VR Digest: HTC slashes price of Vive

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written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 134 – August 24, 2017

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

Hi Friends,

The total eclipse was unbelievably awesome! It does matter where you go to see it; we were in the high desert of central Idaho surrounded by craggy peaks towering 6000 feet above the wide, flat Salmon River valley. Heavy smoke from the nearby wildfires lent an otherworldly air and painted the entire horizon red as the moon’s shadow plunged us into a deep purple twilight. It didn’t seem real; I felt I had been teleported into a spectacularly high-fidelity VR experience. The two minutes of totality passed in what felt like a mere 15 seconds. There is no comparison between the experience of a partial and total eclipse. Even at 99% coverage. The corona is a powerful sight. It hits you in your gut. The next one is coming April 8, 2024. Don’t miss it.

Unfortunately it was the real world after all, so no replay was available. There are a lot of 360 videos of the event. It seems several professionals were shooting from Casper, WY, which unfortunately had some clouds in the away. The best video I found was taken in Gallatin, TN. Unfortunately, all of the video suffers from the fact that the corona blows out the disk of the moon in camera, so it really looks much less impressive than it does in person, and unless The Void makes an eclipse simulator, you’ll miss out on the 4D effectsthe rapid change in temperature and wind.

John, Aaron, Bowdy, and Elissa 
at Studio Transcendent

HTC Slashes Price of Vive to $600

HTC has cut the price of the Vive down to $600. If Oculus ends their summer sale and the Rift bundle price goes back to its $500 price point, the two systems will be much more competitively priced than they were before. Also, to make the Oculus functionally equivalent to the Vive, a third sensor is required, which retails for $60, so the difference in price between the two systems will work out to only $40. That makes the picking between the two a lot more difficult.

Our advice? If you are not going to be moving your rig around, the Vive warrants serious consideration; it uses fewer USB ports and its expandability is better with Vive trackers and other lighthouse accessories. But you’ll probably end up spending even more as you upgrade to the upcoming knuckles controllers and recently released audio head strap to match the Rift’s superior ergonomics. If you think you’ll want to pay extra for a wireless connection accessory, the Vive is also a better bet than Rift, since the TPCast accessory for Vive has received FCC approval for sale.


Ready At Dawn, the studio who created Lone Echo and Echo Arena, hosted an “Ask Me Anything” Q&A on Reddit with their game and art directors.

Samsung just announced the Note 8. Pre-orders from now until September 24th will come with a free Gear 360 camera. Samsung also announced a new version of the Gear VR that is a bit bigger to accommodate the new phone with its 6.3 inch screen, but with the same universal design as the previous model that fits all the previous Gear VR phones. This marks the third iteration of the “new” Gear VR, which debuted alongside last year’s ill-fated Note 7. [The Verge]

Road to VR writes about their hands-on with a working demo of Kopin’s Elf headset. Not only does the Elf weigh less than half of a Rift or Vive, but it boasts three times the pixels, making for a very sharp display. “[The] Elf headset is not going to become a product, it’s simply a pitch for Kopin’s VR [OLED] microdisplays and Goertek’s manufacturing capabilities. The company’s hope is that a consumer electronics company will want to produce a product based on the Lightning display, and the Elf headset is the demo to sell them on the form-factor that it enables.” [Road to VR]

James Cameron is warming up to VR, saying “I will tell you that if I wasn’t making the Avatar [sequels] and that wasn’t taking up so much of my bandwidth, I would be experimenting around with VR.” In 2015, he called VR technology “a yawn” and he reiterated the dig—but noted that it’s only because he is using VR daily for his work on the aforementioned Avatar sequels (previously he had claimed VR was boring because it was no different than 3D video games).

Cameron also criticized those who apply the label VR to 360 video, saying it was not very interesting and that “true VR” was real time rendered, interactive content. He continued to say that real time rendered content can’t compete visually with Avatar and, until it reached that point, he didn’t think it would be time to “make movies in true VR.” We don’t think this is true; video game visuals can be quite stunning and not every successful movie looks like Avatar. But at least Cameron is coming around and leaving room for others to lead the charge. [Road to VR]

Bethesda has set launch dates for Skyrim VR (November 17 for PSVR), DOOM VFR (December 1 for PSVR and HTC VIVE), and Fallout 4 VR (December 12 for HTC VIVE).

KFC created a VR training game for new employees, but decided to make something less dry than your typical simulation, making it into an escape room with a slightly menacing version of Colonel Sanders guiding you through the tasks.

Scientists at Austria’s Vienna Biocenter have built FreemoVR, a VR rig for lab animals, in order to understand how animals respond to visual stimulation. [MIT Technology Review]

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