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Tech News

Google brings Chrome to Daydream VR headsets

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

It’s been a long time in coming, but Chrome browsing in VR is finally here. Google has released a version of Chrome that supports both Daydream View and stand-alone Daydream headsets like the Lenovo Mirage Solo. It can visit any website and includes Chrome staples like incognito mode, syncing and voice search, just in a wearable-friendly format. Google is also promising Daydream-specific features like a “cinema mode” when you watch online video.

You should see the VR-ready version when you update Chrome on Android. This make the most sense if you have a dedicated headset (where there isn’t a guarantee of phone access), but it promises a much more consistent VR experience. You could resume reading a story from your desktop, or check on a web guide for an app without having to remove your headgear.

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Magic Leap offers a sneak peek at its mixed reality OS

July 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Magic Leap

Magic Leap has been peeling away one layer of secrecy after another now that it’s close to shipping its mixed reality headset. Just recently, it released an AR demo and revealed that it’s working with comics industry veteran Grant Morrison. Now, the company has given us a glimpse of what its operating system an interface will look like through new documents added to its revamped developer guide. TechCrunch has collected a few images and videos circulating on Twitter and Reddit, including a photo of the device’s homescreen and the stock apps that’ll ship with it. Yes, they’re mock-ups, but they can at least give us an idea of what to expect.

Other images show the platform’s gallery and avatar system, both of which take on a flat, 2D look. Magic Leap apparently calls those types of apps “landscape apps,” and you’ll be able to run several at once.

The three-dimensional applications with elements that can interact with your environment, on the other hand, are called “immersive apps.” They’re probably the ones most people are looking forward to, considering they’ll provide the experience Magic Leap has been promising since it first revealed its existence. Remember that whale breaching in a school gym and that tiny elephant that can fit in a person’s palms?

Make your own derpy gravity defying driving game using this #Magicleap developer lesson in #Unity! 🚗😎 https://t.co/P70P4kCtvG pic.twitter.com/H4VGXXVPTN

— Giant Space Turtle (@GST_naomi) July 26, 2018

The company’s new documents also show how in-app hand controls may look like and how you’ll be able to create a multi-user experience by tapping the “Cast” button to share whatever it is you’re viewing with a contact.

Magic Leap recently announced that it will start shipping its mixed reality headsets this summer. The company doesn’t have an exact date yet, but so long as the release doesn’t get delayed, we’re bound to see photos and videos of its actual interface and apps in the near future.

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'Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice' is getting the VR treatment

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

British developer Ninja Theory is bringing its critically acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive later this month. The new version will be available as a free update for anyone that has already bought the game on Steam, starting July 31st. According to Ninja Theory, the VR version is almost identical to the original game — this isn’t a side story, or some kind of technical demo that you can blast through in 30 minutes. It will retain the original’s third-person perspective, keeping the player locked behind Senua. You will, however, be able to turn the headset to look around and gently guide the Pict warrior in a different direction.

For Ninja Theory fans, this is an unexpected bonus. During development, the studio was transparent about its small team size and meagre budget. Following divisive blockbusters Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, the company found itself on a financial knife-edge. To survive, it needed to make a “triple-A” game that was both visually stunning and artistically interesting with dramatically less cash. The result was Hellblade, a beautiful exploration of psychosis, Norse mythology and Celtic Culture. With over 1 million sales and a bunch of awards, the team was acquired by Xbox owner Microsoft last month.

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If you’re curious about the new version, here’s 14 minutes of VR gameplay:

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Tech News

Magic Leap signs content deal with comics giant Grant Morrison

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Magic Leap

Magic Leap has teamed up with Scotland-based Square Slice Studios, which was co-founded by comic book industry veteran Grant Morrison, to create content for its mixed reality headset. You might know the prolific writer for his work with Batman and All-Star Superman, as well as for creating the boundary-pushing sci-fi comics The Invisibles, among many other things. The studio will conjure up interactive experiences for the headset, though it has yet to reveal their exact nature. While we can probably expect some interactive comics, it’s worth noting that Morrison co-founded the company with a number of other creatives, including Grand Theft Auto artist Stewart Waterson.

Morrison’s statement hints at something big, though:

“Storytelling is my passion and I’ve found that new platforms allow me to extend my creative boundaries. We see Magic Leap as the next great platform for storytelling and we are excited to collaborate on content that helps bring our wildest dreams to life in the near future.”

Magic Leap also has a partnership with Madefire that will make the service’s mixed reality comics available on the headset from day one. But by teaming up with Square Slice Studios, it’s showing that it’s willing to invest in creating good content for its platform in addition to giving users access to existing non-exclusive offerings. The investment could pay off in the future when the company can no longer rely on years of mystery and hype to sell the device. Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset — one of them anyway, since there are supposed to be multiple versions — will start shipping this summer.

Tech News

The Macallan distillery opens up for 4D virtual reality tours

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Not everyone has the means to travel to Scotland and visit their favorite distillery a la Ron Swanson. To help connoisseurs live out their dreams of traipsing through its facilities, The Macallan has created the Macallan Distillery Experience. VRFocus describes it as a “4D multi-sensory” group tour that guides folks through the company’s process for making its Single Malt spirit. Along the way you’ll explore the Scottish distillery an the estate it resides on, learning about the outfit’s history along the way. Visitors will step into a “15x15x15 cube-like projection structure” with 360-degree videos beamed to the installation’s walls.

This won’t be the first time Macallan has experimented with VR-tech. Back in 2016, it released a 360-degree video featuring its 12-year double cask liquid. The experience apparently makes use of scents and wind machines to help sell the illusion.

It will debut next week in New York at a private event in Brooklyn on the 23rd, and a few days later it’ll take up temporary residence at Grand Central Station, running from the 25th through the 27th, National Scotch Day. Everyone not in New York will have to make do with talking a walkthrough via their home VR devices. Hopefully if Macallan hands out samples it’ll happen after you take the headset off. Shooting the spirit is kind of beside the point, VR can make you sick while sober and adding booze to the mix can exacerbate that uneasy feeling.

Tech News

VR standard promises an end to headset connector headaches

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget

If you’ve used a wired VR headset, you probably know the connector situation is inconsistent and messy: you frequently have to plug multiple cables into your PC, which is space consuming at best and potentially impractical if you have a laptop. That might not be quite such a thorn in your side if a handful of tech industry leaders have their way. AMD, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Oculus and Valve have unveiled VirtualLink, an open standard that would whittle VR headset connections down to a single USB-C cable. It would take advantage of the newer port format to deliver four lanes of DisplayPort video, USB data (for cameras and sensors) and 27W of power. It’s optimized for VR, too, promising low lag and a highly optimized path that would enable the “next generation” of headsets.

The technology is very young. The VirtualLink alliance has only published an “advance overview” of their specification for companies that want to take advantage of it ahead of a 1.0 release, and it will be a while after that before headsets adopt the technology. It’s also based on an assumption that wireless VR won’t become the dominant format. And you may have noticed that HTC isn’t involved, at least at this stage — it might not achieve true harmony so long as Vive owners are using another connector.

Even in this rough state, the appeal is clear. It’d lead to faster setup times even as it remained relatively future-proof, and would bring VR to virtually any laptop with enough power to handle it. You could plug a VR headset into a sufficiently speedy ultraportable. This kind of accessibility could be crucial to making VR accessible to more people, not just enthusiasts with desktops and beefy gaming laptops.

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'David Bowie Is' coming to your home through AR and VR

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Did you miss your chance to see the David Bowie is museum exhibition and pay tribute to the late, great musician? You won’t have to wallow in regret for very long. The David Bowie Archive, Sony Music, Planeta and the Victoria and Albert Museum have announced plans for both augmented and virtual reality ‘recreations’ of the exhibit. These digital productions will use a series of “audio-visual spaces” to showcase 3D scans of Bowie’s artifacts and let you get much closer than you might in real life. You might not only see a legendary costume, but try it on for yourself.

The exhibition will arrive on all “major” AR and VR platforms at an unspecified point in the future. There’s no exact pricing, but it will carry a cost for a good reason: some of the proceeds will go toward both the V&A Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. Think of it as paying for any other exhibition ticket, only with more flexible visiting hours and no other guests getting in your way.

Tech News

HTC hints at multi-room VR using Steam

July 15, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Brian Oh/Engadget

You may know that VR in large rooms is becoming a reality, but what about venturing between rooms? It might happen sooner than you think, albeit with a few caveats. HTC has shown off an experience that used a SteamVR beta, a Vive Pro and 16 base stations to allow VR between multiple rooms. A tester successfully wandered between rooms finding tracked objects as he wandered through a complex but connected space. Don’t expect to play VR games that span your entire home, though, as there are some limitations.

Observer Alan Yates noted that SteamVR is still limited to tracking from four base stations in a given session. This is really about support for “radio-based channel configuration tools” rather than a dramatic change in SteamVR’s capabilities. As it stands, you can’t buy this exact setup. You currently need to buy a Vive Pro to get Steam VR 2.0 tracking stations, and there’s no certainty HTC, Valve or other companies will release stand-alone station packs in the near future. Think of this more as a glimpse of the future of room-scale VR than a sales pitch.

Here’s a video of the test environment that people asked for. Three separate tracked spaces, with two 2.0 BS each, all in a shared virtual space. (Seems to work even behind closed door) Trackers placed within the shared space to show common coordinate system between spaces. pic.twitter.com/efqJKajky6

— Alvin Wang Graylin (@AGraylin) July 11, 2018

To be completely clear; the 1st four that it sees in a session. So this announcement is a little premature. This release is mainly about beta support for the radio-based channel configuration tools.

— Alan Yates (@vk2zay) July 11, 2018

Tech News

The latest Tilt Brush tool is a game-changer for VR artists

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google’s Tilt Brush is one of the best VR painting apps for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Since its release in 2016, artists have drawn magnificent ships, jaw-dropping mountain ranges and imaginative fight scenes in immersive 3D. Most of the app’s brushes, however, mimic the real world with flat, ribbon-like strokes. For years, you’ve had to move around and paint, or ‘color in’ every surface of a 3D object like a cube or cone.

It was pretty time consuming. Thankfully, the team behind Tilt Brush noticed and introduced a solution, called the hull brush, toward the end of June.

The new tool allows you to paint volumetrically. Normally, the app follows your movements in mid-air and creates a series of control points. These are supplemented with secondary points and then converted into colorful brush strokes. The hull brush, however, uses the control points to create a 3D mesh. The outermost points dictate the final size and shape, which for now has to be convex (curving outward, rather than inward). “The simplest way to think of a convex hull is as if you were ‘gift wrapping’ the points with geometry,” Jeremy Cowles, the technology lead for Tilt Brush explained.

In practice, you simply move the Rift or Vive controller through 3D space and watch as an abstract object is ‘filled in.’ With a single gesture, you can create a slab-like blob that is clearly visible from every angle. Now, people are embracing the hull brush as a way to quickly build characters and scenes. Steve Teeple, a concept artist who has worked with Marvel, Google and The Weeknd, among others, used the tool to create a dark and mysterious astronaut on June 29th. It’s a wonderful creation that could easily pass for some new Mass Effect or Destiny artwork.

“It’s a bit of a game changer in the Tilt Brush world,” he explained, “because while technically all the brushes create geometry of some kind when exported, usually a flat plane, it’s the first real 3D like brush we’ve seen added to the app.”

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Steve Teeple: Visitor

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Roscoe Studio: Woman by the Pool

The hull brush was made in response to user feedback (including a Pixar employee) who wanted a simpler way to create 3D objects. “If you’ve ever tried to create a solid sphere Tilt Brush without using any guides, the need is painfully obvious,” Cowles said. At first, the developer experimented with concave (inward facing curves) hulls because they were easier to implement “and mathematically well defined.” The user experience was unnatural, and for a while, Cowles considered abandoning the idea. He showed the team a couple of prototypes, though, which led to the convex-based tool available today.

“It quickly became clear that it was worth keeping,” he said.

Artists are profiting from that decision. Cesar ‘3Dominus‘ Ortega, for instance, used

Tech News

HTC's June sales highlight the need for its recent layoffs

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Tyrone Siu / Reuters

HTC can’t catch a break. The company has announced that in June its sales fell “nearly 68 percent,” according to Reuters. Earlier this week, the company revealed it would cull some 1,500 employees from its Taiwan manufacturing division in its chase for profitability. The last several years haven’t been kind to the company, rife with reorganizations (including one earlier this year), key staff members resigning and desperate efforts to put money in the bank by seemingly any means possible — including selling its Pixel team to Google for $1.1 billion.

Recently, the company combined its virtual reality and mobile divisions in an effort to refocus. Given this week’s news, and the Pixel sale as evidence, it wouldn’t be surprising if, in a last-ditch effort to return to profitability, HTC sold its Vive team to Valve. The two worked closely on the device, and it’s not like Valve’s coffers will run dry anytime soon.

Where would that leave HTC though, like BlackBerry? Vive is the company’s last stand, from the looks of it, and selling it off sounds like a Hail Mary. More than that, pulling a BlackBerry only works if the handsets HTC produces capture the market, something that hasn’t happened in years. And unlike BlackBerry’s keyboards, HTC doesn’t have one defining feature, let alone two (a reputation for enterprise-grade security). The new reduction in headcount probably won’t have the same financial benefits of the Pixel sale, but we’ll have to wait for HTC’s next earnings report to know for sure.