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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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  • The Biggest Rift, Vive and Windows VR Releases Of The Week 08/12/18
    The Biggest Rift, Vive and Windows VR Releases Of The Week 08/12/18

    Grab your lifejackets; we’re finally jumping aboard the Titanic in VR this week. Or, if education isn’t your thing, there’s also the chance to blow some stuff up in an intriguing new free to play title. Either way, it’s not the most abundant week for releases, but you should definitely try one of these two out.

    Vroom Kaboom, from Ratloop Games
    Price: $19.99 or Free-to-Play (Rift, Vive)

    This is a little different. Vroom Kaboom is a vehicular combat game in which you summon cars, motorbikes and more from a selection of cards and then send them to do battle against the enemy’s base. VR support is entirely optional but it comes with motion controller support and actually looks like a fair bit of fun.

    Titanic VR, from Immersive VR Education
    Price: $19.99 (Rift, Vive, Windows)

    A Leonardo DiCaprio-free retelling of the sinking of the Titanic. You may have visited this app earlier in the year as an Early Access game in which you could explore the vessel’s wreck below the sea. Now though it has a full story mode which puts you on board the ship as it sinks. We’re very excited to try this one out.

    Tagged with: Titanic VR

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  • The Biggest PSVR Releases Of The Week 08/12/18
    The Biggest PSVR Releases Of The Week 08/12/18

    We’re spinning our wheels figuratively and literally this week. We’re counting down the days until Firewall, Bow to Blood and Torn all hit PSVR at the end of August but, until then, there is a pretty interesting new vehicular combat game to try out. Vehicular combat. That’s fun to say, isn’t it?

    Anyways, here we go.

    Domino Craft VR, from Shanghai Lusion Computer Software
    Price: $9.99

    Okay, we’ll level with you; this probably isn’t the most exciting VR game you’re ever going to play. It is indeed about stacking and then watching dominoes fall. But, yeah, if you’re like me and you used to get a kick out of watching bricks be knocked over in an oh-so-satisfying fashion, then you might find something to like here. User-generated content and a challenge mode will at least flesh it out.

    Vroom Kaboom, from Ratloop Games
    Price: $19.99 or Free-to-Play

    This is a little different. Vroom Kaboom is a vehicular combat game in which you summon cars, motorbikes and more from a selection of cards and then send them to do battle against the enemy’s base. VR support is entirely optional but it comes with motion controller support and actually looks like a fair bit of fun. The games bigger multiplayer modes don’t work in PSVR, though.

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  • Take A Guided VR Tour Of Germany’s Last Industrial Coal Mine

    Photogrammetry and volumetric VR preserve every detail of this historic mining operation in Ruhr, Germany. Available for free via SteamVR, the Realities VR experience takes users on a variety of photorealistic virtual tours through some of the most astonishing locations on Earth. On top of the apps well-curated catalogue, a regular stream of free DLC

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  • Nothing to be Written Shows Why VR Needs To Broaden Its Depiction Of War
    Nothing to be Written Shows Why VR Needs To Broaden Its Depiction Of War

    In the early days of World War 1, as trench life started to settle in, British soldiers would kill a few minutes of the long stretches between combat by writing home to friends and family. They did so in the millions. To deal with the overwhelming demand, the UK’s General Post Office established an enormous sorting office in London’s Regent’s Park by the end of 1914. It was a maze of stacked sacks, piled on top of each other and stretching out as far as the eye can see, like some sort of forgotten administration room in Hogwarts.

    The meeting room of 59 Productions looks like a miniature version of that scene when I walk in to see its latest VR experience, Nothing to be Written. Sprawled across the table are several real letters from soldiers, some of which still bare the pencil markings from where locations and other information was censored out over 100 years ago. But there’s another type of message on the table, too. They look like multi-choice postcards, with several printed statements like “I am quite well” and “I have received your parcel” listed. Soldiers only had to highlight what was relevant to them, then send the card on its way. They were called field postcards.

    “At first these look really sinister,” 59 Director Lysander Ashton explains as we sift through a pile of them. “But soldiers loved them. You could send letters but they would have to be censored. These would bypass the censor office and get back home within two days, so it was actually a very immediate way of communicating.”

    It’s these cards, and the idea of a story behind every automated letter, that form the foundation of Nothing to be Written, a companion piece of sorts to the second movement of a new choral score from composer Anna Meredith, created in collaboration with the BBC as part of the ongoing Prom season. It’s a VR war experience unlike anything you’ve yet seen, trading bullets and bangs for a deeper look at the real lives involved in an unspeakable tragedy. Music from the piece flows throughout as you’re taken on a seven-minute journey that bridges the gap between the frontlines and a card’s final destination through the letterbox of a loved one.

    Tonally, the piece is one of the most striking and overwhelming explorations of war in VR I’ve yet seen. It whisks you away from the stuffy confines of the sorting office over to trenches and hospital beds, interchanging the front doors of British homes as cards begin to pile up and eventually bleeding these contrasting settings into each other to supernatural effect. “One thing that’s really interesting in VR is the idea of locations being on top of each other,” Ashton says. “Firstly you’re in one location, you’re in the trench in VR but you’re also here

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  • The Unknown Patient Is A True War Story Brought To Life In VR
    The Unknown Patient Is A True War Story Brought To Life In VR

    A new VR series from Unwritten Endings and VRTOV promises to dive into the deeper effects of war by retelling a true story.

    Directed by Michael Beets, The Unknown Patient tells the story of an Australian man found in the streets of London wearing a soldier’s uniform during the first World War. Seemingly suffering from amnesia, he had no recollection of who he was and how he came to be in London and was thus deemed unfit for service before being shipped back to the Callan Mental Asylum in Sydney.

    The VR experience joins this character in that asylum, where he spent a staggering 12 years not knowing who he really was. Over the course of several episodes, you’ll discover the journey he took to regain his past and also dive into some of the shocking memories he retains of his time in the war. The piece is produced by Katy Morrison, who also worked on VR projects like The Turning Forest and Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel.

    To create the piece, Beets filmed actors including Lily Sullivan (Picnic At Hanging Rock, Romper Stomper), Felicity Steel (Predestination, Offspring) and Michael Robinson in full mocap suits, with their performances being virtualized in real-time. It’s also an interactive piece, at times asking viewers to react to their environment. We’ll be really interested to see how it turns out.

    The first episode of The Unknown Patient is set to debut at the Venice Film Festival at the end of the month along with a number of other VR projects.

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  • How NVIDIA’s New RTX Series Changes The Future of XR
    How NVIDIA’s New RTX Series Changes The Future of XR

    I have spent a good portion of my life as a PC gamer and tracking the latest graphics technologies. At one point I became such a fan of graphics cards that I even worked for EVGA. But as an analyst, my job is to understand and interpret events and product announcements and capabilities that will ultimately impact the industries that I cover. During SIGGRAPH 2018, NVIDIA made a series of major announcements that will have a huge impact on the graphics industry in many different ways. Here’s a breakdown of how big these changes will be for the XR industry.

    Turing

    NVIDIA is introducing a completely new architecture that they are calling Turing with the new RTX series. NVIDIA’s naming scheme is all about famous scientists starting with Tesla, Fermi, Kepler, Maxwell, Pascal, Volta and, now, Turing. While we don’t know all the architectural details about Turing quite yet, we do know quite a bit.

    The crowning feature of the new Quadro RTX series using the new Turing GPU architecture is the ability to do real-time ray tracing with a single GPU for the first time ever. Previously, it took an entire server farm to accomplish this and only earlier this year NVIDIA showed it off running on two Tesla V100 cards that cost $12,000 each. The new Quadro RTX series are professional workstation cards, and NVIDIA showed the Quadro RTX 6000 running real-time ray tracing on a card that costs only a few thousand dollars.

    Real-time ray tracing

    Real-time ray tracing on lower cost graphics cards means that we may be able to bring photorealistic graphics to virtually any medium and, if we bring ray-traced graphics into XR environments, you can easily port content from one platform to another without having to worry about the loss of quality.

    Long term, NVIDIA’s push towards real-time ray tracing will help to not only bring video games to the next level of realism but also make content even more cross-platform than it ever has been before. You will be able to make one asset for a movie and re-use that asset in a game, a VR experience and a TV commercial and that will mean the quality of content and cost of producing it should, in theory, come down.

    VirtualLink Connector

    NVIDIA’s Turing architecture and Quadro RTX cards are the first GPUs to ship with the new VirtualLink connector, which will further simplify VR usage with a single cable for power, video, and data.

    NVIDIA’s aggressiveness with implementing the standard so quickly after announcing it tells you about their seriousness around supporting VR and AR. I believe the VirtualLink connector is a very big deal and that we will see NVIDIA using the connector in most of their GPUs moving forward, including the expected consumer Turing cards that are being teased by the company.

    NVIDIA is creating a GPU that will allow both game developers and users to enjoy the benefits of ray tracing while still experiencing great performance and visuals. Ultimately, I believe NVIDIA’s decision to create the Turing architecture and

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  • Firewall Devs On DLC: ‘This Is Not A Release And Forget Game For Us’
    Firewall Devs On DLC: ‘This Is Not A Release And Forget Game For Us’

    Earlier this week we had the chance to go hands-on with the final, release build of PSVR-exclusive shooter, Firewall: Zero Hour from First Contact Entertainment. In our final pre-launch impressions article we spent a lot of time analyzing the game’s balance, the various maps, and detailing how customization options work. You can read all of that here and find our full rundown of everything you need to know about the title here.

    During that event we also got the chance to speak with Hess Barber, President & CEO at First Contact Entertainment and Game Director Damoun Shabestari. We talked about the game’s upcoming launch, reception to the title thus far, as well as post-launch support in the form of potential other game modes and other types of prospective DLC.

    Right now Firewall only has one single game mode for the main 4v4 PvP multiplayer offering: Contracts. Equal teams of 4 are separated into Attacking and Defending where the attackers must hack a firewall access point and then gather intel from a laptop, whereas the defenders must prevent the intel from being captured by lasting until the timer runs out (5 minutes) or killing all attackers.

    That’s the only game mode other than Solo and Co-Op training, so obviously one of the main burning questions is what about other modes? Team Deathmatch? Capture the Flag? More co-op offerings?

    “We’ve definitely talked about all that, but the obvious reason not to do that right now is the player base,” said Barber. “Even if it’s as big as it could be, it’s still gonna be smaller than a normal PS4 game so we don’t want to have multiple game modes spread out and chopping up the player base. Once we see what happens with the players and if there is a good, consistent player base, and it keeps rising, plus DLC, and people keep coming to it, then we’ll release those game modes so we don’t chop up players as much.”

    The reasoning makes sense, but it’s still a big want from the community and the game’s not even out yet. Alternative options such as offering a single playlist that cycles game modes (similar to Overwatch) or having timed event for special game modes, like a weekend special for double XP in Team  Deathmatch, then it’s gone, or something do exist. But time will tell if that sort of thing is implemented.

    “We’ve discussed all kinds of game modes and we’ve tried internally since a lot of people naturally play all shooters like a team deathmatch and then adapt to a more tactical style,” said Barber. “So a mode like that is very, very different and it does work and it’s fun, but we just don’t want to split people up. There’s also the immersion factor when you don’t respawn and bullets are hitting all around you and you can feel the pressure and the need to pull back and duck and survive.

    “One of the modes we’ve thought of is a hardcore mode where there is no wrist map

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  • Be The Hero Is A Super-Powered VR Game Releasing Next Week
    Be The Hero Is A Super-Powered VR Game Releasing Next Week

    Another chance to step into the shoes of a superhero is coming to VR headsets next week.

    EXPVR is set to launch its energetic action game, Be The Hero, on August 24th via Steam Early Access with support for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows VR headsets. The studio recently released a new mixed reality trailer for the game, seen below, in which you take on the role of a ninja with super speed and an electric sword that makes short work on the legions of enemies that surround you.

    The game utilizes what EXPVR calls ‘fluid combat locomotion’, which seems to mash different mechanics like wall-climbing to give you various ways to get around large environments. EXPVR is promising massive boss battles, one of which makes an appearance in the footage. We particularly like that you get to unsheath your sword from its cover and then have to hold onto that cover as you fight.

    It looks a little scrappy, but we’re hoping Be The Hero has some solid ideas that at least make it a less repetitive experience than Marvel: Powers United VR.

    The Early Access release is going to come with the first level of the story mode and a stage for a score attack mode. It should have about an hour of content to explore for now, with new stages, weapons and modes coming later down the line. Right now EXPVR expects Early Access to last around six to nine months, though these things have a tendency to last longer than expected.

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  • Insomniac And Oculus To Host Public Demo Session For Stormland At PAX
    Insomniac And Oculus To Host Public Demo Session For Stormland At PAX

    If you’re attending PAX West later this month or happen to live in and around Seattle, WA then consider yourself one of the lucky few that will have the first-ever hands-on opportunity with Insomniac’s upcoming fourth Oculus Rift exclusive, Stormland. Oculus will be hosting demos only on August 31st as a one-time pop-up event with limited swag available.

    For those interested, check out the event page on Facebook — it’s being held at 1927 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98101 from 11AM PT – 9PM PT. That’s a huge block of time, so hopefully you’ll be able to get in if you want. The demos are totally open to the public meaning you do not need a PAX West badge in order to play the game.

    This will be the first time anyone outside of either company is getting the chance to go hands-on with the game. In Stormland you play as a robot in an ever-changing world that’s engulfed in a constantly swirling and always changing massive storm. Every so often the storm shuffles the world, changes the environment, and resets everything — which lends itself very well to a dynamic, evolving game space.

    Stormland is also a cooperative action game with full locomotion, climbing, flying, and a tremendously ambitious sense of freedom in movement. You can read more details about Insomniac’s vision for the game in our detailed feature from earlier this year. Watch more gameplay here.

    Let us know what you think of the game and if you plan on attending down in the comments below!

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  • MLB Holds First ‘Home Run Derby VR Little League Challenge’

    ESPN3 broadcasted New England’s victory against Japan live in Little League International’s first ever virtual home run derby tournament. ESPN3 was the channel to watch yesterday as Major League Baseball debuted its inaugural Home Run Derby VR Little League Challenge, a bold new tournament that brought together 16 teams from across the world for a

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  • Rec Room Livestream: Laser Tag, Rec Royale, And More
    Rec Room Livestream: Laser Tag, Rec Royale, And More

    For today’s livestream we’re jumping into Rec Room — it’s been a while since we visited this free social VR application. Among its recent updates, including a battle royale game mode, there has been a new laser tag map, new Quests, and lots of custom rooms that community members have made. There is even a non-VR version in beta currently!

    During the stream I’ll likely be joined by Ian Hamilton from UploadVR for some of the fun as we try out a bunch of different content and see what people are up to. The plan is to mostly focus on Laser Tag and Rec Royale but we’ll see where the most active players are located.

    We’ll be livestreaming Rec Room today on HTC Vive and monitoring chat using OVRdrop while in VR. The stream will be starting soon at approximately 2:00 PM PT and we’ll aim to last for about an hour or so. 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 Rec Room or other VR games. Comment with feedback down below!

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  • Oculus Rift Now Compatible With Viveport & Viveport Subscription

    Starting today, developers can display their Viveport titles as Rift-compatible, with full consumer support starting September 4th. With nearly 500 VR experiences occupying their well-curated catalogue, Viveport’s game subscription service is a fantastic option for any new headset owner looking to dive head-first into the virtual scene. Now the $8.99 per month service is extending

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