• WellTown Turns Wellington New Zeland Into A VR City With Games
    WellTown New Zealand

    You no longer need to spend roughly one billion hours on a plane to get to New Zeland. WellTown takes you there in an instant using VR.

    Launching today on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, WellTown turns the New Zealand city of Wellington into a VR landscape. It’s a little like Google Earth VR, except dotted around the town are interactive games and experiences. Take a look in the trailer below.

    Developer WellingtonNZ aimed to take some of the things Wellington is known for in some fun directions for this project. Wellington is a cafe town, for example, so one game has you shooting caffeine at sleepy zombies. Or you can visit local buskers and jam with them on a virtual drum kit. This being New Zealand, there are some brushes with nature too including a deep dive in the harbor and a chance to explore the wilderness.

    There are 360 videos, too. You can watch footage from an All Blacks rugby test match or, uh, visit the offices of accountancy firm Xero. Some VR enthusiasts may also recall that Wellington is home to Weta, Peter Jackson’s award-winning digital effects studio. It’s helped produce the likes of Lord of the Rings, and WellTown offers a glimpse inside.

    It is, of course, all designed to actually get you to come to New Zealand for yourself. It’s a little like Spain’s Legends of Catalonia experience. I guess if you can afford a PC VR headset you can probably afford the flight ticket too.

    WellTown is available for free on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

    Tagged with: WellTown

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  • Creed: Rise to Glory Update Adds More Rocky Legends The update goes live today.
  • Disney Is Making Another ‘Top Secret’ VR Film, May Use Existing Characters
    Disney VR Film Cycles

    Walt Disney’s first real VR animation, Cycles, won’t be its last.

    Cnet reports that Disney is working on another “top secret” VR short film. Word comes by way of Cycles director Jeff Gipson, who will also direct the new project. Cycles is on display this week at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

    The piece will apparently be three to five minutes long. Perhaps more excitingly, though, Nicholas Russell, Head of Disney’s professional development program, said that the VR team is being allowed to explore project with existing Disney characters. No other details were provided though, according to the article, Cycles itself was made in just four months. That might mean that we get to see this new project in the not-too-distant future, too.

    Cycles itself is about building a home and what transpires within them. It’s a nice idea for VR, a medium which has a knack for rooting you in one particular space. We haven’t seen the movie for ourselves just yet, though.

    Of course, films are far from the only place that Disney is exploring VR. Over the past few years the company has released several games and experiences including apps like a Coco tie-in movie and the Oculus Rift exclusive Marvel: Powers United VR. Last year we also saw the launch of a Wreck-It Ralph location-based VR experience. The studio even has its own VR animation tool, though we doubt it’ll ever be released to the public.

    As for a possible home release for Cycles? No word yet though, apparently, the studio is open to the idea. Hopefully we’ll see it soon.

    Tagged with: Cycles, disney, vr film

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  • Location-based Entertainment Startup Sandbox VR Secures $68 Million Investment The funding round was led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Germany’s Virtual Reality & Arts Festival Opens Call for Creative Submissions Submissions are open until 3rd March.
  • How Media Molecule’s Dreams Builds, Plays And Changes The Game
    How Media Molecule’s Dreams Builds, Plays And Changes The Game

    People are going to make outlandish claims about Dreams. They’re going to say it’s a strange, unwieldy beast that was born from a wild imagination. And it’s true that Dreams is vast, impressive and bursting with potential. But if you have even a passing knowledge of VR, you’ll know that Media Molecule’s latest shares at least a little of its DNA with the likes of Tilt Brush, Quill and Medium. Crucially, though, Dreams promises a big step beyond those platforms.

    Dreams is essentially an attempt at an accessible videogame development engine. But you knew that; you’ve seen the videos of P.T. and Dead Space remade inside of it, or the tweets with alarmingly detailed creations. You’ve already seen what’s possible here. This is not your normal game; it’s an entirely new platform.

    There’s a very different set of barometers for what makes it ‘good’, then. It’s so enormously big that the mere thought of covering it all in one article is a little overwhelming. So I thought I’d take a page out of Meda Molecule’s book; I’d compartmentalize.  Dreams makes everything digestible by cutting it up and taking it one step at a time, so why don’t we?

    A Revelatory Interface

    For starters, it has to be said that Dream’s DualShock 4 interface is nothing short of a stroke of genius. Your gamepad is a mouse, keyboard, camera, paintbrush and a traditional controller all at once. Dream’s creation mode is made up of a series of menus to access different parts of development from sculpting to Logic (more on that later). You navigate this initially intimidating library with an imp, a small little creature that’s essentially the pointer on a mouse. DualShock 4’s motion controls are employed to great effect; once you know what items are where you can start scrolling through Dreams with almost the same intuition you enjoy on a PC.

    But the controller doubles as a keyboard too. Dreams has a range of shortcuts that are executable by holding the L1 button. If you wanted to grab and move an object, for example, you’d just grab R2 and then move it. But if you wanted to clone the item in question, you’d hold L1 first then hold R2. Simple little additions like this make the overall creation process a much more manageable concept once mastered.

    Dreams has got me looking at my Dualshock 4 in an entirely new way. I don’t just see the gamepad I use to play shooters and platformers but also a tool. Media Molecule’s reinvention of a videogame staple is, simply put, a revelation.

    Move controllers are a bit of a different story, though. I can see how, with extensive practice, they could be more versatile tools than the gamepad. After a few hours of trying to get to grips with them, they’re my biggest pain point in Dreams right now, though. Camera movement can feel erratic and overly sensitive, and it’s often difficult to grasp which way to move the controllers to get the view you want. Moving through

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  • Sandbox VR Raises $68 Million Series A Led By Andreessen Horowitz
    Sandbox VR Raises $68 Million Series A Led By Andreessen Horowitz

    VR startup Sandbox VR raised a $68 million Series A round of investment led by Andreessen Horowitz.

    A blog post from CEO and co-founder Steve Zhao outlines how he gave the company six months of runway by taking “my entire nest-egg — all the money I had squirreled away from my time building Blue Tea Games over the last decade — and I invested its entirety into Sandbox VR.” GloStation (later becoming Sandbox VR) opened in June 2017 in Hong Kong and Zhao wrote that bookings were slow until a video on Facebook featuring the experience was shared thousands of times.

    Then, the phone “wouldn’t stop ringing” and they were suddenly booked “3 months straight.” That helped them raise $3 million led by Alibaba. Andreessen Horowitz general partner Andrew Chen wrote in a post “after our initial meeting with the team, the entire investment partnership at Andreessen Horowitz went to try out the experience together, and after nearly an hour of shooting zombies, dodging lasers, and solving puzzles, we were blown away by the experience!”

    The pitch is that Sandbox VR is developing a “triumvirate of distribution, technology, and content starting with a network of high-end retail locations that combines premium hardware, motion capture technology, and a low-latency software stack to deliver a social multiplayer experience.”

    Last year games editor David Jagneaux tried the experience and found it “fun and adaptable in a way that I could see this sort of content easily scaling throughout malls, theme parks, and other locations with the foot traffic to support it.”

    We confirmed the company is planning to launch in more than half a dozen locations including Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, and New York.

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  • Livestream Schedule For Week Of Jan. 28th 2019: Resident Evil 2 In PSVR Cinematic Mode
    Livestream Schedule For Week Of Jan. 28th 2019: Resident Evil 2 In PSVR Cinematic Mode

    This week we'll be playing through all of Resident Evil 2 in VR using the cinematic mode feature on PSVR! Join us for some scares.

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  • Samsung Files Patent For 180 Degree VR Headset With Curved OLED Displays
    samsung wide fov headset

    Samsung filed a patent application for a VR headset with a field of view of at least 180 degrees. The headset is described as using a curved OLED display.

    The patent describes attaining the wide field of view while maintaining reasonable size and weight as a crucial design consideration. To achieve this, the design uses two lenses per eye. One pair of standard fresnel lenses with a field of view of 120, combined with a second set of wide angle strip lenses positioned at an angle.

    This would provide a full vertical field of view for regular vision and partial in the peripheral. The curved screen would allow the overall design to remain relatively compact compared to other wide field of view headsets.

    Companies frequently patent technologies which never come to market. But if Samsung did decide to go forwards with this design, they could leverage their competitive advantage as the world’s largest small OLED panel manufacturer. Samsung Galaxy smartphones already incorporate curved OLED technology.

    The company could even keep the technology exclusive to such a headset, as they did with the “anti screen door effect” OLED technology in the HMD Odyssey+.

    In an October interview with Lowyat.NET, the CEO of Samsung Electronics confirmed that the company was heavily looking in to both VR and AR. The Samsung Odyssey series has been well recieved by VR buyers. It offers Vive Pro resolution at a significantly more affordable price.

    Samsung’s future in this industry seems promising- we’ll keep you updated on any further hints of the company’s future VR plans.

    Tagged with: patent, pimax, samsung

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  • AR Drone Technology That Can Help Save Lives

    First responders will be able to use drones equipped with augmented reality technology to better deal with emergency situations.   Drones have been getting a really bad rep as of late, especially in the United Kingdom where rogue operators managed to shut down operations at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports, effectively ruining Christmas for thousands

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  • Over 150 Global Game Jam 2019 Games Have VR Support
    Over 150 Global Game Jam 2019 Games Have VR Support

    With over 8,000 entries there were about 160 that had VR support from last weekend's Global Game Jam 2019! Here are some of the best.

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  • Vive Developers Flock To New Subreddit Amidst Moderator Fallout
    Vive Developers Flock To New Subreddit Amidst Moderator Fallout

    One of Reddit’s key VR communities is seeing something of an exodus this week amidst a moderator fallout.

    Members of the r/Vive subreddit, which currently holds over 110,000 subscribers, have turned to a new hub named r/Vive_vr following disagreements with moderator and founder u/500500. The new subreddit already amassed more than 10,000 subscribers at the time of writing. Perhaps more importantly, though, plenty of VR developers have come out to show their support for the new page.

    Disagreement over 500500’s leadership came to a head over the weekend. Many of the complaints stem from aggressive policies that lead to banning users and even VR developers. Reddit, in general, doesn’t allow companies to advertise their products. The site has an official premium advertising platform to cater to those needs. Technically, developers talking about their own products is advertising. Banning developers, though, robs the community of a link between creators and fans.

    According to a thread on the new subreddit, banned developers include Onward creator Downpour Interactive, Rec Room studio Against Gravity and The Soulkeeper VR maker HELM Systems. Meanwhile, developers like Triangular Pixels and One Hamsa have come forth to show their support for the new hub.

    Arguably the highest-profile developer to speak out is The Gallery maker Cloudhead Games. The studio’s Anthony Stevens wrote up a Medium post detailing its standing on r/Vive. “Every interaction we have with the community could be accused of self-promotion,” Stevens wrote. “But we just love the VR community and want to support it and be a part of it. Full stop.”

    In the past 48 hours, u/500500 claimed r/Vive is a community “only because I allow it” and that he holds “the fate of the vive community” in his hands. In his first post today following the weekend’s outburst he appears to basically mock the entire situation.

    Dear community,

    I /u/500500, moderator of /r/vive, am please to announce that this subreddit gained 926 subscribers yesterday. The page view count for the day fell just short of 600,000. These figures represent a new high for the last 12 months from the available statistics . This reflects an exciting growth in the subscriber base and user activity. Yesterday, half of visitors were using reddit apps to access the subreddit compared to the 10% that is normally seen. I would like to welcome our new friends to this subreddit and look forward to your contributions to the VR discussion. I also would like to embrace the new demographics reflected by the new ways people are now accessing /r/vive.

    Whether or not the new Vive subreddit flourishes remains to be seen.

    Tagged with: htc vive, reddit, Subreddit

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  • ‘The Under Presents’: Interactive Live Theater For The Oculus Quest

    Tender Claws show off their bizarre new social experience at Sundance 2019. Despite the lack of an actual release date, Oculus’ upcoming 6DoF standalone headset, the Oculus Quest, has found new trouble in garnering large amounts of attention from both industry veterans and consumers alike. Major developers have been sinking their teeth into the hardware,

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  • Open World Adventure Settlement Zero to see Steam Early Access Launch in Feb Early Access is expected to take up to 6 months.
  • Reseachers Built A 40-Plane Multifocal Display With Just One Screen
    1600Hz multifocal display

    Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University built a multifocal display with 40 unique planes. The system involves a 1600Hz screen and a focus-tunable lens.

    All VR headsets on the market today are fixed focus. Each eye is given a separate image, but the screen is focused at a fixed distance from the lenses. This means that your eyes point (verge) towards the virtual distance to what you’re looking at, but focus (accommodate) to the fixed focal length of the display. This is called the vergence-accommodation conflict. It causes eye strain and headaches and also makes near objects look blurry.

    Image from Oculus Research

    One approach to solving this is to build a headset with multiple screens layered, with each at a different focus length. This is called a multifocal display. The problem however is that to truly solve the vergence-accommodation conflict, the reseachers researchers that 41 focal planes would be needed. If this were done with hardware it would massively increase cost and weight to the point of impracticality.

    Their new multifocal display instead uses a lens which adapts its focus based on the voltage it receives. This is known as a focus-tunable or “liquid” lens. A single display panel is run at 1600H. The lens is cycled through its full range of focus at 40Hz. As the focus is changed, the rendered image on the display is changed to what the new focal distance should see. Thus the virtual world is running at 40FPS and for each frame 40 different focal lengths are displayed.

    Diagram from Carnegie Mellon paper

    Prospects And Limitations

    Unlike varifocal displays, this 40-plane multifocal display doesn’t use or require eye tracking. Additionally since each focal plane is rendered independently it doesn’t require the resource intensive approximation of natural blur to look real.

    The requirement to render 1600 frames per second is the main limitation of this approach. Each group of 40 are just different planes of the same frame of course, so it’s not quite as bad as 1600 true frames. Facebook are hard at work at reducing the GPU requirements of their varifocal blur, so it will be interesting to see which becomes practical for the consumer market first.

    Tagged with: multifocal, research, vergence-accomodation conflict

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