VR Digest: Ready Player One trailer; 
VR’s Grand Challenge

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 130 – July 27, 2017

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

Ready Player One Trailer Debuts

San Diego Comic Con saw the highly-anticipated reveal of the first teaser trailer for Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

The book debuted in 2011, around the time that Palmer Luckey first showed his Oculus prototypes publicly. As a result, it was enthusiastically embraced by the rejuvenated VR developer community, with its updated, entertaining vision of a persistent metaverse built around the 80’s nostalgia of its Wonka-esque creator.

We—and the rest of the industry no doubt—are eagerly anticipating this release as it will broadly disseminate the notion of VR as a mass medium. The fact that Spielberg has his own VR company will likely mean that much will be made of the fact that the technology fictionalized in the movie is already a consumer reality today in a nascent, but still highly compelling, form. Hopefully, folks will leave the theater and be inspired to invest in VR, boosting the consumer market. Oculus is rumored to be building a $200 standalone headset for a 2018 release, which could be well positioned to ride the film’s marketing wave.

There are risks: without an established franchise to drive traffic, original big budget films like Passengers and Valerian have been landing on their noses commercially. Will the public’s opinion of VR itself be affected by how well this movie does at the box office? The trailer shows that Spielberg is amping up the set pieces compared to the book and hopefully that means he has more up his sleeve than a series of long VFX-heavy action sequences that lack stakes (given that conceptually it’s all just a big screen Let’s Play video).

Regardless, the film’s release date can’t come soon enough for us—we’re ready to see this!

VR’s Grand Challenge

Oculus’ Chief Scientist Michael Abrash authored a blog post that is a transcript of the latest iteration of the human perception talk he has given at the last three Oculus Connect events and most recently at the Global Grand Challenges Summit. If you haven’t seen his presentation, it’s well worth sitting back and reading up on the perceptual leaps your brain makes—which, ultimately, Abrash hopes we can take advantage of to deliver perfectly convincing virtual worlds without asking impossible things of our computing horsepower.

If you have already seen his presentation, you should still check out the tail end, which shows some of Oculus Research’s latest work, including a very impressive facial tracking system. Although Abrash says it isn’t perfect, it seems to work amazingly well. We’ve recently been developing projects that involve performance capture using Faceware. While Faceware does have a real time solution, it’s still a big challenge to get it working, and you can’t use it while the actor is immersed in VR. If we had headsets with instant and reliable facial capture, combined with the strides that have been made in full-body motion capture with consumer level hardware using Vive trackers, the possibilities for production, live performance in VR, and social VR open up dramatically.

Google Study Shows VR Training Effectiveness

Google’s Daydream Labs posted an article elucidating some of the promise and hurdles of using VR for training in a study they did comparing how people do when trained with an interactive VR environment compared to watching a YouTube video of the process at hand (making an espresso).

Unsurprisingly, people enjoyed learning in VR more. They felt they had learned the task in ⅔ the time, and on their first try they performed the task much faster while making fewer mistakes than the YouTube group did.

Key takeaways:

  • People won’t pay attention to instructions almost no matter how you present them. (Argh! We’ve encountered this. Empathetic characters and guardrails help.)
  • Haptics aren’t truly effective as proxies for things like dangerously hot objects and tamping (pounding the grounds down).

  • VR does do better than non-VR at creating interest and better learning outcomes for physical tasks.

  • Creating a fully interactive game was more effective than an “on-rails” learning experience in VR because it is too easy for the user to go off script.



Oculus will soon push an update that allows users to launch their SteamVR apps directly from Oculus Home. Users can download a pre-release build in the public test channel. [Road to VR]

Following their release of a Daydream-based standalone headset, HTC has announced that they are releasing another Vive brand standalone headset—this time for the Chinese market.  The new headset will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset and access VR experiences through HTC’s Viveport storefront. It’s interesting to note—given our recent comments about Viveport’s difficulties in competing with Steam, which it depends upon for hardware support—that HTC is pushing ahead with Viveport as a China-first strategy, where they don’t face competition from Google Play or Steam and have a bit more breathing room to open up an app store business. [UploadVR]

The Android Soul reports that Galaxy S8 and S8+ updates with Google Daydream are now available to Verizon customers. As Road to VR notes, this update “makes the Galaxy S8 and S8+ arguably the best phones to own right now for VR because they’re the only two that offer support for both Google’s Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR headsets, which means users aren’t stuck in one ecosystem or the other.” 

Lenovo has revealed a new standalone augmented reality headset called daystAR. Like the mobile-phone based Lenovo headset that we mentioned last week, teased in a promo for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, this headset does not have a price or release date. An AR development platform was also teased during the recent announcements. [Road to VR]

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