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VR Digest: Oculus Pre-Orders Begin;
New “Vive Pre” Shown

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) issue 49 – January 6, 2016

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

Oculus Begins Accepting Pre-Orders for the Consumer Rift

Oculus confidently strode into the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with the long-awaited announcement that it would begin accepting pre-orders this morning at 8 AM Pacific Time. If you backed the DK1 Kickstarter in 2012 you can sleep in; a free special edition Rift has been earmarked for you as long as you fill in a form (which has been emailed to backers) by February 1st. The Oculus pre-orders will be available in twenty countries.

Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey has been doling out the good news gradually on Twitter. Those who pre-order a Rift will receive a free copy of both Lucky’s Tale and Eve: Valkyrie. The new Rift will also include an upgraded version of the original DK1’s beloved plastic carrying case. “It is coming back, and doper than ever!” Luckey proclaimed, then added: “When you preorder Rift, you also reserve your spot for Touch [motion controller] preorders. First in line for Rift=First in line for Touch.”

Luckey also had some bad news to share. The Oculus Touch motion controllers have been delayed until the second half of 2016. “Sometimes you have to make tough calls and do the right thing,” he said, “The design and capabilities of Touch will flow through to future generations of hardware - setting the right bar is important.”

Oculus softened the blow by releasing images of a new Touch prototype that sports a more finalized industrial design made of molded plastic (previously shown prototypes were 3D-printed). The new design adds a home button and a curious new design feature that looks like a circle of plastic nubs and could potentially be yet another input using a capacitive sensor.

Luckey will be fielding questions in a reddit AMA at 6 PM Pacific Time this evening.

HTC and Valve Show New “Vive Pre” Developer Kit

Also at CES, HTC and Valve are demonstrating a sleek new development kit. Dubbed “Vive Pre”, the device improves on the original Vive with a smaller, lighter case, much more elegant controllers that should be more reliable thanks to a redesigned radio configuration and a wired usage option, a better screen, and a “breakthrough” front-mounted camera. The camera allows the Vive’s “chaperone” system to show users an overlay of their real-life physical environment including obstacles like furniture. A total of 7,000 Vive Pre devices are being distributed for free to developers, with the first batch going to owners of the original Vive dev kits.
 

Bits

Samsung has been developing a set of motion controllers for the Gear VR called “rink”. A video has surfaced on YouTube showing them in action. They seem to be capable of some fairly sophisticated finger tracking and there is what appears to be an optical tracking device that attaches to the Gear VR.

Purpose-built VR cameras popped up all over at CES on Tuesday, vying to make it easier for consumers to create their own spherical videos. In order of sensor count:

1 - The 360fly camera is available for purchase at Best Buy for $400.

2 - Nikon’s KeyMission 360 offers spherical video in a tough action camera body with 4K recording capability and a promised set of mounting accessories. [Note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Nokia was the manufacturer of this camera.]

8 - The Vuze camera produces 3D 360 video in a compact, colorful form factor and will sell for $700.

16 - Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET, showed off a new camera his team developed called the Quantum Leap. The device stitches video in real time for broadcast to VR headsets including Gear VR.

Road to VR went hands-on with ionVR, a Google Cardboard variant that uses an external motion sensor (similar to the Gear VR) to improve upon the currently awful latency of Cardboard applications. The device appears to work, but requires developers to include its library in their applications, so it remains to be seen if it will get sufficient software support.

A blog post on HTC’s website lists many vendors using VR technology at CES.

NVIDIA announced a “VR Ready” badging program to help consumers pick out PCs that are capable of driving the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. This may be confusing to consumers as Oculus has already announced an “Oculus Ready” badging program.

A Kickstarter launched for a full-body haptic suit. The high-end "Tesla Suit Prodigy" even includes the user's buttocks among its 52 electrical stimulation contact points.

SensoMotoric Instruments released a video showing a working prototype of a foveated rendering system using eye tracking in an HMD. Eventually this technology could enable much higher resolution displays in VR headsets without requiring massively greater computing power to drive them.
 

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