Google has announced the acquiring of Owlchemy Labs – the Virtual Reality sudio behind Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality. The studio will probably keep releasing VR games for various platforms, but now with support from Google. A similar arrangement to Tilt Brush studio Skillman & Hackett, which Google had acquired back in 2015. “We have a slate of original games that we have in [the] production and prototyping phase, and we’re going to continue to do that,” says Owlchemy co-founder Alex Schwartz. “We’re very excited to continue to do that with the support of Google behind us.”
Owlchemy is known for developing games that emulate using real hands, and on their blog post, they assured the audience that they will be “continuing to focus on hand interactions and high quality user experiences, like with Job Simulator.” Schwartz says that full-motion hand tracking is “kind of our key factor.” That stands in contrast to Google’s current VR platform, Daydream — which uses a remote with limited motion controls. “We have a pretty big vision” for virtual and augmented reality, according to Google VR and AR engineering director Relja Markovic. “Daydream’s a great product — I love my Daydream. But there will be many, many things that come after that.”
I don’t think we’re done exploring how you interact with controls in your hand.
Markovic doesn’t make it easy to understand exactly what their plans are, but states that Google has released products purely for non-Google headsets, like Tilt Brush and Google Earth. The acquisition might seem like it’s pointing toward an extension of Daydream’s vision.
“If you think about where VR and AR are going, especially AR and Tango, and other ways of interacting with your environments, I don’t think we’re done exploring how you interact with controls in your hand. That’s not saying ‘Oh, and therefore we’re going to bring Job Sim to Daydream,’” he says. “But there’s a lot of learning to still be done in that space as well.”
Markovic and Schwartz say Owlchemy will continue its relationship with the wider VR development community, sharing knowledge and best practices. Also, they will surely be contributing to Google’s experimental Daydream Labs program. In the fairly small and new world of VR gaming, “Job Simulator” is one of the industry’s better known success stories. It surpassed $3 million in sales beginning from 2017.
Google will probably say more about virtual reality at its I/O developer conference next week, although there have been few rumors about what we might see, and Schwartz says Owlchemy isn’t imminently announcing any new projects. But the acquisition suggests that at the very least, Google is still working on its push to develop more VR content, and that in contrast to Facebook-owned company Oculus — which recently closed its VR film studio in order to fund external projects — it’s comfortable keeping talent in-house.