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VR Digest: In-Depth With SteamVR,
Oculus launches paid apps

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In-Depth: Valve’s SteamVR and Vive

The earliest supporters of the Oculus Rift felt intense emotions experiencing the Vive headset from Valve and HTC.

“I cried,” said Paul Bettner, creator of Lucky's Tale (a game “designed exclusively for the Oculus Rift”).

Cliff Bleszinski, one of the earliest investors in Oculus, called it “a religious experience,” putting him on the verge of tears.

Oculus executives and co-founders Palmer Luckey, Brendan Iribe and John Carmack were not invited to see it. They did test Sony’s Morpheus, however, which Carmack called “delightful VR.”

“Sony offered, Valve didn’t,” Carmack said.

“It's hard to build markets alone. Competition fuels innovation and growth. VR just gained a lot of momentum, which is great for everyone,” Iribe said.

Valve created a timeline of its research showing a multi-year effort to develop its key Lighthouse positional tracking system. A breakthrough seemed to be made around May 2014, about two months after Oculus was acquired by Facebook. That’s when Lighthouse was “far enough along to track a headset.”

By October, Valve lured developers with a message containing “a secrecy agreement, plane tickets and the vague assertion this was all about something related to virtual reality.”

And just how does Lighthouse work?

Tested.com talked to Valve VR engineer Ken Birdwell, who had this to say about the little sensors you see all over the Vive: “Those are just little photocells. They just detect the pulse of laser light as it goes by, but we detect it to a really high degree of timing accuracy...we know the geometry of the headset to within a fraction of a millimeter so, as the laser scans it, the timing differences from when the laser hits it tells you exactly how far you are from the laser and where you are in the room.”

Valve is promising to release open source versions of its software. From the website: “SteamVR APIs are free to use and come with everything you love about Steam, but they can also be leveraged without it. We call this alternate version of our APIs OpenVR.”

That’s not to be confused with Razer-backed “Open-Source Virtual Reality,” which demonstrated an updated HMD at the Game Developers Conference.

 

Meanwhile at Mobile World Congress

Samsung announced the upcoming Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge flagship phones will get “Innovator Edition” Gear VR headsets. According to Carmack, the next iteration will be a full consumer release, likely meaning the final product will accompany the Note 5 ahead of this year’s holiday season.

Oculus is now allowing payments on the Gear VR app store, so full games are available for purchase.

 

Bits

Submissions will be accepted for the Oculus Mobile VR Jam beginning April 13 and ending May 11. Oculus is offering $1 million in prizes to developers creating experiences for the Gear VR Innovator Edition. Winners will be announced in June.

Oculus released a preview of its audio SDK.

Google tasked tens of engineers to adapt Android for VR.

People stepped into Bilbo’s shoes as he faced off against Smaug the dragon in Weta's “The Hobbit: A Thief in the Shadows” experience, shown at GDC in the Unreal Engine booth with the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype.

Lionsgate and Kite & Lightning released “Insurgent VR: Shatter Reality” for desktop PC users. It is also available on Google Cardboard and Gear VR.

Valve's Alex Vlachos posted info-filled slides from his talk at GDC.

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