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VR Digest:  SteamVR signups open;
Google hires Tiltbrush developers

The week's top VR news brought to you
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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

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

Hi Friends,

There’s still a lot of 2015 left to see, but virtual reality this week took another big step toward the consumer market with Valve taking signups for its dev kits. And while lots of developers (including us) are heads-down on the Oculus Mobile Jam, it’s been a busy week and we’ve got some great news and links for you.

Best,

Aaron, John, Ian, and Elissa
at Studio Transcendent


SteamVR signups are open

Valve opened up signups to request a Vive headset, game controllers and positional tracking base stations. The version for developers is being offered for free, but supplies are limited and the company is asking people to describe their project, including its launch date and the team size.

“Our goal is to support as many VR content creators as possible and, to that end, we will be distributing dev kits continually, with new units going out every couple weeks. However, supplies may be limited...commercial units will be available at a later date this year.”
 

Google updates Cardboard, hires developers

Patrick Hackett and Drew Skillman, the people behind Tiltbrush, were hired by Google to work on the company’s VR team. Tiltbrush is an impressive painting app (think Photoshop VR) enabling the creation of 3D scenes while inside a virtual space. There’s a gallery app for Google Cardboard to view things people have made using the technology. Google also hired an audio team from Trinity College Dublin to work on immersive audio.

In addition, Google published design guidelines with some basic suggestions for software designers building experiences for Cardboard, along with a certification program for manufacturers. There’s a system to generate a QR code that will tell the Cardboard software the specifications of the phone-holder. There’s also a “Works with Google Cardboard” badge manufacturers need to apply for to slap on the side of their viewer so users know it is compatible.
 

More health and VR effects studied

Venturebeat published a well-researched piece looking at the potential effects of VR on the eyes and brain. Among the research looked at was a study (PDF) of a single person subjected to a virtual environment, with occasional breaks, for 24 hours: “Several times during the experiment the participant was confused about being in the VE [virtual environment] or in the real world, and mixed certain artifacts and events between both worlds.”

Meanwhile, the association of eye doctors, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, published some work by researchers at UC San Diego using VR to study the relationship between glaucoma and the risk of falling. “With further refinement of this method, we hope that the approach could one day be used to identify patients at high-risk of falling so that preventative measures can be employed at an earlier stage.”
 

Bits

 
EXCLUSIVE
A new store for virtual reality apps, simply called V, has launched an early access beta. There are more than a dozen apps like The Battle of Endor and Windlands available in V. You can install and run apps without leaving VR, but it's still a little buggy, so expect to encounter a few hiccups. Signup is at startwithv.com (use beta code vrdigest).
 

Anastasia Devana produced an exhaustive comparison of five audio plugins that offer spatialized 3D audio for Virtual Reality developers, including videos, performance data, and a downloadable sample app.

Wired profiled Saschka Unseld, who was at Pixar before coming to Oculus to work on Story Studio, its department focused on VR films and techniques. “There’s a big responsibility on your shoulders to not overstep a boundary. You could traumatize people if you overdo it.”

Vice spoke with directors Chris Milk and Spike Jonze about the power of VR. “There's a purity to being in that moment that isn't cluttered by all the things that usually go along with normal reality. You can exist there without any ego.”

In comments not too different from those he made when Oculus was acquired, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg answered the question “what is your vision of Oculus” with the following: “Our mission to give people the power to experience anything...the goal is to help build a medium that will give you the ability to do all of these things you might not otherwise be able to do.”

London-based The Foundry previewed some of its research into VR software development tools at the NAB show, and CG Channel has a rundown of some of the areas where they hope to help. “The five biggest problems in VR work: camera alignment and image stitching for environment capture, spherical compositing and rendering, and shot review.

The Los Angeles Times wrote about zSpace and its solution for education that uses 3DTV tech and head-tracking to produce interactive augmented/virtual displays. “A set of 12 stations costs schools $50,000-70,000 for hardware, software, professional development and support services for teachers...we see ourselves as differentiated from the head-mounted displays because of the ability for the students to work together and collaborate… without having something cover their face.”

A firm founded by ex-Harmonix folks raised $1.8 million for a VR tech startup called virZoom, but little else is known.

Digital Hollywood is hosting VR panels as part of its spring conference on April 28, with tickets starting at $75 for students and $135 for self-employed people.

UploadVR talked with Sweden-based Univrses and its approach to detecting objects in a room so you can play around in it inside VR. “We are doing the mapping and tracking part before you play the game because we want to make sure that there’s as much CPU as possible while you play.”

Videos


A video posted by Virtuix Omni, a system to “move naturally in your favorite game”, shows a person playing a modified version of Grand Theft Auto 5 in VR. They choose to shoot a store clerk and bystanders in the street, which is leading to some mixed opinions about bringing the game into VR.

Worldviz, which just got money from Intel, posted a pair of videos offering a glimpse of its business-oriented technology including complete walk-around VR as well as a projection system that uses two walls.

This week’s Unreal Engine Live Stream discussed upcoming improvements to the engine’s VR support and offered up some useful tips for Gear VR developers working on the Oculus Game Jam.

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Virtual Reality Digest is a VR Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, who also produces premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Wednesdays.
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