New Ready Player One Trailer
The first full-length trailer for Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One came out this week, revealing more of the movie’s story. It also shows what the avatars look like in much more detail. Interestingly, Spielberg has chosen to make the avatars non-photoreal, leaving them teetering on the cartoon ridge of the uncanny valley (like Tintin). This likely was key in clearly demarcating the VR and real-world action as it is cross-cut, but it departs somewhat from the book, which never really addresses the issue of avatar realism. It could also throw audiences for a loop, as 75% of the purportedly live action film will end up being fully animated.
Regardless, the film’s March 30 release date represents a huge opportunity for the VR industry to capitalize on the attention a major Spielberg action film will bring to VR worldwide.
The book’s author Ernie Cline also let slip that he is working on a sequel.
Vive Focus Hands-On
Engadget has a hands on video with the final version of the Vive Focus standalone VR headset. The device is only available in China and costs $600—a hefty sum, especially in China. Unlike Oculus’ Santa Cruz prototype, the Vive Focus makes do with a 3DoF (rotation only) controller, but its inside out 6DoF (rotation + position) headtracking is reported to be quite solid, with reviewer Richard Lai successfully attempting some cartwheels. We know that a 6DoF HMD paired with a remote enables some interesting experiences; after all, the Oculus Rift launched in that configuration. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to what is possible with real hand controllers, and it is doubtful consumers would find it to be worth the $400 price premium over the 3DoF Oculus Go if they were competing in the same market.
ARCore Lenses Launch with Star Wars Content
Google launched their ARCore-powered AR camera mode with a whole bunch of Star Wars-themed “stickers”. The “stickers” are animated 3D models that can be placed in the real world, and include Storm Troopers, BB-8, and even an AT-AT walker.
Sony announced that it had sold 2 million PSVR systems—and 70 million PS4s.
In a guest post (part 1, part 2) on Road to VR, NVIDIA Research’s Morgan McGuire summarizes the differences between game and film graphics pipelines, the new challenges presented by VR vs traditional gaming, and, in the more exciting second part of the article, gives a rundown of the various projects at NVIDIA Research aimed at solving these problems. His explanation of the advantages of ray tracing for VR is particularly interesting. Ray tracing is rarely seen in games because frames take too long to render, but we may finally be on the cusp of it becoming practical with the next generation of GPUs.
A brief article on Unity’s website explores the optimizations that Weta Digital utilized to bring a photorealistic animated horse asset into the real world with Google’s ARCore and Graphine’s Granite texture streaming library for Unity.
VR improv app Mindshow has officially launched its social sharing/remixing feature.
A surprisingly well-balanced report from CNN sets out healthy and safety guidelines for parents who are gifting VR to their children this year. See also: my answer on Quora about VR eye safety. One important takeaway is that Nintendo’s early research showed that improperly aligned screens could damage young children’s vision. It’s very difficult to get screens properly aligned in Google Cardboard based HMDs so I would steer clear of those even though they are inexpensive and widely available.
A short video posted to Twitter gives a behind the scenes peek at the major operation that NextVR must undertake to set up its camera coverage for a football game.
The ZED Mini AR devkit is now available for pre-order. The device attaches to the front of a Rift or Vive to provide a video passthrough so that they can be used as an AR development device with capabilities similar to Hololens or Meta 2. This is a promising approach as it enables a higher field of view than look-through solutions like the Hololens and can ensure that the background and virtual elements are locked perfectly. Latency is the challenge, and the tech will need to be much more integrated with the display than it can be in an add on device in order to meet its full potential. The devkit will cost $450.
Adjustable focal length is still a rarity with HMDs. There are now a couple of options on the market. Rochester Optical offers $99 glasses that fit nicely under the Rift or Vive. They are not sexy, but they can be worn as backup glasses in public without scaring people. VR Lens Lab is offering a strap-equipped prescription frame for 49 Euros. This looks less like normal glasses but is less likely to get torn off your face as you remove the HMD (Rochester Optical uses wraparound temple tips, but they are a tad uncomfortable and sometimes pop off). Both offer filter coatings to cut down on harsh blue light from the OLED or backlight.
The much anticipated Fallout 4 VR launched to mixed reviews. It is reportedly quite clunky on Rift, which is not yet officially supported by developer Bethesda. There are some workarounds to improve the experience on Rift, and redditors have compiled a list of settings tweaks to improve performance. It’s definitely worth checking out because as a port of a full AAA game, it is one of the deepest, most elaborate experiences available in VR.
The Last Guardian VR Demo came out for free on PSVR to rave reviews. The Last Guardian is an aesthetically stunning experience where players cooperate with a giant cat-bird-dog creature named Trico to solve puzzles. The game was widely acknowledged to have one of the richest virtual creature interactions out there. Now you can play with Trico in virtual reality and interact face to face.
Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay is available for free on Steam.
LA Noire: The VR Case Files will launch on Friday. The game was one of the very first to use performance capture techniques in hopes that players would be able to discern complex emotions on the faces of the characters to determine who was lying to them. This makes it particularly interesting as a VR experience.