OC6 – Oculus Quest Is The Next Computing Platform

The Highlights of today’s Facebook’s Oculus Connect announcement

I attended Oculus Connect via Oculus Venues in Virtual Reality rather than the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in California. It felt engaging to be part of the crowd even though I was only there as an avatar. Before we dive in to the highlights let’s cover off what we didn’t hear… Mark Zuckerberg has been very vocal about aiming to have 1 billion virtual reality users by 2020. That’s only 3 months away or 1 year 3 months away if we are going to stretch it out until the end of the year in 2020. We were told today how much they’ve made from VR Oculus Store content during its lifetime yet (spoiler alert) we weren’t told any numbers around how many HMD units have been sold overall, no breakdown of how well Rift S or Quest is doing. Well other than we are selling Quests like hot pancakes and struggling to meet the demand. Why then were we not told any numbers? We’ll go through some of these points later on in detail but how come when we are looking to support developers with building content & aiming for “critical mass adoption” of virtual reality we are not told how many players are in each team or even what size the playing field looks like in general? If virtual reality is now then share those numbers please.

As it so happens, I do believe that virtual reality is now even if I don’t have the corporate figures to back it up. I’ve been watching the market and community grow with a keen interest this year. The hype for the Oculus Quest and Rift S was the instigator for most of the new faces but we have had other hardware companies come along for their debuts this year too. Social media communities have bloomed too, there’s a handful of communities all around the Oculus Quest by itself, not to mention VR in general or other VR devices. Stepping outside the Oculus bubble a second, other external evidence to show that VR is now is all the amazing work that is being done! It is actually overwhelming now and I feel we are at a point for anybody joining us at entry level, will struggle to know which direction to focus their attention on with what platforms targeting what device. Its an amazing problem to have because it is a side-effect of this recent growth spurt but you get what I’m saying, there is evidence if you look. It would just be more compelling to be backed up by the various headset sales numbers is all…

Perhaps a reason for not mentioning the hardware sales figures is because the Rift S hasn’t been doing so well or as well as expected? I would be surprised if that were true but then again the standalone capability of the Quest is a pull point for most people. Perhaps the difference between the sales figures was too shocking to call-out? One thing we do know is that the Oculus Quest appears to be favoured by customers: “Oculus Store has made over $100m dollars in its lifetime and Oculus Quest accounted for over 20% of that!” That’s an extraordinary stat considering that the Quest is only 4 months old!

First up, we had the announcement of the new Oculus Link which will be released in November this year. This update will allow for Oculus Quest owners/users the ability to play Oculus Rift S games on their Quest simply by connecting to a compatible gaming pc using USB. Oculus will have a customised USB cable for this use too that you can buy and expect to be delivered in November too. Who remembers the controversy around Virtual Desktop’s ability to stream & play games from other platforms to Quest? And what does this mean for SideQuest? There’s still plenty of unique games in platforms outside of the Oculus Store I guess. To me this is the 1st aggressive competitor/market closing manoeuvre I’ve seen from Facebook and one that I am now switched on to. In fact, this triggered me into being alert for the rest of the 2 hour long keynote. Unfortunately, you will see other industry wide similarities and stake claims being announced as we proceed.

Mark Zuckerberg during OC6 Keynote

Hand Tracking coming to Oculus Quest early 2020!

That’s right! The Quest has the 4 cameras at the front for sensing your external environment as well as picking up the sensors on the existing Touch controllers. Well now it looks as though the research & development team have cracked the Machine Learning requirements for real time hand tracking using the Quest. Although, we have seen real time hand tracking in the industry already so this is not groundbreaking or new, however, absolutely a step in the right direction for complete immersive embodiment. Leap Motion being the most obvious, it was reported that Google and Media Pipe had cracked it too and Vive Cosmos is going to support finger tracking soon as well.

The ability to use simply your hands instead of controllers will open the accessibility door too. I work with elders who sometimes struggle mentally to grasp the concept of working controllers not to mention physically being able to grasp them. Speaking of which, I was hugely excited about hearing more about CTRL-Labs! I had only learned about this company a few hours earlier by watching this mind-blowing interview before the Facebook acquisition was announced. I recommend giving it a watch, it’s truly incredible! They use electrical signals from the nervous system and their modelling systems to make muscle movements through your thoughts! Perfect for accessibility as well as general evolution of interacting with computers & machines. The interview below really brings it to light and their dev kits are already shipping (be prepared to be on a waiting list for a while though given the interest in this groundbreaking technology).

Social VR comes to Facebook through Horizon

I’m a huge fan of social VR and I have never tried Facebook Spaces before. I’m not sure what has happened to Spaces but Horizon is the new thing. A social VR place where you can connect, create, interact and play games all within your VR headset. Learning to build things without coding is always appealing. Would I prefer this to existing platforms? Not sure. The intro video was quite cheesy for my taste… There were similarities to everything that is working well currently within the social VR sector of the industry. There were cross-overs with AltSpace VR and Rec Room with a particular focus on creating art. VR artists are making their way into the spotlight with their outstanding creations. Again I can’t help my thoughts turning towards Facebook taking the things that are working well and incorporating those for themselves. It is how business works I guess but I would be upset or lost if these other platforms were to be swallowed up as a result. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun especially given how early stage Horizon is.

Source: Oculus

The Evolution of Avatars

My words wouldn’t do this any justice so I found a tweet with a video clip so you can see for yourself

Credit and source: Robert AKA @webjournalist

Mixed Reality Capture Shared Spaces and Passthrough+ upgrade

It was briefly mentioned that we will be able to capture not only the VR gameplay footage but also ourselves playing in VR too. The mixed reality Beat Saber videos are extremely effective for sharing fun & engaging content. The ability to do this is coming. So is being able to have shared spaces virtually such as the basketball game photo below were 2 people are physically located separately but are together virtually.

The Passthrough+ on the Oculus Quest will have the ability to switch on and off so that you can flip back between real world and VR whenever you choose to. This is such a simple but useful function to add.

Oculus Media Studio

Media Studio sounded fantastic for content creators, developers and users alike. I’m not entirely sure I grasped all of this correctly though… So in essence for creators/developers it is a dashboard to help you to market your work through word or mouth because users will be able to see their friends playing your stuff through the ‘location’ section. Content creators will have the ability to use the media studio to stream and reference your work. But there will be dashboards to show numbers relative to your product & users. Next was the reason I can’t be sure of the detail beforehand relating to Media Studio. Next was, the newer style Oculus TV. I got lost in my thoughts again at this point, completely lost in my thoughts so can’t report on this other than saying it sounded exactly like Bigscreen VR. It was the ability to watch things together in virtual spaces – so perhaps this was the how the basketball example above worked or how you do that? Not sure, but yeah Oculus TV is being revamped into shared spaces to watch & stream content to. Another reason for Virtual Desktop to be told not to be compatible with streaming on Oculus platforms.

VR for Business

A smarter API and ability to manage multiple headsets simultaneously. Amazing case studies shared about working in virtual environments from remote locations. But the headliner was from Johnson & Johnson, Osso VR and partner’s surgical training outputs. They shared that 83% of newly trained surgeons who used VR training were able to carry on with surgical procedures unguided afterwards compared to 0% of students who received traditional training methods! The evidenced source or published research would be much appreciated if anybody could share that please.

Source OC6

AR Strategy at Facebook

Were we expecting Facebook to make AR glasses? I guess so, I mean AR is all over the many platforms and probably the driver behind the growth in mainstream awareness there too. Spark AR was only mentioned by name during the keynote but nothing more. However, aside from the glasses, we heard how Facebook are looking to do live maps. It works by using crowd source info from connected devices eg smart phones or AR glasses. The video looks impressive but I told you I was triggered and in that moment couldn’t help think about 6D.ai and the amazing work they are doing for smart phone photogrammetry real time mapping. What was exciting was the hologram AR part of their explanation video. Again, it’s nothing new but it is exciting. Yet, another way that Facebook are enforcing themselves as the tech giant that they are in the immersive space.

Game releases!

We heard a Beat Saber announcement about a new Panic At The Disco music pack being released next week and 360 degree gameplay being released next year. Stormland, Asgard’s Wrath, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond and Vader Immortal 2 all announced. Vader being the only one released with immediate effect & the others can be pre-ordered (not sure Medal of Honor release date). Incidentally, Medal of Honor looked intense!!! You saw a lady pulling the pin out of her grenade controller with her real world TEETH before chucking it into the enemy line. It looks to be so immersive and as close to a war like simulation as you are going to get without getting hurt in real life.

The Future of Hardware

There was quite an interesting talk about the evolution of Half Dome’s. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of these before this talk. The level or detail in the research and prototyping is quite remarkable. Essentially, it the next gen HMD with specific sharp verifocals/lenses for clearer vision within an immersive experience. We watched footage of some of the basic VR intro programs with and without these specially adapted lenses. The Half Dome 3 (the newest one) was crystal clear – there were 6 lenses altogether that help to achieve this result. I listened to this intently but I’m sorry I can’t articulate how genuinely interesting it was!

Summary

This was an action packed keynote speech with many different things to take in and digest! The Oculus Quest came out best throughout the messages by being upgraded quite significantly I felt. The Rift S, I actually feel sorry for and think it’s being overlooked – could that be because of the Half Dome coming even though we’re being told that it’s not there yet? Well, what about the Oculus Go? The Go didn’t get mentioned really – only when it was said that we will be able to play our Go games in, yep you guessed it, Quest… I don’t think Go games were coming to Rift S? Surely they must, it’s just through the Oculus Store right? Hopefully you Rift S users will have that at least, not much of a party bag but at least you didn’t go home empty handed… like the Go users have… I dunno what to make of it all. Great to be able to experience all of these technology elements with my Quest – especially hand tracking and easier content creations BUT mixed feelings about the dominating strategy. With any luck I’m just being over-sensitive to it all because I was initially triggered…

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas if you want to get in touch @TheHappyLass

Evolution at Oculus (Minus the Go)

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

The World’s 1st Full Day VR/AR Conference held in VR – Merging Realities

 

Conference Flyer

What was Merging Realities?
Merging Realities was the world’s first full-day conference that you could attend in virtual reality and took place on April 26th 2018.  It was hosted by Mike McCready and students from Lethbridge College based in Canada and made possible by Doghead Simulations‘ Rumii platform based in Seattle, Washington.  I had booked my ticket well in advance as this was a big deal and I didn’t want to miss it!  I’m based in Scotland and can only usually stalk event hashtags to learn about event outputs that are impossible for me to attend geographically speaking.  The topic of this event just so happened to be all things virtual, augmented and mixed reality too.  Winner!  You also didn’t need to be the owner of a VR headset to attend as there was a WebVR version you could enter using desktop.  Or there was the Twitch channel you could enter and simply ‘observe’ the event as it was being streamed live across the world.  I used a combination of desktop for the VR event and mobile to watch the livestream.   First thing’s first, had to register for Rumii and create my Avatar:

Why a conference in VR?
The event itself started late in the afternoon (UK time) so it meant I could attend at my leisure after work.  In fact it was ideal!  I was able to be there, explore, listen, learn and network.  I saw some pretty cool role models ‘in the flesh’ instead of being static pictures on social media platforms.  Then I was able to log out, pick up my kids, make dinner and complete some chores then log back in to the conference again.  It was flexible enough to allow you to come and go as required meaning I didn’t disrupt any sessions.  It complimented my life and time commitments without the need of booking travel, accommodation or hassle arranging childcare.  I wasn’t tired from travelling, didn’t need to adjust to the different timezone or stress about pre-planning my route to get to the venue on time.  I just logged in and I was in the venue and simply logged out when I had to leave again.  Simple as that.  #welcometothefuture

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Venue
There was plenty of room for us all in the main conference areas – we had a choice of Lecture Hall A or Lecture Hall B (2 talks were happening at any one time).  We weren’t able to see who was talking or the theme of the talk using the menu though.  It didn’t cause any issues as you simply selected your choice of room and instantly teleported there.  If you changed your mind you could teleport to the other just as easy by using the main menu.  There was a sound alert when people entered/left a room though so I did feel a little embarrassed in case I put any presenters off by causing that distraction.  But to be honest, as a participant, you barely noticed it at all.  In fact it was quite an upbeat catchy jingle.  I actually grew fond of hearing it!  In addition to the 2 main conference halls you had 3 separate meeting rooms each for a specific theme (Health, Education and Business) and a Lobby.  As a fan of Social VR I felt the scale to be impressive, the atmosphere to be relaxing and the graphical detail to be realistic enough for me to settle into my new environment quite quickly.

What did we hear about?
The first session was Immersive Computing at Google presented by Alex Katzen.  It was interesting to hear Google’s take on the changing digital landscape.  I was very impressed and inspired the more I listened during the session.  Previously I knew Google were involved with Daydream but didn’t really appreciate just how involved they were elsewhere.  Alex unveiled the Google & Lenovo Solo Mirage VR Headset too.  We heard about their partner’s, their involvement, their propositions and Google’s vision for the future.  Overall it was an excellent presentation, full of insight that I would have not been able to get had I not been at this specific conference.  I was already loving conferences in VR – I knew I would but this was over and above my expectations.  Not bad for only the first session… We had a full day of knowledge sharing left to soak up!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Meeting role models
Next up was Alan Smithson from MetaVRse who is an absolute role model of mine.  If you are interested in VR and AR then I recommend you follow his LinkedIn posts.  This would be my first time seeing Alan deliver a conference talk and I was mega excited about hearing what he had to say.  His company MetaVRse is working in all sorts of interesting avenues meaning he has plenty of interesting stories to share with us.  Alan’s talk did not disappoint.  He not only brought amazing insight, inspiration and encouragement to the audience but he also brought with him humor.  He expressed his love for the ability to throw confetti in the air using the Rumii platform and got clarification on how people could do it.  (Only desktop users were able to by pressing the spacebar).  Then we all had a lark about throwing confetti lol!  It was so refreshing to see someone delivering a session and having fun with the technology as he did.  This is what it is all about!  He gets it.  He wasn’t a white collared business man selling us a pitch.  Alan was messing around with the functions that Rumii offered, he popped a spaceman into the audience to demonstrate 3D models.  It was floating around us, a giant spaceman!  The famous MetaVRse watch also made a 3D model appearance.  He shared market trends, important numbers and even shared how he personally continually learns about this technology sector and from which resources too.  For the finale of Alan’s talk he played us some Virtual Insanity music that we all throw confetti to.  It was marvelous.  The energy was through the roof.  I ask you – have you ever thrown confetti at the end of hearing a world class presentation during a conference in the real world?  

(Video provided my Neil Singh – thanks again for the permission to publish it in this blog)

Break
Sadly this was when I hit my break from the conference so I could turn back to my family and home duties for a while.  My avatar was able to stay in the conference but I had changed my status to ‘away’ meaning I wasn’t visible to anybody there.  Thanks to twitch, I was secretly watching whilst washing my dishes though ;o)  I sadly missed  Steve Bambury’s session, which was another I was looking forward to attending in advance.  (I have since been informed that Twitch have kept videos of the conference that you can still watch.  I will post the link in the comments of this blog for you).

Merging Realities desktop and mobile

Mesmerised by Immersion
The following sessions covered a mixture of design, technical detail and engagement.  We listened to insights and saw more 3D models that are being used commercially.  Listening to the various AR and VR examples proved to me that there are people out there making this technology work for them using profitably business models.  I would have liked to have heard more about that subject.  How are creatives making money in this industry not as one offs but by producing consistent revenue?  It is a common question in the field and one that nobody seems to want to share their detailed answers to.  (This is not aimed specifically at any of the presenters who showcased their work during their Merging Realities talks, just a general observation and a personal frustration).

The presenters I listened to were:
Immersion/Engagement presented by Connor Gottfried
Challenges & Opportunities of a VR game startup presented by Lloyd Summers
Inclusion presented by Rosalina Hernandez

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking to the Future
Next up was the magnificent futurist Cathy Hackl to share some forward thinking thoughts.  She shared some amazing video clips, as well as some current use case studies along with stories of the future world.  Having heard many a person claim to be a futurist cover old ground on what has been previously said I wasn’t sure that I was going to hear anything that I hadn’t heard already on this topic.  But I was wrong.  Cathy blew my mind.  She didn’t just blow my mind with a one off little golden nugget of intel.  She had me hanging on every single word.  I’ve taken notes to revisit pretty much all of the examples she shared to gain better understanding for myself.  I want to be able to digest and reflect on the use cases and explanations of spatial computing that she shared with us.  So if like me, you don’t want to miss any fascinating industry use case then follow Cathy on social media. (As well as subscribe to this blog obviously… shining the light on user case studies is the purpose of the Suzanne Showcasing VR blog afterall!).  Cathy was asked plenty of questions and did a tremendous job to close the amazing full day VRAR conference in VR.  What a blast!!!

merging realities stats

Conclusion
In summary we heard from highly respectable individuals from the VR AR industry.  We heard about content creation, designing, coding, modelling, engagement, platforms, headsets, partnerships, user experience, user engagement, market trends, self development & learning, challenges & opportunities, inclusion and preparing ourselves for the future.  We met with like-minded people from all across our wonderful planet and I am proud to have represented Scotland.  I love the map above that shows where everyone was attending from.  A real mixture of people, all with the same common interests.  It was absolutely superb!  Let’s do it all again next year!  Hopefully see you there next time 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read through this article and share the experience of the World’s first full-day conference in VR.  In the words of Alan Smithson, ‘Awesome guys, thank you so much.  Have a good one.  Bye guys.  Thank you’.

 

(For those of you interested, I will post Neil Singh’s blog that covers the full account of the conference to help fill in the gaps that I didn’t manage to cover with my own experience.  I’ll also post a link to the Twitch account for Merging Realities so you can see if for yourself too).

Until next time my friends!
Suzanne Showcasing VR