Index Specs Were Driven by Valve’s VR Game Dev Teams

When revealing the upcoming Index headset, Valve was clear that their goal was to move the bar forward for VR fidelity, even if that meant a premium pricetag. The company said that its internal game developers working on “AAA VR content” pushed to VR hardware team to reach the fidelity they wanted.

Valve’s Index headset was fully revealed at the end of April. And while the $1,000 full kit is more than twice as much as the Rift S ($400), the company believes the headset will offer the best experience for its upcoming “flagship VR game,” which hasn’t been revealed yet but is confirmed to launch later this year.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Explains Why It Doesn’t Think the Time is Right for ‘Rift 2’ or ‘Rift Pro’

And that certainly makes sense, as Valve says that its VR game teams were pushing for greater capabilities from the hardware.

“Valve game teams requested increased fidelity to support AAA VR content development, which in turn drove Index’s specific technical innovations,” the company wrote in press materials shared with Road to VR.

Those “technical innovations” likely refer to Index’s dual-element optics, super low-persistence display, class leading refresh rates, and the headset’s unique and surprisingly good ‘off-ear’ headphone design.

Image courtesy Valve

It isn’t just specs and performance that Valve’s game teams were looking for though; during a press reveal of the headset last month, the company’s VR hardware team said that the internal teams building VR content kept talking about creating “full length” experiences, and needed a headset which had long term comfort to match.

“There isn’t one single factor that makes this HMD great, it’s all of these things together that contribute,” a member of the VR hardware team said.

Meeting those performance and ergonomic needs—”fidelity first” as the VR hardware team said—was priority number one for Valve, even knowing that it would necessitate a premium price tag. The company was clear about who the headset is positioned for.

“Valve index is for experienced, existing VR customers who want more [fidelity] and don’t want to wait,” the VR hardware team said.

And that fits the bill for VR’s early adopters, many of which bought into the PC VR space at $800 for a Vive or Rift—not because it was cheap, but because of the promise of immersion. Index represents a real step forward in fidelity over first-gen VR headsets, while other soon to launch headsets like Rift S and Quest primarily focus on low cost and ease of use.

– – — – –

Valve Index began pre-orders in limited regions on April 30th, and the first headsets are due to ship on June 28th, though it’s already backordered by two months or more. The Index ‘full kit’, which includes the headset, controllers, and tracking base stations, is priced at $1,000, while the headset and controllers can be bought without base stations for $750, and the headset by itself for $500.

The post Index Specs Were Driven by Valve’s VR Game Dev Teams appeared first on Road to VR.

Oculus Quest VR Covers Now Available

Keep your new headset fresh with a foam replacement and cotton cover.

The Oculus Quest standalone VR headset arrives on shelves this Tuesday and while many of us are still busy planning our first wave of purchases and clearing our play spaces of any clutter, the folks over at VR Cover want to remind everyone ahead of the launch the importance of hygiene, even when immersed in VR.

“Customers are playing longer in these increasingly immersive headsets,” says Matthias Hoffrichter, managing director of VR Cover, in an official release. “So our products must handle the heavy usage without compromising on hygiene and comfort.”

Oculus Quest VR Cover // Image Credit: VR Cover

Thanks to the tetherless capabilities of the Quest, as well as the ability to power the device via a portable battery pack, many users will be spending an exorbitant amount of time strapped inside their headsets; this means more sweat, more grime—more general nastiness in general. To help combat the inevitable filth, the VR accessory experts over at VR Cover have expanded their line-up of hygienic VR cover solutions to include the upcoming standalone headset.

Oculus Quest Foam & Interface Basic Set // Image Credit: VR Cover

Future Quest owners can choose from two sets–both of which vailable now over at VRcover.com: the first, the “Oculus Quest Foam & Interface Basic Set.” This modular kit, also referred to as the base package, includes one “facial interface” and two wipeable PU leather replacement covers. The thinner “standard” cover puts the users face closer to the display, creating a wider field of vision. The beefier “comfort” cover instead offers better weight distribution as well as additional space for glasses.

100% cotton machine-washable covers // Image Credit: VR Cover

The second set is the “Oculus Quest VR Cover,” which includes two sweat-resistant machine-washable covers made from 100% cotton. Featuring a simple hook and strap system, VR Cover promises an easy-to-use solution for avoiding moisture build-up during intense sessions. While the Oculus Quest VR Covers aren’t necessarily an essential add-on to the Foam & Interface Basic Set, it definitely sounds like a worthwhile investment if you play a lot of physically-intensive games or plan on sharing your headset with others (leather and moisture do not mix).

“Whether it’s to experience a softer feel, a better FOV or a cleaner interface, we’re confident our customers will enjoy using these accessories,” adds Matthias. The Oculus Quest Foam & Interface Basic Set is available now at VRcover.com for $29.99; the Oculus Quest VR Cover kit is purchasable as well for $19.99.

The post Oculus Quest VR Covers Now Available appeared first on VRScout.

How To Stream Oculus Quest To Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, And More

quest dev kit

Update 05/19/19: We’ve updated this guide with a third option at the bottom that does not require Chromecast and still provides a wireless solution. There are some drawbacks, but it’s a good overall solution. We’ve also updated the text to reflect a third option.

Original: The Oculus Quest is an impressive standalone VR headset that lets you wirelessly enter games from anywhere with full 6DOF positional tracking. One of the only drawbacks to a wireless device is that there is no screen to show what you’re doing such as with a PC monitor or a PSVR connected to a TV.

Thankfully Oculus included some options, but it isn’t quite as flexible as we would have liked. By default there are three main ways to stream Oculus Quest footage: to your phone via the Oculus app, to a Chromecast 3 and/or Chromecast Ultra device, or to your personal Facebook page.

The problem here is that your personal Facebook page doesn’t include brand pages (like a company page) and that means there’s no way to get the footage to a PC for customizing in OBS, adding webcam output, streaming to platforms other than Facebook, etc.

Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Basically there are three other options: you can plug the Quest into your PC, which limits mobility but is cost-effective and easy to do, you can buy everything you need to go fully wireless with Chromecast, or you can go the middle route and go wirelessly in a cost effective way with some other drawbacks. We’ll cover both ways.

So, here’s everything you need to stream Oculus Quest to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and any other streaming platform of your choice.

Wired Quest Streaming: What You Need

In order to stream your Quest some way other than the default three included ways out of the box, the easiest thing to do is to just plug it into your PC. Now, if you plug it in normally then it will just open up as a file location that you can drag and drop screenshots or movies to and from, but there’s a way around that.

All you really need to do this correctly are a long USB-C cord to connect the headset to your PC and a long audio auxiliary 3.5mm cable. I’d recommend at least 10 feet for each cord like the ones I linked, or longer, depending on the size of your room. For this method you’ll obviously be tethered to your PC as explained.

Then you need to go download scrcpy from GitHub. Scroll down and find the right .zip file for your OS and unpack it all into a folder somewhere on your PC.

Finally, the only other crucial part of the puzzle for this method is you’ll need access to the same Oculus mobile app that you paired your Quest with during the setup process.

Other than that you need a webcam (so people can see what you’re doing IRL and not just your point of view in the headset) and Streamlabs OBS. For OBS setup and configuration refer to my previous VR livestreaming guide — I’m not going to rehash all of that here. The same setup process applies.

Wired Quest Streaming: How To Do It

Here is what your stream could look like: [YouTube Archive]

Put Your Quest In Developer Mode

First and foremost, you need to put your Quest in Developer mode for this method to work. You can do this by making sure it’s powered on and paired to the mobile app, then go to Settings, click on the Quest, go to Advanced Setting, and toggle on Developer Mode. That’s it. You may need to register your Oculus account as a Developer account if you don’t see the option.

Plug It All In

Now you need to plug it all in to the computer. That means plug the USB-C cord into your Quest (in the same port you use to charge it) and plug the other end into your PC. Then plug the 3.5mm cord into the audio jack on your Quest and then plug the other end into your PC. I used the light blue Line-In mic port on the back of my tower, it’s usually next to the light green speaker port.

Launch Scrcpy

Just navigate to the folder you extracted everything into and launch the application. If your Quest is in developer mode and plugged in it should launch a window on your PC that shows two side-by-side vertical views, basically each lens. You’ve now got a direct feed from your Quest to your PC.

However, there is no audio.

Open Your Audio Settings

In order to get audio working you need to mess around with some settings. Your 3.5mm cord should be plugged into the Line-In source, so just open up your Sound settings, go to Recording, right click on Line-In, go to properties, click the Listen tab, and check the “Listen to this device” box.

Now, the audio from the headset should be coming out of whatever your default Playback device is in your Sound settings.

Arrange Everything In OBS

Like I said earlier, I’m not going to cover OBS settings in detail here because I did that already in this guide. Basically you just want to arrange your OBS window. For me, I cropped the scrcpy output so only my right eye is shown on the stream and made my webcam footage larger to fill up the screen (shown above).

Just make sure you have all of the audio sources arranged correctly so that the Quest audio and your microphone are both funneling through OBS. And if you are talking to anyone on Discord while playing or if they’re reading chat (like I usually do) then make sure chat audio is going into OBS as well.

Wireless Chromecast Quest Streaming: What You Need

Now the best way to stream Oculus Quest to your PC and then broadcast that to your audience on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook, is to use this second wireless method so you can play and stream, in real-time, 100% wirelessly. You’ll do this by leveraging Quest’s ability to cast to Chromecast — although it’s still in beta, technically.

First, you’ll need a supported Chromecast device. Reportedly the Chromecast 3 and all Chromecast 3 devices will work, but the only one that I have successfully tested is the Chromecast Ultra. Buy one if you haven’t already.

Then, this is where it gets a little tricky. Chromecast cannot be plugged into a PC directly because it is an HDMI input device so it needs a screen to output footage. And since it is primarily used for content-protected footage like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and others, you’ll need a way around that. So you’ll need to buy an HDCP Stripper / HDMI Splitter to get around those limitations. This one from OREI is the one I bought and have tested successfully.

Then you need to use a capture card to get the footage off of the Chromecast and onto your PC screen, similar to what you’d need to record high-quality footage of PSVR or any HDMI-output device. I like the El Gato HD60 S.

Now if you’re like me and you like to have friends, colleagues, etc in Discord while you’re streaming to talk to and read off/respond to comments when you’re in VR, then you need one extra step. You’ll need to get the audio from your PC wirelessly so you can hear them. You also need a high-quality and reliable wireless microphone to speak with viewers and go fully untethered. That’s why I recommend the Lucid Sound LS31 headset, but any wireless headset with a decent microphone should work fine. If you aren’t going to talk to anyone on Discord or something then you can forego the fancy headset and just plug headphones into the Quest. However, you still need to get your voice to the PC for OBS so you’ll need a different wireless microphone solution. I have not tested it, but a wireless lav system would probably work fine.

And if you want to stream your physical body as well, then you need a good webcam too with a tripod or some other kind of mount.

Wireless Chromecast Quest Streaming: How To Do It

Here is what your stream can look like: [YouTube Archive]

Make Sure Your Quest Is Ready

In order to do this streaming method, the setup process is a lot different than the first method. For starters, you need to make sure your Quest is not in developer mode. You should also verify that your Chromecast device is setup and functioning properly (test it with a YouTube video from your phone or something) before moving ahead.

Make sure all three devices (phone, Chromecast, and Quest) are setup on the same WiFi network — I recommend 5GHz instead of just 2.4GHz if possible. It’s also best to just reboot the Quest, your phone, and the Chromecast as well before getting started.

Plug Everything In

This is where this setup gets a little confusing. Basically you need to plug your Chromecast Ultra (or Gen 3 or whatever you’re gonna use) into the HDCP Stripper “In” side, then plug the “Out” of the Stripper into your capture card “In” side, then plug that into your PC. In the case of the El Gato HD60 S, that’s a USB cord.

So in my case I’ve got the Stripper and my my capture card plugged into the wall for power too.  It’s kind of a lot of cords, but it is what it is.

Cast The Quest

In the Oculus app tap the cast icon in the top right corner, select the name of your Chromecast device in the list of options, and select video quality. Normal always works great for me. Then click Cast.

Since I use the El Gato HD60 S, I have an app on my PC called “Game Capture HD” which is the window that the footage appears inside from the Chromecast input.

Remember: if it gives you errors, double check all the WiFi networks and restart all three devices and maybe even put the Quest in developer mode then switch it back off again. Doing all of that has worked for me every time to resolve any issues.

Sync Video and Audio

If you’re using a webcam then you might notice the Chromecast footage is slightly delayed versus the actual footage you see inside your headset. That’s normal. The issue is that your webcam footage is going to be a little bit ahead of what the viewer sees happening in the game. Fixing this is very simple.

In OBS right click on the webcam Video Capture Device source and click Filters. Click the plus icon and in the drop down list select “Render Delay.” When I set mine up I found it to be right around 160 milliseconds, but it may have been updated and improved since then. Just play around with some values until your webcam footage and Chromecast footage appear to be aligned.

Setup Audio (Optional)

If you’re just planning on streaming through OBS and not using your microphone or responding to comments at all then you don’t really need to worry about this step. But if you want to be able to talk to your viewers you’ll need to take things a tiny bit further. This is where a wireless microphone comes into play.

There might be a way to get the input of your Quest microphone to your PC, but I don’t know how to do that. Instead, I wear a wireless headset (the Lucid Sound one I linked earlier) that has a mic attached. It links up to my PC via a USB dongle.

Arrange Everything In OBS

Like I said earlier, I’m not going to cover OBS settings in detail here because I did that already in this guide. Basically you just want to arrange your OBS window. For me, I make the Game Capture HD window with my Chromecast footage full-screen and stick my webcam in the bottom left corner (shown above).

Just make sure you have all of the audio sources arranged correctly so that the Quest audio and your microphone are both funneling through OBS. And if you are talking to anyone on Discord while playing or if they’re reading chat (like I usually) then make sure chat audio is going into OBS as well.

Wireless Non-Chromecast Quest Streaming: What You Need

The first thing you really need to do this correctly is a USB-C cord to connect the headset to your PC for the setup. You need to plug it in to initialize the wireless connection each time.

Then you need to go download a program called Vysor. There is a free trial version with limitations but I just paid $40 for the unlocked lifetime subscription. Vysor is a program that uses a form of wireless adb. You can accomplish a similar effect manually with command line prompts and scrcpy but I prefer simplicity.

The biggest downside to this method is that it does not send the audio signal at all, just video. My way around that is a wireless mic that sits around my neck and points at the external speaker on my Quest to pick up the game audio. If I speak loudly and clearly, it picks up my voice as well too. This is the one I got. I have not tested it, but a wireless lav system would probably work fine too.

Now if you’re like me and you like to have friends, colleagues, etc in Discord while you’re streaming to talk to and read off/respond to comments when you’re in VR, then you need one extra step. You’ll need to get the audio from your PC wirelessly so you can hear them. That’s why I recommend the Lucid Sound LS31 headset, but any wireless headset should work fine. If you aren’t going to talk to anyone on Discord or something then you can forego the fancy headset. However, you still need to get your voice to the PC for OBS so you’ll need a different wireless microphone solution like the one I linked earlier.

Other than that you need a webcam (so people can see what you’re doing IRL and not just your point of view in the headset) and Streamlabs OBS. For OBS setup and configuration refer to my previous VR livestreaming guide — I’m not going to rehash all of that here. The same setup process applies.

Wireless Non-Chromecast Quest Streaming: How To Do It

Here is what your stream can look like: [YouTube Archive]

Put Your Quest In Developer Mode

First and foremost, you need to put your Quest in Developer mode for this method to work. You can do this by making sure it’s powered on and paired to the mobile app, then go to Settings, click on the Quest, go to Advanced Setting, and toggle on Developer Mode. That’s it. You may need to register your Oculus account as a Developer account if you don’t see the option.

Plug It In

Now you need to plug it in to the computer. That means plug the USB-C cord into your Quest (in the same port you use to charge it) and plug the other end into your PC. You need to do this at the beginning of your setup process every time you want to stream the Quest wirelessly.

Activate/Setup Vysor

Open up Vysor and it should automatically detect your Quest as an Android device. Now click View. From here you can tweak settings like the resolution, bitrate, and more. I try to keep everything as high as possible. The output window will be two side-by-side fisheye lenses — one of each eye. I crop out the left eye in OBS so viewers only see one eye. Now you need to click the wireless button in Vysor, wait for it to reboot the signal, then unplug the Quest. It’ll reboot the signal one more time then you’re good to go!

Sync Video and Audio

If you’re using a webcam then you might notice the Vysor footage is slightly delayed versus the actual footage you see inside your headset. That’s normal. The issue is that your webcam footage is going to be a little bit ahead of what the viewer sees happening in the game. Fixing this is very simple.

In OBS right click on the webcam Video Capture Device source and click Filters. Click the plus icon and in the drop down list select “Render Delay.” When I set mine up I found it to be right around 160 milliseconds, but it may have been updated and improved since then. Just play around with some values until your webcam footage and Vysor footage appear to be aligned.

Setup Game Audio

Since Vysor does not send an audio signal and you want to stay wireless, the only reliable way I’ve discovered that works is to just turn up the Oculus Quest speakers and point a wireless mic at the spot near your ear where the audio comes out. It isn’t the best quality, but it gets the job done. Try using the one I recommended above. This is the same mic that will pick up your voice.

Arrange Everything In OBS

Like I said earlier, I’m not going to cover OBS settings in detail here because I did that already in this guide. Basically you just want to arrange your OBS window. For me, I cropped the scrcpy output so only my right eye is shown on the stream and made my webcam footage larger to fill up the screen (shown above).

Just make sure you have all of the audio sources arranged correctly so that the Quest audio and your microphone are both funneling through OBS. And if you are talking to anyone on Discord while playing or if they’re reading chat (like I usually do) then make sure chat audio is going into OBS as well.

Note: Shout out to Zimtok for streaming a similar setup last week and inspiring the idea and shout out to Eminus for helping me setup Vysor.


That’s about it! If you have any questions about how we’ve streamed Oculus Quest or any other VR content don’t hesitate to ask here in the comments, via email, or on Twitter.

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DigiLens Raises $50 Million To Develop Cheap AR Display Tech

DigiLens Raises $50 Million To Develop Cheap AR Display Tech

DigiLens, a Sunnyvale, California-based startup developing displays for augmented reality (AR) devices, today announced that it’s closed a $50 million oversubscribed series C round led by Universal Display Corporation’s UDC Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Pokémon Go creator Niantic, Continental AG, Sony Innovation Fund, and Mitsubishi’s Diamond Edge Ventures. It more than doubled the Sunnyvale, California-based company’s previous $22 million raise in January 2017, and it brings DigiLens’ venture capital haul to date to over $100 million.

CEO Chris Pickett said the fresh capital will fuel the development of its display technology for automobile, enterprise, consumer, avionics and military brands. “These partnerships provide the ecosystem that enables our technology to go into a variety of different [displays] in a variety of different form factors,” he added.

DigiLens’ premiere product is a holographic waveguide display containing a thin-film, laser-etched photopolymer embedded with microscopic holograms of mirror-like optics. A micro-display is projected into one end of the lens and the optics turn the light wave, guiding it through the surface before another set of optics turn it back toward the eye.

Above: DigiLens glasses can help you navigate your car.

Image Credit: DigiLens

DigiLens refined this technique nearly ten years ago, it says, when it was collaborating with Rockwell Collins to create avionic HUD systems for the U.S. military. More recently, the company devised a photopolymer material and holographic copy process that enables it to produce diffractive optics with printers, which tend to be cheaper than traditional precision-etching machines.

“UDC Ventures and Samsung Ventures have recognized through this investment that DigiLens is the frontrunner in waveguide technology and the only waveguide that can get to a consumer price point through its proprietary photopolymer, design software, and innovative manufacturing process,” said Pickett.

In January, DigiLens demonstrated its Crystal AR prototype, a glasses-like form factor that connects via a USB-C to a smartphone, computing puck, laptop, or desktop. It weighs in at half a pound and uses two layers for the full-color waveguide, which offers a relatively narrow 30-degree field of view but is dramatically cheaper than conventional materials. In fact, DigiLens believes products like Crystal AR could one day sell for $500, or roughly five to 10 times less than rival heads-up displays on the market like the Magic Leap One Creator Edition or Microsoft HoloLens.

DigiLens’ white label solution for car companies, meanwhile, can create a holographic waveguide that’s about a half a meter by 320 millimeters long, or large enough for a car windshield but compact enough to fit under a dashboard. The company says that such displays could generate colored arrows to tell drivers where to turn next, so that they don’t have to look at their phones.

Above: DigiLens’ holographic technology helps to augment the world.

Image Credit: DigiLens

DigiLens doesn’t intend to manufacture and sell AR devices itself. Instead, it intends to license its technology across a range of industries. Toward that end, it’s already creating nanomaterials for transparent, augmented reality (AR) displays for several undisclosed clients.

DigiLens has competition in TruLife Optics, WaveOptics, and Colorado-based Akonia Holographics, the latter of which spent a decade (and $100 million) unsuccessfully pursuing holographic storage before pivoting to displays. For its part, WaveOptics raised $26 million last December to gear up for the launch of its low-cost AR hardware product lineup.

But Pickett anticipates that products incorporating DigiLens’ technology will beat most — if not all — others to market. It’s targeting late 2019, with additional launches expected in 2020 and 2022.

“We are excited to partner with DigiLens as they continue to focus on enabling a number of high growth markets with their patented holographic waveguide displays,” said Universal Display Corporation president and CEO Steven V. Abramson, who will become a board advisor as part of the investment. “With parallels to our own business, we look forward to working together to bring best-in-class solutions to multiple industries and to collaborate on the future of OLED technology within the augmented and virtual reality display sector.”

DigiLens says it’s currently working with licensed waveguide manufacturer Young Optics of Taiwan; ODM and electronics supplier Malata of China; and pico display manufacturer Sekonix of Korea, whose modules leverage Texas Instruments DLP Pico products. Through a strategic partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical, it’s developing a plastic material for “high refractive” waveguide displays that it expects will be lighter, less expensive, and “nearly unbreakable.”

“We are building our infrastructure, so we can enter multiple markets at the same time,” Pickett told VentureBeat in a previous interview.

This post by Kyle Wiggers originally appeared on VentureBeat. 

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SteamVR Update Brings Motion Smoothing to Modern AMD Graphics Cards

Valve this week released an update to SteamVR which finally brings Motion Smoothing to AMD graphics cards, a feature which aims to maintain comfortable visuals even during performance bumps. SteamVR Motion Smoothing launched first for NVIDIA graphics cards in November 2018.

The public branch of SteamVR was updated to version 1.4.14 this week, which incorporates all prior beta updates since the last public branch update.

Among a heap of other improvements and fixes, 1.4.14 finally brings the SteamVR Motion Smoothing feature to AMD RX and Vega graphics cards. R9 and older cards are not supported. Valve also says that while the newer Radeon VII is technically supported, there’s a bug in its graphics driver which can cause Motion Smoothing to stop working, that hasn’t offered a timeline for when this might be fixed.

Motion Smoothing hit the public branch of SteamVR back in November 2018 with support for NVIDIA GPUs. The feature is a more advanced version of prior VR rendering tech which aims to keep the view inside the headset smooth and comfortable, even if the computer occasionally drops frames due to performance issues. It’s similar to Oculus’ ASW technology.

SEE ALSO
Valve Updated SteamVR Tracking Because ‘Beat Saber’ Players Were Too Fast

Motion Smoothing in SteamVR synthesizes entirely new frames to use in the place of dropped frames. It does so by looking at the last two frames, estimating what the next frame should look like, then sending the synthesized frame to the display instead of an entirely new frame. Motion Smoothing is only available on systems running Windows 10, and only works with the Vive, Vive Pro, and other native OpenVR headsets as other headsets (like the Rift and Windows VR) have their own approach to dealing with dropped frames.

Motion Smoothing is likely to be an important feature for those using Valve’s upcoming Index headset which has a higher resolution than the original Vive, and supports 90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz refresh rates. Rendering at higher resolution and higher frame rates requires greater performance, and will therefore be more sensitive to dips in performance, leading to more cases where Motion Smoothing may be needed.

Image courtesy Valve

Speaking of Index, SteamVR 1.4.14 also officially adds support for Index, which replaces the external drivers that developers needed to use up to this point. A handful of new features have also come to support Index’s upcoming launch, like support for headsets offering multiple framerates and a new controller pairing UI which now includes the Index controllers and Vive Tracker.

See the full update notes for a complete list of changes in SteamVR 1.4.14.

The post SteamVR Update Brings Motion Smoothing to Modern AMD Graphics Cards appeared first on Road to VR.

Another Station Night Pass for Skywatchers in the Eastern United States

United States East Coast
The well-lit United States east coast from Virginia to Rhode Island is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited above the Atlantic Ocean.

Get ready for another International Space Station pass tonight if you live in the eastern United States. Conditions look good for skywatching on a clear night from Florida to Maine. Also, visit https://spotthestation.nasa.gov and find sighting opportunities for your hometown.

Check out U.S. sighting times below…

Saturday May 18, 2019

9:25 p.m. EDT
Tampa, Fla.
Atlanta, Ga.
Savannah, Ga.
Charleston, S.C.

9:26 p.m. EDT
Washington, D.C.
Raleigh, N.C.
Richmond, Va.

9:27 p.m. EDT
Baltimore, Md.
Philadelphia, Pa.
New York City

9:28 p.m. EDT
Boston, Mass.

9:29 p.m. EDT
Portland, Maine

VR Community Hosts Virtual Memorial Honoring Popular Industry Advocate

The VR education community says goodbye to one of its biggest advocates.

If you have ever attended any of the Virtualiteach CPDinVR (Continued Personal Development) events on the Engage VR platform hosted by Steve Bambury, then you know the name Chris (Christian) Long, or you’ve at least heard his name mentioned. Chris was always in attendance at each event, always there early, always there late; working behind the scenes along with Chris Madsen to make sure each CPDinVR session went off smoothly.

Chris not only was part of the CPDinVR team, but he himself was also an expert on the subject of immersive technology in education.

Christian Long, gaming teacher and champion for VR technology for Windsor Forest Colleges Group // Image Credit: Langley College

On May 2nd, CPDinVR host Steve Bambury informed the VR community that Chris Long had passed away unexpectedly tweeting, “It is with heaviest of hearts and tears in my eyes that I share the news that my dear friend and VR brother Chris Long has died today.”

Chris was a teacher at Langley College in London, and an incredible resource of VR and AR information who worked tirelessly to advocate for VR and AR tech in the learning environment. More importantly, Chris was a devoted and loving father to his young children and a wonderful husband.

His wife, Elaina talked about Chris, telling VRScout that he was passionate and creative in everything he did, whether it was inventing games for his children or solving problems. She spoke of his talent, his positivity, his willingness to accept any challenge with enthusiasm, and how he gave so much of his time to anyone he met.

When it came to honoring Chris’ memory – with the blessing of his family – Bambury, Madsen, and others came together on May 11th to hold a memorial service in VR through Engage VR’s platform, the very same platform that Chris helped push to the forefront of VR education.

In an interview with VRScout, Steve Bambury said, “It’s not a milestone that I have interest in claiming though; it was never the intent when we coordinated the event. That being said, Chris would have loved the fact that he was still breaking new ground in the VR world.”

As attendees logged in to the virtual memorial, they were immediately greeted with a gorgeous environment filled with endless fields of tall green grass that swayed against a light breeze, bright blue skies littered with clouds, flocks of birds, and trees scattered throughout the landscape.

After basking in the beauty of the digital locale, we were then instructed to follow the giant virtual arrows in the sky that pointed to an area set up with chairs and a speaking area. This is where you met with the live avatars of Chris’ various family members, friends, and colleagues. Through your VR headsets microphone, you were able to talk with other attendees, share memories of Chris, and console each other in a comfortable environment.

Some people entered through WebVR—using a keyboard to move their avatar and the computer monitor as their window into the virtual world—while others used a VR headset such as an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive to completely immerse themselves into Engage VR’s digital world and for a sense of real presence with others in attendance.

Because it was a virtual world, organizers were able to do things during Chris’s Memorial that would have been near impossible to recreate real-world. For example, Chris Long was a proud member of the Royal Air Force. So during the memorial, a massive fleet of airplanes flew overhead; an overwhelmingly expensive act to pull off in real life. Other virtual objects such as beams of light and leaves would drop down randomly as people spoke, adding a sense of spirituality and peacefulness to the proceedings.

Even though you were in a virtual world, it was a very real experience none-the-less. Emotions were high and a genuine sense of comradery could be felt among Chris’ friends, family, and colleagues. Though you couldn’t physically reach out and hold someone, the intentions were all there as we all gathered to say goodbye.

Family, friends, and colleagues each took a turn as walked up to the podium to deliver some final words, while musician Kirsa Moonlight performed the song “Hallelujah.”

Also in the VR world was a monument placed amongst the trees that reads, ‘Here a spring tree blooms, Flowers of your legacy,’ which will remain a permanent fixture in that virtual environment.

“Chris was a dear friend and losing him so suddenly was incredibly hard to come to terms with,” said Bambury, adding, “Hosting the Memorial inside Engage, where we had spent countless hours hosting events for educators around the world seemed like the most fitting way to honor his memory and allow the VR Education community pay tribute.”

For me personally, Chris was someone I knew through my work in VR. We had never met in the real-world but we interacted often on a professional level in Engage VR.

On one occasion, I arrived late in a VR poker meet-up that Steve would often organize with fellow people from all over the world, and I bumped into Chris right before he logged out of VR.  The two of us ended up hanging out together and talking about our families and our kids in this over-the-top virtual poker room decorated with red velvet furniture and gold fixtures.

It was a memorable moment for me, and a memory of Chris that I will never forget.

Image Credit: Bobby Carlton

Social VR can be very powerful. It can bring two people who live on opposite sides of the globe together for a moment to talk about their families. It can also bring people together from all over the world to say goodbye to a family member, friend, and colleague.

You don’t need data or research to prove how powerful social VR can be, just enter any of the VR worlds out there such as Rec RoomAltspaceVRRumiiEngage VR, or Oculus Venues. All of these worlds are focused on bringing people closer together to work, play, collaborate, meet new friends, and sometimes to say goodbye – all through VR.

“The VR Education community is a little less bright without Chris in it,”
adds Bambury. Always humble and full of high spirits, he was a beacon of positivity about the future of the medium and how it could transform learning opportunities for students around the world.”

The post VR Community Hosts Virtual Memorial Honoring Popular Industry Advocate appeared first on VRScout.

Virtual Firefighting Is A Thing In Texas

VIRTUAL FIREFIGHTING – Chico Elementary fifth-grade math teacher Patricia Sarchet douses virtual flames as part of the Energy Worldnet virtual fire extinguisher training Friday. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

With a helmet fastened to her head and an extinguisher in her hands, Chico fifth-grade math teacher Patricia Sarchet contained and doused two fires outside Chico Elementary Friday.

Luckily, the blaze only existed in the digital realm.

Chico educators and staff took part in fire extinguisher training offered by Energy Worldnet, using a virtual reality headset in a controlled environment.

“It did feel real,” Sarchet said. “If you watch videos on things, you think you can do it. But actually doing it was different.”

Sarchet has contained fires at her home with a garden hose before, but had never used a fire extinguisher. Now, she has that hands on experience and a trusty acronym, PASS, (pull the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the lever and sweep the flames) stuck in her head in case of an emergency.

Energy Worldnet offered the training in a trailer in the parking lot, letting educators and staff at the elementary school try their hand at virtual firefighting. EWN previously offered the training course to those in the Oil and Gas industry, but this was its first time offering the program to public educators.

“What’s cool about this initiative is that a lot of people have never physically touched a fire extinguisher before,” said EWN Executive Director of Education Matt Joiner. “It’s powerful to see veteran educators and custodial workers who have never had their hand on a fire extinguisher before, getting that activity and pulling the pin for the first time.”

“The idea is to support safety preparedness for educators in this particular instance,” he added. “The fear factor of if something happens what to do and where to aim those kind of things. Hopefully they’ll be able to reflect back on this and use those skills to make a difference if they need to.”

Once fastening the VR headset on their heads, participants were given a tutorial and the PASS training. They were then tasked with putting out two sets of fires. The participants were given a grade on their performance.

Sarchet received an A for quickly dousing the flames.

Joiner said teachers flocked in throughout the day to try out the new tech and receive training.

“They’ve really enjoyed it,” Joiner said.

This was the first time EWN had taken the training trailer outside the industry and into education. Joiner said it will likely not be the last.

Other school districts have expressed interest to bring the VR fire extinguisher training to their schools.

 

Quelle:

Image: READY TO FIGHT – Educators and staff at Chico Elementary learned how to use a fire extinguisher Friday with a virtual reality fire extinguisher training program. Educators used a VR headset and a physical fire extinguisher to help learn how to use the device in case of a fire at the school or at home. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

CITB Funds Immersive Learning For Construction

I’m sitting in a crane 100 feet above Kings Cross St Pancras station, carefully moving a component weighing a ton through a narrow gap between two buildings. I nudge the joystick right, the cab rotates and the load begins to move.

I’m loading an air conditioning unit onto the top of the new Google offices. It’s a delicate operation on a busy construction site with a packed schedule of crane manoeuvres and an obstacle course of listed buildings.

I check the wind and glance at the signaller far away on the ground. He’s waving frantically – I look back to the load in time to see it crash through the station’s glass roof just as the 14:06 to Peterborough pulls away from the platform.

Suddenly I lurch to the right and am dangling outside the cab above a stomach-churning drop. I cry out, drop the PS4 controller, remove the visor and I’m back in the training room.

If learning is about tricking your brain into thinking something is useful enough to remember, then the only thing better is actually doing it. Virtual reality (VR) is set to revolutionise teaching and learning over the coming years, and few industries stand to gain more than construction.

We’re supporting immersive learning after research last year from employers showed that it is a key element in how the sector can modernise, particularly in attracting more young people to the workforce.

Studies have shown that learners acquire information more quickly in VR, and retain it for longer than traditional methods. Training in digital environments also delivers untold amounts and types of data.

Got expensive, dangerous or hard to access environments?  No problem – simulate it first to reduce pressure on the real thing or take people on a 360-degree video tour first.

Got lots of information to be understood before taking on a difficult task? Why not use an augmented reality (AR) headset to superimpose holographic instructions around what you’re looking at.

Got a team scattered around the country? Why not give each of them a £5 VR viewer to use with their phones, and whisk them all to a virtual classroom where you can collaborate and interact together in real time.

But there’s still a long way to go. Some of the kit is expensive, and you can’t stay in for too long without feeling as though you’ve spent a night on a boat in a hurricane.

To address these barriers, and help industry access the benefits of this new technology, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has awarded £3.3m to fund seven projects that promote immersive learning. The outcome of this is that by January, 2021, construction will have greater capacity to adopt immersive learning to its own training needs.

Collaboration within these funded projects is already drawing together employers, education providers and gaming companies in new partnerships.

One of them is piloting a web platform allowing users to create their own VR and AR content, which other projects have also expressed interest in using.

Another is creating six centres of excellence across England, Scotland and Wales. Its aspiration is to make available both its own VR and AR training as well as the content the other projects are developing.

A one-stop-shop web platform is also being explored, for the construction industry to create its own immersive content, test it on a centre’s kit and walk out with a fully formed immersive learning solution.

Interested? Find out more about how we’re helping the construction industry get the skills to drive digital transformation.

Click here for more information on CITB.

by Nathaniel Cooke is Assistant Fund Manager at CITB

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CITB Funds Immersive Learning For Construction

How Augmented Reality Will Create a World of On-Demand Experts

During a recent Lyft ride, I discovered that my driver had never been to San Francisco and had just arrived that morning—I happened to be his first-ever passenger in the city. A San Diego college student visiting a friend, he’d decided to bring his car along so he could get paid driving for Lyft while discovering San Francisco and meeting some locals.

Here was a professional driver being paid to deliver me from one place in my city to another, who had no understanding of the street names, which were the best routes across town, or how traffic might change throughout the day. Yet, of course, he delivered me safely, enjoyably, and promptly to my destination without even a slight setback. He even found a better route around some construction traffic that had built up on the way.

What made it possible for this San Francisco newcomer to perform his job so well? The superpowers of augmented reality in the form of GPS navigation like Google Maps and Waze.

My colleague, Jody Medich, often likes to remind people that GPS navigation is the forgotten but everyday example of augmented reality we use regularly. AR systems like these already give people superpower knowledge (as she describes it) to help them drive to new places.

Soon AR superpowers won’t just be given to drivers using GPS to navigate cities.

Anyone will be able to access the right information to perform the right set of skills, whenever and wherever they need it. We’ll be living in a world of instant and on-demand experts.

“The whole point of augmented reality is that it’s interacting with your real reality. It’s merging virtual worlds and the power of computers with the world around you. It’s also an amazing and intuitive way to deliver information on demand,” said Scott Montgomerie, CEO and co-founder of Scope AR, an enterprise augmented reality company based in San Francisco.

Scope AR is one of several enterprise augmented reality companies making AR software that gives untrained technicians the information they need to perform tasks like equipment assembly, maintenance and repair, or customer support.

Montgomerie explained the company’s approach to me in the context of assembling Ikea furniture. Most people have had the experience of struggling with the paper instructions and confusing line diagrams.

“There is this mental mapping you have to do from the line drawing to the real world which can create errors and misunderstandings. But if you saw a [piece of] Ikea furniture built right in front of you, you probably wouldn’t mess it up,” he said (Note: Someone not affiliated with Ikea built a concept of what this could look like last year).

Montgomerie explained that for many of Scope AR’s clients, if a piece of equipment in a factory goes down, typically an expert who may know how to fix it is somewhere far away. In the past, most companies resolved this by flying that expert out to the location of the problem, but quite often, that problem may need just a simple fix if you know what to do.

With Scope AR, businesses can give the average non-expert employee on-demand knowledge with intuitive AR instructions. One of their products, called Remote AR, gives companies exactly this kind of augmented reality live support.

In one anecdote, Montgomerie described a customer who manufactures fast food kitchen appliances like deep fryers and ovens for clients including Burger King and McDonald’s. If one of their appliances breaks down, there’s not typically someone on site trained to do repairs.

That company relies on general contractors to show up to locate the problem, but often these contractors have never worked with the equipment before. As a result, the first-time diagnosis rate, the rate at which a company can locate the issue on the first try, has been low.

Now, onsite contractors can diagnose the problem with the help of a trained expert. Remote experts can virtually see the problem and explain how to fix the issue quickly and on the first visit.

And the results have been remarkable. According to Montgomerie, they’re now seeing a near 100 percent success rate for first-time diagnoses.

Perhaps the most stunning example of Scope AR’s work is how they’re assisting Lockheed Martin engineers building NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a vehicle designed to travel to Mars.

“In the old way of doing things, an engineer may start with a 3,000-page binder full of instructions for how to build a specific aspect of the spacecraft. A technician starts by going to the binder, looking up a table, finding the correct fastener, memorizing the torque setting, before then actually going in to tighten the fastener. Then quality assurance needs to come in and verify the work before they can move on,” Montgomerie explains.

That process was relatively tedious, slow, and susceptible to errors.

Now the workflow is designed with hands-free information viewed through a Microsoft HoloLens headset. In three-dimensional space with AR step-by-step instructions, the engineer can see exactly what they need to do, what the torque setting is, and where the fastener goes. They can then take a picture for quality assurance and immediately move on.

By replacing an exhaustive series of detailed paper instructions with AR instructions deployed on the HoloLens, Montgomerie said Lockheed Martin saw an 85 percent reduction in overall time for training. And, he said, Lockheed has replicated those efficiencies across a range of other manufacturing procedures with an average of 42 to 46 percent improvement.

With other major companies including Boeing, Airbus, and GE are also discovering productivity gains from augmented reality instructions, it’s likely many more manufacturing tasks will include some kind of augmented reality assistance in the future.

And for the average person at home, it’s likely not too long before you can get exactly the right information you need, layered on the real world in front of you, when and where you need it.

Before long, we’ll all be instant experts—and assembling Ikea furniture won’t seem so overwhelming.

Quelle:

How Augmented Reality Will Create a World of On-Demand Experts

Image Credit: Scope AR

Lockheed Martin engineers use the HoloLens to assemble the Orion Spacecraft.