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VR Digest: Odyssey leads Windows MR headsets; 
Google's refined Daydream headset & Pixel 2 phone

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 140 – October 5, 2017

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

Samsung Odyssey Will Lead The Windows MR Headset Field

The details of the new Samsung headset that leaked last week are now available. The Samsung Odyssey will bring better-than-Oculus Rift-level specs to the Windows Mixed Reality VR headset marketplace. That means a PSVR inspired industrial design with integrated audio, 400 more pixels in the vertical and horizontal for each eye compared to the Rift or Vive, and a 110-degree field of view. That almost certainly makes the Odyssey the best value in the Windows MR field, but at $499 including controllers, it costs the same as the Oculus Rift.

There are trade offs to both platforms. Oculus has built up some great exclusive content and has had a head start in optimizing their software to kill latency and smooth out performance hiccups. Microsoft’s advantages are somewhat less concrete. It is offering first party desktop integration that could one day be the preferred way to work Windows, but probably not in this first iteration. It also could offer OS-level performance optimizations, but, so far, those are not apparent. It does for sure offer a smoother, more portable setup experience than Oculus, with native hardware support in the Windows 10 “Fall Update” and the elimination of external sensors.

October 17th will be the release date for five headsets that run on the Windows Mixed Reality Platform. Upload VR has created a helpful chart that compares various VR headsets on the market. However, if you’re planning to actually use the headset, we can’t help feeling the Samsung Odyssey is the only one worth considering, and that is because of Samsung’s OLED display dominance. The company has built a heck of a moat with their display division, one that forced Oculus to partner with them on Gear VR and is currently giving Apple cold sweats over their dependence on Samsung for iPhone X screens.


Google Announces Refined Daydream Headset and Pixel 2 Phone

Google has a new phone and a new VR headset to go with it. The Pixel 2 builds on the original’s success with an upgrade to the faster Snapdragon 835 processor (the same as the Samsung Galaxy S8). The larger XL version features a 2880x1440 OLED panel that should work well for VR. The new Daydream headset focuses on ergonomic improvements, but also adds a passive heatsink to the front flap which is supposed to keep the phone from overheating.

As of now, 15 phones support Daydream, but the Pixel and S8 is will be the big sellers. Unfortunately, the S8’s marketing budget will flow towards Gear VR, not Daydream, and it is doubtful that many customers aside from us VR nerds will spring for two such accessories.

Everything points towards the Pixel 2 XL being the most desirable Android phone on the market for the foreseeable future, but Verizon is still the only carrier selling the phone. That will likely prevent Pixel 2 from expanding the Daydream user base much this year. Meanwhile, the $849 starting price on the XL will dissuade some buyers while the large bezels on the smaller version will probably steer customers towards the S8.
 

Sony Has Hardware Updates Too

Sony announced some minor PSVR hardware updates. The PSVR will get integrated earbuds, and the passthrough box will support HDR signals so that you can leave the PSVR plugged in if you want to use your fancy HDR TV to its fullest extent.

Meanwhile, the PS Move controllers are getting an update with improved battery life and slimline USB connectors that will be the same as the one found on the standard DualShock 4 controller. Those are welcome improvements, but they don’t address the far more pressing issue that the PS Move controllers are just plain terrible compared to the Oculus Touch, Vive wands, or the new Microsoft controllers.
 

Bits

GoPro’s Fusion camera will be released later this month for $699. The Verge reports that the 360 degree camera “uses two lenses to shoot up to 5.2K video at 30 frames per second, can take 18-megapixel spherical photos, and capture 360-degree sound. It’s waterproof up to 16 feet out of the box, and is compatible with “most” GoPro mounts, according to the company.”

Microsoft has acquired struggling VR social network AltspaceVR and its remaining team, stating “AltspaceVR will stay AltspaceVR. Microsoft is most interested in preserving the current community that uses AltspaceVR to connect and interact with new and old friends. These first few months will focus on fostering our community and making sure AltspaceVR remains a friendly, welcoming and vibrant place to hang out in virtual reality.”

Microsoft revealed what their Halo experience is. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a quick demo with minimal “shooting gallery” gamification, but Halo fans will like it. It won’t be a good reason to drop $500 on a Windows headset though.

Varjo Technologies raised 8.2 million to further development of their ~$10,000 professional VR headset. If they can get the system to work, it would potentially herald a future in which creators could keep a headset on all workday long, but a lot of software work needs to be done to support that.

A new Bigscreen update brings Avatar customization and a new interaction system that makes it possible to use tracked controllers for most interactions, eliminating the need to constantly switch back to the mouse and keyboard.

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

 
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