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Tech News

Microsoft abandons VR plans for Xbox One

June 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Nicolas McComber

Fans of virtual or mixed reality who have been clinging to the hope of a headset for Xbox One will need to keep holding out — Microsoft has confirmed it isn’t focusing on either technology for the console — for the time being, anyway.

Speaking with Gamesindustry.biz, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer for gaming Mike Nichols revealed the company doesn’t have “any plans specific to Xbox One consoles”. This is, of course, a complete 180 from Xbox chief Phil Spencer’s promise to integrate VR within the Xbox One X. Instead, Microsoft seems preoccupied with bringing the immersive qualities of VR and MR to PC. Translation: if Halo makes the leap into VR as a flagship title, Xbox players will be left out in the cold. Nichols’ justification is that PC is “probably the best platform” because it’s open, and already has multiple companies supporting it.

Still, despite the console U-turn, Microsoft’s mixed reality dream is very much intact. A new HoloLens is reportedly on the way, and affordable MR motion controllers that don’t require sensor setup will be available alongside the headset.

Sony previously admitted its PlayStation VR sales didn’t quite reach expected levels, which suggests the company is struggling to tap into the early VR market. This might be why Microsoft is perfectly happy to allow Oculus and HTC to do the heavy lifting for them — at least on PC.

Tech News

3D world-building tool SculptVR makes its way to PSVR

June 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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SculptVR

SculptVR already provides creative minds a way to conjure up Minecraft-like worlds with detailed 3D sculptures on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Google Daydream. Now, it’s also giving PlayStation VR fans the tools they need to bring their imagination to life. The application will be available for Sony’s virtual reality platform on June 19th, allowing you to create any 3D object you want using PSVR’s controllers. Drawing with controllers may sound daunting, but SculptVR founder Nathan Rowe said it could actually be easier than drawing 2D images.

See, when you draw in 2D, you need to have an understanding of perspective, light and shadows. But when you draw in 3D using the application, you can simply recreate what you see in real life: SculptVR can take care of the perspective and shading for you. And if you want to create big detailed worlds, that’s no problem, as well — you can draw huge landscapes and add tiny details, which viewers can see when they zoom in.

Rowe explained:

“…you can build a rocky, snow-capped mountain with a stream flowing down its face. Along the stream, barely even visible from the mountaintop, is a farmhouse. In the house is a vase full of flowers resting on the kitchen table, and on one of the flowers is a spotted ladybug. That’s the power of SculptrVR’s multi-scale voxel engine.”

If that doesn’t sound like your kind of art, though, another option launched on PSVR just a few days ago, as well: painting application CoolPaintrVR. Hopefully, these applications’ arrival is only the beginning, and PSVR gets access to more creative tools in the future.

Tech News

Google’s VR180 Creator simplifies VR video editing

June 15, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

AOL

Anyone can make a film using equipment most of us have in our pockets. Filmmakers are creating full-length movies using iPhones, for instance. Creating virtual reality experiences, however, requires some more specialized equipment. You’ll certainly need cameras capable of capturing VR-ready photos and video, but you’d probably like to edit your creations too. So, enter Google, with its new VR180 Creator tool for Mac and Linux.

The tool is designed to work with footage from cameras that use Google’s VR180 format. VR180 was designed to help creators capture VR photos and videos in a way that makes sure you can see them in a normal perspective in 2D, too. In other words, you can use a VR headset to look around what you’ve shot, or view the photos and videos on a PC or phone screen without them appearing too distorted.

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VR180 Creator converts footage into a standard format so you can edit it with suites like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. When you’re ready to share your freshly edited creation with the world, you can use VR180 Creator to re-add the VR180 metadata. It’s then ready to upload to YouTube or Google Photos for VR or 2D viewing.

For VR180 to take off, Google has to find ways to get more people to shoot VR video. A tool to convert footage for editing is a smart, and probably necessary, way to open up the format a little more. It’s early days for VR, so it doesn’t seem that VR180 Creator will lead to us seeing low-budget, full-length virtual reality movies quite yet, but it could at least let Google help people understand VR a little better.

Tech News

'Arca's Path' is the VR puzzle game I've been waiting for

June 15, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Super Monkey Ball in virtual reality, but instead of using a gamepad to control the titular sphere, movement is dictated with head-tracking — that isn’t a reductive judgment of physics-based labyrinth Arca’s Path, it’s just the easiest way of describing the debut game from Dream Reality Interactive.

The high-tech marble labyrinth is one of the most relaxing VR experiences I’ve had. When my demo in publisher Rebellion’s hotel suite at E3 began, I thought it was a little weird that the game didn’t use a traditional input method.

Then, once I started playing, I realized that was beside the point. Instead of directly controlling the hexagonal “ball,” I was guiding it around a pastel obstacle course via a cursor and the PlayStation VR’s head tracking. The further in front of the ball I moved the cursor, the faster the ball would move. Stopping was as simple as putting the cursor directly underneath the ball.

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Getting around feels incredibly natural, too. There aren’t any tutorials, but thanks to Arca’s Path‘s physics system and minimalist approach to UI (there wasn’t a HUD or any sort of pop-up during my demo), the game doesn’t need them.

Typically in these sorts of games I oversteer and then overcorrect if I’m using a gamepad. But once I became accustomed to making slow, subtle movements with my head rather than quick jerks, maneuvering around the painterly geometric lanes was almost second nature.

The two courses I played were shades of pink and green, rife with narrow, walled paths in addition to wider circular platforms filled with angular flora. In motion, it reminded me a lot of PS4’s Tearaway Unfolded, which implemented a beautiful, construction-paper-like motif for its visual style. All the while, soothing beats from legendary electronic music label Ninja Tune played in the background.

Dream Reality Interactive/Rebellion Games

Fairly quickly, I fell into a zen state. I also fell off the path a few times because I’d gotten too cocky when there weren’t any guardrails present. Oops. My foibles weren’t much of a headache, though, thanks to a generous checkpoint system that should make Arca’s Path accessible even for folks who rarely play games.

While I demoed Arca’s Path on a PlayStation VR, the game will be coming to all major VR platforms including Oculus Go, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sometime soon. Even as someone whose PSVR collects dust unless a houseguest asks what the headset sitting next to my TV is, I’m chomping at the bit to play more.

It’s calm, soothing and above all an absolute blast to play. No it isn’t action-packed like Battlezone or EVE: Valkyrie are, but thanks to Arcana’s Path, I’ve discovered those aren’t the types of games I want to play in VR anyway.

Tech News

'Zone of the Enders' and PlayStation VR are a perfect match

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

It’s the rule: When a game hits its second remaster, the title must get longer and more convoluted. So, for the PS4 (and now PC) 4K remaster, it’s now Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars. It’s a substantially repolished version that fixes some of the major issues with the first remaster, but it’s the virtual reality component on PlayStation VR which stands out. Giant mech robots work well in VR, and ZOE2 remains an enjoyable sci-fi mech fighter even more than a decade later.

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Initially, Konami planned to upgrade the entire game to 4K — with no plans for VR. But after Sony debuted its PlayStation headset, the team decided to test out a few levels in PSVR, and discovered that “it worked out pretty well”, adds producer Noriaki Okamura. The result was that the entire game was not only remastered in 4K, but completely realized in VR too.

If you haven’t played ZOE before, it’s a third-person shooter / fighting game which combines long- and close-ranged combat. In VR, the team had to make changes to both streamline what’s happening in game, and also help reduce any motion sickness. When you’re swinging your blade or throwing enemy robots in VR, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. “[Because] we’re moving to first-person, we’ve added a projection of JEHUTY (the robot suit) to the HUD, which helps communicate what you’re doing,” explains Cygames’ project manager Kenichiro Kondo.

The shift to VR is not entirely perfect: Close-range battles with multiple enemies were a bit dizzying. My demo included few battles against roughly 30 tiny drone enemies. They’re easy enough to kill, but attempting to do so with your blade, rather than shooting them with heat-seeking missiles, will make the character jump between auto-locked enemies.

ZOE on PSVR is at its best when you either have distance from multiple enemies, or are centered on rival orbital frames (big robots) piloted by human antagonists. Judging from the first chapter I played through, Konami has translated the robot mech series well. Is there a future for Zone of the Enders? According to Konami that will depend on how fans (and new players) react to Mars. The game launches on PS4 and PC on September 6th.

Follow all the latest news from E3 2018 here!

Tech News

Google's latest VR Spotlight story watches you

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Google

Google’s latest interactive Spotlight Story has an unusual twist… namely, it’s watching you. The Piggy VR experience uses six-degrees-of-freedom movement tracking to have a pig respond to your gaze as its namesake character is tempted by a cake. Stare at Piggy and the porcine protagonist will look back with annoyance, guilt or surprise while trying to distract you. Look away, however, and Piggy may give in to cravings. Yes, it’s easy to make jokes about a Google story that tracks what you’re doing, but it’s a clever way of involving the audience without disrupting the narrative.

Piggy is available both through Google’s Spotlight Stories mobile apps as well as Daydream, Steam and HTC’s Viveport. You probably won’t see it come to YouTube, since the very premise depends on the character responding to the viewer.

This isn’t the only tale in the works. Google is promising a “sneak peek” on June 14th for Age of Sail (below), a more realistic story about a lonely sailor (played by Ian McShane) who rescues a teen (Cathy Ang) and finds “redemption and hope in his darkest hours.” The company hasn’t provided much more detail about how you’ll experience this project, but it noted that this was its “most visually complex and longest” story to date. In other words, it’s becoming more ambitious as it experiments with more storytelling formats.

Tech News

A French hospital is using VR as a drug-free pain solution

June 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters

The use of virtual reality (and even video games) as an alternative form of pain management isn’t exactly unheard of. Researchers are well aware of VR’s potential to distract patients at the dentist and combat phantom pains, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see VR turning up in the emergency room. Graduate students at St Joseph’s Hospital, France, have designed an immersive virtual program that is being used to help patients relax and increase pain tolerance without painkillers.

The program is surprisingly simple: patients strap on a pair of VR goggles just as you normally would, and dive into the 3D tranquility of snowy hillsides and Japanese zen gardens. Instead of tolerating the discomfort of surgery — such as treatment for a dislocated shoulder — they are distracted by pleasant auditory and visual stimuli that help them cope.

According to Dr. Olivier Ganasia, head of the hospital’s ER department, using VR during treatment is like ‘hypnosis’:

“(It) enables us to offer patients a technique to distract their attention and curb their pain and anxiety when being treated in the emergency room…I think in 10 years, virtual reality won’t even be a question anymore, and will be used in hospitals routinely”

At this stage, VR therapy is still considered experimental and more research is required to ensure it is being used correctly and to rule out the possibility it’s functioning as a placebo treatment. However, there is already some consensus that VR isn’t just good at distracting people; it also might be reprogramming the way the nervous system responds to pain in general.

Tech News

‘Elder Scrolls: Blades’ is an RPG you can play anywhere

June 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bethesda

Have you ever wanted to play an Elder Scrolls game on your phone, for free? Bethesda thinks you have and has you covered with Elder Scrolls: Blades, what the company’s Todd Howard described as “a pure Elder Scrolls game.” It’ll run on every platform imaginable, Howard said, and all the versions will connect to one another, so, for instance, someone on an iPhone X can play against someone who’s running through it on a PC-based VR system or standard console. It’ll be out this fall. You use finger-swipes for melee attacks and casting spells against various beasts (and other players) in procedurally generated dungeons, and beautiful forests.

There are a few different modes as well, including a rogue-like endless dungeon and an arena for 1v1 combat. You can even build out your own town. As you build the town out, you’ll unlock additional quests. And, hey you can play the entire game in portrait mode, one-handed. Pre-orders for the F2P game are live right now in case you’re really excited. Howard said that Bethesda will keep the game going for years to come, a la what it’s been doing with Fallout Shelter, which is now available for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

We’ve brought the beauty of an Elder Scrolls game to mobile.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades provides a massive first-person RPG experience you can play on your phone during those “important meetings”. 😉 #BE3 pic.twitter.com/sZzShIw3DV

— Bethesda Game Studios (@BethesdaStudios) June 11, 2018

Follow all the latest news from E3 2018 here!

Tech News

'Wolfenstein Cyberpilot' takes the fight to VR

June 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda is all about that virtual reality, baby. Wolfenstein Cyberpilot is a new game heading to VR and it’s due out in 2019, but it’s playable at E3 this week. There are few details about actual gameplay, but it follows a resistance hacker in some way, according to a tweet from Bethesda.

Take on the role of a resistance hacker in the new VR game, #Wolfenstein Cyberpilot, playable on the #E3 show floor! #BE3 pic.twitter.com/AgXbkLlAKI

— Bethesda (@bethesda) June 11, 2018

Bethesda’s previous VR games cover experiences in the Doom, Fallout and Skyrim universes. Alongside the Wolfenstein Cyberpilot news, Bethesda announced a new Prey VR game as well.

Follow all the latest news from E3 2018 here!

Tech News

Rhythm hit 'Beat Saber' is coming to PlayStation VR

June 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

PlayStation Blog, Flickr

Beat Saber has been one of the more attention-grabbing VR titles on PCs as of late, and it’s not hard to see why: it amps up the familiar rhythm game formula with an immersive experience that turns every note into a dramatic sword swing. It makes sense, then, that the creators at Beat Games would want to expand their audience. They’ve announced that Beat Saber is coming to PlayStation VR at some point in the near future. There isn’t even a hint of a release date, but knowing that it’s on the roadmap might help if you were looking for reasons to justify a PSVR headset.

The mechanics won’t change much. As on computers, you’re using motion controllers (in this case PS Move wands) to slice blocks that represent cruical notes in a piece of dance music. It’s considerably more involved than hitting a button — you need to cut or stab in the direction the block indicates, requiring coordinated movements that make it look like you’re directing a symphony. While it requires ample skill to master the game at its hardest difficulty levels, the concept is obvious enough that it’s accessible to everyone, not just die-hard VR enthusiasts.

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Follow all the latest news from E3 2018 here!