-trivial task – and once of potentially questionable value when compared to the possible return in terms of benefits to a broader cross-section of users other SL improvement initiatives might bring.
Does this mean the end of all attempts to provide HMD support in Second Life?
Again, that’s hard to say. In the short to medium term, I’d say most likely it does insofar as the Lab is concerned, given the general thrust of Oz’s comment. but that doesn’t mean a third-party developer might not be sufficiently motivated to at least take up the challenge and see how far they can get. Longer term, however, the door might not be so firmly closed.
HMD technology is still in its infancy. so who knows what might come down the road in a couple of years time, and how it might influence the Lab’s thinking with regards to Second Life? Time ell tell on that one.
With thanks to Baz DeSantis for the nudge.