How A Small Handful Of Adorable Dragons Are Leading The Way For VR Pets

Beast Pets demonstrates how virtual companions can have a genuine emotional impact on users.

“Go fetch, Tux!” I knew he couldn’t fully understand me, but nevertheless Tux made his way over to the red and white ball I had just thrown across the small park. Quickly bringing it back to me, I gave him a small pat on the head as I took the ball from his mouth and prepared to throw it again.

“Sorry to bother you, but can I get your help with something?” I hadn’t heard my fiancé walk up, but I nodded and gave the ball another toss to keep Tux occupied. I watched him fly after it, his scaly wings flapping frantically, and took off my headset.

Dragon GIF

You see, Tux is my artificial pet dragon in the virtual world of Beast Pets. Launched in early access on SteamVR and the Oculus Store in 2019, Beast Pets allows players to play with and care for virtual pet dragons. Though new to the world of VR, the idea behind these digital companions was spawned over a decade ago.

“I used to be really active in Second Life, and actually ran a clothing shop in-world,” Vivian Tan, CEO and ‘Chief Beast’ of Beast, Inc. told me. “I created my shop in a remote area so that nobody would bother me, but I had a Chow-Chow that would keep me company. Her name was Rosie.” Mat Tyndall, CTO and ‘Tech Beast’ laughed before explaining how much Tan loves dogs, both virtual and mammalian. In fact, this isn’t the only virtual pup that Tan has fallen in love with. “I started playing Fallout 4 VR and am completely attached to Dogmeat,” Tan told me. “I modded him to look like Dino, the German shepherd I had when I was a kid. I panic when Dogmeat dives headfirst into a swarm of enemies or when I can’t find him.”

Hearing the sincerity in Tan’s account made it clear that both Rosie and Dogmeat’s companionship is not only extremely real to her, but that they left the kind of indelible mark that living, breathing pets have on their owners. Specifically, it’s Rosie and Dogmeat’s AI that elevated them beyond her polygons. These were no Tamagotchis, but rather digital companions that had (admittedly limited) minds of their own.

Autonomy, at its core, is what makes owning a pet so special. The unexpected behavior, adorable little moments, and choice to spend time with you are the hallmarks of a rewarding relationship with a pet. Similarly, the dragons of Beast Pets display their own autonomy, sometimes even disobeying the owner’s desire to use one of the game’s myriad interaction options. Even more unique is that each dragon you unlock has a unique personality, some being more assertive, while others displaying more timid behavior.

Vr GIF

Tan and Tyndall saw an important need for virtual pets that provide fulfilling and realistic companionship. Between social media, texting, and email, everyone who grew up with the internet became accustomed to building relationships with asynchronous and often impersonal communication. The digital world has yet to find a way to provide on-demand, real-time companionship that forgoes the social pressures of dealing with other people – until now.

I found playing with Tux and his siblings incredibly relaxing, and with their ability to fly, Tan and Tyndall’s choice to use dragons also provided me with new avenues for species-specific fun. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing more adorable than having a group of floaty, big-eyed dragons slow-motion descending on you for treats.

Vrdragons GIF

Looking to the future, Beast, Inc. is looking to expand the world of Beast Pets. More interactions, AI upgrades, and the potential introduction of other fantastical creatures mean that the world will only get larger. With people already living out a significant amount of time in virtual worlds, Tan and Tyndall’s vision is set to make the metaverse a little less lonely, and significantly more adorable.

You can care for your very own hoard of pet dragons (still in early access) on SteamVR and Oculus Rift/Rift S headsets, with an Oculus Quest version currently in development.

Image Credit: Beast, Inc.

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Hello Puppets! Review: VR Horror Meets Anthropomorphic Puppets

Despite being an immersive horror game with a dark tone, adult humor and multiple jump scares, there’s something charming about walking around with a swearing, highly-strung anthropomorphic puppet on your hand in Hello Puppets!

It’s this juxtaposition in tone that really pushes Hello Puppets! forward through it’s roughly 2 hour duration.

Developed by Otherworld Interactive and funded by Oculus Studios, Hello Puppets! released late last year on the Oculus Store, exclusively for the Oculus Rift S. In general, Hello Puppets! doesn’t reinvent the VR wheel. It features fairly standard puzzle mechanics in a short, linear narrative-driven horror VR game. All of the core elements at play work fine but wouldn’t necessarily stand out in a lineup. However, near the beginning of the game, something happens that adds an interesting twist to how you play — a puppet named Scout is sewn onto your non-dominant hand and comes to life, quipping and guiding you through the rest of the game.

The two of you are bound together, physically and narratively, and while it sounds like a simple concept, it’s a welcome one. The addition of Scout the puppet is what drives this game to be more than just a stock standard horror game — she provides quippy dialogue and interactions, a needed break from some of the intense horror moments, and also introduces some unique gameplay mechanics.

 

You play as a journalist sent to investigate a decommissioned warehouse, which you soon learn is controlled by two creepy mastermind puppets named Riley and Mortimer. They’re abducting humans and possessing their bodies with sewn-on puppets, just like Scout. The catch is that something went wrong when they abducted you, and Scout isn’t in control of your body like she should be. This forces the two of you to work together to escape the warehouse while being pursued by Mortimer and Riley.

It’s a simple story that won’t shock or surprise you, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The focus is not on the narrative twists, but instead on the characters and the bond you form with Scout along the way. Scout is an equally perfect guide, side character, and gameplay mechanic. Her dialogue is perfectly written to balance out the creepy setting with some dark humor, and she quickly becomes the shining diamond of the entire game.

 

hello puppets sock puppet

The game’s environments are dark and unsettling, witht he atmosphere being just creepy enough to keep you consistently on your toes. There are some good jump scares too, which will leave you adequately spooked but not overly annoyed. The general tone of the story is also refreshingly adult — this is not a kid’s game by any means. There are some dark implications about what’s going on in the warehouse and Scout has quite the motormouth on her. While your own character is mute through the story (which, in-game, is explained by your mouth being sewn shut), you can still communicate and respond to Scout’s dialogue by nodding or shaking your head, which makes for some fun interactions.

However, if there’s an area where Hello Puppets! starts to disappoint, it’s the gameplay itself. As mentioned earlier, the mechanics are mostly ones you’ve seen in other games before. Having Scout attached to one hand does introduce some unique gameplay moments (which we we won’t spoil here), but they don’t feel like enough to keep everything fresh. Around the game’s halfway point, the gameplay starts to feel a bit repetitive and progressively less inventive than some of the ideas in the first half.

scout hello puppets

The only actions you perform are mostly just movement-based (getting to an area, reaching a door, or running away from a monster) or picking things up (grabbing a required item, solving a puzzle, or performing a basic action). There’s no combat and the only controls you really need to memorize are the walk button and the grip button, plus the triggers for a special action introduced later in the game. At several points, you’ll have to run away from some truly terrifying monsters, but the whole experience becomes a bit drab when you realize that there’s no real challenge in these interactions. If you don’t start walking, you’ll be helpless to defend yourself and get killed by the monster. If you do start walking, you’ll likely make it out alive. There’s nothing more to those sections and they never feel overly inventive or compelling.

The game also has its fair share of bugs that weigh it down, especially involving saving and loading games. While there’s clearly an autosave system at work, there were a few instances where I started a bit further back from where I left off, but retained items I had found in the next section. Some dialogue lines were replayed at odd times and I did have one unfortunate game-breaking bug that trapped me in a room forever upon reloading, unable to leave. While the developers helped resolved my issue and assured me they were working on patching that bug in particular, it’s still unfortunate it happened in the first place several months after release. Combined with a few other oddities I encountered, it does feel slightly less than polished, but not enough to ruin the entire experience.

hello puppets

Hello Puppets! Review Final Verdict

Overall, a lot of the core puzzles and gameplay in Hello Puppets! might feel familiar. There’s buttons to push, enemies to evade, and levers to pull – nothing you haven’t done before. However, where the game shines is the dialogue, characters, and unique gameplay mechanics that stem from having a anthropomorphic puppet sewn onto your hand throughout the entire experience. Not only is the voice acting excellent, but the writing is humorous and the adult tone, with swears and all, feels perfectly placed to balance out the macabre, slightly over-the-top and terrifying setting.

Hello Puppets! didn’t blow me away, but it also didn’t have to. While not everything is perfect, it makes up for the areas it lacks in with some exciting and refreshing elements that add some levity to the horror setting. If you enjoy the horror genre in VR, it’s probably worth checking out for the slightly different take on the genre and humorous addition of Scout the puppet. In many ways, Hello Puppets! has a lot of parallels to how you might approach a blockbuster horror movie — while not particularly groundbreaking, if you have a few spare hours on the weekend, it might be worth checking out for a bit of fun, a few scares, and maybe even a laugh.


Final Score: :star: :star: :star:  3/5 Stars | Pretty Good

You can read more about our five-star scoring policy here.


Hello Puppets! is available now on the Oculus Store for $19.99 on the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest via Link. This review was conducted on the Oculus Quest using Oculus Link.

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How Media Molecule’s Dreams Builds, Plays And Changes The Game

People are going to make outlandish claims about Dreams. They’re going to say it’s a strange, unwieldy beast that was born from a wild imagination. And it’s true that Dreams is vast, impressive and bursting with potential. But if you have even a passing knowledge of VR, you’ll know that Media Molecule’s latest shares at least a little of its DNA with the likes of Tilt Brush, Quill and Medium. Crucially, though, Dreams promises a big step beyond those platforms.

Note: This article was originally posted in January 2019.

Dreams is essentially an attempt at an accessible videogame development engine. But you knew that; you’ve seen the videos of P.T. and Dead Space remade inside of it, or the tweets with alarmingly detailed creations. You’ve already seen what’s possible here. This is not your normal game; it’s an entirely new platform.

There’s a very different set of barometers for what makes it ‘good’, then. It’s so enormously big that the mere thought of covering it all in one article is a little overwhelming. So I thought I’d take a page out of Meda Molecule’s book; I’d compartmentalize.  Dreams makes everything digestible by cutting it up and taking it one step at a time, so why don’t we?

A Revelatory Interface

For starters, it has to be said that Dream’s DualShock 4 interface is nothing short of a stroke of genius. Your gamepad is a mouse, keyboard, camera, paintbrush and a traditional controller all at once. Dream’s creation mode is made up of a series of menus to access different parts of development from sculpting to Logic (more on that later). You navigate this initially intimidating library with an imp, a small little creature that’s essentially the pointer on a mouse. DualShock 4’s motion controls are employed to great effect; once you know what items are where you can start scrolling through Dreams with almost the same intuition you enjoy on a PC.

But the controller doubles as a keyboard too. Dreams has a range of shortcuts that are executable by holding the L1 button. If you wanted to grab and move an object, for example, you’d just grab R2 and then move it. But if you wanted to clone the item in question, you’d hold L1 first then hold R2. Simple little additions like this make the overall creation process a much more manageable concept once mastered.

Dreams has got me looking at my Dualshock 4 in an entirely new way. I don’t just see the gamepad I use to play shooters and platformers but also a tool. Media Molecule’s reinvention of a videogame staple is, simply put, a revelation.

Move controllers are a bit of a different story, though. I can see how, with extensive practice, they could be more versatile tools than the gamepad. After a few hours of trying to get to grips with them, they’re my biggest pain point in Dreams right now, though. Camera movement can feel erratic and overly sensitive, and it’s often difficult to grasp which way to move the controllers to get the view you want. Moving through the environment is also much more of a hassle without DualShock 4’s analog sticks. There are more helpful shortcuts employed to streamline navigation, but they’re hard to grasp on Move’s confusing button layout.

It’s especially concerning seeing as we don’t know if Dreams’ VR support will work with the DualShock 4 just yet. Having said that, the added depth perception may go some way in helping me tame them.

Accessible Tutorials

Dreams’ biggest victory so far, though, is its tutorial setup. While the game works its magic to make content creation as easy as possible, it’s not a miracle maker. You will have to commit multiple hours to the game’s tutorial section to learn how to make stuff in Dreams. And you’ll need to revisit it time and again to refresh your memory. Making an introductory process that’s accessible, engaging and fun was arguably the most important thing the game had to pull off. Media Molecule does so with flying colors.

While the beta doesn’t include every tutorial, there’s everything you need to get started. Each segment has a video overlay. Think of it like a YouTube ‘How To’ video, with narration guiding you through every step. It’s not a case of ‘watch and repeat’; you’re free to move at your own pace. At first you’ll follow along with every precise step, mimicking the moves you see on the video. Missed a line? Just quick press the 10 second reverse button to jump back without any fuss. Video in the way? Grab it as you would any other object and move it to a new location.

As you grow more confident, though, you’ll find yourself even outpacing the tutorial. Dreams introduces its ideas in incremental steps, building upon the foundations it’s already laid. When you know what you’re going to need from which menu you can race ahead and grab it before your instructor has even shown you. If you get a little ahead of yourself and miss a step there’s no punishment or hindrance; no one’s judging you or telling you that you’re doing it wrong. The game trusts you to figure it out for yourself.

Testing out your work couldn’t be simpler, either. You can instantly enter ‘Play Mode’ through the pause menu, which brings everything to life. If you need to check a character can jump a gap then just play that section. If it doesn’t work, just go back and rewind the tutorial back to where you went wrong. This feels lightyears ahead of the groundwork established in LittleBigPlanet, a game of comparatively slight ambition. I remember slugging through those tutorials with an ever-depreciating desire to create. Dreams’ tutorials left me raring to go and feeling like anything was possible.

Unleashing Your Inner Artist

Dreams PS4 PSVR wall

I am not a good artist. People will tell you that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ artist but, believe me, I’m not a good artist. My Tilt Brush creations are probably the ugliest the platform has seen. Dreams, however, made me feel like I could create things that would at least pass as real game assets. In fact, I made that wall above, I’m very proud of it.

How did I do it? I went into the game’s sculpt mode, selected the Rounded Cube and made three brick-shaped models. I used the game’s Grid Mode to make the measurements accurate though, thinking about it, I could have just cloned one of them. Anyway, I then used a simple tinge tool to give a grey-ish castle vibe to each brick. Then I went back to the shape selector but, instead of adding new shapes, I pressed the triangle button to turn them into shaped erasers. With these, I proceeded to randomly cut out chunks of different shapes and sizes in each brick to give them an eroded look. Each looked different, too.

After that I selected the paint tool and chose the ‘Snap To Surface’ guide, which meant I’d paint directly onto objects. I found a mossy green and dotted it along the edges of each brick to add to the archaic feel. Once each brick was finished, I span the camera around and repeated the process on the back of each. I now had six individual brick faces. Assembling them into a wall was just a matter of cloning and spinning them. Once I cloned and assembled a few I’d group them together, clone the group and flip it over to make another section of wall. The entire process took maybe 20 minutes.

Simple as it may be, this is the first 3D creation I’ve ever made that I feel proud of. And Dreams offers plenty more tools to go the extra mile; effects can fuzz up objects to give them the appearance of grass, a flow tool makes surfaces run like water, and another makes them swirl like smoke. Painting has a sort of automated sketchiness to it that’s almost impossible to go wrong with. If you need mechanical precision, a Mirror Guide will reflect your every move. Dreams has a massive library of tools to make building 3D assets simple, enjoyable and even professional.

Sound Logic

There’s a lot of simple stuff to Dreams’ Creation mode. Sculpting, resizing, coloring etc are all pretty easy to grasp, especially if you’ve played around with VR creation apps. But what about the more complicated stuff? The actions, orders and mechanics that make characters walk and worlds feel alive? All of that is assigned to Logic, one of the game’s biggest breakthroughs.

Logic is basically a super simplified coding system. It’s the menu you’ll go to when you want a switch to activate a door, when you want to define NPC’s AI, when you want to make vehicles and so much more.  They’re made up of little tiles you place in the game world and contain their own menus to tweak. If I want a button to lower a bridge, for example, I assign it a Counter tile. In its menu, I set it to recognize when one player character has stood on the button (represented as a customizable trigger zone). When it picks that up, it sends a signal to a Trigger tile that activates an animation that lowers the bridge. These tiles are linked up by wires I’ve set. Still with me?

It’s simplified, yes, but it’s still not easy. I’ve spent hours trying to wrap my head around the incremental steps needed to perform even the most basic of tasks, tying my brain in knots to get through the process. As I’ve already said, Dreams takes commitment, but with time you can work out what you need to do, and you’ll get there faster than any other engine out there. The game rewards your dedication more instantaneously than anything else I’ve seen.

But the rabbit hole goes deep and this is one area of the game that still overwhelms me. I took a look at the Logic assigned to the character in the tutorial above, for example, and found an exhaustive list of modifiers that I had no idea about. For first-timers like myself, it’s clear that building your way up to more ambitious Dreams creations is going to require investment akin to a meaty RPG game. But I feel positive that I could get there, and that’s what Dreams is all about.

VR

So how does all of that tie into VR? Well it harkens back into what I’ve often talked about with Dreams; promise. The beta doesn’t support PSVR, but Media Molecule says it will be there on day one of the full release. I’ve spent hours getting used to the base game to try and give myself a headstart. Frankly, I consider all of what I’ve just written about to be a warm-up. Dreams is already creating amazing experiences on a flat screen, but I’m expecting VR support to be transformative.

First and foremost, imagine a platform where people will be able to make their own wave shooters, cockpit racers and Star Wars tributes with relative ease. I’m pretty sure I could do a half decent attempt with my limited experience already. But I can’t wait to see what the really gifted Dreams devs do with VR; I want to see characters that feel real, worlds to get genuinely lost in and games unlike any that have come before. With Dreams, that all feels tangibly possible.

We don’t have a full release date for Dreams just yet.

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U.S. Cygnus Cargo Ship Blasts Off to Station for Tuesday Delivery

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches on time
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches on time atop the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA TV

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the station with approximately 7,500 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 15 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At the time of liftoff, the International Space Station was flying 258 statute miles over the western Pacific, northeast of the Northern Mariana Island.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops. Automated command to initiate solar array deploy will begin at 4:40 p.m., about one hour and 19 minutes after launch. Solar array deployment will take about 30 minutes. Confirmation of solar deployment will be shared on the launch blog and social media at @NASA_Wallops and @space_station.

Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory around 4:05 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 2:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus, while NASA’s Jessica Meir monitors telemetry. The spacecraft is scheduled to stay at the space station until May.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,500 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

Better Tissue and Cell Culturing in Space

Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell culturing facility, offers investigators a quick-turnaround platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology experiments. Such experiments are critical for determining how microgravity affects human physiology and identifying ways to mitigate negative effects. The platform can work in multiple configurations, allowing investigators to tailor the facility to their needs.

Mochii

The Mochii investigation provides an initial demonstration of a new miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) with spectroscopy. Mochii will demonstrate real-time, on-site imaging and measurements of micro- and nanostructures aboard the space station. This capability could accelerate answers to many scientific inquiries and mission decisions and serve the public as a powerful and unique microgravity research platform.

Examining Bone Loss in Microgravity

Crew members experience bone loss in orbit, stemming from the lack of gravity acting on their bones. OsteoOmics investigates the molecular mechanisms that dictate this bone loss by examining osteoblasts, cells in the body that form bone, and osteoclasts, which dissolve bone. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to more effective prevention of astronaut bone loss during space missions.

Fighting Bacteria with Phages

Phage Evolution examines the effects of microgravity and radiation exposure on phage and bacterial host interactions, including phage specificity for a bacterial host and host resistance to specific phages. A better understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages and hosts could result in significant developments for phage technology, ultimately helping protect the health of astronauts on future missions.

(Do Not) Light My Fire

The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-IV (Saffire-IV) investigation examines fire development and growth in different materials and environmental conditions, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities. It is part of a series of fire investigations conducted in the Cygnus resupply vehicle after its departure from space station, eliminating exposure of humans or occupied spacecraft to fire danger.

Northrop Grumman named the NG CRS-13 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. Major Lawrence was selected in honor of his prominent place in history as the first African American astronaut.

This is Northrop Grumman’s 13th cargo flight to the space station and will support dozens of new and existing investigations.

Follow the Cygnus spacecraft’s arrival to the orbiting laboratory on the space station blog and by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Magic Leap Opens Programs To Extend Support To Developers

Magic Leap is giving developers access to additional hardware, funding, enterprise customers, and support.

Magic Leap understands that the future of AR means empowering creators with the right tools to explore ideas that will push the technology further into the arms of consumers.

Part of that exploration is building and growing a career or business that utilizes AR to its fullest potential. This is why Magic Leap has created two incredible programs that will put the necessary tools into the hands of talented AR creatives all over the globe—including hardware, deep AR knowledge, funding, enterprise customers, and support.

The first is Access Hardware, a program that will put Magic Leap’s powerful AR headset into the hands of developers who are focused on building AR applications specifically for Magic Leap. Not only will participants have direct access to Magic Leap’s developer relation team for support, but they will also receive priority listing when it comes to publishing their work in the Magic Leap app store. 

There are limited spots in the program, however, which means an official application process. You have to be over 18 to apply and must include your technical capability, project feasibility, and the overall quality of your submission.

One thing to keep in mind when applying is that the company is particularly interested in solutions that unlock brand new enterprise opportunities for business customers that are unique to spatial computing.  

“Magic Leap customers have expressed keen interest in B2B and B2B2C categories like Communication, Collaboration & Co-Presence, Spatial Visualization, Learn & Assist and Location-Based Experiences,” said Rio Caraeff, Chief Content Officer at Magic Leap during an interview with VRScout. Caraeff adds, “Developers can access commercial potential in these categories with the right application.”

Magic Leap is committed to enabling developers through funding and support so they can create the next generation of enterprise-focused immersive experiences.

Developers are the foundation of any successful VR or AR company. Magic Leap strongly believes that, and they are committed to supporting their Access Hardware developers throughout every step of their development journey. 

Apply now for Magic Leap’s Access Hardware program.

The second program is Magic Leap’s LEAP Developer Days, a four-day event taking place May 19-22 and 21-22 during which the company will host two different groups of candidates at their HQ in Florida. While there, they will be able to work directly with members of Magic Leap’s developer relations, studios, and go-to-market teams, and even be able to interact with Magic Leap engineers and designers.

This program is completely separate from the Access Hardware program, so if you’re interested in both, you’ll have to apply to each separately. 

The focus of LEAP Developer Days will be to develop best practices, share insights on the growing enterprise market opportunities for spatial apps, and give attendees hands-on experience through workshops. On top of that, they will get direct access to business leads, which for any startup business in this fast-growing ecosystem is incredibly huge.

Applications for LEAP Developer Days will open later this month.

Regarding the excitement behind these programs, Caraeff said, “We are extremely focused on finding ways to foster the development of spatial computing content in any way we can, and it all starts with access to hardware,” adding, “for example, Out There, the first immersive musical location-based experience in spatial computing, is just one example of the great success that resulted from providing developers with access to our hardware.”

Since the launch of the Magic Leap One Creator Edition headset in 2018, the company has distributed $10M in funding to 33 developers worldwide towards exploring Magic Leap One’s potential for enterprise solutions. 

“We’re so excited to expand this program and work hand-in-hand with more developers around the world to bring creative spatial computing solutions to life,” said Caraeff.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

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Holographic collaboration: The next big idea in remote work?

Spatial is trying to turn avatars into serious work tools, and investors are backing the effort.

For every mega-hit like Slack in the world of workplace collaboration solutions, there’s a long trail of tech that just never seems to catch on. Take, for example, telepresence robots.

So, it’s with some necessary caution that we approach virtual reality collaboration, which, as a category, somehow seems almost preordained to fall short of the hype. And yet Spatial, a company that’s seeking to eliminate the need for video conferencing and work travel with a VR workplace populated by lifelike avatars, makes a compelling case for itself.

Following a successful Series A that brings total funding to $22 million, Spatial is now one of the better-funded mixed reality startups out there and a rising player in an AR/VR landscape.

Spatial’s big selling point is that it’s device agnostic. The founders started with the premise that working remotely is increasingly popular, but staring at their faces on videoconference calls while sharing screens is clunky at best. Real-time feedback, real-world collaboration, and the ability to draw, build, and tweak in 3D space is lost.

Holographic collaboration is a promising solution as the world makes the move to remote work. Slipping on a VR headset, the most compelling version of the idea puts you seamlessly into a shared setting with colleagues from around the globe who can interact, share ideas, present, and collaborate. It’s an attractive enough proposition that many large companies are willing to test the concept.

„Last year we saw a strong demand to collaborate in AR/VR from more than 25% of the Fortune 1,000, and we announced our first wave of customers such as Mattel, Purina/Nestle and BNP Paribas,“ says Spatial Co-Founder and CEO Anand Agarawala.

To make the virtual workplace feel less like a video game and more like a business setting, Spatial has focused on creating realistic 3D avatars from 2D photos users upload. Spatial’s virtual world is also kitted out with collaboration tools and capabilities aimed at helping workers do everything from design products to model campaigns.

Still, adoption will make or break the technology, and enterprise adoption of VR has been bumpy and unpredictable. Wisely, Spatial built its platform to be device agnostic. It works on Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus, Magic Leap, Qualcomm XR2, Android/iPhone mobile devices, or a plain old desktop computer, eliminating the need for a company to make a capital investment in pricey hardware just to trial the technology.

Is that enough to drive adoption? Tough to say. One reason Slack has been so successful is that it builds on deeply engrained social media behavior and integrates unobtrusively into existing workflows. Broader adoption of VR in the enterprise will certainly help holographic collaboration companies like Spatial take root, but that adoption hasn’t yet happened at the pace many thought it would.

Still, investors haven’t shied away. Existing spatial investors iNovia, Lerer Hippeau, and Expa were joined by new investors White Star capital, Kakao Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and Instagram Co-Founder Mike Krieger.

„Spatial’s mixed-reality solution will be a key part of the future of work,“ says Krieger. „They’re taking us beyond everyday tools like Zoom and Slack and pointing the way towards what conferencing & collaboration can be like if they were invented today and I’m excited to support the journey.“

 

Quelle:

https://www-zdnet-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/holographic-collaboration-the-next-big-idea-in-remote-work/

Watch: Fan-Made Pokemon VR Oculus Quest Game Is Buggier Than Weedle, But It’s No Snore(lax)

A wild fan-made Pokemon VR Oculus Quest game has appeared! And it might be buggier than a Weedle, but it’s still a giddy laugh.

An Alpha version of Pokemon VR, as the game is simply called, went live this week for sideloading onto Quest headsets.

Pokemon VR Oculus Quest Is Here

This initial release has two main features: the ability to explore various towns with the Pokemon of choice at your side and online PvP Pokemon battling. There isn’t any catching element to Pokemon VR, yet. Instead, you simply cherry-pick a team of critters based on 750 (!) character models all available in a Pokedex menu. You can even set their stats and attack moves there and then.

Then, from the team menu, you can see which Pokemon is first in your team. After that you can pick up a Pokeball from your arm, toss it on the ground and your companion Pokemon will appear in front of your very eyes, complete with a nostalgic battle cry.

And, without anyone to play with, that’s about all you can do. But should you bump into another trainer — the game is a lite MMO with a semi-popular overworld — you can challenge them to an online match. These follow the same template as battles in the mainline Pokemon games; turn-based fights in which you bring up to six Pokemon into combat. Without the ability to train or capture your own Pokemon, it’s a little on the shallow side but there’s a lot of laughs to be had. It’s the closest we’ll get to a Pokemon VR game outside of Pokemon Go, anyways.

Of course, its developers want to take the app further. We’d love to see some other series staples integrated into the game, like the ability to catch Pokemon in the wild and fight with AI trainers, too. There’s also plenty of bugs to iron out; it would always take two or three attempts for us to get online, for example, and the character animations for walking are a little silly to say the least.

You can download the APK for Pokemon VR here, and the developers are currently working on bringing it to SideQuest, too. The game will be free forever, though the developer is accepting donations to help keep the server open. You can find out how to help over on the game’s Discord channel.

Are you going to check out this Pokemon VR Oculus Quest app? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Watch: Fan-Made Pokemon VR Oculus Quest Game Is Buggier Than Weedle, But It’s No Snore(lax) appeared first on UploadVR.

Doctor Who, Curious Tale Getting Physical PSVR Releases In EU

Two of PSVR’s most recent games are coming to retail stores via boxed release soon. Well, at least they are in the EU.

Maze Theory’s Doctor Who: The Edge of Time and Fast Travel Games’ The Curious Tale Of The Stolen Pets are both set to land disc releases in the coming weeks, courtesy of Perp Games. Curious Tale goes first on February 28 and Doctor Who comes a little later on March 13.

Both games originally launched in late 2019 as digital exclusives. Doctor Who is a likable adaptation of the British sci-fi show starring Jodie Whittaker. You play as a new companion to the Doctor that takes a whrilwind tour through space and time to stop the dreaded reality virus. We thought the game had its charms, though ultimately wasn’t quite as ambitious as the show itself can be.

“Who is at its best when there’s a hook; a gimmick so playful and innovative that anyone can get carried away in the madness that ensues,” we said in our review. “Instead of testing those waters, The Edge of Time settles for bringing the series’ most tried and true elements directly into headsets in hopes of winning over dedicated fans. It plays more like a rejected episode of the TV series rather than something that fully embraces its platform. The Who faithful be satisfied in that safety, I suspect, but I personally can’t help but wish this was a little more dangerous.”

Curious Tale, meanwhile, is a cutesy puzzle game from the makers of Apex Construct. Though it’s a little on the short side, we really fell for its charming animation and wholesome story.

“It’s genuinely difficult to play the game without a smile on my face and I only hoped for more creativity, more whimsical delights, and more exploration of the character’s forgotten past,” games editor David Jagneaux said of it. “It borders on feeling too shallow at times, but all-in-all does a masterful job of exploring its themes before it’s all over and that’s all you can really ask for from a puzzle game of this temperament.”

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Battle Other Trainers In This Free Pokémon VR Game On Oculus Quest

Choose your team, customize their stats, and do battle with other trainers via PvP multiplayer. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! No doubt many of you are already preparing for a romantic night out with that oh so special someone. If, however, you find yourself riding solo this month, might I suggest numbing the pain with a nostalgia-fueled immersive experience that brings the world of Pokémon to life in VR.

Available for free on Oculus Quest headsets, Pokémon VR is a fan-made immersive experience that, while rough, does a commendable job at adapting the original Pokemon battle experience for the VR format. Trying the game out for myself, I was pleasantly surprised by how fleshed out the experience felt compared to other “unofficial” Quest releases available via sideloading. 

The experience begins in a classroom filled with the original starter Pokémon featured in the classic Gameboy series: Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Here is where you can sign in to your free Pokémon VR account and choose from a variety of starting points in which to begin your journey. This includes Viridian City, Cinnabar Island, Pallet Town, and four other familiar locations. 

Connected via a network of glowing portals, these locations form a collective overworld filled with various pocket monsters, nonplayable characters, and scenery. Here you can choose from a variety of different avatars based on popular characters from the series, interact with other human players, and customize your roster of Pokémon.

Unfortunately, there’s no actual Pokémon capture mechanic. Instead of hucking Pokéballs at wild monsters, you instead choose from a catalog via your personal Pokédex. This is where you can customize stats, choose move sets, and organize team positions. You can, however, throw the Pokeball attached to your left wrist to have one of your monsters follow you across the overworld; useless albeit adorable. 

Once you’re all set for battle, you can either challenge a player directly by highlighting their avatar and pulling the trigger or by searching for a random player via your menu. A soon as your opponent accepts, you’re both instantly transported to an enormous stadium where you can then duke it out in turn-based combat. For the sake of comparison, the mechanics feel similar to those featured in Pokémon Stadium; players take turns choosing from a selection of moves and attacks, replacing monsters as they are defeated until their lineup has been depleted. 

As far as I can tell there’s no leaderboard or record-keeping being done at the moment, but then again the game is clearly in its early stages. While I am curious to see how the experience could evolve given a few months, Nintendo’s strict control over its intellectual properties has me concerned over the future of this incredible fan-made project. 

I highly suggest that anyone with a Quest headset give this a go before it’s too late. To get started head over to the official Pokémon VR Discord. There you’ll find more information on how to sign-up for a free account and install the APK. 

Image Credit: Pokemon Showdown VR

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