As a top gathering for some of the most creative minds in media & entertainment, the annual Game Developers Conference is both a chance for the immersive entertainment community to experience the next big thing in gaming and interactive media, as well as gauge the progress of VR/AR technology innovation.

With more than 26,000 people descending on the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the five-day conference featured several important product announcements, panel sessions and, inevitably, exhibitors - all competing to rock the worlds of developers and content studios.

And while not every experience or game is a must-see at the conference, there is an expectation that GDC and its sibling VRDC is a good guide to what is coming down the line.

Over the next few weeks, will take a deeper dive into some of the issues, trends and immersive technologies that caught our attention at the conference. Plus, join next week for a free 45-min webinar titled GDC 2018 Roundup: Top Technology News & Insights with Greenlight Insights.

With that in mind, here are some brief takeaways from GDC 2018.

Oculus Go, HTC Vive Pro Set To Make Virtual Reality More Affordable & Accessible

HTC announced at GDC that its original Vive headset would now retail at approximately $500, with the company obviously keen to compete with the $400 Oculus Rift. The latter device has recently taken the top spot in terms of market share on Steam, and although the HTC Vive Pro will cost $800, HTC believes that making HMDs more affordable is the catalyst for accelerated consumer adoption.

“By lowering the price of the current VIVE, we are making VR more accessible while expanding the potential market for developers,” said HTC Vive general manager Daniel O’Brien, in a press release. “Whether you're a VR enthusiast or new to the platform, there’s never been a better time to join the most complete VR platform available.”

Of course, the forthcoming release of the Facebook-owned Oculus Go has brought affordability into focus, with the device expected to sell for $200.

Oculus was front and center at GDC, with its booth at the EXPO drawing a steady line of people. Some of that may have been related to the chance to play Owlchemy Labs' latest creation—Vacation Simulator—or a VR version of Settlers of Catan, but the Oculus Go is a reasonable attempt to make HMDs more appealable to the general public.

Vicon, Epic Games Blur The Line Blur The Line Between Graphics & Reality

At the back of the GDC EXPO floor, a partnership between Epic Games, CubicMotion, 3Lateral, Tencent and Vicon showcased a next-generation digital personality.  The debut of "Siren" at the conference is a major step forward in bringing digital characters to life through live motion capture markers and cameras that positionally track body, finger, and facial movements. The resulting digital personality (which utilized a live actress) was then live-streamed into an Unreal Engine project at 60 frames per second.

Real-time motion-capture technology has been demoed many times before and highlights the potential for replicating reality through computer graphics. With Siren, attendees were introduced to a high-fidelity digital character that displayed a full range of interactions and emotions in both real-time and high-fidelity.

Motion-capture has been part of the entertainment industry for a number of years (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Planet of the Apes etc.) but this demonstration has large implications for not just the future of realistic or life-like games, but also other industries, such as film, television, and marketing.

Location-Based VR: It's More than Entertainment. It Can Be A Workout Too

Although fitness-based experiences in VR are still in the early adopter phase, there was evidence that content studios really want people to work up a sweat. Slugging your way through a virtual boxing match may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but LA-based studio Survios has developed an LBE experience that could put you on the path to fitness.

Creed: Rise to Glory” is a VR experience that gets the blood pumping and your arms swinging. The game puts you in the shoes of Adonis Creed as he practices in the gym with Rocky Balboa. After a brief session on the punching bag, the action switches to an actual match against a daunting opponent. The rules are quite simple … throw punches, avoid getting hit and try to knock out the avatar in front of you.

If this sounds like Punch-Out VR, then you would be wrong. The experience uses what the company calls “Phantom Melee Technology” that means the player has to not only fight but conserve energy when possible. For example, just throwing aimless punches is likely to tire the player out, while being hit triggers a moment of controller desynchronization that allows your opponent to hit you even harder.

As you would expect from a video-game expo, Survios built an actual ring for people to box in, and while this may not be necessary or available in a VR Arcade, the overall experience was physically demanding. According to a company representative, the plan is put players into iconic arenas, with fighters from the iconic Rocky franchise as your opponents. As an added bonus, no level of boxing skill or pugilistic ability is required before you don the virtual gloves.


Did you miss GDC 2018? Register now for next week's free 45-min webinar titled GDC 2018 Roundup: Top Technology News & Insights with Greenlight Insights.