VR Digest: Oculus price drop;
Creative tools growing more capable

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 110 – March 8, 2017

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

Hi Friends,

Looks like there is a new acronym in town. Get ready to hear a lot about “XR”, a new catch-all phrase for the VR/AR/MR/DR/MVR alphabet soup we’ve all been drowning in lately. Not clear if it’s XR as in “x Reality” or as in “eXtended Reality”, but either way it sounds cool! We’re wrapping up GDC this week with a ton of exciting news.

Aaron, John, Bowdy, and Elissa 
at Studio Transcendent


VR-First Creative Tools Growing More Capable

At Epic’s State of Unreal presentation last week, the company showed off an exciting new feature of its in-VR editing system: a subdivision-surface modeling tool. There have been a couple of attempts at an in-VR modeling system---notably VRTX and MakeVR---but to have a company with the resources of Epic Games tackle the problem is very exciting, and integrating Pixar’s OpenSubDiv technology is icing on the cake because a skilled modeler could create almost any shape imaginable with the technique. Together with the sculpting abilities of Oculus Medium, it may be possible to develop a professional modeling workflow that exists entirely within VR sooner than we thought.

Consumer oriented VR creativity got a boost with a new video from Project Sansar, the second coming of Second Life, showing off its deep creative tools for building virtual worlds. Project Sansar is in closed beta, but will “open to the public” “this Spring”.

Oculus Price Drop

Oculus announced a price drop, bringing the combined cost of Rift and Touch down to $598. The Rift and Touch each saw a $100 price cut, and a third sensor for room-scale VR now costs $59, down from $79.


Epic Games announced that Unreal will support Pixar’s open-source Universal Scene Description file format.

Tested went hands on with LG’s prototype Steam VR headset and controllers. They also announced that they will be covering VR on a weekly segment.

Ian Hamilton tried out eye tracking-enhanced VR at GDC.

Improbable’s SpatialOS, a cloud service focused on helping developers create massively-multiplayer persistent virtual universes, launched an open beta and the first version of their Unreal Integration (Unity is already supported).

CCP Games put out a trailer for Sparc, a Tron-inspired digital dodgeball game that they are positioning as a new kind of e-sport, one in which players will demonstrate physical athleticism and which spectators can cheer from Virtual Reality or a more traditional feed. It seems obvious that this is the future of sports; time will tell if Sparc is the spark that gets it started.

Jules Urbach is back with another update vlog on OTOY’s mad-scientist efforts to bring light field rendering to XR.

British TV network Channel 4 has joined with The Economist media group and Stephen Lambert, chief executive of TV production banner Studio Lambert, to invest in new startup Parable, aimed at creating VR and 360° content across the entertainment, brand marketing and training sectors.

Stephen Lambert noted that "Virtual reality is the most exciting technological media development of the next few years, but its success hangs or falls on creating great content.”

Popular YouTubers from outside the Let’s Play genre are hopping on the Mixed Reality bandwagon. We told you about Conan and The Try Guys; now Dude Perfect got in on the action with a Vive game championship. The videos are definitely effective at selling VR, but sorely missing from all three segments is multiplayer interaction.

A NY Times article emphasizes that virtual reality done well can be well-worth the investment.  Although cost might be high and there are some inherent risks, premium experiences have seen great pay-offs. One example of marketing success occurred when Lenovo Software used a virtual reality video to promote its Lenovo Unified Workspace at the Gartner Symposium trade show in 2016. More than 500 people spent, on average, 12.5 minutes with the VR experience, with some returning to the company’s booth three or four times to watch it again. According to Sal Patalano, Lenovo’s chief revenue officer, the company gathered more than three times as many leads as it had at previous conferences.

Road to VR went hands-on with VELOCIBEASTS, an arena fighting game with a really cool new movement mechanic: you throw your weapon, then teleport to its location in space.

Amazon released a video showcasing their “Bistro” demo, which reveals some new rendering features (specular and temporal antialiasing). Most exciting of all is an implementation of Order-Independent Transparency, which addresses a major pain point for artists working in game engines where objects with translucency can get mixed up about whether or not they should be rendered in front of a different translucent object, something that is glaringly obvious when the scene is viewed in stereo. Road to VR published a video with further details. Amazon recently released a Virtual Reality Samples Project to kickstart developers who want to use Lumberyard for VR.

The Business of Fashion covered VR in an article which examines how the fashion industry is dipping its toes in the VR space.

Samsung certainly thinks VR and fashion make a good match and put its mark on New York Fashion Week by hosting a private fashion show at its experience store in the Meatpacking district and streaming the proceedings to its Gear VR platform.

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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