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

Where can I learn more about immersive technologies and content creation?

As a virtual and augmented reality enthusiast I appreciate the importance of learning about creating immersive content.  If I were new to the field, I imagine it would be difficult to know where to even start searching for courses or where to go to start learning from the community.  Your location can be a pivotal factor when it comes to choosing what and where you can learn the skills required for creating VR and AR content.

I’ve tried to break things down by geographical location to help signpost some recommended courses in those areas.

Scotland:

I’m from Scotland and we have a few choices:
Glasgow School of ArtGames and Virtual Reality degree and Serious Games and Virtual Reality degree.  Taught by Dr Paul Chapman and Dr Matthieu Poyade who are pioneers in the field and I have huge admiration for them both.

WebXR Workshops Scotland – I have to confess that I co-host these events with the amazingly talented teacher Danilo Pasquariello.  I’m a student here too and the information that we are taught is fantastic and also welcoming to beginners with no coding experience!

Check out the link for further information on these meetups and get booked in for the next event!

Or if the location is a barrier for you then you may wish to check out Danilo’s Online Udemy course.

Canada:

I was excited to recently find out that Canada is launching it’s first Virtual and Augmented Reality Certificate courtesy of Lethbridge College.  I am a huge fan of Lethbridge College and Mike McCready in particular.  I first met Mike via Twitter as organiser of the Merging Realities – World’s First Full Day Conference in VR.  I attended that last year and you can read my blog about it here.  Ever since then I have watched Mike’s growth in the immersive space from communicating with the community online, learning and sharing his progress through his own VR Degree learning journey, joining the ARVRA Association as the President of the Alberta Chapter, continuing the Merging Realities in 2019 (making it an annual event) and the most recent Lethbridge College Virtual Reality Global Forum event alongside Inventures Canada which is taking place on 6th June 2019 in VR.

Suffice to say that you are in safe hands learning from Mike and the Lethbridge College team!!!  The beauty and appeal of this course is that it is only a 1 year duration which will be spent focusing on 4 areas:  fundamentals, experiential, spatial and application.  Perfect!  I really wish I was closer to the location as this is a course I would seriously consider taking myself!

Here’s the link for those of you wishing to view more details of this incredible course

Online:

If you are unable to attend these then you are in luck as I have some online courses that I can recommend for you too.

Udemy

I completed VR and 360 Video Production which was great for providing you with rules to follow for shooting 360 videos.  It was common sense stuff thrown in with a few hidden gems of knowledge nuggets that I personally hadn’t considered so that was time well spent for me.

They also have another Google AR&VR course on there called Introduction to Augmented Reality and ARCore.  I haven’t studied that but perhaps it’s worth a look.

Getting Started with Augmented Reality from the Insitut Mines-Telecom was my first encounter with creating AR.  Although I found it hard to follow in the beginning as a complete newbie, my projects did come together towards the end.  There’s nothing more exciting than seeing something you learned about online becoming a physical application in front of your very own eyes!

Udacity

Introduction to Virtual Reality by Google VR.  I completed this course myself and found it quite informative, even if you already know the basics.  Udacity also offer Nanodegrees in VR too.  I haven’t enrolled in that yet but I have heard nothing but praise for them so be sure to check that out too.

Unity

Of course, there are tutorials on Unity directly that you can learn from.  These were useful but incredibly dry to follow, however, for introducing you to the basic UI, components and physics then this is a great starting point.  Considering you have decided to use Unity that is.

If Unity is your game engine of choice then I want to give a shout-out to Awesome Tuts as I have completed an online Udemy course that they taught as well as follow them on YouTube and Facebook for their lessons alongside extremely helpful developer community.

Not forgetting the VRToolkit by TheStoneFox which is full of useful tutorials!

Unreal

As well as learning with Unreal directly through their tutorials (I haven’t tried learning this game engine yet).

Lynda.com

There’s a few on Lynda.com that I completed too nothing that springs to mind other than anything that includes Craig Barr.  I would recommend his courses and weekly news.

Circuit Stream

Circuit Stream offer taster classes and I found their lecturers to be easy to follow and friendly.  They offer full programmes as well but I haven’t completed any of those yet.

That’s all the courses that I know something about or have completed myself.

Newsletters

I would also recommend signing up to the VRARA Association newsletter so you are given information on when their free webinars are held alongside any updates.

Tony Skarredghost is such a talent and enjoys experiential immersive work.  You should sign up for his newsletter to receive weekly news round-ups.

Podcasts

FReality – a weekly podcast that is also streamed to YouTube that talks about hardware and game experiences across the vr spectrum.  Hosted by popular VR YouTubers/Twitch Streamers: Nathie, Mike (Virtual Reality Oasis), Rowdy Guy and Zimtok5.

The Virtual Reality Podcast – Hosted by Steven Sato, Alex Chaucer, James McCrary and Amanda Fox.

Voices of VR – presented by host Kent Bye where he interviews a wide selection of immersive technology community members.

Finally I learn a lot of information via AltSpaceVR through their many Social VR events.

I hope this is a helpful guide to get you started.  It would be great to hear your thoughts or connect with you on Twitter to share our learning journeys together []-)

Until next time!
Suzanne AKA TheHappyLass