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CTO on Future of the StarVR Headset: Roomscale Tracking, Input, Eye-tracking, and More

At E3 2016 I got to sit down with the CTO of Starbreeze Studios, Emmanuel Marquez, to learn about the company’s ambitious plans for their StarVR headset. The headset, which sets itself apart from others with a massive 210 degree field of view, is designed for high-end virtual reality experiences in the out-of-home market.

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After my hands-on with the latest StarVR ‘1.4’ prototype at E3 2016, I was impressed with the progress the company has made since the headset first debuted a year ago. But there’s still a number of improvements and additions to be made to the device before it’s ready to be deployed. In and interview at E3 2016, Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez outlined the company’s plans for the headset between now and then.

Emmanuel Marquez, CTO at Starbreeze
Emmanuel Marquez, CTO at Starbreeze

The StarVR prototype I tried at E3 2016 was tracked using Sixense STEM, but Marquez tells me that the company is working on its own roomscale tracking system for StarVR which is based on different tech than Oculus’ ‘Constellation’ or Valve’s ‘Lighthouse’ systems. He wouldn’t go into detail beyond saying that it’s an ‘outside-in’ tracking system, though he did mention that its range may exceed roomscale (which is roughly 12×12 feet).

Which of course leads to the question of what kind of input users will have when using the system. Marquez says the plan is to attach a tracker to different props as needed by individual experiences (like the shotgun used in the Walking Dead experience), but for more universal input, the company is building their own VR controller similar to Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers.

starvr headset e3 2016 starbreeze (7)

While the StarVR 1.4 prototype has noticeably improved visuals compared to the prior version, the displays are still lacking low-persistence, a feature which greatly reduces blur during head movement. Marquez is aware of the importance of low-persistence and says it’s a priority.

“Obviously we’re working on low persistence, and we’ll have that ready pretty soon, we know we need to go there so there is no question,†he said.

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Starbreeze says the prototype’s many cables will be condensed down to just one for the finished product.

Marquez also reaffirmed plans for integrated eye-tracking in StarVR to allow the headset to automatically detect and set IPD (hardware and software adjustment) and support foveated rendering. Foveated rendering is a technique by which only a small part of the scene corresponding to the user’s gaze is rendered in high fidelity while surrounding areas are rendered at lower resolutions. Done correctly, foveated rendering can go unnoticed by users while reducing the computing power required to render the scene. This is especially attractive for the StarVR headset because of its monstrous 5120×1440 resolution which requires significantly more power to fill than the 2160×1200 resolution of major consumer headsets.

starvr-headset
See Also: Acer Partners with Starbreeze to Design and Manufacture StarVR Headset

Marquez also elaborated on the positioning of the StarVR headset, saying that “for the moment we play pretty firmly in the location-based and enterprise market,” adding that the company has no plans at this time to make StarVR into a consumer headset. Instead, Starbreeze has partnered with IMAX to create ‘IMAX VR Centers’ which will use the StarVR system as a platform for proprietary pay-per-use VR experiences.

He compared the model of the IMAX VR Centers to movie theaters, saying that customers would come to the centers and have a choice of different VR experiences. And while IMAX is known for film-based entertainment, Marquez says that content in the VR arcades will include gaming content, interactive content, interactive movies, and more. The first IMAX VR Center pilot location will open this year in Los Angeles, and Starbreeze plans to expand to six centers by year’s end, he said.

The post CTO on Future of the StarVR Headset: Roomscale Tracking, Input, Eye-tracking, and More appeared first on Road to VR.


Jenn Duong on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in VR with SH//FT

jenn-duongJenn Duong is the Director of VR at 1215creative as well as the co-founder of “SH//FT,” which stands for “Shaping Holistic Inclusion in Future Technology.” SH//FT has been partnering with VR companies who plan on supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives within emerging technology by giving out scholarships & grants, supporting education, and cultivating community.

I had a chance to catch up with Jenn at the Rothenberg Ventures Founder Field Day where we talked about the importance of diversity, some of SH//FT’s specific plans to creating equal opportunity for everyone within VR, and Jenn’s career path from entry-level VR position to becoming a Director of VR within the last year.

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The post Jenn Duong on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in VR with SH//FT appeared first on Road to VR.


GDC Spins VRDC Into Standalone VR Industry Conference with Expanded Scope

Under the umbrella of GDC 2016 in March, GDC event organizer UBM hosted its first dedicated VR event, the Virtual Reality Developers Conference. After the successful pilot run, the organizers have decided to spin the event out into a standalone conference which will be hosted in San Francisco this November.

Although the long running GDC has been an important event for the VR industry over the last few years, it wasn’t until GDC 2016 that the organizer UBM decided to create a dedicated space for the growing virtual reality industry. That came in the form of the Virtual Reality Developers Conference which was hosted as part of GDC 2016 back in March. Road to VR served as the official partner of that inaugural VRDC.

As VR’s influence grows, UBM is now spinning VRDC into its own dedicated event to be hosted in San Francisco this November. Like GDC, UBM is positioning VRDC as an industry-focused developer conference. The company pitches it as such in their announcement of the new standalone event:

Bringing an expanded focus and new Advisory Board, the twoâ€day event will bring together designers, programmers, business professionals, producers, artists, and audio practitioners to share best practices, demo new technology, create new business partnerships, and exchange ideas with innovators shaping the industry.

VRDC will take place November 2â€3, 2016 in the Park Central Hotel in San Francisco, CA. Registration is open as of today, and a call for speakers has been issued until July 8th. UBM has also opened sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities for the upcoming VRDC.

That doesn’t mean that GDC won’t continue to be an important event for the VR industry. VRDC Game and Entertainment tracks will continue to be hosted as part of the broader GDC event. However, the standalone VRDC event will expand to cover VR & AR in brand experiences and other innovative non-game spaces like healthcare, journalism, travel, manufacturing, retail, live events, real estate, training, and more, the company says.

The post GDC Spins VRDC Into Standalone VR Industry Conference with Expanded Scope appeared first on Road to VR.


Tipatat Chennavasin on the VR Landscape, AR, Emerging Tech, & VR in China

tipatatTipatat Chennavasin is a general partner at The VR Fund, which is an early stage VC fund focusing exclusively on virtual reality and augmented reality startups. One of the services that Tipatat does for the community is maintain a VR Industry Landscape infographic that creates a taxonomy for the different VR industry verticals. He also splits companies into three different tiers that shows where they fit in within the technology stack whether it’s a part of the underlying infrastructure, a tool or platform, or on the application layer with specific content. He also maintains a much more detailed Trello Board of the Virtual Reality Industry.

I had a chance to catch up with Tipatat at the Experiential Technology and Neurogaming Conference where we talked about the VR landscape, the current state of augmented reality, how he sees artificial intelligence and computer vision technology playing a role in VR, what’s happening with VR in China, and what he’s learned from doing a daily 3D painting in Tilt Brush.

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Here’s a copy of The VR Fund’s 2016 VR Industry Landscape from June 2016 (version 1.6). Click through to The VR Fund’s site to see the full size version:
vrf_vr_industry_june_sm-1024x832

Here’s a link to one of Tipatat’s daily Tilt Brush paintings mentioned within the podacast that makes a political statement about what’s inside of Donald Trump’s head:


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The post Tipatat Chennavasin on the VR Landscape, AR, Emerging Tech, & VR in China appeared first on Road to VR.


‘The Music Room’ Mixed Reality Video Shows the Power of VR Musicianship

Rhythm action games build around virtual reality are already a thing, but what about immersive music making proper? The Music Room launches in July and this impressive mixed reality demonstration shows how powerful immersive musicianship might be in virtual reality.

Launching on July 24th, The Music Room from Melbourne-based developers Chroma Coda, published by Harmonix, is pitching itself as a serious music creation package for budding and professional musicians that allows artists to play instruments inside VR and sequence them to release as bonafide works of art.

As you can see in the video embedded at the top of the page, The Music Room leverages the power of hands presence through motion controllers to sit musicians in front of an array of virtual instruments, ranging from a full VR drum-kit to virtual laser harps. Built for the HTC Vive, the new package launched on Steam July 24th and is the first truly ‘serious’ immersive music creation package we’ve come across.

We say ‘serious’ as, not only will The Music Room allow artist to strum and beat non-existent instruments and produce tunes, it also ships with a copy of Bitwig, a full featured DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to sequence any tracks created by the virtual jam sessions.

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“We’ve been working on The Music Room since we first got the prototypes of the Vive and contemplating it since we got the early Morpheus prototype,” says Choma Coda Director Loki Davison, “I’ve been making synth, samplers and instruments in general for 16 years now. Once tracked controllers became available we realised we could use them to make in instrument more expressive than traditional keyboards or MPC style drum pads.”

But why VR music? Turns out there Davison has both technical and artistic limitations he’s looking to address with The Music room. “Expressive is the important word to us,” says Davison, “Traditional high end midi keyboards provide one continuous parameter per note (poly after touch ) and most provide zero. We have 6 plus note on and off velocity. What this means is that you can do vibrato, tremolo, bends and other techniques easily. This opens up new genres to electronic sounds. Want to play a blues style lead on a synth? Now you can with accurate bending and great latency and accuracy. Walk on the wild side’s distinctive bass part is easy on our laser harp.”

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Putting those technical and artistic benefits aside, Davison maintains that The Music Room delivers something to musicians who don’t necessarily have access or space to play the instruments they want. “A big part of my personal reason for being exited about The Music Room is that it makes electronic instruments feel like instruments,” he says, “I like the sounds available with synths but often found playing then was more like programming than playing. I play guitar, double bass and sing and wanted that kind of feel to electronic instruments. I’m very happy that we achieve that with The Music Room.”

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The excellent demonstration video certainly does a great job of bringing home how effectively artists might well just lose themselves in VR and the music thanks to the tools Chroma Coda are developing here. Thankfully the company is also aiming to package that artistic freedom with ways to actually be productive too. “We’re focusing on musicians,” Davison says, “We’re very happy to be partnering with the very best companies in the industry such as FXpansion and Bitwig. The Music Room is designed for both studio and live use.”

The Music Room will be on sale in July for $129, the price includes a copy of Bitwig.

The post ‘The Music Room’ Mixed Reality Video Shows the Power of VR Musicianship appeared first on Road to VR.


Pixar, ILM and Disney Veterans Launch VR Company CryWorks

A new company formed from leading VFX and entertainment industry veterans is born. CryWorks is a new VR focused entertainment launched with seed round funds led by Michael Bay’s 451 Media Group and who intend to deliver VR content to have customers “keep tuning back in”.

The VR talent migration within the entertainment industry, that feels to have been building ever since Oculus’ successful Kickstarter for the DK1, continues to gather momentum.

Cryworks is a new “immersive entertainment company” formed from talent mined from leading lights in the movie-making and VFX world. CEO Euan Macdonald hails from Lucasfilm/ILM, Pixar, Disney ImageMovers Digital and Electronic Arts with credits stretching from Star Wars to the Harry Potter movies.

Macdonald is joined at CryWorks by Co-founder and CTO Hans Uhlig, who brings expertise in technical filmmaking gained at ILM/Lucasfilm and CCO Kymber Lim, an award winning VFX producer who has worked at the likes of Psyop and Digital Domain.

Euan Macdonald, CEO
Hans Uhlig, CTO
Kymber Lim, CCO

Macdonald feels there’s still plenty for companies creating compelling content for the growing virtual reality user base.“Although there are a few high-quality VR content pieces to date, most of them have little incentive for the viewer to keep tuning back inâ€, Macdonald explained. “We see an opportunity to build the first VR broadcast network, partnering with other production companies and creating addictive, episodic experiences.”

The company has been quick to get to work too, with projects for the Wall Street Journal and Samsung already under their belts.

The post Pixar, ILM and Disney Veterans Launch VR Company CryWorks appeared first on Road to VR.


Adobe Brings VR Video Editing Tools to Premiere Pro

The latest update to Premiere Pro, Adobe’s popular video editing software, released yesterday includes new tools for editing 360 degree video and stereoscopic VR video.

Adobe’s Premiere Pro is one of the most popular video editing applications today, and it’s now got improved workflow for editing VR video. Detailed last month, the new functionality for editing 360 degree video is now available for download as of the June 20th, 2016 update to Adobe Premiere Pro CC (version 2015.3).

While you’ll need to use other tools to stitch video together into a 360 degree view, Premiere will import video with an equirectangular projection and allow you to edit it like you would any other video file. Monoscopic video is supported as well as stereoscopic video in the side-by-side or over-under formats, and the software can handle video shot at any field of view (like 180 or 360 degrees) and still output it correctly, assuming you toggle the right settings.

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A new 360 degree panning option, available when enabling the VR Video options, allows the editor to define the ‘forward’ facing position of the film, meaning that from one scene to the next, you can ensure that the viewer sees the intended part of the 360 degree scene without having to swivel about. The view can be configured by field of view such that the editor will be able to see what is in view and what isn’t through a particular headset.

Now when exporting VR video, editors can mark the ‘Video is VR’ option which will include the appropriate metadata for services like YouTube to understand the the video is a spherical format and should be displayed differently than normal video.

Premiere’s VR options are functional but somewhat light for now, though we expect to see the Adobe continue to improve and refine things in future updates as demand grows for VR video editing capabilities.

A short introduction video, including sample 360 assets, is available from Adobe to help editors learn how to begin working with VR video in Premiere.

The post Adobe Brings VR Video Editing Tools to Premiere Pro appeared first on Road to VR.


Applying Cognitive Science Research to Virtual Reality User Experiences

Azad-BalabanianAzad Balabanian is the co-host of the ResearchVR podcast where he discusses the latest cognitive science research that applies to virtual reality with fellow cognitive scientists Petr Legkov and Krzysztof Izdebski. The premise of their work in VR is that the more that we understand about how humans work, the better VR experiences that we’ll be able to create.

The ResearchVR podcast has covered topics ranging from time perception in VR, to VR and memory, to Presence in VR. I had a chance to catch up with Azad at SVVR 2016 where we discussed what cognitive science can teach about VR user experience design, the connection between memory and perception, privacy in VR, biohacking for sensory augmentation, neuroplasticity, and how VR can be applied to doing cognitive science research.

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The post Applying Cognitive Science Research to Virtual Reality User Experiences appeared first on Road to VR.


Hands-on: ‘VR Sports Challenge’ Hockey Brings Thrilling Fights

VR Sports Challenge, an upcoming Oculus Touch title, has yet again proven to be one of the most compelling launch titles we’ve seen so far for Oculus’ controllers. In the new Hockey segment shown off at E3 2016 I had a blast saving pucks and throwing down my gloves for a rumble on the ice.

Execution is what will make or break a game that wants to lure in sports fans; after seeing the Football and Basketball segments of VR Sports Challenge a few months back, it’s clear that developer Sanzaru knows all about execution. The game is comprised of several different sports, each with very different VR controller-based gameplay. For the first time last week we got a peek at the Hockey segment.

While the goalie, faceoff, and slapshot portions of the game’s Hockey segment were fun, the fighting part alone felt like it laid clear groundwork for an entire VR boxing game.

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If you end up getting into a fight (and the game will ensure you do), the first thing you do is toss your gloves down to accept the challenge by jerking the Oculus Touch controllers toward the ground. Then you’ll be facing a menacing opponent who will throw punches at you from different directions. You can dodge by quickly ducking and weaving, block by raising your arms at the right time, and counter attack with your own punches (if you’re quick enough you can get in a nice one-two-three before the opponent’s guard comes up). Not shown in the video above is an especially fun moment where if you counter at the right time you can grab the opponent by the jersey and leave their face at the mercy of your fist until they can recover.

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See Also: Live Boxing Match Shows Us the Sweet Spot for Virtual Reality Broadcasting

Sanzaru has tuned the mechanics to make your dodges and punches feel very responsive, and require that you seriously move your body in order to successfully dodge anything. Importantly, your opponent doesn’t telegraph his punches too obviously and also throws them quite quickly. The result was really feeling like I needed to stay on my toes and be ready for punches coming from any angle.

The gameplay of the fighting portion of the Hockey segment of VR Sports Challenge felt so good that I would be surprised if the developers didn’t end up adding an entire Boxing segment to the game’s roster of sports.

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In addition to the fighting, there’s also goaltending, where you have to track the puck with your stick and glove as the offense shoots against you, a face-off where you have to sweep the puck off to your team within a designated area, and a slow-motion slap-shot moment where you need to time your swing just right to land a shot in the opposing team’s net.

While I’m not personally a fan of VR Sports Challenge’s art and animation style, the mechanics have been undeniably crafted with loving attention to make sure the game feels and plays great. The developers tell us that they’re continuing to tweak things to ensure that the player finds themselves at the center of the most exciting moments of the sports on offer.

As before, there’s still no word on pricing or specific release date for VR Sports Challenge, but it will launch alongside the Oculus Touch, which itself is slated for the second half of the year.

The post Hands-on: ‘VR Sports Challenge’ Hockey Brings Thrilling Fights appeared first on Road to VR.


5 Minutes of Blistering ‘Raw Data’ Gameplay, Steam Early Access July 14th

Survios, the developers behind the multiplayer action game Raw Data, have released a of new gameplay from their upcoming HTC Vive powered hack and slacking, dual-wielding, slow-mo VR bullet-fest – here is in all its glory.

Survios, the development team we first encountered when trying out their version of free-romaing VR, Project Holodeck, 2 years before room-scale became ‘a thing’ with Valve and HTC’s Vive launch in early 2015. Pioneers of motion controls in virtual reality, the team was clearly taken with the idea of VR gunplay, with their hugely ambitious Zombies on the Holodeck wearing its love for virtual weaponry on its sleeve.

Some of that lineage is evident in their latest offering for HTC Vive, the culmination of Survios’ years of experience building virtual reality action games which takes the best action tropes – guns, dual-wielding guns, slow motion, more guns, and swords – and throws them all together in wave-based first person two-player sci-fi shooter Raw Data.

Raw Data - Screenshot - Dual Wield

In this new compilation of gameplay snippets, you can get a feel for Raw Data’s ludicrously kinetic pace and over the top mechanics with a peek at power-ups, sword deflections, rapid locomotion and, of course, a healthy dose of bullet-time too. Here’s a breakdown of features coming to the title’s Early Access debut via Steam on July 14th.

Raw Data – Steam Early Access

  • Active VR Gameplay: Utilize your body to pump shotguns, draw and fire explosive arrows, dual wield, hurl grenades, slash a katana, deflect projectiles, or even use your fists in close-quarters combat.
  • Immersive Action: Holster up and pull weapons off your body with physical loadout and check your stats on the in-game forearm display.
  • Adaptable Enemies: Get up close and personal with adaptable android enemies, including ninja stealthers, heavy armor units and flying drones.
  • Deployable Defenses: Hack into your munitions database to access weapon upgrades and deployable defense systems to amplify your shootout strategy.
  • Bullettime in VR: Dodge and deflect incoming projectiles in mind-bending slow motion.
  • Co-op Multiplayer: Team up with local co-op multiplayer—you’ll be grateful for the extra cover. And, because it’s important to us, we’re actively working toward online networked multiplayer.

And if that weren’t enough, here’s a pile of shiny new screenshots for you to drool over while you wait.

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Raw Data - Screenshot - First Strike
Raw Data - Screenshot - Drone Attack
Raw Data - Screenshot - Decapitate
Raw Data - Screenshot - Awaken

The post 5 Minutes of Blistering ‘Raw Data’ Gameplay, Steam Early Access July 14th appeared first on Road to VR.


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