[Philip Lelyveld comment: this is a lengthy story mentioning recent activities by key players in VR hardware, software, and storytelling.]
"VR - it feels like it is 1993 again - it is like ILM has just done Jurassic Park and the whole world is ready for a new way of seeing things, and I think VR and interactivity is bringing that new way to story tellers and everyone is again trying to work out the new problems and seeing what can be done," EPIC Games CTO and former ILM VFX supervisor Kim Libreri told fxguide.
See the full article here: http://www.fxguide.com/featured/state-of-vr/
Several years ago Raytheon had a big problem with one of their satellites in production, of which only one is manufactured a year. A line worker had inadvertently used the wrong torque wrench, and the resulting trouble only became clear down the line when the insulation was damaged. Production was halted for three months to locate the source, then another month to be certain there weren’t additional problems. After a meeting with Brian Mullins of DAQRI, chief engineer Andy Lowery saw that augmented reality could prevent costly errors like this. And from his experience in the Navy aboard a nuclear aircraft carrier, he also understood the value AR could have for preventative maintenance and safety.
At the DAQRI 4D Expo held in Los Angeles on February 19-20, demonstrations of their newest smart helmet prototype were provided, including one with thermal sensing. I found it didn’t take long to get the hang of using the helmet. For one demonstration the goal was to replace a canister, which first required rotating a series of valves in front of you. First step: rotate left valve counter-clockwise 180 degrees. The valve is shown with a red arrow around it, identifying the valve and direction of turn. When the task is accomplished you step back and focus your eyes on a virtual target to your right. It recognizes your focus and then moves on to the next step, until as final step you are instructed to remove the canister and replace with a new one.
At least one company, Valve, believes it has solved the discomfort problem with headsets. In an interview at the developer conference, Gabe Newell, the president and co-founder of Valve, said he, too, had reacted badly to most headset demonstrations, describing them as the “world’s best motion sickness inducers.”
Mr. Newell said the company had worked hard on its virtual reality technology to eliminate the discomfort, saying that “zero percent of people get motion sick” when they try its system. Part of its solution is a motion tracking system that uses lasers to accurately reproduce a person’s real-world movements in the virtual world. Mr. Newell said Valve would offer the tracking system, called Lighthouse, free to hardware manufacturers.
During a 15-minute demonstration of the Valve headset, it caused no discomfort for a reporter. In one segment of the demonstration, a colossal whale comes precariously close to the viewer, who is standing on the prow of a wrecked ship.
He had just walked me through one of the best demos I had ever seen. It was the HTC Vive, a sensor-studded helmet with dual hand controllers that allowed me to enter almost a dozen alternate universes as real and as exciting as the real world. When I say I was impressed, amused, and excited, trust me. This was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time and I am thrilled that I got to be part of it.
The Vive, which is in its development stage, is essentially an immersive VR goggle set that ascertains your position using pulsing laser lights. Sensors on the mask triangulate your height and X/Y/Z coordinates based on the position of the lasers and the hand controllers look like a more stylized Wiimote but turn into futuristic ray gun like appendages (or even cartoon hands) in the game. The entire rig ran off of a stock but powerful gaming PC that pumped out the various demos including an undersea adventure complete with whale, a cooking test that looked like a Nintendo game, and a sneak preview of a new Portal game that was so immersive that you get chills when a massive GlaDOS unfurls like a malevolent umbrella.
I have used multiple VR systems, most recently the Oculus, but this was something different entirely. It was smooth, sharp, and the content was perfectly suited for the medium. Everything interacted without a stutter or stitch. A painting demo allowed you to create 3D objects in real space and made me realize that this was the perfect environment for 3D modeling. The tiny tabletop game demo – essentially a sort of tower defense game in miniature – made me forget I was in a featureless room in Barcelona. The closest thing I can compare it to was the vision in William Gibson’s Dogfight where jacked in players controlled tiny 3D fighter planes. It was the first time in years that I smiled at a demo.
Do not misunderstand me: this is cutting edge technology in the way, say the way Macintosh changed computing and the Motorola StarTAC changed telephony.
Cirque du Soleil Media, a joint venture between the Canada-based circus troupe and broadcaster Bell Media, has pacted with Samsung to produce a liveaction virtual reality aerial show to be viewed on its flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones.
All that's needed is connecting the Samsung phones to a Gear VR virtual reality headset, powered by Oculus, to view content based on Cirque du Soleil’s most recent touring show, Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities. Félix & Paul Studios, a Montreal studio that produces 3D 360° VR content, will produce the content that has Cirque du Soleil acrobats tumbling and twirling over the heads of Samsung phone users.
The Switzerland-based company rides the towering VR wave led by Facebook’s Oculus with today’s accompanying announcement that it closed an $8.5 million angel-funding round, which it will use to build on its efforts in the medical field, where its technology accelerates recovery in patients with neurological deficits. It plans to bring this brain-powered virtual reality control to gamers for the first time with MindLeap.
MindMaze says that this system introduces a new way for players to experience the games they already know. The head-mounted display that contains the “NeuroGoggles” and 3D motion cameras should be available in the coming months. This controller-free, brain-powered, latency-free VR will be available on multiple game platforms, including the Xbox and PlayStation (though MindLeap wouldn’t say if it meant the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One or older systems), iOS, and Android.
Initially, MindMaze developed the technology for the rehabilitation purposes. Tadi shared a demonstration of a patient that had just lost his left arm and suffered from phantom pain. By tracking the brain signals that would have that missing limb move, and by displaying a corresponding visual representation of the moving missing limb, patients would be relieved of their phantom pains. But this only works in a latency-free experience — one that comes in at 20 milliseconds or less. MindMaze’s work on this front eventually led it to gaming.
The idea behind MindLeap is that it would combine this brain wave-tracking element with existing virtual reality and augmented reality technology to create a gaming platform with a new dimension of control.
Sony revealed a new prototype of its virtual reality set Project Morpheus at this week's Game Developers Conference, and plan to launch it for the PlayStation 4 during the first half of 2016.
The latest version of Morpheus boasts a 5.7-inch, 1920 x 1080 OLED display, output of 120 frames per second, improved tracking and reduce latency, which will create a more stable experience.
Sony says developers will be able to get their hands on a Morpheus prototype within 16 months of launch.
Samsung unveiled an updated version of its Gear VR, while HTC announced it is partnering with Valve Software on its own virtual reality headset. Meanwhile, established players such as Oculus continue to fine-tune their VR headsets for an eventual consumer launch.
Among the leagues that seem to be most eager to embrace the VR technology NextVR is offering are the NHL and the NBA. In addition to the NHL game shot by NextVR, NextVR also shot the NBA’s summer league game in Rio De Janiero this past summer. The NFL has started to embrace the possibility of using virtual reality to help quarterbacks study opposing defenses in a realistic environment but aren’t yet in the discussion for live broadcasting in VR.
Both the NBA and the NHL however, appear to be quite smitten with the technology and the prospects.
“One of the owners of the team came up to me and said ‘I own the team and I can’t even buy a ticket for this seat,'” Allen said. Another one of the CEO’s told Allen that after he tried it he “couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
Even though the owners are sold, major questions about the interest of the general public have circled around for quite some time. Even more importantly than that, currently the technology required to view a VR experience is very isolating and expensive, not exactly a perfect fit for the often communal events that sports games tend to be.
While there will be skeptics and pitfalls as there always are with new technologies, most fans that have encountered the technology are excited about it as a complement to, not a replacement of, them going to games and enjoying the in-person experience.
“Fans that are season ticket holders were going, ‘wow, maybe this can be in addition to my season ticket when I can’t come I can have this experience,” Roller said.
A startup uses an old parlor trick and smartphone sensing to let you control virtual objects in a see-through box.
H+’s chief technology officer, Dhruv Adhia, says Holus combines elements of 3-D projection with an old optical trick called “Pepper’s Ghost,” wherein a hidden object is reflected on a glass panel to make it appear to be in the room with you. (More recent applications of Pepper’s Ghost use digital images rather than real objects, such as a projected performance by deceased rapper Tupac at the Coachella music festival in 2012).+
A projector inside the lid of Holus beams four images of the same object onto the walls of the prism, and to the user they appear to form a single image. Users can control the images with a smartphone connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. A tablet computer or laptop attached to the box runs an app that feeds images to the projector, and adjusts what you see based on input from the controller. At this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, H+ used Holus to let visitors play a multiplayer dice game controlled with an iPod Touch.
The collaboration will bring together unique experiences inside a video chat that range from virtual avatars that can mimic users’ facial expressions in real time, to background replacement inside the video call.
This creation of virtual avatars is possible using Intel’s Realsense 3D camera for mobile and ooVoo’s Intelligent Video integration with the camera, which debuted at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.
It seems novelty and expression are becoming more important in the social space, especially when it comes to video chat and video content.
Social sites create value for their users, by offering more tools for creativity and expression, and user pay it back in spades by creating content and maintaining a dedication to the service. While it may seem like these are small additions, these features could become indispensable tools for an engaged user base.