We may be standing still waiting for normal to return but those in virtual reality development are certainly not hanging around. As the stay at home orders are seen as the best hope for the long, long, long anticipated surge in the use of VR, what is the sector doing to take its opportunity?
The end of the Oculus Go?
It seems inevitable that the Oculus Go will soon be defunct as it no longer supports the Oculus SDK, the brand’s standalone VR headset. The support for the Oculus Go has officially been dropped by Unity and Unreal Engine. Although developers can still use Oculus Integration v18.0 or earlier – yet, the pressure is realistically on developers to finish any Go projects or migrate them to the Quest.
This evolution in tech should be no surprise to Go developers. Facebook has already announced it was going to retire the Oculus Go – with bug fixes and security patches being the only output and this will end in 2022. There will be a complete content pipeline freeze in December 2020.
While the Oculus Go tech is fairly crude, it has been a great started model for newcomers to VR. With its demise, there will be a gap in the market for those casual games looking for accessible content – at a reasonable price. Facebook points to the price reductions for the future release of the Oculus Quest 2. However, it is still likely to be double the price tag.
Mozilla has made Firefox Reality, a made-for-VR browser, available on standalone devices for a while now. It has supported Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, Pico Standalones and HTC Vive Focus. Now, the WebXR is a browser capable of handling PC VR headsets. As with the other platforms, Firefox Reality PC supports standard browsing, as well as 360 videos, and other immersive content.
There are some great features with this browser, including the ability to chat with people in social VR in the Mozilla Hubs. There are many, many 3D objects to explore and a host of content in Hello WebXR! – to get get you started.
Mozilla has also been working with Valve to bring a version to Steam. Therefore, the download via Viveport includes support for the Oculus Rift, Valve Index and the HTC Valve Cosmos.
Ready for early access to STRIDE?
What is STRIDE? Well, it is a gaming experience that brings Parkour to your living room. Par-what? Well, you can run around cities jumping up and over most obstacles, including, you know, houses. However, on top of this, STRIDE is an action game with some pretty solid gunfights thrown into the mix.
Although there is no release date and no price point, early access on Steam will be available later in August. The studio wanted a full release this month, but as with everything in the world at the moment, the developers have faced delay. The company also recognised that the timeline had been too ambitious for the full storyline. The game will, therefore, be released in two phases.
In the first phase, there will be just three game modes. There will be an endless mode, arena mode and a time chase mode. Footage of the parkour-style running in the infinite level generation world offers many, many challenging terrains to master. It also seems to use the VR functionality to the full, as you will need to be able to sprint, jump, ledge climb and run along walls – and more.
Phase 2 wants to extend the game beyond just another sandbox experience. The studio is looking to deliver a story that directs the action – giving a much fuller experience. Whereas Phase 1 will make the game feel like a classic arcade release, Phase 2 will deepen the experience by offering a world and a narrative to explore.
Hitman 3 on VR
We are not massive fans of flatscreen console games making a direct switch to VR. The best VR games are those that have been developed with the VR functionality in mind and crossovers often feel lame in comparison. Yet, of all the computer game franchises that could make the leap across, this assassination trilogy could just about pull it off.
The nature of the gameplay suits a first-person immersive view. Yet, we anticipate that they will have done little to capture the essence of a virtual, three-dimensional world and it could be like wearing your flatscreen in your goggles. We would love to be proven wrong and will wait with anticipation like everyone else for this release early in 2021.
Star Wars Vadar Immortal Release Date
Star Wars titles always come with much hype, mostly because they have a stunning marketing department behind them with seemingly endless resources. The game was released earlier this year as an Oculus exclusive and it has mostly been well-received. But now, the game is set to be released on the PSVR on August 25th.
When released on the Oculus headset it was three individual episodes. The hype surrounding the release of these episodes exclusively to Oculus makes it seem surprising that the whole trilogy will now be released on the PSVR.
The game has been developed by ILMxLAB, which is the immersive storytelling division of LucasFilm. While we may have a certain hint of cynicism in our tone of voice about this much-trailed release, the quality of storytelling is as amazing as you would imagine from such an illustrious stable. Therefore, we would strongly advise PSVR owners to put August 25th in your diary!
August marches on and the holidays should be upon us. Yet, most of us find ourselves at home and only dreaming of a foreign break. Fortunately, we have the world of virtual reality to keep us amused during these long, hot months. Here is the latest news to keep you up-to-date on your next virtual experiences.
Last Labyrinth release date announced
Last Labyrinth on the PSVR will be the last game released where you get a physical copy of the game. All other games for all other consoles are digital downloads and so will be games from PlayStation in the future. This might not feel like much of a moment in gaming history, except it will soon mark a moment when all games live in a digital cloud and no download to a console will even be required. But, we get ahead of ourselves, but it is worthy of being news as it is a step in this direction.
Strictly Limited Games will be marking the occasion with a Collector’s and Limited Edition of this title. It is fitting for this sort of game, which definitely has a niche following. It takes on the world of the escape room and using some of the experience and creative influences of Anime. As the puppet master in the game, you are bound to a wheelchair. You only have use of your head, as you guide the central character through the maze and the many, many puzzle rooms she must solve.
This game is one for the gaming veterans who understand the heritage. For those too young or too novice to this world, the announcement of a release date for later this year might feel anti-climactic. However, when you are on the inside of gaming, you know this is a significant moment in the evolution of the technology.
In Death: Unchained archery range
When you are in a game where your only weapons are a bow and arrow or a crossbow, it is no small update to have the chance to practice some.
Superbright have themselves one of the bigger titles of 2020 in the roguelike game In Death: Unchained. There has been a lot of buzz about the game and the developer, released with a thank you letter, promising the update that arrived in early August. The letter laid out the awesome achievement that the game has enjoyed, more than any other archery-based game in VR. As gratitude for the support and the many positive reviews, the team announced a free game mode in the archery range with its own leader board.
For those who want something different from the narrative-based quests int the game, this additional feature will only add to the depth of the experience. You can see how it will bring friends together to try to beat each other in the shooting skills on show.
There were a host of other updates announced too. The game will now come with independent profiles, so a single game can be shared with multiple players. There are new achievements and better game balance in The Abyss. They have improved the quiver usability and a whole load more minor improvements to functionality.
It is good to see that the developers are not taking the success of the game for granted and that constant evolution is the only way to stay relevant.
Bad news for the Vive Cosmos
Nobody wants to make the lists for the “Least” in VR headsets. However, the Vive Cosmos has done just that, as it is rated the least accurate amongst all the top headsets during the controller tracking test.
A research engineering group in Germany call the VDC (Virtual Dimension Center) have conducted studies of the VR tracking systems in the top VR headsets on the market. The idea is to see how well the headsets track the motion controllers – in terms of accuracy and responsiveness. It is also important how it feels when you make the moves.
Using games like Beat Saber really puts the headsets to the test. The action is fast and to succeed there needs to be a minimal lag between your movement and the action in the headset. If you can perceive the difference, then the tech team have some work to do.
The headline from the tests? HTC Vive Cosmos’ inside-out optical system was consistently the least accurate of all those tests. The input accuracy was measured in millimetres and was done by attaching a controller to a robot arm with an adaptor. A 3D-printed head model was used to hold the target headset while the robot arm moved the controllers. The controllers were manoeuvred by a in-house computer, so there was no chance of differences between two human operators.
The level of deviations from the HTC Vive Cosmos Inside-Out was notably worst of the lot, with up to a 3mm deviation that even a human arm would feel. The best? The Oculus Rift S.
How are the manufacturers coping with supply and demand issues?
The pandemic caused a dual pressure for the manufacturers of VR headsets. On one level, it was excellent news as there was a surge in demand, as people looked to the virtual world to replace the real one. On the other hand, the ability to fulfil this demand has been restricted by problems due to limitations on workforce freedoms and the supply of the necessary parts.
How frustrating must it have felt to be on the verge of a breakthrough event, only to have that same event scupper your ability to respond?
It seems that stock levels for the Oculus Quest and the Rift are starting to return. Therefore, the increased demand is now being met. However, the Valve Index continues to be held on backorder across the world, as the demand remains high but with supply limited. At the end of July, this backorder was at less than eight weeks. However, the headset and controller package is back to more than 8 weeks.
The company claims to be making every effort to deal with the ongoing demands but cites the continued difficulties of the pandemic.
Life for all sectors of society continues to be interesting, as we work out how to live life to the full in the time of a global pandemic. The temptation to stray out into the world is a normal one and our sense of adventure tells us not to waste time. This impulse could be the defining moment for virtual reality; if only the industry could take advantage of this moment to allow the adventure to happen within our headsets.
Let’s see if the news reveals whether the baton is being taken up by the sector.
All creatives can apply
If you live in the UK or Canada there may be a massive opportunity to collaborate with some of the most inspired creative minds in the world. The Immersive Storytelling Programme is looking for filmmakers, game designers, and other creatives to apply to be part of the project.
The funding for the project has come from the Arts Count England, StoryFutures academy, the Canada Media Fund, The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab and the Canada Council for the Arts. The total fund of £300,000 is exciting, to say the least, especially for the 24 applicants who will benefit.
While half those involved will be required to bring creative content to the table, the other half will be required to develop and demonstrate the business skills that allow these ideas to become a reality. The hope is that the narrative form will be pushed to the limit with the merging of art and technology.
Indiana Jones goes virtual
Room-scale games are becoming something of a trend, so there is nothing revolutionary about a game that allows you to jump over a chasm or hide behind a wall. However, none have gone so far with this functionality that the developers of Indiana Jones and the Eye of the Temple. The demo released recently is certainly an exciting promise of the things to come.
The main hook of the game is that you have to use your own motion to get from one place to another, no matter the barrier – so no teleportation – just smooth locomotion and some serious puzzle-solving ability. This central concept will require a large play space and a lot of imagination, as all you have to solve the puzzles is your torch in one hand and the whip in the other.
This game is one of only a handful that cannot be demonstrated through two-dimensional video snippets. The only way to understand the game, if you haven’t got a VR headset, is with some of the mixed reality snippets that have been released. Finally, developers are starting to understand the unique functionality of virtual reality and using this to its full potential.
Get your plunger gun ready… set… fire!
Gamedust has revealed their latest adventure into game-making with their new title Yupitergrad. You are in a Soviet-style setting and you are armed with a gun that fires plungers. Yes, you are right, this is as made like all the other games from this developer.
It is a puzzle game that feels a little like an old-style platform game. You have to walk along and complete 50 levels firing only you suction caps. They are literally part of your arms, as you don’t have any hands. All sounds a little weird, but you are a cosmonaut who has been sent to Jupiter to test out this device and it goes wrong. Suddenly, everything seems plausible!
If you are sensing that all this is weird and wonderful, it is meant to be. The game is gently laughing at itself the whole time and this is definitely part of its charm. You will also enjoy some of the stunts you have to perform to complete the levels.
Even if the general idea of this game doesn’t appeal to you, you have to try it out for the comedic quality if nothing else. We need more games that don’t take themselves too seriously.
We all need to look ahead to 2021, mostly because 2020 has been properly rubbish for most people. Therefore, it is nice to see that developers have plans to take some great games and make them better. Radio Commander VR aims to bring some strategy to the PC VR next year, moving from the standard platform to the headset.
No longer are you out with the squad getting fired at with your buddies. In this game, you are the guy at the camp issuing the orders to the troops going out into the Vietnamese jungle. You are responsible for bringing all those men back alive while achieving your objective. This is an interesting emotional take on war games – but how will it transfer to the headset?
While VR tech will undoubtedly immerse yourself into the world of the 1960s and the Vietnam War, it is going to be intriguing to see how they justify the use of VR technology. The developers claim that this is a chance to really feel the events, with the ability to look around the tent, move tokens on a map and operate the radio. If this doesn’t sound quite as exciting as hopping on the helicopter and manoeuvring through the jungle with a weapon, you might be right. However, it will be interesting to see if the strategy and the intensity translate as the developer’s hope.
Another month in July has passed and still, we are combatting the strangest year for a century. For those in Virtual Reality, the events have proven as much of a threat as it has been for other sectors. However, unlike others, VR development, the pandemic offers many opportunities too. Here we explore the main headlines from July and reflect on another month in VRs progression to maturity as an industry.
Will people tire of Zoom?
One huge opportunity for VR developers is the need for space for people to meet that will allow social distancing. COVID-19 has stopped people going to work and to travelling internationally for business. Most companies have turned to providers like Zoom or Microsoft Teams but people have started to tire of feeling like a character from The Muppets Show. Online video calls will not be the long term solution to the need to interact with colleagues in a meeting space.
Therefore, if people do tire of Zoom, can VR developers offer something new and different that will resolve the frustrations that people feel? People want to be able to see each other in person, observing body language and being able to lean over the same piece of paper or see a reaction to the same media presentations.
A California-based startup is working to build what they call “the future of human computing with augmented reality and artificial intelligence”. This is a grand way of saying that they produce software that will allow business people to connect in headsets.
The company, AfterNow, is known for working with Microsoft and it is clear that MS will be glad to produce something to lessen Zoom’s hold on this space.
2021 and beyond
I think most people are looking for 2020 to end and the next year to begin. Looking for a clue to the future strategies for VR developers requires them to understand the data. Anyone taking a glance at the numbers will see that the short-term outlook for VR and AR might be difficult. As people cannot get to work or are short of job security, the idea of developing and investing in future tech seems unlikely. However, after the sector has ridden-out the immediate impact of the economic disruption there is a bright future waiting.
The findings from Strategy Analytics report shows that XR hardware revenues will exceed $28 billion each year by 2025. It also shows that the combined sales of AR and VR headsets will increase by a multiple of six by the same year. In 2021 and 2022 there will be an obvious comeback for headset tethered to smartphones, mostly because of the rise of 5G provision.
While everyone hoped that 2020 was the year, this vision might be delayed yet again – as it has been every year someone declared this the time of XR. However, as people are forced to socially distance, the virtual world suddenly becomes more inviting. This, as well as the rise of 5G, is seen as a reason for positivity in 2021 and beyond. Most suspect that it will be the light-weight consumer-friendly AR headset, rather than the more expensive gaming standard headsets.
New CEO for Magic Leap
Rony Abovitz has been replaced as CEO by the Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson. Johnson held the role of vice president of business development at Microsoft and she felt that this was the time to explore the possibility of spatial technology. She believes that amid this COVID-19 pandemic there is an opportunity for the sector.
Therefore, even though Magic Leap has been through some turbulent times recently. The company. Like many at this time, announced a significant number of redundancies. This was also marked by its move into the enterprise and hardware markets in April.
In August 2018, Magic Leap released the One Creator Edition Headset. It was met with positive critical reviews but shockingly slow sales. The Magic Leap 2 product has just never surfaced.
Johnson admits that the company is need of some advancement in this technological development and a second-generation headset should be a priority. However, it is likely her first priority will be to gather investment. The August 2018 release was preceded by a $1.8 billion fund-raising. Therefore, you sense that the same sort of investment would be needed.
Attracting a top exec like Peggy Johnson is positive for the remaining team at Magic Leap. It shows that the business model still has much to offer, even though the company has been through some troubling times. She started her position on August 1st – bringing her 30 years of experience to transform this enterprise.
Motion sickness and gender
One of the significant barriers to the success of virtual reality is motion sickness. It is also a reason why the gender gap will increase in this area, as women are more likely to suffer than men.
VR Heaven put together a survey, which polled 300 people. More than half admitted to experiencing motion sickness in VR – with nearly 15% of these saying most of the time. The survey also revealed a strong correlation with gender.
The lower quality of the headset the more likely people will struggle with headsets. Those using the Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR were more likely to struggle with motion sickness over those who used the Oculus Quest – so gender is not the only factor.
Developers of headsets claim that the problem of motion sickness can be overcome, as with practice and time the feelings often subside. Therefore, it might not be a matter of gender in biological terms but more than men are willing to persevere through the adverse effects and train their brain to deal with the effects/
The virtual reality world is still getting a boost from the need for social distance. People are taking to the headset for work and play. However, the epidemic has also scuppered the development of some of the major titles we are dying to see released. As with every part of our lives at the moment, the Virtual Reality sector is having its ups and downs. Let’s explore some of the specifics.
Go fishing together
You might not think that fishing is a social sport but if you have ever attended a tournament, you will know that it can get both competitive and interactive. Therefore, the lack of a multiplayer option in the game Real VR Fishing was a genuine letdown. Miragesoft had created a relatively solitary affair. However, the developer has just announced that a multiplayer update will be released in August.
This Real VR Fishing will be called the Together Edition and up to four players can enjoy the game together. You can customise your avatar and settle down together in some remote spot. There is a voice chat option to bring this social experiment to life.
Redesign of the Lynx R1 Headset
French start-up Lynx launched their first product in February. The headset allowed AR and VR experiences. The company have now revealed images of a new design with greater detail about the specs. The design is obviously sleeker, as the original was bulky and awkward looking. It is also based around a 4-fold catadioptric freeform prism. The company describe the new product as industrial – as it still includes a battery and weight at the back to counter-balance the goggles for comfort.
The price is a weighty $1500 and will be available from mid-August – but the specifications do seem something special.
And a possible Oculus Quest 2 headset
So there was a rumour a while back – a leak no less – that there was to be an Oculus Quest 2. Now, as images are released, the leak and rumour turn into news. The original Oculus Headset is only a year old but the photos of the new innovations seem to suggest that the new, improved model is on its way. There seems to be no inter-pupillary device (IPD) slider on the underside and the outer casing is plastic. There seems to be a piped audio built into the side of the headband.
You may have picked up that there is still no official confirmation from Oculus. However, the release of more images firms up the rumours and there seems some credibility to the leaks.
Proof of the rise of VR
Probably one of the more exciting pieces of news out is the extraordinary sales of Phantom: Covert Ops in the first month. The game has earned a stunning $1 million in revenue. It was the biggest release of the early summer, there is no doubt. The game may also have benefitted from the shelter-at-home orders around the globe. However, the release from nDreams for the Oculus Quest and Rift was a high-quality experience.
The CEO of nDreams is delighted by the record-setting revenue and admits that this is a strong sign for the development of virtual reality. O’ Luanaigh believes that VR has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and now game development appears as a commercially viable option. With this promise from nDreams, it seems we have a lot to look forward to in the future.
Interestingly, he was most pleased with the Quest version of the game, claiming that this headset is phenomenal. He seems to suggest that the Quest excites game developers and allows them to push the bounds of technology that little bit more.
Which headset does the Star Wars game developer recommend?
So, EA is soon to release Star Wars: Squadrons. The game is a spin-off from the main narrative, focused on the rebel squadrons that we were introduced to in Rebel One. The game is dogfighting in space and seems a perfect fit for VR. However, interesting, EA has had their say about which headset will work best with the game. The cockpit view will only work well with the PlayStation VR or the Oculus Rift. Although HTC Vive and Valve Index also carry the game, it is unusual for a developer to offer an opinion about which will work best.
Why EA recommended the PSVR or the Rift has not been fully explored. However, what is exciting is that the game enjoys controller. Joystick, and hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) support. It will feel exactly like you are in the cockpit.
Time for some home fitness
It is hard to imagine exercising seriously in a headset. Only a little bit of cardio will have you steaming. However, FitXR has released this home virtual fitness studio for the Oculus Quest. It makes sense that it is for the Quest, as it needs to work with a standalone headset, as being tethered would restrict movement.
The experience attempts to bring the energy of a live fitness class to your living room. This game is a follow up to the BoxVR game that was based around boxing-inspired workouts.
You will be glad to know that there are beginner classes. However, if you progress, you can take on the intermediate and advanced workouts. You will be helped by professional fitness instructors who have designed the sessions to be a whole-body workout.
There is a multiplayer functionality and the promise of live classes. There will definitely be on-demand classes, where you can take part in workouts that have been previously filmed. The whole point is to inspire people to exercise regularly, although the developers claim that fun is the central goal of the game.
Time moves on and something like reality is fighting to emerge, what has been happening in the world of VR? Here we update you on the latest news and offer some light relief from the serious headlines elsewhere.
Racket: NX update
Back in 2017 Racket: NX launched in early access and then unveiled its full version in 2018. For some, this game is already a VR classic. It is a fusion of tennis and breakout. You play in an immersive 360 world, focused on brick breaking with your tennis action. Now, this hidden gem of a game has had a major review and the update looks to bring many new features. What are they offering? Well, there is the option of co-op gaming, avatar customisation and in-game tournaments – so, in short, a whole new way to enjoy the game. There are also promises that it will likely be available on PSVR soon too.
It is strange that this game has only enjoyed moderate traction to date. It is a powerful concept for VR and one that should easily get the player addicted. It is hoping that these multi-player options and opportunities to play against the world will help raise the profile of an excellent game.
New Theatre Update for Social VR Platform vTime
A social VR platform could be just what we need in today’s world. A place where you can virtually sit down and chat with your mates is the perfect buddy to the physical distancing required when social closeness is necessary. The update to vTime includes a few theatre spaces where you can sit and watch sports programmes while interacting with your mates.
Before you get excited about inviting all your mates around to watch the next footie match, the concept is only just emerging. This is code for: there’s not much to watch yet! There are only a few select clips from Man City. However, the game developers promise they are in talks with some major sports franchises, which will allow you to watch some of the major clubs around the world.
The user interface in this social experience is simple. You enter and sit with your mates and watch sports together in your chosen environment. However, the complexity of the offering is commercial outreach to get the content that you can watch together.
Stock issues in the time of CoronaVirus
There has been a duel battle going on in the world of the VR supply chain. It is an epic battle that deserves its own computer game review all to itself. First, there is the boss problem of low supply, as crucial manufacturing areas closed down during stay-at-home periods. Second, there is the boss of a problem of increased demand, as people are looking for a means of escape from lockdown through virtual reality. The consequence? Oculus Quest and Rift S are in extremely short supply and any sales going ahead invite a 150% premium on the standard retail price.
As we write the stock levels are improving. Quest seems to have managed its backorders and stock levels are steady. Rift S is still in short supply but the backorders stand now at only two weeks. However, there is a warning attached to this, as supplies to the UK and US will continue to be challenged by the global health and economic conditions.
Although the current situation is a huge improvement on what happened early this year when it was impossible to get an Oculus headset, it is still patchy and frustrating for consumers. It is not surprising that there is disruption, but it is frustrating for industry stakeholders. At a time when demand is at its highest and the chance to elevate VR in the mainstream is presented, the supply chain breaks and the demand is struggling to be met.
DIY for the virtual world
For someone who is not so fond of DIY in the real world, it is mindblowing to know that there is a virtual experience of a woodworking workshop. One person’s idea of hell is another’s idea of heaven, and nothing is demonstrated more clearly than with vrshop. The selling point of the experience is that building something with your own two hands can be rewarding, though it can be messy and impractical if you don’t have the right space. In this VR experience, you will have the chance to learn some of the essentials of woodworking and test these out in the comfort and safety of your headset.
While this is a learning experience, vrshop is also an immersive and fun experience, where you can take on challenges to put together all sorts of items. It is currently released in early access with a free option with limited challenges and a paid option that allows you to build whatever you like. There is a scoring system, so we can call this a game. However, the use of handtools, different lumber and all the supplies you need is more than a competition, it is a chance to discover the wonder of working with wood.
Vrshop will leave early access in 2021 and there are already plans for updates that will include interactions and an opportunity to display your creations within a wider community. It almost inspires this DIY-hater to go virtual and get creative.
There has been a significant update to SteamVR that adds a dashboard button. Not so exciting, you might think. However, this button gives you the option to centre orientate and forward orientate your playspace. Previously, it has been a significant challenge to reorient yourself with the VR environment, so making the experience a little dizzying. By finally making it so much easier for the user to reorient and recentre the playspace, SteamVR has caught up.
To be fair to SteamVR, they are a platform that has been around since the earliest days of VR for the wider consumer. Therefore, they are often the first to look for a solution to the issues and problems raised by users.
The latest update of SteamVR, which is version 1.13, includes a new button – it is an icon of a person with an encircling it. You will see it close to the audio and setting buttons at the bottom of the screen. Click on this and it will keep you centred and moving forward. This is a useful tool for some games where you are expected to stand in a specific spot. For instance, in a driving game, you can take your seat in the car and know that the car is pointing in the right direction from the beginning. Also in sword games, by centring you in the screen, you make room for yourself in the playspace to be able to swing the weapon and make contact with the enemy.
It has been difficult for SteamVR to catch up with the likes of Oculus here because of the commitment they made to room-scale games. However, they have now found a solution that does not require a whole headset reset to achieve the same repositioning within the playspace.
Apple and AR?
So far, Apple has been largely distant from the world of extended reality. Unlike competitors like Samsung, they have not dived into the mix with much rigour. However, according to reports, Apple is now working to step up development on the semi-transparent AR Lense. The much discussed AR Headset is being developed with the Taiwan-based manufacturer Foxconn Technology. Reports suggest that the headset passed the prototype stage two months ago and has now moved into trial production.
There are only rumours about the name and logo of the headset that is thought to be timetabled for release in 2022. There is thought that it will be called Apple Glass. However, is, as usual, tight-lipped about future technology developments, so all this information relies on leaks and the odd bit of photography by interested parties.
Firmament game delayed beyond 2021
Cyan, who brought us the game Myst in 1993 and Riven in 1997 have been developing and trailing the creation of the game called Firmament. There was hope that this game would be ready this month but now it is thought such a release date was always going to be wildly optimistic. The developers have been known for its rapid output of games – but these tended to be puzzled-based adventures and nothing with the depth that they suggested Firmament would have. The predictions from Cyan are that it will be early 2022 when the game will be ready.
To be fair to the developers, this is a sound strategy. Too often companies set a release date and then do all they can to meet it. The early releases of games – and indeed some of the updates that come soon after – are dissatisfying experiences full of glitches and holes in the gameplay. By being realistic, the company will deliver a fully evolved gaming experience from the get-go. If the game is the richer and more substantial story that is promised, then it will need the time for the technical evolution of the world being created to be fully imagined. These things don’t come quickly – so we should happily wait for the release.
Microsoft Flight Simulator on VR?
Could there be a more perfect gaming scenario for virtual reality? You put on your headset, take your seat, and take the controls of an aeroplane. So, it would seem logical for Microsoft to offer a VR supported experience when releasing its Microsoft Flight Simulator. However, no such offering was brought forward on release in 2019 and a year later we are still waiting for this development.
It seems there is some news emerging on when we will get probably one of the most wished-for items in VR development. The launch date has been set for August 18th and pre-orders are now being taken. However, the company are still only promising VR support as a post-launch item for development. Therefore, although there are hints we might get to sit inside the cockpit in virtual reality, there is still no certainty about when.
The problem? It was never Microsoft’s plan to release the experience in VR. It is only mounting pressure from insiders and VR geeks that have put this item on their agenda. Therefore, although they have the desire to offer a VR gaming experience, they have no wish to commit to a timeline of producing it.
07/01/2020 – 07/07/2020
The world of 2020 continues to be a strange place. Reality, in all its multi-dimensional best, is so weird that the virtual reality environment feels almost predictable. As has been the case for a few months now, the pandemic and the economic and political context offers both threats and opportunities. Here we offer the latest news, helping you understand what is hot and not in VR. It might just help you find your route to escape these crazy times.
Extended Reality (XR) and 5G Advertising
At the end of June, Verizon Media announced the launch of Verizon Media Immersive. This is an online XR platform that is designed for advertisers to produce content that will be powered by 5G. There will be a mix of AR, VR and MR on offer, as the platform gives partners and customers of Verizon media to create experiences rather than advertisements. The visualisation of the product and the opportunity to interact must be seen as a game-changer for brands that rely on exciting emotion in the buyer.
CEO Guru Gowrappan, claims that the use of the latest AR and VR capabilities will help brands to “connect and engage with consumers in a more impactful and interactive way.” On offer are 360 experiences, 3D visualisations, and Hollywood-quality content all delivered by 5G media.
GIGXR and their immersive learning system
The debates over whether children and young people should be back in schools, colleges and universities are growing bitter. There are exchanges between politicians and academic experts are fraught with emotion and then heightened by threats and recrimination. There is no argument that being in the learning environment is essential to mental health, social well-being and educational outcomes. However, the safety of the children, staff and wider community cannot be traded away for a return to normality too soon.
GIGXR provides extended reality (XR) learning systems that could help relieve some of the pressure that is building in the debate. By Fall, or autumn, 2020, the company hope to provide the GIG Immersive Learning System ready for the northern hemisphere schools to begin their academic year.
The system provided is cloud-based and attempts to enhance the learning experience by offering real-life teaching and training scenarios, as well as interaction between the educator and the student that is seen as so vital.
The platform includes an environment for remote and socially distanced learning using 3D mixed reality devices. There is the infrastructure to run applications that could include instructor content creation and holographic content management. Much of this product development has increased in speed due to the COVID-19 crisis and the need for imaginative solutions to our current dilemmas.
VR and virus detection
Imagine if you could walk into a room, look around and clearly see all the surfaces that were infected with the virus. Our invisible enemy would suddenly become apparent and we would be able to do all we could to disinfect and avoid further contamination. This was the problem that the Luminous Group sought to solve using mixed reality technology.
Cold and damp indoor areas, such as meatpacking plants, have proven to be the optimum environment for the spread of coronavirus. Therefore, food manufacturers more than any other need technology that will help them to identify and track contamination. In so doing, they would help to reduce the risk to workers first, then to the business second. Any break out of disease would ultimately lead to a period where the factory shut down and no business can maintain viability in such conditions.
Therefore, the traXR technology from Luminous Group aims to track high-risk pathogens, extending this to include COVID-19. The aim of the software is to efficiently track virus on surfaces.
Helping bring drugs to the market
There is a certain irony about a shutdown. First, it stops the virus spreading. However, it also stops stakeholders interacting closely to bring about a vaccine or a medication. Therefore, there is an inherent contradiction between short-term and long-term safety against a disease. Consequently, there is a need for technology to help with the complex process of bringing a drug to market.
Apprentice site deployments have increased by a factor of six since the beginning of the heightened, global crisis in March. These secure platforms have enabled pharma teams and experts to interact remotely while still perceiving that they are developing the product in the lab.
It is not just about solving the current crisis either. Apprentice solutions have been used to help maintain the supply chains of other drugs. Cancer treatments, for instance, and diabetes drugs, all need the interaction of professionals for successful delivery to those that are most in need.
The company have received a $7.5 million boost from a private equity firm to assist in the scaling of the company’s efforts. The regulatory-compliant solution using AI and machine learning could really boost efforts to streamline pharma manufacture processes. The Apprentice.io platform uses augmented reality as part of an end-to-end solution for batch execution for the life sciences. If you can imagine the complexities of finding the virus, then add to this the difficulty of delivering this solution of over 8 billion people. This is the pain point that Apprentice.io as an intelligent software platform is helping to resolve.
The Virtual World of June
We seem to be called this time the ‘new normal’. The suggestion behind this term is that we should not expect anything to go back to the way things used to be. However, the truth is that there is nothing normal about the world we are living in. While we may have come used to restrictions delivered by lockdown, these won’t last forever. However, what will change is our understanding of risk as we enter the real world. Even though people might go back to schools, go to museums and visit their doctors again, there is a definite pressure on business and tech to rethink the world post-lockdown.
VR in the workplace
One of the significant challenges for companies is to build an empowered remote workforce. With social distancing and waves of pandemic likely to be a reality of our lives for the coming years, we are unlikely to want to draw all our workers under the same roof. Equally, why would we want to now we know that our workers can deliver results from their homes? The cost of running a business would be dramatically reduced without the need for a central HQ and all the attached money needed to run such real estate.
There are all sorts of tools emerging from the tech world to aid this remote working and improve the experience of liaising apart. Virtual Reality headsets do have a part of play in this. While chatbots can answer employee queries on the spot, the interpersonal interaction that brings creative and dynamic energy to meetings needs something more specialist. The use of VR allows your experts to be in the room together and to immerse themselves in the issue at hand. It will help them to be more present in the moment of exploration of an agenda.
However, some companies will need to reach further into the tech bubble if they are to survive in a COVID-19-like world. The pursuit of AI in the arena of customer experience is a whole new level of challenge. How can you offer real-time personalised experiences while garnering greater customer satisfaction?
VR in education
Making sure our kids get the education they need to thrive in life has to be a significant priority for all of us. However, there is an awful contradiction. You want to keep your child safe from all risk but there is now an innate risk in gathering in groups. Therefore, the compromise answer is seen to be technology. The EdTech companies are looking to offer platforms and apps that allow high-quality education to enter the home. In short, parents need a home-schooling tool that will replicate the experience of going to school with peers and with a qualified professional leading the learning.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily take a VR environment to simulate this experience. There are more than a thousand companies looking to provide IT-based solutions of one kind or another to this market. However, the silver bullet of tech is the provision of an educational experience that is so immersive that parents can leave their child to learn while they continue to work from home. There are massive companies working on the problem, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, the BBC and Pearson, amongst others. There are also a host of start-ups leaping into this space, including Learning People, Komodo Learning, Firefly Learning and more.
The EdTech sector is worth billions. The hope is that engineers can find a way to code an experience that will alleviate any disadvantage that arises when learning relies on tech. It will be interesting to see if the VR specialists can bring something unique to the space that offers such equal opportunities.
VR in culture
Another key issue of June has been the Black Lives Matters campaign in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. You might think that this has limited relevance to the world of VR. However, we want to suggest that VR could offer a route to an enlightened understanding of our history without the need to put controversial figures of a pedestal.
We are talking about the role of VR in bringing the world of the museum to a much wider audience. Imagine if statues like Colston in Bristol, Rhodes in Oxford or a thousand other tributes that scatter the world were gathered in a 360-degree virtual environment where the context of these men’s lives was brought into focus. It might be possible then to put these historical figures side by side with important characters in Black History, such as Olaudah Equiano who wrote a book about his life as a slave, which was published in 1789. Equally, figures such as Nelson Mandela could be explored, from all perspectives, for the complexity of a full life lived.
VR offers an excellent opportunity for history to be held in place without the need to memorialize and venerate people with flaws as well as virtues. Colston may have been a philanthropist who helped to build Bristol, but he was also a slave trader who was responsible for the imprisoning and death of thousands of black people. Neither version of this man should be forgotten – and VR could help us learn the lessons.
VR in healthcare
VR has always offered healthcare a powerful tool for training, innovation, and modelling. Therefore, it is no surprise the UK health-sector has again taken the fight to a deadly disease using technology. The sector has attracted £6.2 billion from global venture capital investors and health tech is now the second biggest subset of the UK tech sector after financial services. This has been helped by a £1.25 billion investment from the UK Chancellor, who has ring-fenced £500 million to go to hi-tech companies that might become tomorrow’s unicorns.
06/15/2020 – 06/20/2020
Star Wars Wonders VR
This week has been dominated by the release of a trailer for the new Star Wars game. Anything Star Wars usually sets a little bit of a ripple through the gaming world. However, why we are excited is that this new game with offer VR compatibility across the whole experience. Therefore, the mention of Star Wars, Squadrons and VR together gets our pulse racing a little more.
The idea of piloting a fighter ship in a Star Wars title might have you worried about comfort levels, but let’s set this aside for a minute. Can you imagine having a 360-degree perspective while in an intergalactic dog fight – the promise of the battle mode and single-player missions are so full of potential that we can’t imagine? We love the fact that there is a fighter school, that you can fly different models of ships include a bomber and an interceptor. More than anything, we are intrigued by the dogfight mode.
And, yes, it’s true – there is a multiplayer mode where you can battle against your buddies. We can’t wait.
Being vulnerable in the time of COVID
Focusing on vulnerable people in the time of COVID-19 might sound like an odd topic for a virtual reality news review. Young people under threat is an unfortunate side effect of living in the real world and not the virtual one. However, VR does offer some exciting possibility with collaboration tools that could help these children seek more immersive support.
When children go to school every day it is to learn and pass exams, but it is also to be seen and be noticed pastorally. What this means is that the school offers an essential social safety net for those children who need to be kept safe. With the school closed, there is no way the child can seek support or let it be known that home is no longer safe for them.
This week social network vTime have revealed their collaboration with The Cornerstone Partnership. The aim is to provide vital social care intervention with vulnerable children across the UK. The Cornerstone Partnership is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of children and their families. The hope is that work with VTime will offer a service where youngsters can meet with a professional in a virtual therapeutic session. As the VR world is so present and powerful, the child will feel supported and held at that moment. Equally, it might be, with the help of gesture tools, that the support worker will be able to assess vital clues from body language.
This virtual respite will not replace the person-to-person contact that is so vital to the lives of children. However, in time when we have few options, this seems like a good one.
Paintball team building
Are you missing that office interaction with your work buddies? We don’t mean the chat by the cooler. We mean those times when you are sent off to a wood near your HQ and given permission to imagine taking out your colleague with a sniper shot. It’s all good clean fun, right? Well, until the boss gets ambushed on all sides by the admin pool.
This week in June has seen an avalanche of virtual reality games announced – and first-person shooter games are a popular option. However, the Indie developer has taken the idea of paintballing to the virtual world and it sounds like outstanding fun to us.
Snapshot VR is a game that hopes to bring professional paintball tournaments to the fore using immersive gameplay. The game puts you into teams of 5 and then sets you going in an arena with an average of 45 seconds to win. It is kinda frantic. The aim is to eliminate the other team by hitting their buzzer – and there are no respawns, no armour and no special razzle-dazzle to help. You just need to be an outstanding shot.
If this all sounds a little basic to you, don’t be fooled. The game provides stats to help you perfect your tactics and bring strategy to the frantic shooting mess. You will be able to evaluate the performance of players and identify the bunkers that offer the most effective shooting advantage. There is also variety built-in with the types of obstacles and other debris that is scattered about the arena, including snakes!
You can see where this is going! There is hope that there will be a national league where players can rise up the ranks.
We all know that running on a treadmill is super boring. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before there was going to be a virtual running machine to help you run in the most glorious settings. KAT VR is producing a room-scale virtual reality experience to immerse you in the running experience. The piece of kit being developed is called the KAT Walk C, which is an omnidirectional treadmill. IT was produced with the help of crowdfunding and the latest details of the campaign were released this week with the release of the early bird price list.
Even getting in on the action first will cost you a massive $700 for one piece of kit for one VR experience. However, step inside the mind of a game developer. Imagine the possibilities for a game that can be controlled through a treadmill. Although the natural application is for fitness, the expansion of the idea of movement in games is exciting, to say the least.
06/8/2020 – 06/14/2020
Scientists back VR for exercise
A study by leading sports scientists from Brunel and Exeter University claim that using a VR headset allows you to enjoy exercising harder and for longer. The study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology noted that people lose themselves when exercising in a computer-simulated environment with music.
The experts from the two universities worked with the virtual games’ creators VirZOOM to see how much Virtual Reality increases the pleasure people feel and how much the user loses themselves in the exercise – or lose exercise consciousness, as the scientists label it.
In the study, 24 volunteers used exercise bikes. 26.4% of those in the VR environment called the experience enjoyable, compared to 17.5% who only had music. Why is this so important? Well, if we are experiencing pleasure our mental bandwidth available to process our fatigue is reduced in the virtual world, as our sense are immersed in the environment.
Report predicts $120.5 billion industry
A report from Fortune Business Insight forecasts that the Virtual Reality (VR) market is to touch $120.5 billion by 2026. The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is set to be 42.2% during this six-year period. This represents a significant increase from $7.3 billion, which was the value of the market in 2018.
What is the market driver? It is not surprising that healthcare applications are accelerating market growth. The tech is being employed to train surgeons, with studies show that training with VR improved performance by 230%. More promising is the evidence for the use of VR in the rehabilitation of children suffering from complex disorders.
Most exciting is the report’s conclusion that the scope for innovation in this market is broad and deep. Most in the sector now are investing in VR to augment their R and D capabilities. However, there are some other exciting developments – such as the climate change app modelling the outcomes of climate change over the next 100 years. Then there is the opportunity to use VR for self-directed learning.
Before you leap in with both feet and your wallet in hand, Grand View Research offers a much more conservative estimate. They claim that the CAGR will be 21.6% from 2020 to 2027 and it will reach $62.1 billion. Still impressive and worthy of anyone’s attention, though they see the market drivers as artificial intelligence and automation – with companies using the tech to simulate new innovations in their sector.
The evolution of VR and the user
According to TechRadar, VR has gone from “silly retro tech to developer kit to full-blown cultural phenomenon overnight.” Quite a claim – and the for a standard user of technology this change must be baffling. Oddly, VR tech is much more intuitive than it seems – and anyone who feels left behind will be surprised by how straightforward it is to use.
However, TechRadar offers a helpful guide for those who might feel baffled. They help you understand the difference between the VR and playing a computer game on a TV – with a clever exploration of the difference between 180-degree and 360-degree view. It explains stereoscopy and the health consequences of using VR.
Where is gaming going?
VR and AR have promised much to gaming – and the intrigue about what might happen next with this technology and gaming has increased since the mind-blowing popularity of Pokémon Go.
One of the most popular games for developers using AR and VR are the first and third-person shooters. Games such as Counterstrike and Fortnite are breaking records on standard platforms and they offer a natural opportunity to progress onto a VR platform. However, these shooter games are not really shaping the future of VR and the experience of a shooter game in VR is not that different.
Role-playing games might be improved by VR, especially big open-world games like Skyrim. It will be interesting to see if VR developers can add value to virtual reality. Equally, sports games have an opportunity to do well in VR. Imagine being the quarterback in an NFL game. There is a significant purpose for the use of VR in this scenario and is not just VR for VR sake.
Casino Games are thought to have some opportunity for doing something different. Casinos have always been at the forefront of tech development and VR offers an opportunity for the gambler to immerse themselves in the environment. Imagine playing a hand of poker at a virtual reality table, where you can see the facial expressions and tics of the other players. These 360 experiences would genuinely enhance the experience rather than just be a flashy extra.
VR and E-sports
Upset by the idea of Esports superstars being called athletes? Well, Esports is a phenomenon and worth millions. The top players earn a fortune and must practice daily to be accepted onto the top teams. However, you might be happier to call these virtual sports stars athletes if they were asked to compete in a virtual world. The Esportz Network noted that VR could offer a new Esports experience, demanding a higher level of hand/ eye coordination and greater physical and mental fitness.
If you wonder how this would work for the audience – well it’s called cross-reality. The spectators can view the world on a television screen as it is seen by the competitor while watching the physical reactions of the player.
06/1/2020 – 06/07/2020
Train to be an astronaut
With the latest SpaceX launch, which saw two American astronauts leave for the International Space Station from US soil, there is much excitement. The focus and desire to be amongst the stars has been reignited.
Boeing is part of the drive to get people into space and they plan to give astronauts some next-gen training using VR gear. Those crewmembers preparing to fly the new CST-100 Starliner Capsule from Boeing are preparing using VR headsets provided by Varjo, a company based in Finland. The VR-2 devices will help to simulate the experiences of space travel for the astronauts, mapping out every moment of the mission from the ground to the space station.
The use of VR allows the astronauts to interact virtually with all the controls on the capsule in real-time. In turn, this will produce valuable data that will inform better practice when undertaking the real mission. Varjo hope that the high res and high-fidelity headset will revolutionise the training of future pilots, boosting their effectiveness while limiting potential costs.
Is there potential damage to health?
Although the Association of Optometrists have been clear they have seen no evidence that VR headsets could damage your eyesight, one software developer has raised the possibility in a recent Tweet. The developer claims that wearing VR headsets for hours each day has caused irreversible damage to his eyesight. Although the damage can be corrected with glasses, the developer was warned that this was something more likely to be needed after your fortieth birthday.
Oculus has always been open about the potential for wearing a VR headset to have side effects. They note in their handbook that one in 4000 people may struggle with dizziness, seizures or eye problems. Oculus then go on to recommend discontinuing use of the headset and seeking advice from a doctor.
Some doctors do claim that VR requires us to process visual stimuli in a different way to normal and could lead to eyestrain. Equally, some struggle to use the sets at all because they suffer debilitating motion sickness.
Virtual Reality Casino Visits
Online casinos have been a thing for decades now. Since the 1980s, people have been offering gambling experiences on the internet. The slot industry alone is worth billions.
Yet, there is still something more special about visiting a brick-and-mortar casino. Unlike online shopping, gambling is still better done in person. A casino is an immersive experience filled with sights and sounds that come together to build anticipation and excitement. Although more money is spent gambling in online casinos, people still desire that special occasion in the room with the live event.
Live-action games are available online and these could become even more immersive with the help of devices like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It is predicted that with the help of VR headsets, online live-action games of cards, roulette or dice could become the next nail in the coffin of the real-world buildings. To compete, land-based casinos are introducing VR gaming rooms, which will allow live-action games with people around the world. So, maybe, it is not a case of one experience over another but using the tech to its fullest in whatever environment.
Blended learning and VR
Many large education institutions are being forced to offer distance learning as a real alternative. In the current COVID-19 environment, it is no longer safe to crowd 200+ students into a lecture space to deliver the learning in person. There have been debates for a while about the validity of this as an approach to delivering higher education, even before the threat of a pandemic. There has been an increasing drive for what is called blended learning. Here the world of face-to-face learning is blended with opportunities to expand your skills and understanding online.
ORBIS Market Reports have released a study that suggests that virtual reality in the education sector could reach its heights by 2025. The company have curated all the significant information regarding the major market players and explored the likely growth. Top players in the sector are likely to be Unimersiv, Google, VR Education Holdings, Alchemy VR, Discovery VR and ZSpace. The reports also explore the likely trends and an estimation of market volume, which shows an impressive spike in growth in the next five years.
VR in the months ahead
Are you looking to keep up with the latest VR trends? Well, you wouldn’t be alone – and nothing can be more challenging than predicting the future in 2020. However, let’s give it a go.
The thought is that campaign-mode video games will soon be a reality in VR. One of the major stumbling blocks for any developer looking to explode into the VR space is that there is only currently the option for single-player gameplay. All the mega-titles in the gaming world allow for you to play with your friends. Therefore, it is thought that the next big innovation to come in the next iteration of VR is the ability to step into each other’s virtual world.
Also, with social distancing being a real problem, VR offers an opportunity for simulation of real-life spaces. For instance, if you are building inspector asked to work from home, a VR headset would be your essential toolkit. It is also possible to train people in inspections using real environments projected through the headset.
Finally, talking about working from home in the world of a pandemic, virtual meetings are already a thing. However, the chance to interact with your workmates and work together in a specific environment is limited on Zoom. Imagine taking your online meeting to a virtual reality space – it could make your commute completely unnecessary!