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VR Digest: PSVR price
and release date 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 59 – March 16, 2016

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

So much new information has come out of the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this week that we are going to send out a special edition “Part 2” newsletter tomorrow (Thursday morning). For now, enjoy Part 1!

PlayStation VR Price and Release Date Announced

Sony announced that their PlayStation VR will be available this October at a price of $399. Included will be the headset, a connection cable, USB and HDMI cables, a processor unit, headphones, and a power supply. PSVR owners will also be able to download Playroom VR for free.

Not included, but required, is the PlayStation Camera that can be purchased separately for $59.99. Troublingly, the PlayStation Move Motion Controllers that are essential to many of the experiences we’ve seen on PSVR are also excluded from that price. Altogether, it will cost users at least $120 to complete the package if they don’t own a camera or Move wands. It remains to be seen if Sony will offer all three components as a more expensive bundle (a $499 price point would make a lot of sense there) and how they will educate customers on the necessity of those items.

Sony may simply be taking advantage of the fact that some users already have the camera and wand accessories in order to boast a relatively low entry price. However, even with the purchase of the additional accessories, PSVR’s all-in price tag of around $900 will be much lower than any other high-quality VR solution that offers motion controls and positional tracking, and it is only slightly higher than that of the less capable Gear VR. Therefore, users who want a great VR experience and who are already happy with their smartphone will be well served by the PSVR.

 

PlayStation VR Cinematic Mode and Valve’s SteamVR Desktop Theater Mode Revealed

In its press release, Sony describes the PSVR system’s cinematic mode that "lets users enjoy a variety of content in a large virtual screen while wearing the headset. Supported content for the Cinematic mode includes standard PS4 games and videos as well as a variety of PS4 features including Share Play and Live from PlayStation." The size of the virtual screen is adjustable and can simulate a TV up to 225 inches diagonal, when viewed from a distance of 8 feet.

Valve announced a similar feature this week for the Vive. SteamVR Desktop Theater Mode will allow users to play any game in their Steam library on a giant virtual screen.

Oculus Rift will offer a theater mode that allows users to stream Xbox One games to the headset that will work very much like PSVR Cinematic Mode and SteamVR Desktop Theater. However, those who want to play traditional PC games in their Oculus will have to turn to SteamVR’s Oculus support or a third party solution like Virtual Desktop.

 

Sulon Q Headset Announced

AMD and Sulon offered a sneak peak of the Sulon Q, a tether-free Virtual and Augmented Reality headset that doesn’t need the help of wires or external devices because it has a full Windows 10 PC built into the headset. It does not feature desktop class performance but instead sits somewhere in between the Gear VR and PS4 in terms of power. However, it gets a leg up from DirectX 12 and AMD’s LiquidVR technology.

The Sulon Q has dual stereoscopic cameras on the front which are used for positional tracking and to provide a wide-angle, low latency video feed for Augmented Reality applications. This differs from other AR solutions like the Hololens and Meta 2 in that the background can be completely blocked out by virtual objects.

An impressive demonstration video shows just how powerful that kind of capability can be as a giant drags the viewer from their real life office into a completely synthetic reality. However, the video also reveals somewhat imperfect positional tracking (a problem that has not yet been solved by any of the players in the space; Google’s Project Tango is as close as anyone has gotten so far).

 

Bits

Samsung Gear VR users can now create a profile for its “Oculus Social” features and search for others on the platform by real name or Oculus user name. Oculus Social has also added the ability to create rooms with friends who can watch Twitch or Vimeo streams together.

New made-for-VR social games have been released to allow players to compete with others worldwide. Social Trivia is a trivia game created by Oculus which our editor Ian Hamilton reviewed for Upload VR. Herobound: Gladiators is a multiplayer adventure game where users must cooperate to survive waves of dungeon-dwelling monsters.

The SDK allowing third-party developers to take advantage of these features is still not available, but Oculus promised it will come “later this month” in their announcement.

Sony announced that it has partnered with EA, DICE, and Lucasfilm to create a Star Wars Battlefront VR experience exclusively for PlayStation VR.


Meanwhile, Lucasfilm and the ILMxLAB created their own Star Wars VR experience, Trials on Tatooine (brief trailer), for the HTC Vive, and The Hollywood Reporter tried it out. The experience tasks the participant with fixing the Millennium Falcon and warding off stormtroopers by deflecting their laser blasts with a light saber provided by R2-D2.

Samsung demonstrated its experimental Entrim 4D headphones at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The headphones send “specific electric messages to a nerve in the ear”, giving the user a sensation of movement. In its press release, Samsung describes how this works: 

"Electrical signals—like the ones used to help restore balance in stroke patients—are delivered via headphones equipped with electrodes that correspond with movement data input by engineers. Users thus feel as if they are a part of the on-screen action, and can also sense direction and speed of movement. And, when paired with the team’s Drone FPV, which utilizes data from the drone’s motion sensors, they can even feel like they are flying.”

Samsung is hopeful that by matching the sensation of movement in the body to the experience seen on its headset, it will not only enhance the experience, but be able to reduce the headaches and nausea many people experience in VR. Entrim is still in the development phase and was developed by the same team that created the Rink hand controllers for the Gear VR.
 

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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