Category Archives: By Daniel Sternklar

Science Expands on Station, Dragon Departs on Monday

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir strikes a superhero pose in the weightless environment of the International Space Station.

The International Space Station expanded its research capabilities overnight after robotics controllers installed a new external science platform. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew is packing cargo for return to Earth while getting ready for its own departure.

Europe’s latest contribution to the orbiting lab, Bartolomeo, was attached to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module early Thursday morning. Robotic engineers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Dextre robotic hand and completed the fine-tuned installation work over two days. Bartolomeo, delivered last month aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, gives private and institutional researchers the ability to command and control science payloads outside the space station.

Commander Oleg Skripochka with NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are preparing to end their mission in space on April 17. They checked their Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they parachute to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship for leaks today. The crew is also gathering personal items for stowage inside the Soyuz spaceship.

Before they leave, the SpaceX Dragon space freighter will return to Earth after being released from the Canadarm2 on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT. Meir and Morgan will finish loading over 4,000 pounds of station hardware and research samples, including live mice and plant cells, late Sunday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Dragon’s departure on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The station boosted its orbit again today raising it to the correct altitude enabling the new Expedition 63 crew to launch and dock on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will take a six-hour ride to their new home in space and begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

New Snapchat Lens Creates AR Safe Zone To Promote Social Distancing

If you must leave your home, make sure to practice safe social distancing.

Though it may not seem like it based on the packed beaches and crowded parks, we’re currently dealing with a global pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen. Despite multiple warnings from government health officials around the world, a surprisingly large portion of the public seem unfazed by recent developments and committed to gathering in large groups with little to no protection.

To help encourage social distancing and proper hygiene, Snap Inc. has teamed up with the World Health Organization on a pair of educational Snapchat Lenses they hope will help flatten the curve over the coming months.

The first of these new Lenses, My Social Distance, uses AR technology to create a virtual circle around the user. According to Snap, the digital barrier features a radius of approximately 3 feet (1 meter), the minimum safe distance as recommended by the World Health Organization. This circle follows the user as they move throughout their environment; if someone steps within the circle, the color changes from green to red, at which point you need to tell that person to back the fudge up.

According to Daily Mail, an official spokesperson for Snap warned that the Lens is designed to raise awareness and may not reflect the official safety guidelines recommended by other organizations. The UK government, for instance, recommends citizens remain at least 6.6 feet, (2 meters) apart at all times.

The second Lens features a handful of colorful animations reminding you to stay at home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and refrain from touching your face. Both of these Lenses include links leading back to the official WHO website which offers even more tips on staying safe.

Last month Snap announced the launch of a handful of new COVID-19 related tools, programs, and partnerships, including Here For You, a new feature for Snapchat that connects users searching for topics such as ” mental health, anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, grief and bullying” with helpful resources from expert partners. You can check out a full list of the offerings here.

With many social media platforms currently facing a flood of COVID-19 misinformation, it’s encouraging to see Snap not only combat the spread of disingenuous Lenses, but provide their own factually-correct ones as well.

Feature Image Credit: Snap Inc.

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Award-Winning AR Storybook App Wonderscope Offering All Stories Free Through June

Keep the younglings entertained while under lockdown with these educational immersive reading experiences.

We’ve never been shy about our love for WITHIN’s children’s AR reading app Wonderscope. The award-winning platform makes excellent use of mobile AR technology to immerse readers in colorful storybook adventures they can actually participate in by interacting with characters and the environments. In order to progress through the story, children must read certain portions of the story out-loud into the mic, allowing them to practice their reading comprehension skills while learning valuable life lessons.

The app itself is free to download and comes packaged with “Clio’s Cosmic Quest,” with each additional story costing $4.99. In light of the growing number of school closures as a result of COVID-19, however, WITHIN is offering access to all seven of its AR stories free-of-charge now through the end of the school year (June 1st).

Here is a list of all the educational adventures you can dive into right now:

? A Brief History of Stunts by Astounding People: Take part in three of history’s most impossible stunts and meet the real people that made them happen. 

? Wonder’s Land Ringmaster Wanted: Meet Wonder, the Ringmaster of Wonder’s Land, who gives you a tour of the nonsensical world he calls home. 

? Little Red the Inventor: Become Red’s imaginary friend and help her show the Big Bad Wolf how strong her voice can be. 

? Clio’s Cosmic Quest: Step into a space portal and explore amazing facts about our solar system. 

? Lauren and the Three Bears: Lauren has been tasked with filling in for Goldilocks. There’s only one problem: Goldilocks didn’t tell her anything about the plot! 

? Willowcrest Manor: In this story, kids play the house ghost, as Godfrey — the ghost butler — teaches kids how to haunt and spook. 

? Sinclair Snake: Kids search for the notorious Sinclair Snake while exploring a natural history museum, solving puzzles and learning fun facts along the way. 

“Our goal is to provide children with entertaining interactive stories that harness the power of imagination to cultivate learning,” said Within’s executive producer of original content, Samantha Storr of Wonderscope, in an official release. “As we adjust to daily life inside our homes, we hope the free stories will make reading time a little more dynamic and joyful for kids around the world.”

Wonderscope is available now on all compatible iOS devices via the App Store.

Feature Image Credit: WITHIN

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Iron Man VR Delayed ‘Until Further Notice’ Amid COVID-19

Sony is delaying the release of Marvel’s Iron Man VR “until further notice.”

The Marvel VR game had already been delayed into 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a cascade of logistics issues. Last week we reported game delays were likely as quality assurance teams were the latest to be affected. Sony also said The Last of Us Part II was delayed as well, with Sony announcing in a tweet, “Logistically, the global crisis is preventing us from providing the launch experience our players deserve.”

That’s a huge blow to PSVR owners who were looking forward to Iron Man VR’s release. Sony and Microsoft have been ramping up with the plan to release their next generation consoles later this year. While neither company has made reveals around VR hardware for its next generation console, the PS5 is expected to be backward compatible with original PSVR games. Overall, this means that Iron Man VR was expected to be one of the last major VR releases for the PS4.

Reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to shift on a daily basis. In recent weeks production of the Valve Index and Oculus Quest headsets were affected, companies shifted to work from home policies, and the entire technology conference circuit was cancelled, from Mobile World Congress to Game Developers Conference to F8, E3, and more. Social distancing guidelines aim to slow the spread of the disease and the risk to lives that would occur if too many people sick at once ended up needing ventilators and hospitalization.

The post Iron Man VR Delayed ‘Until Further Notice’ Amid COVID-19 appeared first on UploadVR.

Crisis VRigade 2 VR Shooter Looks Impressive In Latest Teaser Trailer

Crisis VRigade 2 doesn’t have a release date yet, but the latest teaser trailer shared on Twitter by Sumalab co-founder Diego Martin. Check it out right here:

The original Crisis VRigade is a popular cover-based VR shooter that has you suiting up as a police officer tasked with stopping crime around the city. Recently, it just got a co-op mode as well and is one of the most popular games on SideQuest for Oculus Quest — although it’s on every other major VR platform too.

We don’t know a lot about Crisis VRigade 2, but taking even a cursory glance at the footage and screenshots compares to the original shows a dramatic difference. The entire art style has been transformed from a low-poly bright and colorful design, a la Job Simulator, to something much darker, gritty, and realistic. At first glance, I thought it was footage for new content in Blood & Truth or something along those lines. Kudos to the team at Sumalab, it looks very impressive.

From what we’ve seen this will still be a cover-based shooter more than likely, so the gameplay will likely expand and evolve from that, rather than dramatically shifting tones like the art style did.

According to the Steam page:

Crisis VRigade 2 is a virtual reality action filled first person shooter that lets players take on the role of a SWAT trooper. Duty calls again! Crisis VRigade 2 take up the baton of the first chapter and take it to the next level: more action, more shootouts, more weapons, more difficulty, more blood, more everything!

Judging by the hashtags in Martin’s tweet above, this one will likely come to the same platforms once again, including Steam, Oculus, and PSVR. There is no date but the tweet does say “soon enough to entertain your isolation” implying it will release during the international lockdown periods in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a Steam page with more details as well. It’ll be in Early Access initially “for up to 6 months” before a full launch.

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Etee Is A Lightweight Finger-Sensing VR Controller With No Trigger

During CES in January I tried a pair of controllers called “etee” that were lightweight with finger-sensing features. As I held them in my hands, a laptop screen showed which gestures and movements the controllers recognized.

The lightweight controllers recognized each of my fingers and my grip — even tight squeezing — but they wouldn’t recognize if I spread my fingers out and moved a couple of them vertically up and down along the base of the controller — so no “live long and prosper” hand signals here. That’s not a common movement, so not likely to be a big deal, but what is a big deal is they lack a physical trigger.

They’re seeking nearly $57,000 on Kickstarter to bring the controllers to fruition during the COVID-19 pandemic. An early bird pledge of around $297 promises a pair of the controllers with a “bespoke” SteamVR Tracker included and estimated delivery of December 2020. While that should add 6DoF tracking to the controllers, it is also slightly more than it costs to buy a pair of Index Controllers which have the backing of Valve and either indirect or direct support in most VR games on Steam.

The etee controllers should ship with software tools for developers to use and, according to the group behind the project, they will include “the ability to bind etee finger sensing and other control surface inputs to those of traditional SteamVR controls via the embedded SteamVR UI” and they say etee can “connect to the full range of SteamVR games and applications that are already available.”

That’s a big claim and one we haven’t directly tested to see how it holds up in some popular VR games. As noted above, the hands-on time was just via a 2D screen. The image below from the company’s Kickstarter page shows the way the input from the controllers should be able to be customized.

Every other major controller on the market includes a physical trigger and the vast majority of VR software is built around this fundamental input mechanism. How exactly major games play with the customized input is an open question.

The Kickstarter project raised nearly $10,000 toward its goal at the time of this writing. Hardware Kickstarters, however, are notoriously risky ventures and we should note that even companies like Valve and Facebook have been struck by production problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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10 Big Upcoming PC VR Games To Look Forward To After Half-Life: Alyx

So, you bought a VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx. You’ve just spent a week enjoying one of the most polished, immersive gaming experiences you can have. Now you want more.

So, what else is on the horizon?

Chances are you’ve already sifted through VR’s back-catalogue and have games like Boneworks and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners ready to play. But fear not, there are plenty of other high-quality, ‘big’ games coming to PC VR headsets this year. Not quite the size and scale of Alyx itself, perhaps, but still games that will hopefully ensure your headset won’t gather any dust in the coming months.

We’ve split this list into two parts. The first is for games that are coming to all PC VR headsets, so you won’t need to worry about compatibility. But there are also come games that are ‘exclusive’ to the Oculus Rift and Rift S that are too big to ignore, so we’ve put them in at the bottom. Plus the Reverb hack can get you playing Rift exclusives on other headsets, but just how well these new games will work with the system remains to be seen.

All Headsets

After The Fall – 2020

If you were hoping Valve might bring its famous Left4Dead franchise to VR before Half-Life, then After The Fall might soothe that disappointment. From the developers of Arizona Sunshine comes a massive co-op zombie shooter in which you explore the frozen wastelands, gunning down endless hordes of infected enemies. From what we’ve seen, After The Fall doesn’t boast the robust physical immersion of Half-Life or The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, but it does offer arcade action but the barrel, with the promises of endgame content to keep you coming back.

Population: One – 2020

The number of battle royale wannabes out there may finally be declining, but our most anticipated take on the genre for VR, Population: One, is still waiting in the wings. First announced a few years ago, developer Big Box is taking its time with extensive beta testing to ensure this is a polished, first-class multiplayer combat game. In this take you can build, fly and climb across maps, promising a versatile and active experience that’s truly unique to VR.

Sniper Elite VR – TBA

Rebellion’s popular Sniper Elite series is one of those franchises that just makes perfect sense for VR. Fortunately, a VR-exclusive spin-off is on the way, promising immersive sniper action. Set in World War 2 Sicily, you’ll play as a member of a resistance group that picks off the Nazi threat from afar. We’re looking forward to really leaning into our scopes and lining up our sights when the game sneaks onto PC VR headsets.

Vertigo 2 – 2020

Zulubo Productions returns with a sequel that looks like a big step up from the original Vertigo. This undeniably Valve-inspired adventure takes a few fun jabs at the games it owes a debt to, but more importantly looks to stand on its own as a genuinely exciting first-person shooter (FPS). Battle an alien invasion with some of the best-feeling VR guns in a full story-driven campaign. You can also try a free demo right now, to see what we mean. There’s a remaster of the original game on the way, too.

Lonn – 2020

Another indie adventure to look out for; Lonn caught our attention for its impressive display of physics in a linear single-player campaign. Set in a cyberpunk future, you take the fight to an evil corporation, armed with a sword and telekinetic powers. Lonn looks like an excellent physics-driven adventure with thoughtful puzzles and engaging combat. We’ll be keeping a close eye on its development.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught – 2020

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners might have set the bar high for zombie VR shooters, but we’re hoping the highly-experienced team at Survios can rise to the challenge. Set in the world of the show rather than the comics, Onslaught brings a similar brand of gruesome zombie killing to VR, but also adds in cooperative support.

Rift Exclusive Games

Lone Echo II – 2020 (Rift Exclusive)

Even in a post-Alyx world, Lone Echo remains one of the most polished, immersive adventures you can have in a VR headset. Its sequel is looking to build on that groundwork with a deeper story and more of the powerful zero gravity gameplay that set Lone Echo apart. If you want something that will match Alyx on a visual and presentational front, Lone Echo II is probably your best bet.

Medal of Honor: Above And Beyond – 2020 (Rift Exclusive)

If Lone Echo hopes to match Alyx on presentation, then we’ve got our fingers crossed that Medal of Honor will reach the bar it set for gameplay. Why? Because Above and Beyond is made by Respawn, arguably one of the few developers out there capable of making games as good as Valve. The first trailer for the game hinted as some promising physical mechanics and campaign variety. With over 50 missions promises, we’re eagerly awaiting more information.

Solaris: Offworld Combat – 2020 (Rift/Quest/PSVR)

First Contact Entertainment made a name for itself with its PSVR-exclusive multiplayer shooter, Firewall: Zero Hour, and now it’s bringing its expertise back to PC. We’re yet to see much of Solaris, but the talent involved is enough to make us look forward to this arena shooter, which seems to take some cues from games like Unreal Tournament. This is coming to just Oculus and PlayStation platforms for now.

Phantom: Covert Ops – June 25 2020 (Rift/Quest)

A lot of the time we all have to make a few concessions in VR, be it with walking or physical interaction. With Phantom, though, developer nDreams has designed a stealth game that perfectly fits the current limitations of the platform. You infiltrate a hostile facility by kayak, cutting a path through the base to sabotage equipment and take down anyone that spots you. We’ve played Phantom a few times now and it really does look like a fully immersive experience.

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Join Us LIVE On YouTube To Discuss The Week’s VR News + PC VR’s Growth

UploadVR’s weekly podcast, The VR Download, is LIVE on YouTube today at 10:30am PST (17:30 UTC)!

Unlike regular video podcasts, The VR Download is broadcast from virtual reality! Our team are together in a virtual space, giving us many of the benefits of a studio even though we live on different continents.

At the end of each show, we discuss a Hot Topic. This week’s is: Is PC VR growing fast enough, or are Oculus Quest and PSVR taking the spotlight?

If you want to know more about The VR Download, head on over to our new webpage for the show!

As always, we’ll also be making it available for audio-only listening on Apple, Google, Spotify, TuneIn/Alexa, Stitcher, and more within a couple of hours of airing.

Watch In VR With Bigscreen!

Every episode, you can watch The VR Download LIVE in virtual reality with an audience of other VR users on any major VR headset (including Oculus Quest and Oculus Go!), via the Bigscreen platform.

Click on the image above to subscribe to the event.

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‘Boneworks’ Update to Bring New Weapon, Sandbox Maps, & Physics Tweaks Next Week

A new Boneworks patch, Update 1.4, is confirmed to be coming next week with a handful of additions and tweaks.

Launching next week on April 9th, Boneworks update 1.4 will bring three new maps to the game’s Sandbox mode, a new weapon (the P350 handgun), and changes to the game’s hand physics. This is according to Boneworks creator Brandon Laatsch who teased the update this week.

Image courtesy Stress Level Zero

Launched in late 2019, Boneworks is a VR shooter with campaign, sandbox, and challenge modes. Even after the launch of the stunning Half-Life: Alyx last week, Boneworks is still praised for its ambitious effort to make nearly everything in the game physically simulated. That concept proved alluring to many VR players and the game impressively outpaced Beat Saber to 100K units sold.

‘Boneworks’ Review – A Rich Sandbox with a Side of Game Design

While the studio behind the game, Stress Level Zero, has already confirmed it’s working on its next project, it plans to simultaneously continue to improve Boneworks over time. Creator Brandon Laatsch has teased a modding system for the game, something which felt missing at launch.

Though mods aren’t here just yet, in February Update 1.3 to Boneworks added a much requested mid-level checkpoint system, a new Arena mode, more Sandbox mode content, and made improvements to the game’s core physics systems including making climbing less springy.

The post ‘Boneworks’ Update to Bring New Weapon, Sandbox Maps, & Physics Tweaks Next Week appeared first on Road to VR.