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Oculus Rift by commercial photographer Dan Dunkley

Some of my recent images being used in a publication for Danish pharmaceutical giants Novo Nordisk. The shoot took place during the recent Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2014, on-location at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

Novo Nordisk are a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. Their ‘Diabetes Voyager’ booths, that you can see people maniacally using in these pics, form part of a new initiative to use cutting edge technology to help educate people about the disease.

The cutting edge tech driving the Voyager booths at the expo came in the form of Oculus Rift. Usually in my blog posts I talk about all things photo only. For this one I’m going totally off piste and it’s all about this new piece of hardware, and in particular games….

oculus rift dibetes voyager. Photo Copyright Dan Dunkley

For those that want to know a bit more about the Oculus Rift, see here. If you can’t be bothered reading that, in a nutshell it’s a new virtual reality headset, that started out via a crowd funded kickstarter campaign. Even though it can/ will be used for health and education purposes like in my photoshoot, the real deal with this tech and the building excitement it’s been generating – is all about its use in video games. Or it was. More on that in a mo.

Now, as a self-confessed life-long gamer I was chuffed to get to photograph the Rift (as us geeks tend to call it) being used before its public release, and obviously I had to have a go myself.  My honest verdict? Ok, but a little bit underwhelming for what I had hoped for. Not to take anything away from the great work that Novo and the Diabetes Voyager app are doing, as anything that promotes healthcare and education is always a winner in my book. But, swatting away at virtual blood cells wasn’t perhaps the best first demo and experience for a gaming nut like myself who would rather be fragging nazi zombies (other zombies are available). It was more the tech/ experience itself and some startling news that broke some days later, that left me a little cold. And that’s not just because I fainted and wet myself due to VR motion sickness. < not true

I know a fair bit about the Rift and have been keenly following its progress over the last few years. The headset and tracking (a modded first gen xbox Kinect) being used for this event was the first dev kit that’s pretty low resolution and still has a lot of latency issues. As a photographer, and gamer, I naturally obsess about quality of visuals, resolution and all things to do with pixel peeping, so although the experience was good and shows great promise, unless things improve hugely on the technical front, I can’t see me giving up ‘normal’ top end 2D panels anytime soon for games. The latest dev kit has apparently upped the resolution and performance, and I’m sure the final release build will be much more impressive. If it is then maybe we can talk.

However, not long after I shot these images and had a go, something else happened – news broke about Facebook buying out Oculus Rift.

Like many, this news has pretty much popped and thoroughly deflated my excitement balloon for the Rift. I dread to think how this potentially ground breaking kit that gamers have been waiting on since the first botched VR attempts in the early 90’s, is now going to pan out. If there was a not like button for Facebook, I’d click it a lot. True, I have a basic Bookface business page but it’s purely for SEO purposes and it makes me feel a little bit sad every time I put an update on there, which isn’t very often (an auto link to this blog post will go on – the irony). Like Minecraft creator Markus Persson, who famously cancelled his very likely huge deal with Oculus Rift on hearing the news, it too “creeps me out”. I just can’t see how Zuckerberg’s ethos and a company with no knowledge of, talent for, or history of gaming, can do anything good for gaming. Lets be honest, video games are what the Rift was originally designed for, and more importantly, backed for by all those poor now-shafted crowdfunders.

Oculus rift Diabetes Voyager. Copyright Dan Dunkley

Blatant Virtual Reality happiness, pre-Facebook news

For apps like the Diabetes Voyager, and other industrial or large scale educational / healthcare uses, I can’t see the Facebook-Rift buyout being much of an issue. I suspect you will never see any sort of FB branding or intrusion when firing up similar apps to Voyager in the future. However for the ‘leisure’ industry, which gaming is part of, I have no doubt it will be far more intrusive: Facebook account and log in required before you can even use it? Check. ‘Forced’ in app purchases? Check. Blatant advertising and stealth purchase tracking plus targeted advertising? Check. It’s all happening now, and will only get worse. Equally it may put off further quality games developers (like Persson) who were ready, willing, and able to jump on board the VR ship and make some truly ground-breaking, immersive new video gaming experiences. It could have been so good.

Rant over. Hope you enjoyed the pics.



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