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VR Digest: E3 wrap-up;
VR prominent in TV plotlines

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 John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 125 – June 21, 2017

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

Hi Friends,
 

We are excited that the 360 video version of Studio Transcendent’s VR experience Rapid Fire: a brief history of flight has been prominently featured on Google Daydream Home this week! We have a lot to cover in this issue, and one thing that is becoming clear is that the velocity of VR news has increased lately. We take that as a good sign; journalists lately have been talking about a slump in adoption, but my fingers tell me that things are rolling along at a much steadier clip than they were a year ago.
 
Best,
John, Aaron, Bowdy, and Elissa 
at Studio Transcendent


VR Prominent In Recent Plotlines

Consumer knowledge of VR is incredibly important for our industry.  While the study we linked to last week indicated that there is a long way to go to educate the public about VR, it’s a positive thing to see it addressed in popular media. We saw three prominent examples this week.

HBO’s Silicon Valley has touched on VR several times over the course of its four seasons, but with the addition of Haley Joel Osment’s character, Keenan Feldspar, to the cast, it has become much more central to the plot. Feldspar has created an awesomely realistic VR HMD and a demo involving a hill, a tavern and a barmaid who doesn’t mind being ogled, but it only works on a $10,000 PC (echoes of Magic Leap’s desk-bound “Beast” prototype).

Thanks to the magic of middle-out compression technology, the latency and system requirements are greatly diminished and Feldspar is bought out to the tune of $2 billion (Oculus money). Feldspar’s character is partially based on Palmer Luckey, and Luckey changed his real world Twitter profile image to Feldspar’s visage, but Osment plays him earnestly as a man who just doesn’t want to be “bummed out”, and, as a result, can create a lot of havoc in his wake.

House of Cards made a minor plot point out of the therapeutic use of VR in Season 5, episodes 5 & 6 as Governor Will Conway uses it to confront his PTSD at the urging of a friend. Unfortunately the show misrepresents the capabilities of a Samsung Gear VR, depicting it as operating tethered to a laptop with position tracking and hand tracked gloves.

Cars 3 got in on the action too, showing two race cars in giant windshield-sized VR goggles accidentally bumping into each other and Lightning McQueen obsessing over what he sees as the competitive advantage afforded by a multi-million dollar immersive motion simulator.
 

E3 Wrap-up

E3 was ongoing as of press time last week. Here are some of the stories we didn’t get to:

Skydance Interactive announced Archangel, a giant-mech shooter with a campaign. It will be available on “all major VR platforms” including PSVR.

Survios revealed that Raw Data, a stylish wave brawler, will exit Early Access in September and will add PSVR to its existing support for Rift and Vive. An update coming this summer near the first anniversary of the game’s public availability will add player versus player game modes.

Ubisoft had two VR-related products to announce. The first was Transference, an interactive movie created in cooperation with SpectreVision, a storytelling-focused interactive studio co-founded by Elijah Wood. The other is Space Junkies, a zero-gravity arena game.

After not announcing their highly anticipated Doom VFR, Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR properties would be available on the Oculus Rift, Bethesda hinted that they were still open to the possibility---but made no commitments---tweeting: “We plan on supporting as many platforms as we can.”

Oculus made Lone Echo available for pre-order. The game launches July 20th. The multiplayer component, Echo Arena, will be a separate download and will be available for free to Rift owners for a limited time. Echo Arena is one of our favorite multiplayer VR experience so far, based on a match we played at Oculus Connect. It will have a beta early access weekend, starting June 23 at 10am Pacific Time.


Bits

Sony Pictures Entertainment has produced an interactive promotional experience to accompany Spider-Man: Homecoming. The experience takes advantage of touch controls to allow players to inhabit the suit, with the trailer gameplay apparently captured on an Oculus Rift. It will be available on PSVR, Vive and Rift on June 30th, and will also be rolled out as an activation in “select Cinemark theaters”, according to the video’s description. It’s great to see a studio produce a promotional experience that takes advantage of real-time rendered VR and the interactivity it enables, as the majority of VR film promotions in recent months have come in the form of a 360 video in a quest for broader distribution.

Oculus has kicked off their summer sale, with many titles discounted and daily deals. Buyers of a Rift/Touch combo from select retailers will receive a $100 Oculus Store credit.

The Mage’s Tale launched on Oculus. Created by inXile Entertainment, which is known for its role playing game heritage (and successfully raising $1.5 million on Kickstarter for the development of The Bard’s Tale IV), the game is noteworthy for offering a full 8-10 hours of gameplay, still a rarity in the VR landscape.

Varjo, a HMD company formed by ex-Nokia engineers, is taking an interesting approach to tackling a solution to the “screen door effect” that VR displays succumb to when magnified to fill your field of view. They are combining a small, high resolution display located in the center sweet spot of the lens, with a more standard resolution around the periphery to provide a wider field of view. This provides a display dense enough to make individual pixels melt away, so long as the user’s eyes are pointed straight ahead. Varjo’s HMD will be targeted at professional users and they plan to hit a price point in the “thousands of dollars”. The Verge went hands on with a prototype hacked out of an Oculus Rift. “Even though this window of ultra clarity was small, it felt like a massive relief. I was able to resolve detail I thought I’d otherwise have to wait years to see in VR, and it didn’t strain my eyes as much, either.”

Seaworld Orlando has started operation of a new VR roller coaster, Kraken. It looks significantly more sophisticated in implementation than the Gear VR-augmented coasters at Six Flags.

Jason Schell of Schell Games (creators of I Expect You To Die) stuck his neck out and made some specific predictions about the state of the AR/VR marketplace in 2025 in a polished presentation at the Augmented World Expo. He does not believe that AR will represent most of the penetration outside of professional use cases, due to all the hard problems that remain unsolved.

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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