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VR Digest: We go hands-on with the Rift!
Xbox partnership announced

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

written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 20 – June 17, 2015
VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

Oculus Rift hands-on,
Xbox partnership announced

Nearly three years after Kickstarting its first developer kit, Oculus detailed its plan for the launch of the consumer Rift.

The launch includes a partnership with Microsoft to deliver a wireless Xbox One controller in the box with each Rift as well as a cinema-style app on which to play pre-VR games streaming from an Xbox One.

The final headset slips onto the head like a baseball cap, comes with removable earphones that sound great and has a slider on the bottom to adjust for different eye widths. It is far more comfortable than any previous iteration of the system, with more room for glasses. The fabric covering feels nice and aids ventilation, but still allows the tracking LEDs to shine through.

“We call it a constellation tracking system,” Palmer Luckey said. “We’ve actually got a constellation of infrared LED light emitters underneath the fabric and this fabric is actually infrared transparent so it looks black to us but infrared light passes right through it.”

After the headset launches in Q1 2016, Oculus plans to ship its newly revealed Oculus Touch handheld controllers sometime in the first half of 2016. Demos of controller prototypes at E3 in Los Angeles showed Oculus using two cameras to track the hand controllers and the headset in 360 degrees, with reports on Twitter suggesting they are on par with, if not better than, Valve’s SteamVR controllers. The Verge’s Adi Robertson posted a video overview with her hands-on impressions of the new controllers, saying they are “really, really precise.”

Oculus showcased gamepad titles including “Eve: Valkyrie” by CCP and “Edge of Nowhere” by Insomniac Games during its press conference, and both are available for attendees to try on the new hardware at E3.

“Our company vision is to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life,” said Hilmar Veigar, CEO of CCP. “When we are truly seeing the dawn of virtual reality, I don’t think we have to make excuses for that statement anymore.”

Other VR games mentioned for the Rift include “Chronos” by Gunfire Games, “Damaged Core” by High Voltage, “VR Sports Challenge” by Sanzaru, “Esper” by Coatsink, “AirMechVR” by Carbon and “Lucky’s Tale” by Playful. Additional developers working on VR games called out by Oculus include Square Enix, Harmonix, Glu, Signal Studios, Ozwe Games, 4A Games, Climax Studios and Ready at Dawn.

If you’re looking for more, your first stop should probably be the Rift’s official website. There’s also a short reveal video showing off the headset and a 51 minute video of the press conference.
 

Bits

Microsoft said it would be supporting Valve’s VR efforts but was unclear about precisely what that partnership would entail. Meanwhile, Stress Level Zero showed an image depicting the impressive tracking dimensions of SteamVR’s Lighthouse system.

“The market will decide the fate of the various implementations upon their merits,” said Valve’s Alan Yates.

Sweden-based Starbreeze Studios teamed with InfinitEye, previously known for their super-wide field of view headset, to create StarVR, a new headset announced in conjunction with a demonstration VR experience based on “The Walking Dead” that is premiering at E3. The system doubles the horizontal field of view and pixel count compared to the Oculus Rift – enabling peripheral vision – but has a lower refresh rate.

USA Today reported Disney-owned ILMxLAB is planning Star Wars-themed virtual and augmented reality experiences to be released later this year. There’s a video overview of the lab and its multi-studio talent. “We're entering an age of immersive entertainment, where it is possible to collapse the walls that separate us from story experiences ... You can go further into the world in which the story is taking place.”

Major news outlets scratched the surface of VR this week. The BBC interviewed (video) a key USC mixed reality researcher:

“I can’t think of an area that virtual reality is not going to touch. If we think about mobile devices...we thought of them as phones but now I can’t name one area that a mobile device isn’t involved in. The same is going to be true of virtual reality,” said Mark Bolas.

The New York Times published a broad article looking at the latest VR developments:

“We’re kind of at the Pong level of working with this,” said Valve's Chet Faliszek. “There’s so much more we’re discovering.”

Oculus CTO John Carmack conducted his third public critique of VR apps, this time breaking down InnerspaceVR. “In one of the internal multi-user apps we are working on, I explicitly put up a ‘Plug in headphones!’ message on the main screen when headphones aren’t attached, and I think this is a good suggestion for applications where audio is really important.”

Reuters reported PC giant ASUS internally discussed acquiring Valve partner and Vive maker HTC. Recode, in turn, reported HTC “will not consider a merger.”

The people behind Vivid Vision answered questions on Reddit about their use of VR to help people with lazy eye improve their vision. “I was born with a lazy eye and it was recognized at 6 months ... Depth Perception has been a pipe dream for a while so reading this has gotten me all giddy!!” one user wrote.

MIT Technology Review questions whether Magic Leap's $592 million, taken primarily from Google, is enough to create its secretive augmented reality goggles.

“Company representatives and people who have experienced the prototypes sound, to the cranky and the uninitiated, like adherents of a cult that practices ritual intake of hallucinogens.”

Futuremark announced it is beginning to develop a standardized way to test VR system performance.

Graphics chip-maker AMD released a short video outlining its LiquidVR approach to maximizing presence.

Unreal launched the 4.8 version of its development platform, which includes first-party SteamVR support. Unity, meanwhile, released version 5.1 of its platform which officially provides Gear VR support in Unity 5.x

Oculus posted some details for developers trying to work with the latest software.

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