• Google ‘Foveated Compression’ Patent Filing Published
    google compression patent

    Alphabet’s Google filed for a patent for a compression system specifically designed for frames produced by foveated rendering.

    Foveated rendering is a process which renders most of the view of a VR headset at lower resolution except for the exact area where the user’s eye is pointed, which is detected with eye tracking. That area in front of the eye — where humans perceive the greatest detail — is rendered at a significantly higher resolution. Foveated rendering is considered crucial for future advancement of VR as it allows for higher resolutions without impossible GPU requirements.

    So why compress the frame? Why not simply send the result to the headset as is?

    The patent explains that in a standalone headset, the data lanes from the SoC (system-on-chip) to the display have limited bandwidth. Increasing this banwdith would have a non-trivial effect on energy consumption. Specifications like DisplayPort include an optional compression system already, however the algorithms behind it were not designed for elements of varying visual acuity in a single frame.

    The new compression system described gives priority to elements within the high detail area, where the result should be “virtually lossless”. Combining the high and low detail images without visible artefacts is described as requiring a custom chip. Thankfully however this chip is described as “relatively simple”.

    While the patent application was published this week, its filing date is July 2017. The patent is seemingly based on a late 2017 paper from Google Research titled ‘Strategies for Foveated Compression and Transmission’.

    The project was led by Dr Behnam Bastani, who led Google’s entire VR rendering research effort. In 2018 Bastani moved to Facebook to work in the FRL division led by Michael Abrash. This seems to follow an increasing trend of Facebook poaching top VR talent from Google and Microsoft.

    Tagged with: foveated rendering, google

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  • Ace Combat 7’s VR Support Needs The Astro Bot Treatment
    Ace Combat 7’s VR Support Needs The Astro Bot Treatment

    A little over two years ago now I wrote an article about a little game called Robot Rescue. It was a free demo included in Sony Japan’s Playroom VR launch compilation for PSVR. Its vision of a third-person platformer enhanced by player participation was so compelling I argued it needed a full game. Many others agreed.

    Two years later we got Astro Bot, one of the best VR games out there.

    But it’s time to rally our voices once more. There’s a new PSVR game on the scene which again offers a tantalizing taste of what should be a full experience. So powerful is this game that I can’t help but implore Sony to throw whatever mounds of cash it can spare towards its development team. I am of course talking about Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.

    Last week saw the long-running flight combat series return to consoles and PC. On PS4 it’s got a PSVR exclusive campaign. It’s all original content, but there are only 3 missions which anyone with any past experience could see it off in 30 minutes.

    But, goodness me, what a 30 minutes they’ll be. Ace Combat 7’s VR support is a joyous celebration of near-misses, missile locks and machine gun fire. It’ll shake you where you sit, drop your jaw, hammer your pulse and maybe even turn you into a series fan. It has that same revitalizing power that makes Wipeout VR so special and makes you excited about the future of VR once more. This is all coming from someone that hadn’t played the Ace games since the 1995 original.

    Now, here’s the thing. We don’t necessarily need a full new game here. I’d just as quickly welcome full VR support for the game’s main campaign. Heck, developer Project Aces could also revisit the many, many other past games in the series for inspiration. A compilation of missions from Ace Combat 6, Infinity and Ace Combat 7 would be more than enough. Just chuck out the bits that wouldn’t work in VR and let us loose in this wonderful aerial playground.

    Of course, it took nearly four years for Ace Combat 7 to go from reveal to release. Expecting a full VR campaign in the next two years might be a little ambitious. With that in mind, might we suggest this as a blockbuster game for PSVR 2? PS4’s limited horsepower probably played some part in making this mode so limited. Any hypothetical VR follow-up appearing on any hypothetical console follow-up could relieve those constraints a little.

    So, if you’re listening, Sony, please take heed. Get on the phone to Bandai Namco. Tell them all about PSVR 2 and why it’ll be great. Let’s make this a reality.

    Tagged with: ace combat 7, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

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  • Layers Of Fear 2 VR Support Not Being Ruled Out
    Layers of Fear 2 VR horror

    Good news for people that like to poop themselves! Layers of Fear 2 VR support might just happen.

    That is according to a Eurogamer report from PAX South this weekend. During a panel on the game, developer Bloober Team was apparently secretive about possible VR support. When the site followed-up, the developer said that the game would be multiplatform first and foremost. VR support was neither confirmed nor denied. That gives us hope.

    The original Layers of Fear was a first-person horror that told the story of a disturbed artist. Its mysterious sequel is set aboard a luxury cruiser. It promises yet more psychological scares, the kind that would be perfect for VR. Platforms for the game have yet to be announced though a new trailer for the game is below.

    If it does happen, it wouldn’t be the series’ first taste of VR. The first game in the series was reworked into a Daydream VR experience named Layers of Fear: Solitude. Sadly we didn’t think much of it. It was a somewhat awkward compilation of scares that fell flat. A full version of the sequel on premium VR headsets could easily surpass that effort, though.

    Eurogamer also reports that Solitude won’t be coming to any other VR headsets anytime soon. Nor will Bloober port its last game, Observer to headsets. That’s a shame, but fingers crossed Layers of Fear 2 VR still happens. Because we all need another scary VR game, right?

    For now, we’re expecting the game to launch sometime this year.

    Tagged with: horror, Layers of Fear 2

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  • The Goodbye Room Is A Queer VR Escape Room ‘With Feelings’
    The Goodbye Room Is A Queer VR Escape Room ‘With Feelings’

    We’ve seen plenty of VR escape rooms in the past few years. They usually offer mind-bending puzzles that take you hours to solve. The Goodbye Room, however, promises something a little different.

    This new VR adventure from developer Fire Mammoth is an ‘escape room with feelings’. At least that’s the phrase the studio’s Max Ellinger uses to describe it. The Goodbye Room is all about processing a past relationship. The player is locked inside a room with their ex-boyfriend and must relive memories and experiences to help tackle their grief. Inspired by the likes of Life is Strange and Gone Home, Ellinger and co want to tackle a subject not often covered in gaming, let alone VR.

    To do this, the game will use a mix of full VR content, volumetric capture and 3D, 360 video. You revisit key moments in the character’s relationship and try to un-do what’s already done. For Ellinger, it’s a deeply personal project that calls back to his own traumatic experiences. Playing Gone Home, a game which also features relationship struggles at its core, allowed him to properly process his grief. Now, Ellinger wants to make a game that might help others, too.

    “It’s the tender and queer game I wish I had when I was younger,” Ellinger says in an introduction video.

    To help bring the game to life, Ellinger is turning to Kickstarter. He wants to raise $13,500 by February 15th and is currently around the $2,000 mark.

    Interested? You can pledge $15 to secure a digital copy of the game. Ellinger estimates a December 2019 release with optional support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Backer rewards stretch all the way up to $5,000, which will net you an executive producer credit.

    Tagged with: escape room, The Goodbye Room

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  • Sony Pictures Creates 360 Ad Campaign for Psychological Thriller Escape Room It was created in collaboration with OmniVirt.
  • Watch Darth Maul Play Beat Saber For The First Time
    Beat Saber Darth Maul double bladed lightsaber

    Need some of that Monday motivation? How about watching Darth Maul himself crush a level on Beat Saber?

    Yes, actual Darth Maul. Or at least the dude that plays him.


    View this post on Instagram


    Here ya go! Some of you have asked. First time on Beat Saber and couldn’t resist a bit of a boogie! My kids are the best at it in our home. @beatsaber @playstation4 @voidvr @playstation_vr #sithlife #raypark #maul #starwars #soloastarwarsstory #bigkid #daddy #playstation #playstationvr #lightsaber

    A post shared by Actor Ray Park (@iamraypark) on Jan 19, 2019 at 10:47pm PST

    Actor Ray Park, who portrayed the Sith warrior in Star Wars: Episode 1 and (spoiler!) Solo, this weekend posted a video of himself playing Beat Games’ VR hit. PSVR is his weapon of choice. Despite saying it’s his first time playing, he seems to be holding his own pretty well. That said he looks like he’s on a lower difficulty. Come on, Ray, if you can handle Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson at once then surely you can tackle a bunch of flying squares.

    Last year, not long after Beat Saber’s PC release, someone made an actual Darth Maul mod. It connected your two motion controllers together to replicate the double-bladed lightsaber. Anyone else think Ray should give it another go with the more authentic experience?

    Elsewhere in Beat Saber-land, we should see the game’s first premium DLC ‘soon’. Expect it to be the first of three new song packs. The game was one of the most popular PSVR titles of 2018.

    Tagged with: Beat Saber, Darth Maul

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  • AR Startup AstroReality Discuss Merging the Physical and the Digital VRFocus caught up with the firm during CES 2019.
  • CBS Sports Coverage Of Super Bowl LIII Will Include AR Enhancements

    CBS Sports technology make-over includes 115 cameras and AR. CBS Sports have announced plans to use AR during their coverage of Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, promising to enhance your football experience like never before. The NFL and CBS are both being a tad coy with what you and all of your armchair quarterback

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  • Improbable Promises Long-term Support For Unity
    Improbable Promises Long-term Support For Unity

    Unity has backed down in its battle with Improbable over the cloud platfrom SpatialOS. And now Improbable is promising to move forward with Unity Technologies and developers that use the Unity game-dev tools.

    On Wednesday, Unity changed its terms of service. It now explicitly permits developers to use its game engine with platforms like SpatialOS. Improbable helped forced this change by revealing that Unity had revoked its Unity license. Epic, which runs the competing Unreal Engine, even stepped in to offer money to move Unity developers to something “more open.”

    SpatialOS is a cloud service that makes it easier for developers to add online multiplayer. It works with game engines including Unity, Unreal, CryEngine, and more. And now, that platform has full permission to continue running Unity games.

    “Improbable is glad that Unity Technologies has done the right thing by making Unity an open platform,” an Improbable spokesperson said in a statement provided to GamesBeat. “Improbable has access to its Unity licenses again and can provide full support to developers building games with Unity and SpatialOS. continue to update SpatialOS to work with Unity.”

    Unity pulled Improbable’s authorization because the two companies don’t have a partnership. This is something that Unity wants for every competing platform company.

    And that’s something that Improbable claims it still wants to do.

    “We think the best thing for developers would be for Unity and Improbable to formally partner,” an Improbable spokesperson said. “And we hope to be able to discuss this in the future.”

    Game dev: Still democratizin’

    This is all good news for developers. While Unity claims it was trying to protect its platform, it was doing so at the expense of game creators.

    And now that Unity has made a very public commitment to openness, developers are free to make the best games that they can.

    Improbable also notes that this ensures uniform openness among Unity, Unreal, and CryEngine.

    “The three largest third-party engine makers in the games industry have now confirmed that developers should be able to host engines wherever they want in the cloud,” said the Improbable spokesperson. “This is a key step, technologically, toward making the next generation of virtual worlds possible.”

    This post by Jeff Grubb originally appeared on VentureBeat.

    Tagged with: Improbable, spatialos

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  • The VR Job Hub: Video Content Producer at VRFocus Want to join the team? Now's your chance!
  • Photo Wake-Up Converts Still Images Into AR Animations

    A team of researchers bring 2D photos to life with automatic 3D animations. As AR technology continues to develop from past its current state of infancy, one of its most popular use-cases so far has been the digital enhancement of real-world images. Through the use of various techniques, such as hidden AR markers – which,

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  • Pokémon Go Dev Raises $245 Million In Funding
    Pokémon Go Dev Raises $245 Million In Funding

    Developer Niantic, Inc. now has a valuation of almost $4 billion after its latest funding round. The company raised $245 million in its Series C financing. Venture capital firm IVP led the round along with participation from AXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Capital Management, CRV, and Samsung Ventures.

    Niantic is the studio responsible for Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Ingress Prime. These games are free-to-play on mobile and they combine the digital and real worlds using both augmented-reality visuals and mechanics. The studio plans to use its influx of new cash to expand its AR technologies. Niantic will also put some of that quarter billion dollars toward machine learning, its Niantic Real World Platform, and new content. The studio also plans to bring on fresh talent.

    “We continue to be focused on delivering on our mission of bringing people together through experiences that marry advanced technology and the real world” Niantic cofounder and chief executive officer John Hanke said. “This funding round adds financial and strategic support as we focus on doubling down on that mission with our platform and building upon the popularity we’ve established in recent years as we grow our portfolio and offerings.”

    Niantic as a development platform

    One of the reasons that Niantic is worth so much money is because of the aforementioned Real World Platform. This is foundation that Niantic builds its games on top of. It is a software layer that understands how people get around in physical spaces.

    Niantic plans to eventually make its Real World Platform open to all developers. And that’s something that IVP is very interested in.

    “IVP is excited to support Niantic in building the future of AR — initially as it delivers the magic of AR through highly popular games, but ultimately by delivering an operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world,” IVP partner Sandy Miller said. “It’s a rare opportunity to partner up with a company that is already highly profitable at this stage, which is another reason we are so bullish on Niantic.”

    AXiomatic cofounder and chief executive Bruce Stein echoed that sentiment.

    “Seeking out innovative new experiences and technologies centered around audience engagement has been a core investment focus for aXiomatic since day one,” Stein said in a statement. “Niantic has proved to have a singular touch when it comes to developing communities — both virtual and real-word, global and local — and keeping players engaged, interested and entertained. We’re looking forward to playing a part in powering that innovation for communities and years to come.”

    This post by Jeff Grubb originally appeared on VentureBeat.

    Tagged with: niantic, pokemon go, venturebeat

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  • RYOT to Debut 3 XR projects at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival All three were made using Unity.
  • VR Bumper Cars Attraction to Open in Germany This Spring Race bumper to bumper in real time in VR.
  • Report: Facebook’s Upcoming AR Glasses Much Less Bulky Than Hololens Or Magic Leap
    michael abrash ar vr oculus connect 5

    Business Insider is reporting that a source has tried on a prototype of the AR glasses under development at Facebook. The source claims the prototype “resembled traditional glasses much more closely than the bulky AR headsets offered by Microsoft (the HoloLens) or Magic Leap.”

    “They look like really high-end glasses,” the source said, adding “it’s light enough to not feel heavy on your face, and it wasn’t light enough to feel like you could just sit down and break them.”

    A New AR Product Team

    The report notes that “hundreds” of employees were moved from Facebook Reality Labs (formerly Oculus Research) to a new team focused on delivering AR products. The team is jointly lead by Michael Abrash and Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth. Abrash will continue to also lead Facebook Reality Labs as Chief Scientist.

    Facebook told Business Insider the decision was made to move AR hardware development “out of research, now that we are closer to shipping”.

    The publication’s source claimed that the release was pushed from 2020 to 2022, however Facebook denied this, stating “We have an exciting AR road map that includes multiple products, so your intel on release dates is wrong”.

    It’s unclear whether the reference to “multiple” products means a tiered product lineup (like Go and Quest in the VR market) or simply successor products.

    Facebook’s Past Comments

    Since the acquisition of Oculus in 2014, Mark Zuckerberg has hinted at wanting to launch AR hardware in the far future.

    In 2016 the CEO told The Verge that AR would “maybe” be where VR is in “5 or 10 years”, but confirmed that Oculus was researching VR.

    Zuckerberg was more specific in a 2017 interview with Recode, stating:

    “I think everyone would basically agree that we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want. We may in five years, or seven years, or something like that. But we’re not likely to be able to deliver the experience that we want right now.”

    In October of last year Facebook’s Head of AR Fiscus Kirkpatrick directly confirmed the company was working on AR glasses in an interview with TechCrunch.

    Oculus Connect 5

    At Oculus Connect 5 in October of last year, Chief Scientist Michael Abrash gave a detailde presentation on his views of the future prospects of AR and VR. During this talk, Abrash revealed that Facebook’s investment in AR research had “ramped up a great deal” in the past two years.

    Abrash stated that since no off the shelf display technology was good enough for AR, the company had to develop “a new display system”.

    Abrash gave some specific details of what the company was targetting in terms of form factor- no more than 70 grams weight and dissappating no more than 500 milliwatts. For comparison, Magic Leap One weighs over 300 grams. Like Magic Leap, Abrash stated that the glasses would need to require a companion device for processing- “either a smartphone or puck”.

    Tagged with: AR glasses, augmented reality, facebook, Facebook Reality Labs, oculus

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