Bigscreen Inc. today launched what the studio calls a “massive” update to Bigscreen Beta, including real-time raytracing lighting effects, new environments, avatars, VR UI, and a few other bits and bobs that should also make mobile VR users happy too.
Bigscreen Beta is a free social VR platform that lets you directly mirror and share your desktop to other user, which includes support for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, all SteamVR-compatible headsets. Bigscreen also supports Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR mobile VR headsets, albeit with remote desktop streaming done via WiFi.
Today’s update is the result of a year-long development cycle, bringing many user-requested features as well as fixes to “some of the biggest bugs & problems that our users have experienced,” Bigscreen founder and CEO Darshan Shankar says in a blogpost.
Real-time Raytraced Lighting Effects
Previous versions of Bigscreen’s dynamic screen lighting were both graphically demanding and only available on PC VR headsets, leaving mobile VR headsets out entirely.
Now, the studio has included raytracing techniques using stochastic sampling and blue noise dithering, which were created to cast rays of light from the big screen into the environment for a greater touch realism.
Since the implementation has been deemed less GPU-intensive, mobile VR headsets are getting the raytracing-based light effects too, which ought to make the app’s various cinema environments pop.
We had a chance to go hands-on with the latest build for PC, and while it’s a pretty subtle change, it’s certainly moving into the realm of eerily convincing.
Mobile VR Room Creation
Before now, mobile VR headset users were sort of second class citizens to the platform. Although the screen mirroring functionality works via desktop streaming, users on Oculus Go and Gear VR couldn’t create rooms .
This has changed with today’s update, now allowing mobile VR users to set up public or private rooms that anyone can join irrespective of their chosen platform.
On mobile, the studio says the update also comes with “significantly improved performance and battery life, especially in larger rooms with 5–15 people.”
New Environment & Lobby
Out with the old, in with the new. A new amphitheater-style cinema is now live—and an even more sumptuous and shiny than ever.
Besides the fresh new visuals, the space also features curved seating designed to make chatting with fellow watchers a little easier—something the studio maintains is especially appealing to mobile VR headset users since the 3DOF limitation doesn’t let you lean forward.
Also, long gone are the days of hopping into rooms blindly, attempting to get a word in edgewise with other users while a movie blares in the background. Bigscreen Beta now has a movie theater-style lobby space where you can pop in and meet new people if that’s your thing.
Laden with plenty of ‘coming soon’ doors leading to inaccessible theaters, the new lobby appears to be a launching off point for events and movie nights; the studio says they’ll be hosting events and selling virtual movie tickets there.
New Avatars & VR UI
The new avatar creator still retains its cartoony charm, although both masculine and feminine avatar hairstyles now have what the studio calls “a more sculpted art style.” To boot, there’s plenty more facial hair options and hats in the mix so you can create an more personalized look.
Selecting avatars and everything else in Bigscreen is also a bit easier with the new UI, which allows finger-presses and pointer selection; big buttons, clearly labeled settings and a visual overhaul makes it feel fresh and a little less cumbersome.
Bigscreen is unique: there’s truly nothing like it out right now that lets you have full control over your computer and let you share it indiscriminately with others. While the app isn’t without its niggles, the studio says they’ve fixed many of the bugs that users have commented on in the past including:
- support for 5.1 and 7.1 headphones, and SPDIF/USB DAC audio devices
- desktop audio streaming bugs where your audio would stop working, get muted, or stutter when people leave the room
- UI bugs where the UI would become frozen or irresponsive
- crashes when people would join/leave your room
- server bug where people would fail to properly join/leave rooms
The Near Future
More updates are coming in the next few months, including (yes, you guessed it) support for Oculus Quest, slated for sometime later this year.
The studio says Bigscreen will also likely see its official ‘1.0’ launch out of beta sometime in Summer 2019, which should include a “whole new level of polish, reliability, and functionality,” Shankar says. Other future updates will include:
- Friend/party system: invite friends into your rooms easily, and get notifications
- Videoplayer: watch videos stored locally on your PC or Mobile VR headset. This videoplayer has an easy-to-use VR UI, making it easier to watch videos, especially 3D movies.
- Streaming & performance improvements: while the performance has improved in the 2019 Update, more significant tech is coming soon that enables much better performance and streaming in larger 12-person rooms
Bigscreen Movie Nights: last year, we did a few pilot tests of “movie nights” where we hosted a movie. We plan to sell “virtual movie tickets” for our movie nights.