#228: Candid Reactions to the Oculus Toybox Demo and Social Presence

The Oculus Touch Toybox demo was shown to the most number of people in one day at Oculus Connect 2 on September 23rd. This was the first time that a lot of developers were able to get their hands on the Half Moon Prototype VR input controllers. But more importantly, it was a watershed moment for so many developers to be able to experience social and emotional presence with another person within virtual reality. It became less about the technology and tech specs, and more about the experience of playing, having fun, and connecting to another human in ways that were never possible before. This Toybox demo felt like a real turning point and “Aha!” moment for a lot of VR developers to see how compelling social experiences in VR are going to be. I had a chance to capture some of the candid reactions from Ken Nichols and Ela Darling moments after experiencing Toybox for the first time.


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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:09.354] Ken Nichols: I'm Ken Nichols. I help out with Gunner's Universe on VRChat.

[00:00:16.417] Ela Darling: I am Ella Darling from VRTube.xxx.

[00:00:20.101] Ken Nichols: And I just tried Oculus Touch Toy Box demo and it was incredible. Very responsive, they showed a wide array of different techniques you can use with the motion controls. You can do slingshots, you can do ping pong, you can do like toy guns, you can pick up toy objects, you can point. at various objects with a laser and actually control them, like a remote control car. So it's fantastic. And they also kind of showcase the social aspect of it, where you can kind of converse with somebody else. They can show you how to do things. So really fantastic demonstration of what motion controls and VR is capable of doing.

[00:00:58.373] Ela Darling: So I was a little taken aback at first, because the demo person put the Rift on my head and put the controllers on my hands. And then it started, and there's this kind of amorphous person's head with hands in front of me. And he's like, hey, how's it going? And I thought it was just AI. And he was like, uh, hi? And I was like, oh, it's a person. OK. So that was something I wasn't expecting. And it was so much fun. I think it was exceptionally more fun, because there was another person that I was connecting with and just shooting the shit with, and we were having fun. I didn't want to stop. It was amazing. It's intuitive the way the controllers work are really intuitive you can pick things up and throw them and smash them and it's just like like you can just Destroy shit, which what's more fun than just mindless destruction like not much There's these weird globes that like when you smash it It like changes the gravity and the physics and like the way that sound moves and the way that things move through space Holy shit, it was so cool. I want to go back

[00:01:51.818] Kent Bye: Yeah I think for me the biggest takeaway was how much is added when you're with another human being in VR and are able to intuitively interact with them and the touch controls you know you kind of get the logistics of what it takes to actually pick up things you know you squeeze it and you know it took a little bit to kind of you know not use the trigger and squeeze it but After you get that, you just are more intuitively playing with each other, but also, to me, the lot of things that you're doing together. And I think that was the big thing, where you're not doing it alone, but you're actually being guided to do things as a team.

[00:02:25.969] Ken Nichols: Totally. No, it's great, and it's going to be fantastic for education. If you wanted to develop something together, you don't have to be in the same spot. You can do it collaboratively anywhere in the world. It's fantastic, and it's amazing.

[00:02:37.497] Ela Darling: I felt like this person that I'd never met before, who was a few booths down, I felt like, at the end of it, we were bros. It really was fun. It's a great way to connect with someone, just playing this fun game together. I went and said hi and gave him a hug and stuff, because we're best friends now, obviously.

[00:02:54.373] Kent Bye: Yeah, that was the thing that I definitely felt that as well, that, you know, you're sharing this kind of, like, VR space, but in the end it does feel, like, awkwardly intimate, or surprisingly intimate, I would say. It's like, you do feel like you're making a connection, because what you're essentially doing is that you're finding a way to play together that you can't necessarily play together with people like that in real life, and they're really pushing the limits of what type of things you can do with another human being in the virtual world. And it's not just sort of like, oh, you go hang out and do the things that you can do in reality. There's interactions you have that you can only have in VR. And I think that's what made it even more compelling for me.

[00:03:32.494] Ken Nichols: Yeah, totally. You know, again, it's just, you know, amplifies the whole effect of, you know, VR plus motion controls, plus, you know, the social aspect of, you know, working with together with other people. I mean, I do a lot of stuff in social VR and, you know, just the whole effect of just sitting around being able to talk with people like as if they're there and you can have very meaningful conversations and just get ideas off of each other. And it's just amazing. So I can't wait to see what's going to happen in the future with this stuff.

[00:04:00.007] Ela Darling: Yeah, I'm counting down the days at this point until I can have that in my home. I will never leave. That's it.

[00:04:05.353] Kent Bye: With the hands, you do have a little bit of adjustment controls, which I think that if you compare it to the Vive, for example, the Vive has got very specific laser control, so it's very precise, but yet you kind of lose that social dimension of having your hands in the game where being able to have your hands to gesture, to point, to do fist bumps. To me, there's a big social dimension of what the Oculus Touch controllers are really optimized to be able to have these different expressions with your hand that are a lot more dynamic than what you may see with what you may feel like just holding a baton within the Vive.

[00:04:38.857] Ken Nichols: You know, we think with our hands, we communicate, we do a lot of body gestures and it helps us, you know, kind of communicate. So you get that extra body language in there and just convey things in that added sense of just visual like confirmation, thumbs up, thumbs down or, you know, pointing over to something or, you know, really easy to do with the Oculus Touch.

[00:04:58.253] Ela Darling: Yeah. I don't even know what else to say. My brain is still in there. I'm still, like, just savoring that. That was... Ah, fuck, dude. Having hands present. Because I do livestream in VR, like, one direction. I do, like, you know, jerk-off webcam girl stuff. But holy fuck, just having your hands in front of you makes you feel so much more present. And it makes you feel more connected to the person because you can, like, communicate a little bit through body language. It adds more to the way that you communicate with the other person that is just... Fuck, man. Yeah, just fuck. That's my official response. Fuck.

[00:05:33.293] Kent Bye: Yeah. To me, it is pretty mind-blowing. And it does open up a lot of possibilities in my own mind in terms of where this is going. And I can really see why Facebook bought Oculus and what type of experiences you could see. And there is rumors that there's going to be a social SDK that's announced. So I expect a baseline for most VR apps to have a social component that's there. And to me, it sort of reinvigorated me in terms of the potential of VR because I've never had that sense of presence before. To be able to feel like I really kind of lost myself in just playing. And it's been so long since I've been able to just lose myself like that in a VR experience.

[00:06:13.245] Ken Nichols: Yeah. And that's one of the things you hit on, you know, like, you know, being able to get like a further sense of presence. You know, it's one thing to, you know, see VR and be kind of an observer in the world. But once you get to the motion controls, like it brings it to a whole new level. Just being able to see your hands, you know, having that grounded feeling like, OK, I can see, you know, my body moving in there just adds just way more to it. And it just feels more real. And it's incredible.

[00:06:38.309] Kent Bye: OK, great. I think we covered it. Thanks, guys. So much.

[00:06:41.710] Ken Nichols: Thank you very much.

[00:06:43.578] Kent Bye: And thank you for listening. If you'd like to support the Voices of VR podcast, then please consider becoming a patron at patreon.com slash voicesofvr.

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