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‘Edge of Nowhere’ Launch Trailer

Edge of Nowhere developer Insomniac Games has released a new launch trailer teasing the arctic adventures that await Oculus Rift users.

Published by Oculus Studios and set to launch Monday, June 6th, Edge of Nowhere is a hotly anticipated Rift game that will launch as an exclusive to the Oculus Store. The developers tease the following:

  • Scale vast walls of ice and explore the treacherous mountains of Antarctica
  • Use weapons and your wits to survive the uncanny horrors that haunt dark caverns.
  • Cling to your sanity in a surreal world where nothing is as it seems.
  • Developed specifically for VR, experience a huge sense of scale, from vertigo inducing cliffs to towering giants

The game is somewhat unusual in that it’s a VR game but built as a third-person experience. Although first-person experiences are among the first to come to mind for VR, we’ve seen a number of functional and enjoyable VR games, like Lucky’s Tale, built around a third-person vantage point.

Edge of Nowhere is built for use of the Xbox One gamepad which is bundled with the Rift. Insomniac Games is also in development of The Unspoken, which is indeed first-person and built for Oculus’ forthcoming ‘Touch’ VR controllers.

Stay tuned to Road to VR for more on Edge of Nowhere.

Edge of Nowhere Screenshots

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GTA Boss on VR: “No Market” for VR that “Requires You to Dedicate a Room”

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has poured scepticism on the hype surrounding VR post launch by voicing concerns about the cost and requirement of current systems, mostly (by the sounds of it) the HTC Vive.

Strauss Zelnick isn’t exactly what you’d call a VR zealot. The CEO of Take-Two, the company behind some of the most successful gaming franchises out there, the biggest being Grand Theft Auto, has previously voiced doubts about virtual reality’s mainstream appeal and potential market penetration.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV back in November 2014, Zelnick voiced concerns over the long term comfort of the then emerging Oculus Rift headset (before the HTC Vive had appeared on the scene). “We are concerned that you’ll play our games for a long period of time — we don’t want people getting nauseated. And also, having had the experience, I’m not sure how long you want an immersive headset on your head.” However, back then, Zelnick was cautiously open to the idea that, should consumers demand it, Take-Two would provide VR support “If that’s what consumers want, we’ll be first in line to give it to them.”

Strauss Zelnick (Photo credit:
Strauss Zelnick (Photo credit:

Now, in an interview with Gamespot, in the wake of the roll out of the first consumer VR headsets, Zelnick has once again aired scepticism, with his worries primarily centered around cost and space requirements. “It’s way too expensive right now,” Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, “There is no market for a $2000 entertainment device that requires you to dedicate a room to the activity. I don’t know what people could be thinking. Maybe some of the people in this room have a room to dedicate to an entertainment activity, but back here in the real world? That’s not what we have in America.”

The cost criticism is of course applicable to both the Oculus Rift ($599) and the HTC Vive ($799), both of which were launched around the beginning of April. But the overall argument, that of space requirements, seems to be levelled at the Vive’s room-scale focus. “We have like $300 to spend on an entertainment device and we do not have a dedicated room. We have a room for a screen, a couch, and controllers,” he added. “We don’t have something where you stand in a big open space and hold two controllers with something on your head–and not crash into the coffee table. We don’t have that.”

See Also: HTC Vive Review: A Mesmerising VR Experience, if You Have the Space
See Also: HTC Vive Review: A Mesmerising VR Experience, if You Have the Space

These are both entirely valid concerns of course, and they hold particular weight coming from such an obviously influential figure in the games industry. But, as he has in the past, Zelnick is quick to state that he still finds the technology interesting. “I’m not unexcited; I’m just saying it remains to be seen,” he says.

Whilst Zelnick’s remarks are clearly targeted at a mainstream scale, we do of course disagree with the assertion there’s “no market”, with both Oculus and HTC struggling to keep up with pre-order demands right out of the gate and the mass market awareness of VR increasing by the day, this ‘core gamer’ audience is growing fast.

Zelnick’s concerns however do seem to ignore the advent of Sony’s PlayStation VR, due to arrive on the market in October this year from $399, albeit with the requirement for additional hardware, not least of which the PS4 console itself. But, like the Oculus Rift, PSVR’s focus is very much the standing and seated experience and it’s hoped that Sony’s headset, sporting a much lower price of entry than its higher fidelity, PC-based competitors, will help the eventual mass adoption rate for VR. It’ll be interesting to see whether Zelnick’s tune changes should PSVR fly off the shelves later in the year.

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Valve Releases ‘The Lab’ Unity Renderer for Free

Valve have released the Unity based renderer for its superb VR experience collection The Lab in an effort to encourage adoption of what it sees as optimal rendering techniques for VR experiences.

Although many probably assumed that Valve’s collection of VR experiences, known as The Lab, released to the public just in time for the launch of the HTC Vive, would use the firms in-house developed 3D engine Source 2, it seems that the majority of experiences were actually built using the hugely popular Unity engine (with one notable Robot related exception).

Valve, recognising the popularity of the Unity 3D game engine among virtual reality developers, decided to release their high performance rendering engine which implements techniques developed by them to “provide the highest fidelity experience with the best performance,” for free, to the Unity asset store for developers to learn from and implement. The move was announced by Valve’s Chet Faliszek announced the move at Unite Europe in Amsterdam yesterday.

Valve have released source code for The Lab and Unity engine developers are encouraged to dig in to Valve’s custom shaders to learn more about, or indeed directly implement techniques such as Single-Pass Forward rendering, Adaptive Quality and GPU Flushing, all of which Valve implemented in The Lab and reference in a new blog post discussing the new release.

Valve’s focus is very much on preventing performance issues resulting in loss of frames, which can of course lead to discomfort for VR users, before they happen, though the use of dynamic level of detail (Adaptive Quality) for example.

They don’t currently have any focus on utilising a form of Oculus’ Asynchronous Timewarp. ATW, as the name suggests, decouples Timewarp from the render loop, which is a method dealing with frames that aren’t finished rendering by the time they need to be sent to the VR headset. The company explains in more detail in a recent blog post:

On Oculus, ATW is always running and it provides insurance against unpredictable application and multitasking operating system behavior. ATW can smooth over jerky rendering glitches like a suspension system in a car can smooth over the bumps. With ATW, we schedule timewarp at a fixed time relative to the frame, so we deliver a fixed, low orientation latency regardless of application performance.

This consistently low orientation latency allows apps to render efficiently by supporting full parallelism between CPU and GPU. Using the PC resources as efficiently as possible, makes it easier for applications to maintain 90fps. Apps that need more time to render will have higher positional latency compared to more efficient programs, but in all cases orientation latency is kept low.

Illustration of ATW's ability to provide a reprojected view of the last available frame when rendering exceeds allotted time | Photo courtesy Oculus
Illustration of ATW’s ability to provide a reprojected view of the last available frame when rendering exceeds allotted time | Photo courtesy Oculus

Valve calls ATW an “ideal safety net,†but suggests a system to avoid relying on it too heavily, which is what this renderer release is all about. Developers looking for help achieving a consistent 90FPS, required to mitigate against artifacts that may lead to nausea, will likely greet Valve sharing its hard-earned coding tricks with open arms.

You can grab the source for the renderer at the Unity asset store here, and check out the full blog post detailing the release here.

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‘iRacing’ Oculus Rift Support Arrives Next Week

Early-adopters of VR headsets turned to Live For Speed and Project CARS for their VR-enabled sim racing fix, which both have solid support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but we’re finally seeing movement elsewhere. Assetto Corsa’s pre-alpha support for the Rift in the recent 1.6 update was very well received (with Vive users also finding some success using the Revive injector), and VR sim racers will soon have another title to enjoy; iRacing begins its Rift support next week.

Kevin Bobbitt, Director of Marketing at iRacing, confirmed the news to Road to VR.

“We are excited to continue our support of VR hardware. We were one of the first titles to support the Oculus Rift DK1 so it’s natural that we would continue with support for the CV1. We are in the final stages of testing and plan to add support when we release our quarterly update next week. Once we finish this project we’ll be evaluating other VR hardware as well.”

See Also: Top 5 Racing Sims for the Oculus Rift

iRacing’s subscription-based online service is designed to be active 24 hours a day, with most championships operating on a 12-week schedule. The major software updates roll out four times a year, during the infamous ‘Week 13’ which next begins on June 7th. This is typically a week-long shakedown of the new build; a chance to test new content and to address any last-minute issues before a new season of racing gets underway. ‘Week 13’ can be a confusing introduction for new members, as the typical racing schedules aren’t active, and there can be more downtime than usual (note: Rift support is therefore due June 7th at the earliest, but could slip a day or two). However, it’s a good time to become acquainted with the sim; newcomers will want to spend time in private testing to ensure their hardware is configured correctly, and to familiarise themselves with some of the cars and tracks.

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It will be interesting to see iRacing’s first VR implementation on consumer hardware, as their support for the Rift development kits was one of the more polished integrations at the time. The Rift’s ‘asynchronous time warp’—a rendering technique which maintains smooth visuals during slowdowns in rendering—should help to mitigate the performance issues commonly seen on the DK2, while the improvements in fidelity and comfort on the consumer Rift has made frequent racing in VR a more viable and appealing proposition.

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Further VR sim racing entertainment is due this year: Gran Turismo Sport’s showcase event in London last month confirmed that the title will be PSVR-ready at its launch in November. Considering how demanding driving sims can be on a high-end PC, it will be a remarkable achievement if developer Polyphony Digital can deliver the full GT Sport experience at decent quality in VR using the PS4. Fingers crossed we’ll have news about DiRT Rally’s VR support before then too, but that still leaves a number of PC sims (most notably RaceRoom, rFactor 2, and Automobilista) yet to show their hand.

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Highlights From 60 VR Design Prototypes Built by Google’s ‘Daydream Labs’

rob-jagnowRob Jagnow is a senior software engineer who was a part of Google’s Daydream Lab team that produced over 60 VR prototypes in 30 weeks. 

This team was originally revealed in a WIRED magazine profile of VP of VR Clay Bavor, and this Daydream Labs prototyping team was officially announced by Bavor in his Google I/O talk on VR at Google. The Daydream Labs team gave a really amazing talk at Google I/O titled Lessons Learned from VR Prototyping, which had a lot of great VR design insights across the three areas of interactions, immersion, and social VR. I had a chance to catch up with Rob Jagnow at Google I/O, and dig a bit deeper into some his favorite prototypes, lessons learned, and design principles that were driving these VR experiments.


To keep track of VR developments at Google, then you can follow their Google VR Twitter account, and keep an eye on any VR tagged posts on the Google Developers Blog.

Here’s the Daydream Labs Drum Keys prototype for text entry in VR that uses Vive controllers:

Here’s a direct link to the Daydream Labs: Lessons Learned from VR Prototyping session where you can see more of the prototypes in action. You can watch more videos about VR from Google I/O by looking at the playlist on the new Google VR YouTube channel.

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uSens Grabs $20 Million Series A Investment for ‘Inside-out’ Tracking Tech

This week uSens announced a $20 million Series A funding round led by Fosun Kinzon Capital. Usens is one of the early developers of hand and head tracking tech; according to the announcement from the company this investment will help launch new and improved non-controller hand and head tracking tools. The company’s technology is being demonstrated this week at the Augmented World Expo (AWE).

The lead investor in the round, Fosun Kinzon Capital, has been active this year with four multi-million dollar investments, but their focus has centered around non-VR/AR tech, so this deployment of funds is a newer venture for them. Other Fosun investments include personal insurance, mobile healthcare, and early childhood education investments centered around tech.

Additional participants in the Series A round include returning investor Maison Capital, joined by new investors Great Capital, Fortune Capital, Oriental Fortune Capital, iResearch Capital, and Chord Capital. ARM Innovation Ecosystem Accelerator also participated in this round with their funding, service and resources, according to Usens. The $20 million Series A investment follows a $5.5 million Series Seed investment back in 2015.


So called ‘inside-out’ tracking—where tracking is derived from sensors on the user, rather than sitting static somewhere nearby—would be a huge boon to the VR and AR landscape, but it’s proven a difficult nut to crack. We’ve seen a myriad of attempts, but so far none that match the precision, latency, and robustness of the ‘outside-in’ approach employed by devices like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

“Tracking is critical to ARVR experiences,†said Anli He, CEO and co-founder of uSens. “As ARVR display technologies approach mass adoption, we’re excited to bring great interactive solutions to help ARVR platforms, hardware makers, and especially content developers overcome the complicated challenges of hand and position tracking. This funding round is further validation that we’re on the right path to bring compelling natural tracking technologies to augmented and virtual reality.â€

A render of a camera-based tracking module like those used by uSens

According to the announcement, Usens’ head and hand tracking capabilities leverages machine learning and computer vision techniques. The company hopes their solution will replace the need for peripheral devices such as game controllers or outside cameras. This would greatly improve the quality-of-life for users as setting up cameras/lighthouses and holding peripherals can be complicated and challenging.

“For ARVR to achieve its potential, natural head and hand tracking is required,†said Donghui Pan, chairman and president of Fosun Kinzon Capital. “It’s clear that ARVR is an explosive market. Already consumers want a more immersive experience, and hand controllers simply aren’t the solution. We’ve chosen to invest in uSens, because we’re confident the company has the deepest expertise and vision to provide this key that will help unlock mass-market ARVR adoption.â€

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Report: Developer Confirms Work on Xbox One VR Title for 2017

VR on Xbox One rumors are gaining momentum as Ars Technica reports that an unnamed game developer is working on a VR title for Microsoft’s game console.

Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland reports, “Ars can confirm that at least one major developer is currently planning to release a new virtual reality game on the Xbox One in 2017 and plans to show that game at E3.”

“The information was provided to Ars directly by the developer as part of pre-E3 planning and was confirmed by a PR representative… a well-known European studio is planning ‘a new VR game’ set in the universe of an established, long-running franchise,” the report continues.

The developer and title are of course unnamed, so we’re still treating this information as unconfirmed. However, the report adds momentum to recent rumors suggesting that Microsoft is preparing an update to its Xbox One console, and with it, further pursuing its partnership with Oculus, possibly to bring support for the Rift headset to the system.

See Also: One Explosion and Three Launch Aborts Later, HoloLens Finally in Use Aboard ISS

For some time now, the Oculus Rift seems to make sense for the eventual VR play on Xbox. At Oculus’ E3 media event in 2015, Microsoft and Oculus announced a partnership; instead of bringing someone from the Windows team on stage however, Oculus tapped Microsoft’s Xbox Head, Phil Spencer, to deliver the news that the Rift would be bundled with an Xbox One controller, as well as ‘plug and play’ support for Windows 10 and game streaming from Xbox One to the Rift through Windows 10.

With this partnership already in place, and Microsoft apparently being behind the curve in the VR space compared to Sony and others, it would seem foolish for the company to try to spin up its own VR headset at this point in the game, one which would ultimately compete with Oculus, and strain the partnership on the PC front.

Rumors about Microsoft’s Xbox One VR play have not been consistent regarding when we’re likely to see an official announcement. While the VR game in question from the Ars Technica report may be shown at next month’s E3, it’s also in development for PC and PS4 (PSVR), according to the publication, and will likely be shown on one of those two platforms at E3, which means it may end up hiding in plain sight.

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Online Harassment and Trolling in Virtual Spaces

Suzanne-LeibrickDuring Google’s Daydream Labs presentation at Google I/O, they discussed how to deal with different types of trolling behaviors. Suzanne Leibrick is a VR user interface and user experience designer, who has experienced different types of online harassment within virtual spaces. As a response to this, she wrote up a number of different suggestions in a post titled Social VR solutions. I had a chance to catch up with her at Google I/O to talk about some of these technical solutions, as well as how to create more open and welcoming social VR spaces.


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HP and MSI Show Off ‘PC on Your Back’ for Untethered Rift and Vive Sessions

HP and MSI are working on concept ‘PC on your back’ projects (often known as backtops) which opens the door to untethered PC-level virtual reality experiences by allowing you to carry around your VR experience without those trailing cables.

A relatively new area for personal computing, but one I think we’ll see some significant growth in the medium term, are PC’s built with not only portability in mind, but wearability too. Specifically, to give VR enthusiasts the option, whilst waiting for wireless video technologies to catch up, to carry their PC VR powerhouse feeding their choice of VR headset around with them. Although this may sound like an uncomfortable compromise, and it probably will be, it does allow the option to enhance immersion by negating those nagging, dragging cables. This is, of course, the path that the virtual reality theme park The Void are using to power their out of home mixed reality immersive experiences.

We wrote recently that miniature computing specialist Zotac had jumped on, or perhaps created, this particular bandwagon a couple of weeks ago as they released their own video featuring their own ‘backtop’ PC. Now both HP and MSI are getting in on the action, releasing concept imagery of similar products.


hp-vr-backpack-side-720x720First up is HP’s sleek and ‘gamer’ design oriented ‘Omen’ backtop. Just a concept at present, this high-end PC is said by HP to target a carry weight of just 10lbs with integrated fans to cool the internals. The new WIP system will form part of HP’s Omen X line of performance, VR Ready PC’s but will also reportedly feature the ability to switch out the system’s battery (said to last just an hour), without shutting it down. Judging by the shots of the concept being worn (right), we’re assuming this is based on a gaming-spec laptop as it looks very compact, something you’d perhaps not be too miffed at carrying around in search of that ultimate VR experience.


In the wake of Zotac’s announcement, but slightly ahead of HP is PC hardware specialist MSI. Its offering looks less ambitious than the HP concept, and a whole lot more ugly, but according to it’s website, will pack a full fat Core i7 CPU along with a Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card to boot. Unfortunately, the section for what MSI calls a “breathtaking Backpack PC” is otherwise light on technical details – notably size and weight. Here’s hoping ‘breathless’ isn’t referring to the amount of effort it might take to lug around.


The reason why I think this trend may catch is that those interested in engaging in room-scale virtual reality either need to dedicate a room to the purpose, including a VR capable PC and Lighthouse base-stations installed, or they lug equipment to and from rooms. These wearable solutions make the prospect of temporarily taking over a room big enough for a decent HTC Vive session seem a lot less onerous. Whether these low profile, portable systems will manage to pack enough battery life to balance that inconvenience however is as yet unknown, and we’re not expecting these somewhat niche items to be cheap either.

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MythBusters’ Adam Savage Steps Inside Nvidia’s ‘VR Funhouse’ Physics Playground

Nvidia takes Mythbuster’s Adam Savage inside their VR Funhouse application which is a sandbox for new technologies made possible with the company’s latest Pascal-based GPUs.

Nvidia created VR Funhouse as an example application showcasing many of their proprietary real-time physics simulations and VR rendering tech, some of which make exclusive use of the company’s latest line of GeForce GPUs. Nvidia says they plan to open-source VR Funhouse for developers to learn from.

See Also: NVIDIA Explains Pascal’s ‘Lens Matched Shading’ for More Efficient VR Rendering

In our time with the new GTX 1080, we found it to be an improvement over prior cards, but we won’t see the massive performance gains the company touted until developers integrate many of Nvidia’s VRWorks capabilities.

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