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  • The Exorcist VR Livestream: We’re Gonna Try Not To Scream Or Cry
    The Exorcist VR Livestream: We’re Gonna Try Not To Scream Or Cry

    Viewers beware, because for today’s livestream we’re venturing into the depths of The Exorcist: Legion VR, a terrifying virtual reality horror experience from the creators of A Chair in a Room. Now that all five chapters are out on Steam that means that the entire Exorcist VR experience is ready to be enjoyed — that is, if screaming and cowering in fear is your idea of enjoyment.

    The Exorcist VR has been released over the last few months as a five-part episodic series. Each chapter is $5 a piece, or you can buy the entire bundle for about $24. When played all together, the full series is around two and a half hours total. The PSVR version of the game is still waiting on the fourth and fifth chapters and it will run you closer to $30 for the whole thing over there.

    We’ll be livestreaming The Exorcist VR on HTC Vive today and monitoring chat using OVRdrop while in VR. The stream will be starting at approximately 2:00 PM PT and we’ll aim to last for about an hour or so — probably just the first one or two chapters. We’ll be livestreaming directly to the UploadVR Facebook page. You can see the full stream embedded right here down below once it’s up:

    Embedded livestream coming soon

    You can see our archived streams all in this one handy Livestream playlist over on the official UploadVR YouTube channel (which you should totally subscribe to by the way). All future and current streams will be on Facebook, which you can see a list of here.

    Let us know which games you want us to livestream next and what you want to see us do, specifically, in this or other VR games. Comment with feedback down below!

    Tagged with: livestream, The Exorcist, The Exorcist VR, The Exorcist: Legion VR

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  • Titanic VR Review: A Promising Start For VR Edutainment
    Titanic VR Review: A Promising Start For VR Edutainment

    When you say the word Titanic you can’t help but think Celine Dion, drawings of French girls and steamy windows. That’s a bit wrong, isn’t it? 1,503 people died when the ‘unsinkable’ vessel hit the ocean bed in 1912, nearly three-quarters of all passengers aboard, and yet time and Hollywood have weathered the impact those numbers should make. There’s a challenge for the so-called VR empathy machine if I’ve ever heard one.

    The second project from Immersive VR Education, Titanic VR goes about restoring the human factor of the disaster in two fascinating ways. Though held back by some expected flaws, it’s one of the best examples of VR edutainment yet, turning what could easily be a mundane history lesson into an engaging and even emotional interactive experience.

    Immersive really thought outside the box here. Instead of the obvious virtual tour of an authentically-digitized shipwreck, the developer has thinly disguised its virtual preservation inside a story-driven campaign. In the main part of the game you play as Dr. Ethan Lynch, a researcher that takes regular dives out to the wreck in a trusty one-man submarine to complete tasks for clients, chief of which is a woman writing a biography for one of her relatives who died in the incident. Five to ten-minute missions see you explore different parts of the ship, often in search of more clues that piece together the fateful events of that day.

    It’s a winning approach that largely keeps your attention and intrigue throughout. Like Immersive’s own Apollo 11 experience or Curiscope’s Operation Apex before it, Titanic VR knows that gamers want to play games and builds its message around that, though it also falls into some of the same pitfalls that any developer is at risk of.

    In between levels you’ll visit your research lab where you’ll report your findings and also preserve any artifacts you’ve brought back home with you. It’s the last thing I expected to be doing in a game about the Titanic, but I found myself surprisingly enamored by the clinical tasks of washing and freeze-drying anything from journals to pocket watches. There’s a newfound appreciation to be gained not just for the history but the real work that’s going into maintaining it, though it’s let down slightly by the unbearably cheesy voice acting and more redundant tasks like adding new upgrades to your underwater drone.

    Exploration, meanwhile, is an initially fascinating experience that suffers somewhat from diminished returns. Whilst early excursions into the ship’s interior are often eye-opening, later levels come up with silly tasks like providing the lighting for a film director as he gloats about his award-winning work in a not-too-subtle dig at James Cameron. You can see why the developers would think this a refreshing palette-cleanser, but it drags on and the educational element is largely forgotten about for a bit. The same goes for an exhaustive chase through the wreck that has you follow a rare type of fish. It’s a decent attempt to mix things up but it goes on for far too long

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  • Shoot Sharks With Bazookas In Sharknado VR Later This Year
    Shoot Sharks With Bazookas In Sharknado VR Later This Year

    I don’t know why Sharknado, as a franchise, exists. If you asked me to name a redeeming quality the film series has I’d be hard-pressed to pick anything other than it being the perfect embodiment of the “so bad it’s good” mentality. They’re really just not very good by any traditional metric of quality. But here we are, six movies deep, and on the verge of a bespoke Sharknado VR game.

    “In Sharknado VR: Eye of the Storm, players find themselves in the middle of the gory action as they battle freak, fin-filled weather phenomena,” explains Dave Hansen, producer and director at Autumn VR to Markets Insider. “It’s a great blend of humor and terror which should appeal to everyone! I mean, who hasn’t fantasized about blowing away a great white coming for them with a bazooka?”

    In Sharknado VR: Eye of the Storm, the premise is as simple as the movies that it’s based on. You’re stranded in the center of the dangerous shark storm and must use your arsenal of weapons, ranging from machine guns and a chainsaw to a bazooka and more, to obliterate the sea predators. There’s a lot of blood, gore, and violence in this one, obviously. It’s hard to get a real read on it from the limited footage we’ve seen, but it appears to be a relatively basic 360-degree wave shooter. I’m not sure anyone should have expected much else.

    Reportedly last night’s sixth Sharknado film is the final one. Maybe now the team can move on to more ambitious projects, such as Whalequake or something equally as high-brow.

    Shaknado VR is slated to release this year on Rift, Vive, and PSVR, as well as iOS and Android according to the official trailer above. On the official website there’s also a listing for VRX Networks arcade centers coming “late August 2018.”

    Let us know what you think of the game so far down in the comments below!

    Tagged with: Autumn VR, Eye of the Storm, Sharknado VR, Sharknado VR: Eye of the Storm

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  • NVIDIA RTX 20 Series Specifications And Pricing Revealed
    NVIDIA RTX 20 Series Specifications And Pricing Revealed

    NVIDIA just revealed details surrounding its new RTX line of graphics cards featuring dramatically upgraded capabilities for current and next generation VR headsets.

    NVIDIA already revealed some information surrounding its next-generation Turing architecture and the company has confirmed support for the VirtualLink connector in its next generation cards. With today’s revelations we are learning most of the key details about these next generation RTX graphics cards.

    The new RTX 2080 card should start shipping around September 20 and costs $800 from NVIDIA’s website. A higher end RTX 2080 TI will start shipping that same day for around $1,200. There’s also the 2070 at $600 but there’s no shipping window for that card yet. Different starting prices were shown on stage by NVIDIA at a Gamescom press conference that should give you some expectations for prices you might see once these cards are available from multiple companies.

    Here’s a look at how the GTX 1080 and RTX 2080 compare as seen on NVIDIA’s website:

    Here’s a look at how the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 Ti compare:

    One of the most interesting features of the new cards is the inclusion of the new VirtualLink port for connecting VR headsets over a single cable. Here’s our first look at the port on an actual graphics card:

    The GeForce RTX 2080 reference specification is listed below and includes VR support as well as “Real-Time Ray Tracing, NVIDIA® GeForce Experience, NVIDIA Ansel, NVIDIA® Highlights, NVIDIA G-SYNC™ Compatible, Game Ready Drivers, Microsoft® DirectX® 12 API, Vulkan API, OpenGL, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, HDCP 2.2.”

    NVIDIA CUDA® Cores: 2944
    Boost Clock (MHz): 1710
    Base Clock (MHz): 1515
    Memory Speed: 14 Gbps
    Standard Memory Config: 8 GB GDDR6
    Memory Interface Width: 256-bit
    Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec): 448 GB/s

    Tagged with: nvidia

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  • Gamescom 2018: It’s Time For VR Indies To Strike Back
    Gamescom 2018: It’s Time For VR Indies To Strike Back

    Gamescom isn’t what it once was and yet it’s bigger than ever. It wasn’t so long ago that Germany’s massive gaming convention was considered a sort of sequel to E3, with Sony hosting a massive press conference and Microsoft providing updates on many of its most anticipated Xbox games. These days, though, Gamescom is more about the boots on the ground than it is making the headlines. Scores of gamers flood in the thousands to get their hands on any spare controller left dangling at an idle kiosk. It’s been so successful in this regard that now it’s E3 that’s aping Gamescom.

    That means there’s plenty of VR to play and it’s all about the indies.

    Big publishers still haven’t embraced headsets like many were hoping they would. You won’t find many Rifts, Vives and PSVRs as you traipse the gigantic booths owned by the likes of EA and Activision, then, but if you go in search of the smaller indie spaces you’re bound to be rewarded. One of Gamescom’s lesser-known features, sadly closed off to the public, is an international hall in which various countries bring along a selection of developers to showcase their work.

    It’s been the case for the past few years that this is where VR really shines at the show. Not with big blockbuster games the likes of which only Sony could pull off but instead more creative, inventive and riskier ideas that paint a vibrant picture about the future of VR. This year, for example, we’re really looking forward to getting a first glimpse at The Fisherman’s Tale, a story-driven puzzle game published by Arizona Sunshine developer Vertigo Games, which looks unlike anything we’ve yet seen in VR. We’ll also get a deeper look at the wildly inventive world of Crazy Machines VR among others.

    Gamescom’s diminished importance to the press has given these smaller studios a lot of breathing space in the past few years. No longer do the larger corporations feel the need to provide sparkling new trailers and lengthy gameplay demos, and the playing field has been leveled out as a result. Sure, much of the public is still going to get their hands on the next Call of Duty, but I’ll be on the show floor with time to hunt down genuinely intriguing VR content. There aren’t many shows where I’d have such a luxury.

    Franky, I think that makes Gamescom one of the most important VR shows of the year. It’s no secret that indies have been VR’s saving grace, with games like Onward, Moss and Downward Spiral not only keeping us in our headsets throughout the year but in many cases genuinely showing the bigger studios how it’s done. It’s not often that we get time to reflect upon that.

    Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to stumbling upon some unknown new reality that hasn’t reached my inbox over the past few weeks. That’s how I discovered games like Everspace, Eden Tomorrow and others over the past few years, and they’re often what I remember most

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  • Befriend A Bird In Falcon Age Coming To PSVR In 2019
    Befriend A Bird In Falcon Age Coming To PSVR In 2019

    Falcon Age is an upcoming PlayStation VR game that will give players a falcon to befriend (and command) on a quest to fight off machine invaders.

    Details are still relatively sparse, but a reveal trailer for Falcon Age shows a first-person action adventure title built with PlayStation Move controllers in mind, with your left hand covered in a falconer’s glove. You stay on the ground and issue commands to the bird like fetch, attack and interact, facing off against what looks like a combination of aerial and ground-based enemies. The game can also be played with a DualShock 4 and without the VR headset.

    Falcon Age should arrive in 2019 from Outerloop Games, a new independent studio in Seattle. Co-founder Chandana Ekanayake and other members of the team previously built tabletop simulator Dino Frontier as well as Wayward Sky for PSVR. With Falcon Age, then, we see a third-generation title from a practiced developer experienced in taking new VR game design ideas directly to market. Our reviews of those games have noted mixed results, but when it comes to VR that kind of experience should do a lot to inform design choices on Falcon Age.

    I, for one, certainly am interested in having a falcon friend after checking out the trailer.

    A PlayStation Blog post authored by Ekanayake says in Falcon Age you’ll “learn to hunt, gather, and fight to reclaim your cultural legacy in the lost art of falcon-hunting against a force of automated colonizers. Explore a strange land while bonding with your falcon and helping the resistance.”

    The game is playable at PAX booth #660.

    Tagged with: Falcon Age, Outerloop Games

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  • Zero Killed Looks Like Firewall For Rift/Vive/PSVR, Closed Beta Incoming
    Zero Killed Looks Like Firewall For Rift/Vive/PSVR, Closed Beta Incoming

    Are you an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive owner looking on with envy at the impending launch of PSVR exclusive, Firewall: Zero Hour? Well scowl no more, because Zero Killed looks like the perfect remedy to your jealousy.

    The latest game from Ignibit, Zero Killed was first announced last year and is now gearing up for launch. It’s a 4 v 4 tactical shooter inspired by the likes of Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six: Siege (the same games that informed Firewall) in which you use motion controllers to realistically wield weapons and face off in one of four game modes. It’s set to launch in full next month, though a Closed Beta is coming before that and you can check out the new trailer below.

    You can sign up to take part in that Beta here, though the developers will only be selecting a handful of players to get in for now.

    In the game, you select from one of 10 different characters, each fitted with unique loadouts, and then take them into battle across Domination, Hunt, Tournament and Data Steal game modes. Three maps are included at launch, and players can move using smooth locomotion. Teammates can even pass ammunition between them and environments are destructible. On paper, then, it all sounds pretty promising. Could the increased number of modes even be enough to make it a Firewall beater?

    Zero Killed launches on Rift and Vive in September with cross-player support and, yes, a PSVR version will be coming later down the line too.

    Tagged with: Zero Killed

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  • Proze Is An Amazing-Looking VR Cold War Adventure, Free Prologue Incoming
    Proze Is An Amazing-Looking VR Cold War Adventure, Free Prologue Incoming

    Some days VR games are announced that leave you thinking “Where the heck did this come from?”. Proze is very much one of those games.

    Developed by Ukraine-based SignSine, Proze is a VR adventure game that jumps back and forth between the present day and the Cold War. In it, you explore a military research facility that played host to some mysterious experiments years ago. Designed with VR in mind, you’ll solve puzzles and survive the harsh wilderness as you attempt to uncover what went on at the base over 40 years back.

    Whilst the first episode in what looks like a series of installments is set to arrive later this year, a free opening chapter, Proze: Prologue is releasing for free on August 30th. In it you’ll play as a Soviet engineer named Anatoly, who is directly involved with the research project. The trailer above suggests it won’t be long before he finds himself in trouble.

    We particularly like how Proze seems to be making full use of VR’s motion controllers. From realistically interacting with objects such as radios to rowing boats and more, this looks like a game that’s trying to make full use of the hardware. Let’s hope it holds up.

    Steam says the first full chapter of the game will arrive in October with support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. No word on a PSVR version just yet.

    Tagged with: Proze

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  • Hands-On: Transference Is An Engrossing VR Story About A Corrupted Mind
    Hands-On: Transference Is An Engrossing VR Story About A Corrupted Mind

    During my latest hands-on demo with Transference from Ubisoft and Spectrevision last week, I got chills sent straight down my spine at two very specific moments. The first time, it was a classic jump scare. I was rummaging through drawers looking for clues when I turned around to see a dark, silhouetted figure of a small child at the end of the hall. It gasped and ran off. Small children in horror experiences always get me.

    The second time though wasn’t intended as a jump scare at all and gave me chills just from the slow building anxiety and unsettling scenario I watched unravel. While standing at a table in the hallway, but in a different “dimension” of sorts, I heard the answering machine. It was a classic, “happy family” welcome message with mom, dad, and son chiming “Leave a message!” in unison with a dog barking at the end. Then the voicemail starts. It’s from a worried friend that hadn’t heard from the family that lived in that apartment in a long time, so she said she was calling the cops. After walking through the halls earlier, seeing the creepy writings on the wall, hearing the faint sounds of singing, crying, and yelling all mixed together, for some reason that worried voice really hit me.

    You can watch some clips of my demo down below played on a Rift with Touch while seated; it’s the first time the game’s been capturable:

    During my gameplay above you’ll notice things like FOV dimming and snap turning that were there for the demo to help combat motion sickness, but those features can be turned off in the full version of the game.

    It felt real in a way that few VR games have felt real and as I think back to that moment, listening to the voicemail on the answering machine, I remember it as something I experienced — not as a game I played. Transference seems to be specifically designed to engineer that type of feeling.

    In psychology, the concept of transference is described as a phenomenon in which you unconsciously redirect a person’s feelings for one person towards another person. In this game, you “play as yourself in the minds of a family, created using their collective brain data” according to the one-sheet provided after my demo. So, it’s almost like a simulation of a simulation.

    As you can probably guess, in a lot of ways, Transference is an incredibly meta experience. The developers sourced VR for a lot of their inspiration on the project and it shows. When you play Transference you’ll switch between perspectives of Raymond Hayes, a brilliant scientist, Katherine Hayes, his wife, and Benjamin Hayes, their troubled son.

    The general flow of gameplay in Transference revolves around switching back and forth between two versions of the same environment. One version feels more “real” almost like a memory, with things like family photos and relics of the past spread about, while the other version has a bit of an orange filter on

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  • Ubisoft’s Transference Launches Next Month, PSVR Prequel Demo Out Now
    Ubisoft’s Transference Launches Next Month, PSVR Prequel Demo Out Now

    You won’t have long to play all of Ubisoft Montreal and SpectreVision’s new VR title, Transference, but you can get a taste of it from today.

    The game, which will launch on September 18th, just got a free demo on PS4’s PlayStation Store with support for the PSVR headsets.

    Unlike most demos, this download is actually a prequel to the main game, taking place several years before it. In it, you explore the memories of someone that suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), digitally recreating as part of an unorthodox new research case. You’ll need to solve clues and explore your surroundings in order to unlock the mysteries that lie within.

    Transference was announced at E3 2017 and caught our attention thanks to its developers, which include The Lord of the Rings’ Elijah Wood. It uses an intriguing mix of fully CG elements as well as live-action video. We’ve been hands-on with it a few times and always come away impressed.

    Sadly the demo is exclusive to PS4, so Rift and Vive owners will have to wait until full release. The game can also be played without a VR headset, though, so if you don’t own the headset but still have a PS4 you can still try it out.

    Tagged with: Transference

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  • Step Into The Body Of A Transgender Man Using VR

    Aptly named, Machine to be Another, is a creative VR experience which allows you to see and feel what it is like to be another person. As the age old saying goes, before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes. The Machine to Be Another aims to bring this particular ideaology to life

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  • Isabelle Riva: How The Unity Game Engine Will Democratize Film
    Isabelle Riva: How The Unity Game Engine Will Democratize Film

    Unity Technologies has been known among developers as the maker of a “game engine” since the tool debuted in 2005. But these days, “creation engine” might be a better name for it.

    That’s because experiences created with Unity are more often than not films, interactive movies, advertisements, or augmented reality and virtual reality content. The game engine has grown up beyond games, and it is being used to expand the definition of entertainment, according to Isabelle Riva, head of the Made with Unity developer program at the San Francisco-based company.

    In advance of the Siggraph computer graphics show in Vancouver, Canada, I spoke with Riva. Disney Television Animation said last week it is making the Baymax Dreams series, a trio of short films in the Big Hero 6 world, as an animated series using the Unity engine. You can see various films embedded in this post that were all built using Unity. These short films have become showcases for how Unity will not only democratize games with universally accessible tools. It will also democratize film, Riva said.

    Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

    Above: Isabelle Riva is head of Made with Unity.

    Image Credit: Unity

    GamesBeat: I saw the four films that were attached. The Baymax one is the only Disney one. Is that right?

    Isabelle Riva: Right. It’s a partnership with the Big Hero 6 TV series. Disney produced those shorts, the Baymax Dreams, with Unity’s support. Also, if you saw, Disney is releasing their first VR film, Cycles, which will be at Siggraph 2018. That project was made in Unity by Disney. Those were our most recent Disney partnerships.

    GamesBeat: Unity-made films are catching some momentum, then?

    Riva: Absolutely. These projects validate what people have been working toward for many years, which is having a real-time render engine as part of a mainstream animation pipeline — for all the benefits it brings. It’s definitely catching on now.

    GamesBeat: What’s the common thread among the films and newer projects here, as far as how they’re using Unity?

    Riva: The Big Hero 6 episodes were created differently than the ones that Neill Blomkamp did with ADAM. These were entirely made in Unity. We had the benefit of this amazing direct link to Autodesk, who produces the Maya software used for keyframing animation. All of Disney’s animation is keyframed in Maya. Apart from that, everything else is made in Unity. We have this connection between animation and engine going, which is really efficient.

    We got rid of storyboards. We went straight from scripts into pre-vis. Once all the assets and modeling and texturing were done, once the characters were in there, the director was able to play and decide where the camera goes, what time of day it is. All those changes could be made in real time. It was very empowering as a pipeline for the storytellers.

    The director would call for performances from the animators and say, “Hey, can you do one of these but with that goofy squeaking around on the top of a fence?” The animators could provide a performance, and it would appear directly in Unity. Then, the director could set their

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  • How VR Can Help Surgeons Hone Their Craft

    FundamentalVR’s low-cost simulation education could take the medical field by storm. For the past 150 years, surgeons across the globe have been trained in a seemingly tried and true manner. Today’s leading medical professionals honed their craft through classroom instruction, cadaver based learning, and observation–rather than participation–in the operating room. The use of simulations in

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  • Argentina’s Crystalis VR Game Wins The 2018 Global WebXR Hackathon
    Argentina’s Crystalis VR Game Wins The 2018 Global WebXR Hackathon

    The second edition of Virtuleap’s Global WebXR Hackathon has officially come to a close. This year’s event was sponsored by Mozilla, Samsung Internet, Supermedium, and VR First, and unlike last year, the competition theme was narrowed down to just two tracks: participants could either reinvent a classic game or give education a facelift using the immersive web as the medium.

    In total, 21 concepts were received from teams hailing from the USA, Serbia, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Canada. Refreshingly, over 80 percent of submissions were education-themed and although over two-thirds of submissions were developed by US-based teams, 4 of the top 10 were developed by foreign teams, including first prize by Argentina’s Alfredo Consebola for his mesmerizing game, Crystalis VR.

    “Crystalis VR is a game inspired by retro puzzlers like Columns and Tetris, with the goal of combining a retro game to life in a synesthetic experience full of color, movement and sounds where the player is in the center of the universe. This is a non violent, casual and replayable game, that also includes an online leaderboard component. A thematic room for social VR was built to host meetups, and to reinforce the idea that the internet can be a place and that events that happen in one experience can have repercussions in others. In this case the leaderboard on the wall is the same as the one from the game.”

    “Crystalis stays very literal to the analog nature of a retro arcade game while taking a bold approach to just focus on a three dimensional visualization of the game score feedback.” says Roland Dubois, Virtuleap’s resident WebXR geek. “And it works beautifully; you feel like you are in an arcade, zoning out inside a game and all that matters is to outscore your opponent.”

    Second place was awarded to Jeff McSpadden from New York-based Composure, for “Prelude“, a fully-interactive WebVR experience centered around spatial audio for stress relief. The education concept is designed to help users find ease, productivity and happiness in their lives by combining the therapeutic benefits of music and sound with engaging virtual environments.

    “The VR app market has found its temporary cash cow in fast paced visually overwhelming games that make you feel like you have Las Vegas and Times Square strapped to your head. That’s why it is so refreshing to see well-polished submissions like Prelude, an app that is focused on doing nothing. No challenges, no high scores; it’s sole purpose is to create a space of peaceful recovery and self-exploration. All that with serious next level spatial audio technology, world class sound composition, and truly progressively enhanced working on a desktop, mobile, or tablet, and all levels of VR headsets thanks to WebXR.” says Dubois.

    “You are humanity’s last hope (or final curse)” reads the description of third place winner, “ARs Attacks!”, a cross-modality sci-fi arcade game developed by a 4-member team from across the US: Jasper de Tarr, Dulce Baerga, Travis Bennet, and Will Murphy. Murphy is welcomed from last year’s edition, where he in fact

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  • Microsoft’s HoloLens Mall Demos Bring Early AR Glasses To The Masses
    Microsoft’s HoloLens Mall Demos Bring Early AR Glasses To The Masses

    Your phone or tablet might already have augmented reality capabilities, but the concept of AR doesn’t mean much to the average person right now: Apart from a couple of games and apps, AR is far from mainstream. Surprisingly, Microsoft is taking steps to change that, as it recently added HoloLens AR headset demos to its retail stores, letting mall shoppers go hands-on with a potentially transformative technology.

    I say “potentially” because many companies — Microsoft, Google, and Apple among them — expect that augmented reality is going to be a big deal some day, but the hardware is currently stuck in a rut. As I explained last month, the key problem is that there’s no affordable, wearable hardware in the marketplace. HoloLens is wearable, but at $3,000 or more per headset, it’s not affordable. On the other hand, Apple and Google sell affordable AR devices, but none of them are wearable.

    If you want to experience AR on a device you own today, Apple and Google expect you to hold up your phone or tablet, then look at the screen for a real-time augmented view through the camera. With Pokémon Go or a mapping app, you might see a virtual monster or location marker on the sidewalk in front of you. Open Snapchat, Apple’s Animoji, or Samsung’s AR Emoji and switch to the front-facing camera, then you’ll see a cartoony mask, animal, or face superimposed on top of yours.

    Until recently, trying an AR headset like HoloLens required some serious cash or a visit to one of the relatively few retail locations with AR demo hardware. But now that Microsoft is facing a real competitor in Magic Leap, which says that it will soon demo its $2,295 One Creator Edition headset in select AT&T stores, the two-year-old HoloLens is suddenly coming out to play.

    Rather than doing HoloLens demos inside the store, Microsoft employees set up a lightly fenced demo area right in the middle of my local mall’s walkway. They had at least two HoloLens units and multiple employees trained on using the device. There’s no sales pitch involved — it’s just an opportunity for visitors to see how the technology works.

    Above: Unlike Magic Leap One, Microsoft’s HoloLens is a completely self-contained AR system: The computer, screen, input/gesture tracker, and storage are all contained in one unit.

    Image Credit: Jeremy Horwitz/VentureBeat

    I won’t tell you that I was either thrilled or blown away by the HoloLens demo, because it was actually a distracting and odd way to experience AR. The tutorial was blessedly short: Users are shown the two key ways they’ll interact with the hand gesture-sensing interface — “bloom” open your hand to open a menu; pinch your fingers to select an item like tapping — and then get to put on the headset and try a couple of demo apps.

    Thanks to the bright mall lighting and people constantly walking by, HoloLens’ small, ghostly viewing area is particularly hard to see. It appears as a tiny window floating within your field of view, and it’s hard for anything in that window to make much of a positive impression. That’s doubly

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