Immersive News Round-Up August 2019 (part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of August’s Immersive News Round-Up!  If you read part 1 you will know how action packed the month began!  So this time I thought it would be helpful for you if I categorised this blog into sections.  I will call-out that this is subjective to what I would term as items belonging to each category so scan the other areas in case something of interest to you is hiding elsewhere because of my sorting skills!!!

Alrighty then, let’s go []-)

Immersive Market News:

Holographic content company investment success via Tipatat

VR is a turning point for the Spa & Wellness industries via Forbes

Rec Room is now accessible via iPhone and iPad via Shawn Whiting

6D.ai are partnering with Qualcomm to create shared experiences between HMD & Smartphones for the first time (including ability to support android devices now!) via 6D.ai

AltspaceVR comes to Oculus Quest on 12th September via AltspaceVR

SideQuest has more active users reported than that of the Rift.  Developers and players alike are flocking to this store for content via SideQuestVR

Respects:

Nate Mitchell, last remaining co-founder at Oculus leaves via Nate Mitchell

MRTV YouTube Kickstarter campaign is a success 

Jaroslav Beck (Co-Founder of Beatsaber) gives back to the community via Jaroslav Beck

AR Content:

6d.ai 3D model advancements via Matt Miesnieks

Can you tell the difference between a real sandwich and an AR one via Helen Papagiannis, Ph.D

Interesting use of LightSpace AR app to retrace your steps via Bobby Carlton

VR Content:

No Man’s Sky released in VR via Loki Eliot

West World Awakening comes to VR via West World HBO

Community member Phased Dragon manages to get Google Lens to work inside VR via Educators In VR

Immersive Art & Design Content

Rec Room Marker creations via Shawn Whiting

Rec Room 2D art Contest via Shawn Whiting

VR Chat user created space via Lakuza

VR Artists share their processes via Kent Bye

VR Dev:

How to build virtual worlds as a new form of self expression via Ryan Schultz

Google Sign language AI turns hand gestures into speech via Optomize Ltd

VRTK version 4 needs your support via The Stone Fox

Oculus Insight AI Tracking explanation video via Oculus

VR Hardware:

VR treadmill via Evan Kirstel

Feel Real sensory mask breaks their silence with an update via Feel Real

Sad news that the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 doesn’t support the Samsung Gear VR Headset.  This could see the beginning of the end for the Samsung Gear VR.

In the same article, from UploadVR, the same scenario has happened with the new Google Pixel 3a not supporting Daydream either.

VR Events:

This month I attended & presented in virtual reality Disneyland thanks to Chuck Webster’s Disney Data Analytics & Immersive tech event in Altspace!

Bigscreen releases a Modern Cinema with launch party via Bigscreen VR

Lindsey Stirling performs live as a virtual reality avatar thanks to WaveXR via Andy Fidel 

Opportunities:

HTC Vive The Global Accelerator Program accepting applications until the end of September

Panel opportunity to showcase use cases in enterprise & beyond via Myra B

Unity Student Ambassador Program accepting applications via Unity

Showcase your Start-Up at SXSW Pitch 2020.  Deadline 15th November via Amy Peck

Podcasts & Talks

John Carmack appears on the Joe Rogan Podcast via John Carmack

XR for Business – publishing 3 podcasts a week now so you are spoiled for choice here!

Further reading/resources:

Using Immersive Tools & Spatial Networks (Social VR & Social AR) for Education & Remote Teaching by Andy Fidel

Walmart CEO says that VR Training saved lives in El Paso shooting via Stanford VR

Female Disruptors Site Launched via Navah Berg

Research:

How do we further advance the science of therapeutic VR? via Brennan Spiegel, MD

Bit of personal news as well from me – I’m a published author!

How VR helps with Mental Health via Kier Simmons

Other news:

Women who are long serving, respected, talented and admired in the gaming/tech industry have made serious accusations of sexual harassment & assault dating back several years.  The Gaming industry is experiencing its own ‘Me Too’ movement.  Sadly the virtual reality community is not untouched as Oculus Co-Founder, Michael Antonov, is also accused too.  This is NOT OK.  Although I am pleased to see the reactions of the entire community coming together to comfort and support the brave women who are voicing what happened to them.

A number of job vacancies this month have started to specify a need for virtual & augmented reality market awareness for their candidate required skills via Suzanne Lee & Cameron Brown

Phew – fantastic to see so much hard work, collaborations and progress happening across the industry!  I’m seriously going to have to figure out how to anchor sections in this blog or perhaps even break these fortnightly blogs down into sub sections eg go back to a category a page again!!!

Thanks for reading!  Take care and see you again in 2 weeks time []-)
Suzanne

Immersive News Round-Up August 2019 (part 1)

The schools might be out but the immersive community are definitely in!  Everyone is working hard to bring us some action packed updates this month!  There’s actually so much going on that I’ve decided to split this monthly round-up into 2 parts – a mid-month update and then another end of month update.

(AR Hardware) NReal AR glasses due to launch early 2020

(VR Market) BigScreen VR to launch on Playstation VR in 2020:

(AR Content) DoodleLens 1.2 is released so now you can animate your drawings in AR too!  Nice work!

(AR Content) A really cool looking AR Book Effect

(Health VR: Research) VR Memory palaces – “We found that virtual memory palaces in HMD condition provide a superior memory recall ability compared to the desktop condition.” I (Suzanne)  quoted this research paper in my Springer Series contribution called Biomedical Visualisation volume 3 which is due for release later this month.  Its such a fascinating area and my VR for dementia work that I do with Pivotal Reality falls into this perfectly.

(Virtual Reality equipment/hardware) VR bungee is now a thing and it looks like fun!

(VR Content Creation) YouTube’s VR Creator Lab is open to applicants!  I looked at this when it came to London last month.  Note that one of the conditions is that you need to 10k subscribers to apply…  On that note… don’t forget to check out & sub my YouTube channel…!  ;-D ty

(Immersive Market) 5 Ways Technology is Transforming the Healthcare Industry [Infographic]

(AR Hardware) Leap Motion’s North Star is the DK1 of AR: hands-on preview and how to buy it!

(AR Filters/content) Body Tracking AR filters

(VR Hardware Market) Zuckerberg to Shareholders: ‘Quest is selling as fast as we can make them’

(AR design/hardware) AR Glasses could offer hands-free communication without saying a word

(VR Software) Couple of months ago a metaverse working group did a field test for traversing disparate virtual worlds to see how they interconnect.  I absolutely love this and think it is an important design mechanic that we should be looking at for connectivity & accessibility purposes!  It’s a fascinating read []-)

(VR Event) OC6 registration is now live!  I can’t go so if you are going to attend then make sure you all tweet content out for me… pretty please!  I’ll look to see if there will be a VR event somewhere to cover the livestream and join in that way for now perhaps…

(VR Event) So Tenacious D went a played a live concert in VR thanks to Oculus Venues and I went along!!!  What a belter, loved it and yes, I will be going to more concerts & events like this in VR.  So should you too!

If you are interested in a re-cap of the Tenacious D concert then I create this YouTube video.  No actual concert footage was allowed but I felt it was important to document this special moment in history in some fashion so that was the rationale behind this video.

(Immersive Resources & Insight & advertising) The Immersive Directory launched the first wave of their blog series!  I am totally honoured to report that I was one of the first contributors alongside so many talented others!

(AR Developer Support) I honestly like the personal touch of this next piece.  The MagicLeapers are lending out a helping hand to the developer community by providing their Open Hours with Developer Relations Programme.  I know of some others who could perhaps benefit from adopting that style of relationship building and support.

(VR Design) Embodying taller avatars can make us feel more confident in real life

(AR content creation) Facebook wants Quill to be a one-stop shop for VR animators

(VR use case) The Future of Virtual Reality in the Workplace – a topic close to my heart!  The ability to connect with people as an embodied presence within a virtual environment is pretty magical.  That’s the reason I am such an advocate of social VR!!  Being able to connect with you wherever you are whilst I am sitting in Scotland is mind-blowingly awesome!!!

(AR Content) AR being used at the Tate Museum to help bring the stories about the pieces of art to life for attendees

(AR Content) Can we bring back famous scientists from history as virtual tutors telling us about how they thought about their discoveries?  Sooooo cool right?!

(Immersive Market Insight) Apple has posted job vacancies for AR & VR positions!  Speculation is for Apple branded AR Glasses to be released in 2020/2021 but we will see… 

(AR Hardware) Startup Human Capable’s ‘Norm Glasses’ AR Smartglasses Are Like Google Glass in a Regular Pair of Shades

(VR Content) A VR comic experience coming soon! I’m interested in seeing this a) because I think the idea of a virtual comic experience is ace and b) because they  mention that they use Quill 2.0 and I only recently found out about Quill from the tweet quoted above in  this blog.  So that’s quite exciting!

(VR Health: Research) How VR is helping a girl with chronic pain in having a better life

(VR Content) Man oh man, I love this next one.  Differently Fast is a competitive game that you need to check out.  It is indeed different but absolutely beautifully different in that you are competing to be the fasted at wheelchair racing.  I love this so much and don’t even get me started on the inclusive side of things ❤

(Immersive use cases) How AR VR will disrupt the travel & photography industry via Tech for Travel’s How Smart Tech is Improving Your Travel Blog

(VR Health: Research) Surgical Training Validation Study at UCLA

(VR Market) Sad to hear that Vreal has shut up shop.  Wishing everybody involved all the best with their next steps.

(VR Creation, Design & Developer Resource) VR Production considerations, questions to consider, UX, costs

(VR Showcase/Use Case) Acadicus is a virtual learning platform that allows anyone to teach and learn in VR by providing everything needed to access, create and share content created by instructors.

(VR Health: Research) Future of Neuroscience & VR report that was compiled by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

(VR Hardware/Controllers) The etee VR controllers from a company called TG0 can detect where a user’s fingers are and how much pressure is being applied

(AR Market / Use case) Google AR Maps has started rolling out on Android and iOS

(VR Metaverse / Software / Design) Kim Nevelsteen wants to create the Metaverse by offering the glue to connect already existing online virtual worlds

(VR Research / publication opportunity) Submit your research to a forthcoming special section of the British Journal of Educational Technology

(AR Market / Insight) Snap to raise $1 billion to invest in AR, possible acquisitions

(AR Hardware) Moving beyond traditional fitness trackers that you wear on your wrists, the FORM Swim Goggles actually bring AR to you during your swim

(AR Content / Creation) Create a VR tour of your classroom using a regular phone + Google Street View App + Google Tour Creator

I told you this month has already been action packed!  Is there anything here that particularly caught your eye?  I purposely embedded the tweets to share my sources with you so that you can pursue more out for yourself.  If, however, you ever want to get in touch so that readers can hear about your immersive product, service, tools, tricks, resources, publications then by all means please do get in touch!  I am here to showcase the immersive industry after-all, well VR is my passion but I do love it’s cousins too and to be honest, I don’t see too many other places helping to shine a light on immersive tech so why not me, right?!

Thanks for tuning in, take care & see you all again in 2 weeks time.
Suzanne

Immersive News Round-Up July 2019

The Immersive Industry, like the weather, is heating up!  It’s been a while since I created and published a News Round-Up blog post but this month, or last week really I have noticed a spike of activity that I feel is worth sharing with you all.

(Accelerator) WXR Accelerator closes at the end of this month
If your XR/Spatical Computing or AI company has a female founder or gender diverse leadership team then you should check out this 12 week accelerator opportunity out!

I’ve followed this initiative from the beginning, my 1st blog with Suzanne Showcasing VR was about attending the live pitching session for the 1st Cohort in AltSpaceVR! I applied for the 2nd Cohort myself and would recommend submitting an application because even if you are rejected you receive valuable feedback that helps you to improve.

(VR Content) Amazon launches Prime Video VR for Oculus Go, Quest & Gear

(VR Content) Rejected Oculus Quest game, Jigsaw360, becomes the 1st paid side-loaded Quest game.

(Social VR) Bigscreen VR releases 50+ new free VR channels plus has 6000 users registered for the live streaming of the SpaceX Dragon launch

(Social VR) Oculus Venues comes to Oculus Quest with new events such as Tenacious D live in concert

(VR Gaming) World Cyber Games VR Championship – 18th-21st July 2019

(Dev) Launch of Nreal’s platform in beta for developing mixed reality experiences

More information can be found using this link

(Accelerator) Oculus Launch Pad applications are open
For more information and to apply check out this link

(Book) Creating Augmented & Virtual Realities book released

(Events/SocialVR) I co-hosted Sharing Memories in Virtual Reality with Andy Fidel in AltSpaceVR

(Art) Rosie Summers publishes her amazing Tiltbrush ‘My Reality’ masterpiece

(Funding) Knight Foundation offers $750k in Grants for Immersive Tech in the Arts

More information and to apply please see this link

(Tools/Dev) Gravity Sketch now available on Oculus Quest

(Podcast) XR Business with Alan Smithson and Tony ‘SkarredGhost’ Vitillo

Listen to this inspiring podcast to hear more about the XR/Spatial Computing market and the wonders of haptics using this link

(Soon to Launch) VR for Education’s Engage platform to coming to the Oculus Quest

I had the honour of trying it out prior to the public Quest release and made a virtual tour for you!

Bigscreen VR Brings 50 Free Channels To Enjoy Inside The Metaverse!

Exciting news this week from our friends at Bigscreen who have announced an amazing 50+ channels to enjoy in their virtual reality app either by yourself or with friends.  For those who don’t know, Bigscreen was founded in 2014 and publicly launched in March 2016.  I first tried it out using my Oculus Gear headset but the platform has grown in every single way since then!

So, what exactly is Bigscreen VR?
It is a virtual reality experience that allows you to watch TV shows, films, play games or ability to share your desktop for streaming purposes to view on their massive IMAX style cinema screens.  Meaning that you are able to enjoy shows and movies with your friends and family from anywhere in the world.  You can also play games together, work together or just hang out together.  Making it a very cool social VR experience!

If you have never tried any social VR platforms then experiencing things like this can be a little daunting at first.  However, when you first log in to Bigscreen (after registering etc) you are brought into your very own private living room.  It’s big luxurious space that is welcoming with noticeable signs of bling such as your robotic hoover doing the rounds but the massive flatscreen TV on your wall is the main focal point.  Obviously!  In other words, as a first time user you will not be thrown in at the deep end with anybody else.  It’s relaxing and quite exciting to see your new space!  Once you are accustomed and ready to explore outside your living room you bring up your menu to search the options available to you.

From here you are able to browse through the various shows/movies, how many people are in each room already or you can jump through the different locations available to get even more accustomed by yourself if you wish.  The choice is yours.  For those who are a dab hand, perhaps scheduling your own VR screening event is something that interests you, well of course you can do that using this menu option too!

Sounds amazing but how do I do it?
Bigscreen VR can be accessed by all major virtual reality HMDs (Head Mounted Displays/Headsets) – eg Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear, Valve Index, HP Reverb, all SteamVR & Windows Mixed Reality headsets are supported.

How much does it cost?
It’s all free!!!  There’s no subscription costs, no ticket prices, no upfront lump sum, nothing!  Plus you are guaranteed the best seat in the house every single time!  Don’t want to sit in a house?  Fine, then choose the movie theatre, the campfire or even the nebula if you so wish!  No, I am not kidding… you can head into outer space, in fact, multiple locations are available so chilling on Mars with a movie can be done in 2019.

Bigscreen_moon
Ta Da!  Mars in Bigscreen

What can I actually watch there though?
Great question!  Streaming apps like Netflix & Twitch from your desktop is popular within Bigscreen.  When I jumped in I could see the following channels available (subject to change due to user geographical location):

Featured – Lobby, 3D Trailers, Pluto Movies, Pluto Spotlight, Twitch, Overwatch League, CBS Sports, CNN, Rifftrax Commentry, Bloomberg, Shout TV and Anime.

Movies & TV – Pluto Spotlight, Pluto Movies, Pluto Movies 2, Pluto Action Movies, Classic Movies, Comet, Rifftrax Commentry, Shout TV, Pokemon, Anime All Day and Anime All Ages

Games & Sports – Bull TV, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, RIU 41, Trivia Flash, Nerdist, Twitch and Overwatch League.

News & Finance – CNN, Bloomberg, NBC, Sky News, Newsy, C/Net, Cheddar News, CBS News, Crypto TV, RT America and Weather Nation.

Random – NASA, Monstercat, Chillhop, Fail Army, Hungry, Cats, 3D Trailers, Comedy Central, Stand Up and Bigscreen 2019 Update.

Featured: 3D movies

For me the showstopper and something that was completely new to me was experiencing a Star Wars Movie Trailer in 3D whilst in virtual reality!  I was sceptical because, well, I wasn’t wearing any 3D glasses (lol!) but by golly that was fun!  I watched and initially thought ‘yeah, that’s ok, it’s pretty good given we are in VR’ then my eyes completely adjusted and I was like WOW, that’s the real deal!  It really was in 3D whilst I’m sitting in a virtual reality IMAX theatre with other virtual avatars sitting a few rows in front of me.  It was so bizarre but also so magical!!  I’m not sure if it takes a few moments for eyes to adjust like mine or because I am a glasses wearer who doesn’t use the glasses spacer for Oculus Quest or whether that is something unique to me.  It’s not a common thing for my eyes to take time to adjust like that, however, I watched a Star Wars movie on Netflix last year and my eyes did take time to adjust then too.  So perhaps it is unique to viewing real world motion footage inside VR that my eyes can’t instantly compute.  Actually, thinking about it, I can take a few moments when in a real IMAX theatre watching a 3D movie. I remember Tron taking my eyes a few minutes before they could properly focus on the large screen and the 3D effects before I became naturally immersed into that too.  So, if you are short-sighted like me, you may also experience a few moments of eye adjustment… or may not….

Anyway, I was blown away by how realistic this experience was in Bigscreen.  I was actually disappointed that the movie wasn’t about to start immediately afterwards!  I’ve yet to watch a full feature film in Bigscreen or a full episode for that matter.  Both of which are now on my ‘To Do’ list.

Social VR surprise
I was pleasantly surprised by seeing folks interacting with drawings during a show, demonstrating a level of social interaction that I didn’t expect to see at all.  It looked quite heartwarming from where I was sitting that folks would play around with art/pens whilst at the movies – not something you see in a regular IMAX movie theatre anyways!  I loved it.

Bigscreen_drawing

As a fan of Social VR experiences I will be personally re-visiting Bigscreen to join more viewings.  I want to observe more avatar interactions during different situations to learn more about the impact that Bigscreen VR is having on social VR too.

Hopefully I will see you there next time []-)

Popcorn and movies

Virtual Reality AWE conference – #AWECORE 2019

As a follower of this blog you will already know that I enjoy attending social VR events.  This time I was asked to participate in one!

AWE is an annual event held in San Francisco that is attended by industry pioneers with their latest hardware and software solutions.  It is THE event to attend for anybody who is interested in the immersive technology industry.  In fact Forbes describe the event as ‘The most essential AR/VR Conference and Expo’.  This year is was AWE’s 10th anniversary and thanks to a VR Community initiative it was the first year that it was brought all over the globe thanks to the power of virtual reality – summary below take from MATRIXCORE’s website:

The #AWECORE Mobile Matrix Experience + Global Immersive Events:

AWE is going virtual with a jam-packed calendar of social XR events conceived of and organized by MATRIXCORE. The experience is highly accessible, supporting mobile, desktop and VR platforms. Connect with the global VR/AR community. Learn more and view the schedule of panels, masterclasses, live AWE keynotes, exclusive Q&As and networking events at https://www.matrixcore.co/ 

AWECORE Social VR HQ
The amazing Andy Fidel running the show at AWE’s Social VR AWECORE HQ

Accessible with cross-platform collaborations

Not only could attendees join using virtual reality headsets, desktops or mobile devices but there was also a mixture of virtual reality platform hosts helping out too.  This is the first time that I have attended an event in VR that spread itself out across the industry.  In other words, you could attend x session in platform 1 then attend another session in platform 2.  The Social VR platforms that were included in this 3 day virtual reality #AWECORE conference were: AltSpaceVR, Rumii, Facebook Spaces, Mozilla Hubs, High Fidelity, Rec Room, VRChat, The Expanse VR and NeosVR.  Major kudos to each of them for coming together and making this epic inaugural conference possible.

What’s the point?

Having a virtual reality conference in parallel with your real world conference is such a beneficial use of time.  Not only does it open the doors to new attendees but it also allows for vast brand marketing.  A win win in my book.  As an attendee you are able to be in the same virtual room with extremely inspirational pioneers in the field.  You are able to learn.  You are able to put up your hand and ask a question using your own voice.  You can connect with the speakers.  You can network and meet other audience members as you would in a real world event.   You can come and go and not distract other attendees or speakers.  As a speaker, it allows you to share your story with people who have previously not heard of you before.  Again brand awareness and association is a pretty huge benefit too.  It has just the same benefits as a real world speaking opportunity – great for your reputation & ability to speak in front of an interested audience.

For both attendees and speakers – you can be there regardless of your geographical location.  You save money on travel (flight) costs, accommodation costs, tickets costs, childcare costs, insurance costs and save yourself the stress & time that is involved in all of those steps too.  You arrive on time, focused and ready to start.

AWECORE Topics and Talks 

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The Hosts and Speakers

Speakers1Speakers2Speakers3

The VR Health panel & Experience

I was honoured to participate in a panel discussion alongside Sarah Hill from Healium by StoryUp XR and Veena Somareddy from Neuro Rehab VR and hosted by Chuck Webster from Health Systems Chat in AltSpaceVR.  I attend a lot of social VR events, meetings and occasional conferences so to be able to be part of the panel in Virtual Reality was a personal milestone for me.  Chuck had created a VR space that was a replicate of the AWE location to help us feel like it was the real deal.  I of course took the obligatory selfie as a keepsake!

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AWECORE Buzz

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AWECORE and Social VR (meetings, events & conference) Benefits

The most obvious is that you are opening the global accessibility doors by hosting panels and events in virtual reality!  I, for example, could not have made it to Santa Clara at short notice.  Attendees can save time, money and stress of attending an event if it is hosted in VR.  Locations can be fully customised, branded and created entirely as you wish!  You are able to learn and rub avatar shoulders with the experts in the industry.  Some of which you may never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.  You can ask your questions directly because you are there, you are present.  It doesn’t matter what you are wearing in real life!  It doesn’t matter where you are in the real world!  You can be yourself and not need to worry about, well, anything*.  You can access events by fully immersive channels with a VR headset or in pancake mode via a desktop, tablet or even mobile phone.

Stats and impact – coming soon…

Thank You to the AWECORE organisers, contributers, participants and attendees!

SocialMedia3

The amazing Andy Fidel was the Social VR event lead on this with a small team – Donna McTaggart, Jay W, The Outsider from Neos VR helped organise alongside Andy and I played a tiny part in that too.

Thank you to all the Social VR Platforms for providing Metaverse Spaces for us all to connect and enjoy these events.

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Roundup

I believe this medium is the future of events and conferences.  I say it time and again but it truly is magical.  Being able to pull a headset on and be part of engaging educational sessions with other people from all over the world is best experience aside from being there in real life of course.  Next best is being in attendance using a pc, laptop, tablet or mobile device.  History has been made with this event.  We have seen VR events in varying duration (Merging Realities being the longest of my knowledge being a full day event & also last year’s VR Day celebrations which was also cross platform) but #AWECORE has been 3 days of interactive events that was mindful of accessibility, gender equality and meaningful content.  Well done again to all those involved or who participated or attended!

Hope to see you in the Metaverse again real soon []-)

 

* Should caveat that you should be aware of your real life surroundings whenever wearing a VR headset for health & safety reasons.

Oculus Quest – Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

(Source: Oculus)

#QuestCountdown is a closely followed hashtag amongst the Virtual Reality community just now.  We are only hours away now from hearing potentially crucial information about the much anticipated Oculus Quest release date.  Many of us are hoping that we will be able to purchase them immediately especially as it has been such a long drawn out marketing campaign from the team at Oculus.  Mark Zuckerberg first announced the Oculus Quest (previously Project Santa Cruz) at OC5 on 26th September 2018 and since then we have been drip fed snippets of details along the way.  7 months later I write this blog post and I believe that we are less than 24 hours away from being able to pre-order this latest headset and I am HYPED!

(Source: Oculus)

Announced on 18th March:
BeatSaber
Shadow Point (*Designed specifically for Quest)
Journey of the Gods
Dead and Buried II
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series
Sports Scramble
Robo Recall
Dance Central

Announced on the 25th March:
SUPERHOT VR
Space Pirate Trainer
Vacation Simulator

(Source: Oculus)

Announced 3rd April (Oculus Blog controversially title copy includes ‘Welcome to week x minus 1′ resulting in some criticism):
OrbusVR Reborn (*imaging designed specifically for Quest)
Moss
Vacation Simulator

Announced 10th April:
Apex Construct
I Expect You To Die
Face Your Fears II
The Exorcist: Legion VR

Announced 17th April:
Google TiltBrush
Thumper
Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs
Bait
Fruit Ninja VR
Rush
Chris Jurney Head of Development Strategy at Oculus said in this week’s blog due to the continued frustration of this long drawn out piece of marketing  – ‘I thought I’d clear everything up on our plans for launch of the device, when you can finally get all these great games in your own hands. We’re still targeting Spring! We’re actively working with all these developers and more who are frantically squeezing beetles, birds, fish, fruit, and air into tight binary packages for you to enjoy on Day 1 of Oculus Quest. I’m looking forward to that specific, tantalizingly close day in the future when everyone can enjoy these great games’.

Announced 24th April: (Comments from the public on the Oculus blog are getting progressively more impatient this week. There is also concern brewing that there may be no news about when everyone can finally get their hands on one during the F8 announcement at this rate!)
Ballista
Rec Room
VR Chat
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
PokerStars VR
VR Karts: Sprint

26th April:
National Geographic Explorer VR

The night before Christmas…?
With only hours left until we hear more from Oculus and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg we can only hope to hear something much more satisfying than the weekly snippets we’ve been used to over these last few very loooong weeks.  Ultimately the only piece of the puzzle missing is when.  When can we buy it, when can we receive it, when can we try it out for ourselves, just when?!

F8 keynote will begin on (tomorrow!!!!!) April 30, 2019 at 10AM PDT/6PM GMT.  You can watch the livestream online or in VR via Oculus Venues (so long as you have an Oculus Go Headset).  Links to register below.  I’m powering up my Go as I type []-)

(Source: F8.com)

More info and how to register for Oculus Venues here

Register here to watch F8 online

Sometimes some of the VR community host livestream events themselves so you can interact/chat whilst cool and interesting things are announced.  If I see anything like that taking place then I will tweet them out for you via @TheHappyLass.

Sleep well (if you can…) and I’ll you in the Metaverse tomorrow my friends!  #QuestCountdown

 

 

 

 

 

The Oculus Rift S

(source: picture from Oculus.com)

The Oculus Rift S was announced at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday 20th March 2019.  It was a surprising announcement for the virtual reality community to hear as most were expecting details of the anticipated new Oculus Quest standalone VR headset instead.  The hype had been building for wanting to know the details of this new Quest headset as well as the release date which wasn’t helped by Oculus creating the hashtag #QuestCountown.  So for many, this announcement was an instant disappointment.  In hindsight that marketing strategy was a poor decision because I don’t think that most of us gave the Oculus Rift S a fair chance to blow us away as a result of the Quest hype that surrounded us.

Whilst on the subject of a poor marketing strategy, Oculus decided not to host a livestream of the announcement for a more global audience.  The previous day at GDC gamers were blown away by Google’s Stadia announcement that was livestreamed for all to enjoy.  (For those unsure: Stadia is a platform for game streaming using Google’s infrastructure meaning you can stream from browsers or even join live games by clicking a link to join via YouTube streams).

Google Stadia livestream image
(source: screenshot taken during the live announcement on Google’s YouTube channel)

However, VR YouTuber Nathie came to the rescue and decided to host a gathering of hyped up fans who were fit to burst for more Quest news.  Nathie hosted a live chat, social media scavenge and revealed the latest news from the Oculus Blog via his YouTube channel.  It was actually amazing being together at a virtual gathering and having the ability to chat with one another pre, during and post announcement.  My insight of mixed reactions absolutely came from this experience.  Brands who care about product launches and seek genuine ‘in the moment’ feedback would be wise to consider this communication style for themselves in the future.  Anyway, Nathie deserves a pat on the back for picking up the mantle and for doing a pretty impressive job of it!

Introducing the Oculus Rift S
First of all, the immediate headline here is that the Oculus Rift S is brought to us through an Oculus and Lenovo partnership.  I for one am extremely impressed by this collaboration!  For those of you who don’t know, I am a Lenovo ‘Super Champion’ meaning that I am an ambassador for their products.  I have the upmost respect for Lenovo in the immersive product space as they are the only company in the world to have brought a mixture of hardware products to us across the spectrum of Augmented Reality (Jedi Challenges), Virtual Reality (Mirage Solo and now the Oculus Rift S) and Mixed Reality (Lenovo Explorer) not to mention their high end gaming Lenovo Legion products.  I am also a fan of Oculus and part of their Oculus Start programme for the work I am doing in the VR for dementia space with Pivotal Reality.  The Oculus and Lenovo partnership in itself is immensely respectable as I think it sends a strong message to others that we must all work together in order to help bring VR to the masses.

Let’s take a look at the Oculus Rift S video and then discuss 1st impressions:


(‘Introducing the Oculus Rift S’ video from Oculus YouTube Channel)

Will the Oculus Rift S help VR go mainstream?
Don’t get me wrong I completely understand some of the feelings around this headset not giving us more experienced VR users the mind blowing wow factor that we were expecting.  BUT, let’s not forget there’s more to come from Oculus on that front!  So in the meantime let’s look at the Oculus Rift S for what it is.  It’s an evolutionary version of the Oculus Rift CV1 that was released just under 3 years ago.  It is a single tethered headset (meaning you have to connect it to a compatible computer) that has improvements for a more enjoyable gaming experience.  The improved optics, lenses and pixel density sound more pleasing to the eyes and the field of view has been said to be marginally larger than the tradition Rift experience.  Initial reactions from the VR community is divided in those last areas but everyone who has tried it out haven’t complained about the realism of the graphics or said that it is a bad immersive experience so I am optimistic about them.  The built in sensors coupled with the Passthrough+ technology is exciting because this takes away the hassle of setting up external sensors or risk of bumping into something in the real world environment.  In other words, it removes a barrier for accessibility allowing first time users to have confidence with an easier plug and play approach to VR whilst still enabling a safe roomscale experience.  Which I think it awesome!  To think that many of us had our first VR experiences on the DK1, Google cardboard or a Samsung Gear then this headset absolutely betters those experiences for first timers.  Another good thing in my book.

The new ‘Ergonomic halo headband’ with adjustable fit wheel for greater comfort is a smart choice of design.  I suspect that with the popularity of games such as Beatsaber where gamers are likely to spend a longer duration wearing headsets than ever before has been taken into consideration here.  HMD (Head Mounted Displays) in general have to become versatile to suit a wide range of user needs.  We need headsets that we can trust, are not heavy, will not slip, will not cause discomfort and can handle sharp/sudden movements.  I have yet to see or hear any feedback on this subject so I am led to believe that the Oculus Rift S must feel natural and live up to expectations here.  The weight balance has also been focused on by the Lenovo design team so I am assuming this was another contributing factor for this product design partnership.  The adjustable fit wheel is something that we currently use on the Lenovo Mirage Solo for example, as well as the PSVR headset of course.  Light blocking improvements have been made to the Rift S too.

Another positive for accessibility is the cross platform compatibility for the Oculus Store.  Meaning that owners of the original Oculus Rift can still enjoy their purchased VR experiences using the new Oculus Rift S and vice versa.  As a side note and speaking of cross platforms, it is an interesting fact that Lenovo have now worked with Google and their Daydream platform and now Oculus and their Oculus Store platform too.

The Rift S has 5 cameras to provide the insight tracking and many are reporting that the new touch controllers work great with this feature.  Ultimately your hands are tracked throughout your experience even when positioned behind you meaning that even if simulating a bow and arrow gesture it would be picked up in-game.  Very cool!  The cameras on the front of the headset looks distinctly like a Lenovo design and resonates that of the Mirage Solo’s design too.

Let’s talk specs:
I haven’t saw anything official from Oculus that clarified this for certainty but there are details being reported elsewhere for this information.  I’m not confident or in the know so therefore I encourage you to look elsewhere for this information.  From my research I can see that the Rift S appears to have the following:

Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (compared to Rift 2160 x 1200)
Pixel Density: approx 600ppi (compared to Rift 456ppi)
Refresh rate: 80Hz (compared to Rift 90Hz)
(Source: Road to VR)

Not sure if your computer or laptop supports the new Rift S?  Here’s a handy table with the specifications required to operate the Rift and Rift S:

Specifications required for Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S (Source: Oculus Support)
Component Recommended Spec Minimum Spec
Processor Intel i5-4590/AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater Intel i3-6100/AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater
Graphics Card NVIDIA GTX 1060/AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti/AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater
Alternative Graphics Card NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater NVIDIA GTX 960 4 GB/AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater
Memory 8 GB+ RAM 8 GB+ RAM
Operating System Windows 10 or newer Windows 10 or newer
USB Ports Rift 3x USB 3.0 ports, plus 1x USB 2.0 port 1x USB 3.0 port, plus 2x USB 2.0 ports
USB Ports Rift S 1x USB 3.0 port 1x USB 3.0 port
Video Output Rift Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
Video Output Rift S Compatible DisplayPort video output Compatible miniDisplayPort video output

If interested, the Oculus Rift S will be released in Spring 2019 and will cost $399 for the headset including the controllers.

The only thing left to do now is to excitedly wait for further details of the Oculus Quest and see how it compares to its tethered brother!