Oculus VR has grown from a niche virtual reality company to a bona-fide gaming juggernaut, and this year's Oculus Connect conference the is the clearest proof of that yet. Kicking off on Sept. 24 in Los Angeles, Oculus Connect 2 was packed with major announcements on both the mobile and PC fronts, from a new, more affordable Gear VR to a mind-blowing Oculus Rift app that lets you sculpt with "digital clay." Oculus has big plans for virtual reality going into 2016 -- here are the most exciting announcements from the event.
New Gear VR is Just $99, Netflix on the Way
Samsung and Oculus seem more determined than ever to get Gear VR into living rooms everywhere, as Oculus announced a brand-new $99 version of the smartphone-compatible headset. With support for all of Samsung's 2015 phones (Galaxy S6, S6 Edge Plus, Note 5) and a price tag that's been cut in half, it's easy to imagine Gear VR rising to the top of every gamer's wish list for this holiday.
Gear VR is also getting apps for Netflix, Hulu and Twitch, the latter of which will let you watch gaming livestreams with avatars of your friends. It looks like "Netflix and Chill" is about to get more immersive than ever.
Minecraft is Coming to Oculus
Mojang's first-person crafting adventure Minecraft is one of the biggest PC games around, so it's only fitting that an Oculus-compatible version is on the way. The Windows 10 edition of Minecraft will be playable on Oculus next spring, and while Mojang didn't have many details to share, the developer did confirm that you'll be able to create and play in full 3D. We've already seen the amazingly immersive version of Minecraft coming to Microsoft's augmented-reality HoloLens headset, so we're eager to see how the game stacks up in virtual reality.
Oculus Platform and Oculus Concepts
The Oculus Rift isn't just a PC gaming accessory; it's an entire platform. Oculus showed off a few of the key social elements that Rift owners will be able to utilize, including the type of user profiles and friend list interactions that you'd find on other major platforms such as Steam and Xbox Live. The Rift's main user interface has a slick, console-like tile design that should make accessing your VR apps and games pretty easy.
Speaking of finding cool games, Oculus is enabling developers to show off early game concepts to fans via the Oculus Concepts marketplace. This sounds a bit like Steam's Early Access program, which allows players to buy games that are still in development and provide feedback that helps inform the final product.
Oculus Touch, the gesture-sensing controller set to ship shortly after the Rift, is being touted as an integral part of the Rift experience. Oculus showed off a slew of Touch-friendly experiences, from first-person shooters and football games that you control with your actual hands to the Toy Box, which is a creative space that allows players to experiment with a host of virtual objects.
A Touch SDK will be available for developers by the end of this year, and there are already a handful of confirmed Touch-optimized games, including Surgeon Simulator, Moon Strike and the sure-to-be-charming I Expect You to Die.
One of the most intriguing apps shown off at Connect, Medium is a creation tool that allows users to sculpt with what Oculus calls "digital clay." Making objects seems as simple as moving your hands around with the Touch controller, though, as Oculus' demo video shows off, more dedicated artists will be able to create digital sculptures that are every bit as detailed as what they'd make in the real world.