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VR Digest: GDC kicks off in San Francisco;
Sony closes in on 1 million PSVR sales

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 109 – March 1, 2017

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

Hi Friends,


GDC coincided with a rash of deadlines for us, so you won’t see us there. Hope those of you who made it out there are having a great time!

Best,
Aaron, John, Bowdy, and Elissa 
at Studio Transcendent


Game Developers Conference Kicks off in San Francisco


The 2017 edition of the Game Developers Conference got underway on Monday, and, as could be expected, announcements abounded. Epic Games and Unity have new releases on tap; Unreal 4.15 was released Tuesday with developer friendly enhancements to its C++ workflow and artist-friendly enhancements to its sequencer, while Unity 5.6 will be released on March 31.

The latest Unity 5.6 beta currently available to download includes the progressive lightmapper, one of the most highly anticipated new features for VR developers. Unity also announced a contest for VR developers, with cash prizes to be awarded at Vision Summit 2017, to develop the best extension for their new Editor VR feature that lets developers work on their project while immersed in VR.

Tim Sweeney will give his annual “State of Unreal” address at 9:30 AM PST this morning; Unity’s GDC keynote is available to watch on YouTube.

On the hardware front, Nvidia announced the GeForce GTX 1080ti, promising a 35% performance increase over the standard GTX1080. The new card will retail for $700, while the 1080 has seen a price drop to $500. Meanwhile, AMD announced that SteamVR will support Asynchronous Reprojection on their cards with its next update (it was previously made available only to Nvidia owners).

LG will be showing a prototype of an OpenVR-based headset at Valve’s booth that features SteamVR tracking technology. It’s an interesting development as indications are the device will be directly comparable to the HTC Vive.

The Khronos Group has given their VR API standardization effort a name: OpenXR. Unity announced that they will support the standard during their keynote. Kent Bye has a podcast interview with Valve’s Joe Ludwig about the latest progress in the lengthy standardization process.

A raft of game reveals have come out of GDC so far, with Oculus Studios making a big push on its slate. Oculus’ Head of Content Jason Rubin told UploadVR that there would be “at least one Oculus Studios game releasing every month.” Beyond Oculus’ latest announcements, VR enthusiasts got a look at a new sprinting game from Survios, creator of Raw Data (which is itself coming to Oculus with cross-platform play), an extended trailer for Arktika.1 from Metro: Last Light creators 4A Games, and Rabbids invading the Google Daydream platform.
 

Sony Closes In on 1 Million PSVR Sales

Sony has revealed PlayStation VR’s sales for the first time:  As of February 19th, consumers had purchased 915,000 headsets, roughly four months after the product went on sale. This success surprised the executives who were skeptical about virtual reality’s appeal to the mass market. A recent NY Times article reports that “the sales figure is a positive sign for virtual reality and probably establishes Sony as the leader in the premium side of the market.”
 

Samsung Shows New Gear VR Controller; S8 Photo Leaks

Samsung at the Mobile World Conference showcased a new Gear VR headset and controller compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, and Note 5, as well as the Galaxy S6 series. Features include motion input and additional buttons that allow for better navigation and interaction with VR content.  Engadget reports “in addition to a clickable touchpad, there are trigger, home, back and volume keys. The controller also has an accelerometer, gyrometer and magnetic sensors built in.” Meanwhile, a photo of the Galaxy S8 was leaked on Twitter.

Samsung pushed the launch date back a month to give itself extra time to ensure there would be no repeat of last year’s Note 7 battery fiasco. With several 4K phones debuting at MWC, there’s a good chance the S8 will make the jump in resolution as well. Unlike the 4K competition, the S8 could make use of the extra pixels.
 

Bits

Valve announced the Steam Audio SDK, a spatial audio plugin that the company says is designed to “enhance all interactive products, specifically VR applications.” The new SDK differentiates itself from the pack by adding physics-based sound propagation on top of the now-standard binaural algorithms. RoadtoVR reports that the “use of the spatial audio tool is completely open and supports Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Android, and is not restricted to any particular VR device or to Steam, which means developers building VR apps for the Oculus Rift or Gear VR, for instance, are welcome to use the tool.” The current beta version supports Unity; support for Unreal Engine is on the way.

Qualcomm has partnered with Leap Motion to launch an accelerator program for VR headset manufacturers to create products based on the reference design they showed off at CES.

Last week we linked to a video showing how Google’s new Headset Removal Technology for mixed reality video works. The tech was shown off in a highly entertaining video of the Try Guys trying out Google’s Tilt Brush. The eye tracking technology they are using was provided by a new partnership between SMI and Valve, which is bringing eye-tracking to the OpenVR platform.

Studio Transcendent Producer Greg Sullivan delves deeper into his discussion of writing for VR in part two of his blog post. Greg’s interesting post includes embracing the use of the second person, breaking the 4th wall barrier, and moving past the common formula of casting the user as a ghost or robot. “So much of what’s been done to date has been an effort to bend the will of VR to the traditions of the existing mediums, but VR will only sing when it finds its own voice. Those of us who write out on this fun new frontier have a unique ability to help sculpt that new language.”

VR Digest™ is a Virtual Reality Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, a producer of premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Wednesdays.

 
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