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VR Digest: Oculus Arcade;
NYT documentary
 
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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 41 – November 11, 2015

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

Oculus launches virtual Arcade in consumer push

Oculus launched a virtual Arcade on Gear VR with more than 20 classic games including Sonic The Hedgehog 1 and 2, Gauntlet 1 and 2, Streets of Rage 1 and 2, Pac-Man, Galaga and Joust. The games range in price from $1 to $3 via in-app purchase, and you can play each of them for free for 20 minutes. Road to VR posted a 3-minute first look video. Though some games originally featured multiplayer, Oculus hasn’t included social VR functionality in the initial beta release. Chief Technology Officer John Carmack wrote “I was talking about streaming screens for that, but it isn't scheduled yet.”

The app arrived on Gear VR along with several made-for-VR games including Land’s End (1-minute trailer) from the makers of popular mobile puzzler Monument Valley. Land’s End is $8 and launched alongside shooter Bandit Six: Salvo ($5) and racing game Kerser ($3).

The Arcade app and VR games are part of the consumer push for the Gear VR. A lighter version of the goggles sells for $100 and starts shipping on November 20. The new Gear VR is available for pre-order from Amazon, Best Buy and Samsung and works with the Samsung Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+.

Oculus released a set of nine developer session videos from the Oculus Connect 2 conference with more coming this Wednesday. The sessions were also posted on Vimeo for possible viewing with others in VR using the Oculus Social app. However, Oculus hasn’t provided a way to access them inside VR yet.
 

Google and New York Times popularize Cardboard

Google’s Cardboard phone-holder got a big push this week with the launch of an 11-minute New York Times documentary called The Displaced, which focuses on three children driven from their homes in war-torn regions. You can watch the documentary on Youtube, in the new NYT VR app (iPhone or Android) or in the VRSE apps on iPhone, Android or the Oculus Store for Gear VR. The Times distributed more than 1 million Cardboards to subscribers and brought many to tears with the moving 360-degree video. Wired called it “VR’s Big Mainstream Moment” and the article described the task facing Pulitzer Prize-winning videographer Ben Solomon in capturing footage for VR:

“[Solomon] often commented that shooting VR versus shooting traditional video is the difference between hunting with a rifle versus setting a bear trap,” New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein told WIRED. “That really kind of captures it. It is challenging to be in the field and not be able to hold the camera and chase the action yourself.”

The project from the New York Times launched within days of Youtube adding support for panoramic stereoscopic 3D video, as well as the ability to watch any video from the site in a virtual theater inside Cardboard.

Also, The Information reported (subscription required) Google recently sought partners to co-develop chips that could make future Android phones better for VR.
 

Bits:

Light-field camera company Lytro, which received a $50 million investment in February, announced a camera array called Immerge promising captured footage allowing VR viewers to lean into the scene. It is unclear how far along Lytro is in the camera’s development, but “to buy it will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars” reports Engadget “while renting it would probably be for a few thousand a day.”

As a sidenote, eagle-eyed Lucas Wilson spotted the Jaunt ONE camera array apparently being used to film an NFL game.

Steven M. LaValle from the University of Illinois posted a new draft (PDF, main site) of his lengthy book providing an overview of VR technology.

Bill Gates played tennis against a virtual Maria Sharapova in the HTC Vive and said it was “pretty cool”. Somewhat related, an experimental Vive game lets tennis players train against themselves.

Facebook “hired three longtime Microsoft veterans to head up a new computational photography team at the company,” according to Re/Code. The researchers could build tools to help people capture and share content for VR.

Tesla Motors is looking to hire an “Unreal Engine Game Artist” comfortable “working with VR / AR equipment” to help design future electric supercars.
 

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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