• Oculus Introduces Next Generation Of VR Avatars With ‘Expressive Avatars’ Update

    More lifelike avatars and a new avatar editor arrive on Oculus Rift & Go headsets. Since launching in December of 2016, Oculus Avatars has brought a much-needed sense of humanity to the Oculus platform, allowing users to interact with one another on a personal level while in VR. With every new update, the platform has

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  • Is it the Beginning of the end for PlayStation VR’s Dark Eclipse? All purchasable content from the PlayStation Store will cease in July for Dark Eclipse.
  • Oculus Avatars Become Even More Expressive and Customizable in new Update It's all in the eyes.
  • Hands-On: Blood & Truth Is Shaping Up To Be A True PSVR Blockbuster
    Hands-On: Blood & Truth Is Shaping Up To Be A True PSVR Blockbuster

    We have played Blood & Truth a lot over the last couple of years. In fact, this is our fifth hands-on preview of the game (here is one, two, three, and four). Back when it was first announced I got my hands on an early demo that took place in a hotel casino and, to be honest, the movement system was a bit off-putting despite the locale being great. I didn’t like how everything felt on-rails and you couldn’t manually pick where to move around. But now after seeing so many other areas of the world and getting a better sense for the pacing and how well everything flows, I totally get it.

    Blood & Truth isn’t a game that lets you go wherever you want because it’s not about that. It’s about delivering a very specific action hero feeling that’s tied to action films such as James Bond, Mission Impossible, and Jason Bourne. You go from point A to point B as quickly as possible, killing anyone that gets in your way, and it’s just a non-stop adrenaline-pumping thrill-ride. After playing it again last week at a pre-PAX East demo event I’m more excited than ever to sit back and enjoy the show.

    If you played The London Heist on PSVR Worlds then you have a good frame of reference. That short vignette was only about an hour or so long and was very small in scope, but it was developed by the exact same team at Sony’s London Studio. Ever since then (that’s about two and a half years) their studio of 85+ people has been heads down working on Blood & Truth as a full-fledged spiritual successor.

    In it you take on the role of a special agent that’s in the middle of an interrogation. As the interrogator presses you for details on your past, you relive those missions through flashbacks which formulate the actual missions in the game itself. It’s a good format that lets them tell a non-chronological story across various locales without feeling disjointed.

    Ian Wright, the Design Director on the game, tells me that you’ll be able to replay missions to get a higher score and you’ll even be able to try them out using new weapons you’ve unlocked later on for more of a challenge or just to blow stuff up even more. Since it’s a linear action game, that sort of replayability will be important for lots of people that enjoy spending more time with Blood & Truth after the credits roll. But since it clocks in at around six hours total from start to finish, it’s got a decent amount of meat on its bones for a game of this type.

    The above demo and video interview are from a preview event held in October 2017.

    The best thing about the mission I tried last week is just how varied it was. There were moments of stealth where I ducked from cover point to cover point. I picked locks. I set C4 charges and

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  • Oculus Expressive Avatars Arrive With Simulated Eye Movement And Better Lipsync
    oculus expressive avatars

    The long awaited ‘Expressive Avatars’ update to Oculus Avatars launches today. The update adds simulated eyes, overhauls the lipsync technology, and adds microexpressions.

    Oculus Avatars is available for free for any VR developer to use in their app. This new update was first announced last year at Oculus Connect 5. It was described at the time as coming “later this year”, so that target must have slipped.

    Enhanced Realism

    The most noticeable addition in the update is eyes. Earlier Oculus Avatars avoided eyes by requiring opaque eyewear such as sunglasses or a virtual VR headset. The new eye simulation is based on real human behaviors such as “micro-saccades, smooth pursuit and ballistic gaze shifting”. Developers can specify objects for the eyes to look at.

    Before this update Oculus Avatars used eyewear to avoid eyes

    The lip sync technology has also been overhauled. Previously the lip simply shifted like a wave in response to the volume of the user’s voice. It now uses machine learning-based technology to attach a more realistic set of movements to lips in social VR. The new renderer features “differential blending between individual muscle movements” and “facial micro-expressions”.

    Oculus Avatars went cross-platform last year meaning other platforms will be able to experience these new features too. However currently only Oculus users can customize their avatar — other platforms must select from a predetermined list.

    More Customization, App Support

    New customization options have been added to the avatar editor. You can now change your avatar’s eye, lip, lash, and brow color. There’s also a new range of hairstyles, clothing options, and eyewear if you’d prefer your eyes to not be visible.

    Oculus Home already supports this new update, but third party apps will need an update. Over “the next few days” apps like Poker Stars VR, Tribe XR DJ, and Epic Rollercoaster will get support

    The Future

    The next challenge Facebook wants to take on for Avatars is full body representation. The company believes this could deliver “a much richer and more complete sense of social presence.”

    Facebook representatives believe it will be an “amazing challenge” to deliver general purpose full body avatars while keeping the same design principles. The company listed unsolved problems such as handling both sitting and standing and the transition between them, how to handle leaning or reaching down, how to simulate clothing realistically, and how to account for varying body shapes.

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  • OrbusVR: Reborn Expansion has a Launch Date, Oculus Quest Support Confirmed It'll go live later this month.
  • OrbusVR: Reborn Coming To Quest, PC VR Release Date Revealed
    OrbusVR: Reborn Coming To Quest, PC VR Release Date Revealed

    One of VR’s best MMORPGs, OrbusVR, is getting its long-awaited relaunch very soon. Oh, and it’s coming to Oculus Quest, too.

    Ad Alternum’s OrbusVR: Reborn will launch on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on April 23rd. Following that, a Quest version of the game will be arriving alongside the headset later this spring. The developer had previously said it was looking into a Quest post, and now it’s official. No PSVR announcement today, but the team told us it was looking into it.

    OrbusVR: Reborn is a complete reimagining of the original MMO which launched in Early Access in 2017. You build your own virtual avatar and then journey into a fantasy world where you can team up with friends or meet strangers then go questing together. Reborn is considered both an expansion and overhaul, adding new classes, enemies, dungeons and raids for you to tackle too. In fact, Ad Alternum says the game will offer over 100 hours of content at launch. There aren’t many VR games that can make a claim like that.

    We got an expanded look at the game earlier this year. It’s shaping up to be a very promising MMO, which is one of VR’s most requested genres.

    Reborn’s launch will see OrbusVR leave Early Access. It’ll be free for anyone that already owns the original version. Not only that but, if you bought the game on the Oculus Store, you’ll get the Quest version for free too. OrbusVR is one of the games that will be supporting Oculus’ new cross-buy feature between the two platforms.

    The game has no subscription fees, either. You pay once and then it’s free to play forever.

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  • Feelreal to Launch its Multisensory VR Mask Kickstarter in April There will be a special launch day discount.
  • Feelreal VR Smell Mask Costs $299, Kickstarter Next Week With Discount
    Feelreal VR Smell Mask Costs $299, Kickstarter Next Week With Discount

    Virtual reality is about to get a whole lot more smelly. Feelreal VR this week revealed pricing and plans for its long-in-development smell sensor for current headsets.

    The device will retail for $299. However, Feelreal is launching a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign on April 9th, before which you can ‘pre-order’ the kit for $199 instead. You can reserve a spot in the campaign now or back it on the first day to get the discount. It’s estimated to ship this August pending reaching a $20,000 Kickstarter goal.

    You’ll need to pick up a specific version of the device designed for your headset of choice. There aren’t yet any listings for upcoming devices but the company says the Valve Index will likely be added later on.

    Feelreal has been working on what it calls a ‘Multisensory VR Mask’ for years now. In fact, the company took its first shot at Kickstarter back in 2015 but raised just under half of its $50,000 goal. The kit is intended to clip onto headsets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR and generate scents relevant to the virtual environment. It also emits water mist, wind and vibration in an attempt to make VR more immersive.

    It may also make you look like Kylo Ren. The mask fits under your headset, as can be seen in the trailer below.

    Each kit comes with ten ‘Aroma Capsules’ to emit smells. Feelreal offers a range of generalized smells like those of a forest environment or smoking gunpowder. Each costs $4.99. You can also pick up sets of capsules tailored to specific VR games. A Skyrim VR set, for example, costs $49.99 and comes with capsules for moss, flowers, mountains and french cookies (for sweet rolls, duh) among others. Feelreal tells me each capsule should last for around three months if a customer were to use them for two hours a day.

    There’s also a set designed for indie VR hit Beat Saber. Apparently, Beat Saber smells of green apples, jungles, grapefruits and explosions. Who knew?

    It’s been a long time since we last got a or whiff at Feelreal. We’ll be interested to see if it is indeed the real deal (sorry) in the coming months.

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  • HTC Vive Debuting Taiwanese VR film ‘The Deserted’ During Taiwan Film Festival UK There will be screenings in London this week.
  • It’s Time for PlayStation Store’s Spring Sale Plenty of PlayStation VR savings to be had.
  • Rift/Vive Gap Shrinks As Windows VR Crosses Milestone In April Steam Survey
    Rift/Vive Gap Shrinks As Windows VR Crosses Milestone In April Steam Survey

    It’s a new month, which means the latest Steam Hardware Survey results are in. Despite big news for the VR industry in March, there’s not too much to talk about this month.

    Firstly, the closely-monitored gap between the market share of Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive family of headsets shrunk a little. Last month saw a 7.07% gap between the two, which has fallen to 6.55% this month. Vive and Vive Pro combined fell ever so slightly from 41.18% to 41%. Vive was up from 39.36% to 39.55% but Pro fell from 1.82% to 1.45%. Rift, meanwhile, fell from 48.21% to 47.55%.

    Again, the loss in ground is likely owed to the gradually-expanding Windows VR install base. In fact, Windows VR crossed an important threshold this month, moving from 9.96% to 10.57%. The remaining 9.88% was claimed by our undying friend, the Oculus Rift DK2.

    As for actual headset usage, the survey says both Rift and Vive grew by 0.03%. As always, we’ll note that these figures are not a definitive means of tracking the actual VR market share. The Hardware Survey is optional and requires users to have their headsets actually plugged in to count. Neither Oculus nor HTC has shared official sales figures for their respective headsets.

    This is likely one of if not the last time we’ll see the Steam Hardware Survey in its current form. Back at GDC in March, Oculus announced the Rift S, which is due to launch this spring. It could be arriving anywhere from in a few weeks to a few months. Last week Valve also announced its Index VR headset, which a leak told us will ship in June.

    Those two headsets, combined with the advent of the Vive Cosmos, will dramatically change the PC VR landscape in the coming months. The question is how will they shape up in the Steam survey?

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  • Sony Helps You Swing for the Green With Everybody’s Golf VR
    Sony Helps You Swing for the Green With Everybody’s Golf VR

    Since the days of Nintendo’s Wii, there has been a promise of video games being able to replicate the actual movement of sports. Wii Sports had a variety of games, but it turned out the motion controls were largely simple, much like the cartoony art of the games included.

    When such a sports game comes out for VR it is on this spectrum too. Are the controls detailed and realistic to bring an outdoor game inside our homes with all the nuance intact? Or are the movements simplified, the results exaggerated?

    When I tried Everybody’s Golf VR for PlayStation VR at a preview event last week, it felt like a game that was trying to carefully drive straight down the middle.

    You stand at the Tee with a single Move controller, held downward to mimic a golf club. You swing a few times, getting a feel for the force you need to swing with. The game tracks the speed at which you swing, tracking the force with a horizontal bar that is labelled 0 to 100%. The game has conveniently given you the appropriate club, turned you to face in the correct direction, and puts a flag icon on that horizontal bar showing the ideal amount of force needed — at the start of a hole it is likely the full 100%. As you near the green, it may be more like 83% or 46%.

    And you swing a few times for practice, seeing the bar fill up towards your target percentage, and the color of the afterimage of the club head helpfully showing red if you are too high and blue if you are low enough to hit the ball. You press the Move’s center button to abandon the Practice mode.

    And you swing. And the ball flies off. You can’t really see the ball in the distance as it travels, so you watch the numbers of yards count up toward your goal.

    And you repeat. Sometimes your swings miss, even though it seems like it should’ve hit the ball. The game just won’t register it as a hit if you don’t have enough velocity. Fortunately, the game doesn’t count these swings against your score for that hole.

    How finicky the swing detection is makes things especially tricky once you get to the green, when I had a few putts where I needed to get a 2% bar to get in the hole. A few swings with increasingly exaggerated force and finally it registered, with the ball overshooting with 8%. But it still went in the hole with a “Chip-In.” I’m still not sure it was the game’s tolerances or the tracking which had those swings failing.

    The game’s focus on somewhat realistic control with moderate assistance to simplify golf’s movements is in full evidence at the green. The hole has a visible vortex to suck in the ball — ala the above 8% percent putt — though you can turn it off for a more realistic putting game. The green also has a simple grid

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  • Location-Based Star Trek VR Experience Now Available At Dave & Busters

    Save the U.S.S. Enterprise in this intense LB VR game with multiple endings. The U.S.S. Enterprise is in deep trouble. During a routine evacuation of an advanced stellar research center in the middle of the Klingon Neutral Zone, the premature collapse of a neutron star has left the famous vessel disabled and in danger. As

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  • Unreal Engine 4.22 Adds HoloLens Remote Streaming Support Early access ray tracing support has also been added.