This week, Billy Langsworthy looks at why the toy space should be excited at some of the new VR tech being showcased at this year's Game Developers Conference.
This week, the office has been awash with technobabble.
Yes, surrounded by our colleagues at MCV (video games industry trade title), Develop (video game development industry title) and PCR (computer and IT industry trade title), we couldn’t escape it – without wanting to lift the wizard’s curtain too much, seating wise they literally form a sort of wall around us.
And all because this week was GDC 2016 (or the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to those not in that world) and the word on everyone’s lips at the show was, of course, Virtual Reality.
The big news from GDC this year is that Sony is launching PlayStation VR this autumn. It will cost £349, hit shelves in October with 50 games confirmed for launch.
So why is this relevant to us toy folk? Well, VR looks set to blur the lines between video games and toys in a greater way than have been felt before. Boil it down and PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and Valve’s HTC Vive are all role-play toys.
While kids would get a Batman costume or wearable Hulk fists to put themselves in the shoes of their heroes, this latest wave of VR technology actually puts them inside those worlds.
Look at Star Wars. Everyone wants a toy lightsaber that lights up, makes the sounds and allows you to imagine you’re Luke Skywalker (or more likely Rey now). Swinging a saber around the house, trying not to accidently catch the dog or knock nan’s walking stick out from under her, is all great fun and long may it continue.
But take a look at Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine below, a “a cinematic virtual reality experiment” from LucasFilm that sees you grab an physical lightsaber, don a headset, and land smack-bang on Tatooine with Han Solo, R2-D2 and more Stormtroopers than you can shake a Wookie at.
While it’s not a fully-fledged video game (it’s less than 10 minutes long), it does point the way to the sort of thing we can expect from this technology, and there is in fact an exclusive Star Wars Battlefront VR experience on the way from DICE, EA and Lucasfilm for PlayStation VR.
Exciting times, but for those who want more real-world physicality with their cutting edge tech, it’s not just the VR that caught our eye from the GDC coverage.
Sand is a big player in the toy space, whether it stretches, glows in the dark or just does what normal sand does, kids seem to love the stuff. Well, Intel took to GDC to show off its RealSense long range camera and how, using a table of sand, the tech can create game terrain in an tank versus tank game.
While some clips have emerged this week, the clearest demo of the tech in action comes in this video from Intel from October last year.
With this kind of technology filtering through, surely the days of the toy industry being wary of this kind of cutting edge tech are over. Whether it’s VR that literally puts kids into the world of Star Wars or a camera that adds a new dimension to sand play, the future looks bright, and bloody exciting.
One last quick thing, away from San Francisco, this year’s Wearable Tech Show kicked off at the ExCeL centre this week (Virtual Reality was big at this show too, with a whole conference stream dedicated to it).
While the ToyNews team didn’t attend, Laura over at PCR (our friend, colleague and the person we go to if our computer plays up) checked it out, and when we asked if there was anything worth chasing up with regards to the toys or kids space, she pulled out a photo of the BabyPod.
Babypod claims to be the only device that can ‘stimulate vocalisation of babies before birth with music’. Unlike some of the other similar products out there, instead of just playing music through a device strapped to the mother’s abdomen, the Babypod pumps soothing tunes through a speaker that is ‘easy to insert and remove’ from their vaginas. You won’t hear the music, but the baby will.
Yes, you read that right. It’s a speaker you wear inside you.
A literal party in your pants if you will.