Road to VR https://www.roadtovr.com Virtual Reality News Sat, 25 May 2019 14:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 https://www.roadtovr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/cropped-road-to-vr-logo-for-social-media-54aabc8av1_site_icon-32x32.png Road to VR https://www.roadtovr.com 32 32 Google to Shutter Jump VR Video Service in June https://www.roadtovr.com/google-shutter-jump-vr-video-service-june/ https://www.roadtovr.com/google-shutter-jump-vr-video-service-june/#comments Fri, 24 May 2019 17:09:01 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88385
Google seems to be taking somewhat of a step back from VR, as Variety reports the company will be shutting down its Jump program for good next month. Google posted an updated Jump FAQ recently regarding the shutdown of the VR video service, outlining that Jump will officially go offline on June 28th, 2019. The ability to […]

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Google seems to be taking somewhat of a step back from VR, as Variety reports the company will be shutting down its Jump program for good next month.

Google posted an updated Jump FAQ recently regarding the shutdown of the VR video service, outlining that Jump will officially go offline on June 28th, 2019.

The ability to upload video will be suspended on June 26th; the 27th is the cutoff date to back up whatever files you may have uploaded via the service. Any later than that, and all Jump-related files will be deleted from Google’s Cloud Services for good.

In an all too brief statement, Google says the shutdown is due to “the emergence of a number of alternative solutions for creators,” which they maintain saw usage of Jump Assembler decline.

Photo by Road to VR

In Jump’s wake, the company suggests that VR filmmakers make use of third-party stitching software such as Mistika VR and the Nuke Cara VR plugin. Both are said to work with either of the platform’s officially supported rigs, the GoPro Odyssey and YI HALO, the latter of which cost a cool $17,000.

Google first introduced Jump back in 2015 as camera platform that essentially followed Cardboard’s path of providing an open design for all to use. Besides establishing build guidelines for makers and manufacturers alike, Google also provided Cloud Service storage and Jump ‘Assembler’, which was tasked with stitching the camera’s multiple video feeds into a contiguous 360 scene.

SEE ALSO
Facebook Has Four Separate Social VR Apps and None of Them Are on Quest

Where Google is headed next with VR, we’re not sure. It seems over the past few months that the company has taken a noticeable step back from VR. Google’s first big pullback came via a shutdown of its internal VR film studio Spotlight Stories in March. At this year’s I/O developer conference early this month, Google’s VR platform Daydream wasn’t even mentioned; the company’s upcoming smartphone Pixel 3a won’t support Daydream either.

Some of this may rest on the shoulders of a less than stellar launch last year of the only standalone VR headset to use the Daydream platform, Lenovo Mirage Solo. It was by all accounts a pioneering initiative to bring 6DOF headtracking to the masses, although its launch was marred by a lack of ready-made 6DOF content, a lack of 6DOF controllers, and a $400 price tag that wasn’t positioned well against the $200 Oculus Go at the time. It also seemed stifled from the beginning, as HTC, a previous hardware partner pledging Vive Focus to the platform, decided to pull support and launch their headset in China under the Viveport mobile store.

Whatever the case may be, we’ll have all eyes on Google’s VR division in the coming months to see if this is a full-blown pull back, or a strategic retreat.

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‘Vacation Simulator’ Among Steam’s 20 Top-selling Games Released in April https://www.roadtovr.com/vacation-simulator-among-steams-20-top-selling-games-released-april/ https://www.roadtovr.com/vacation-simulator-among-steams-20-top-selling-games-released-april/#comments Fri, 24 May 2019 12:32:15 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88380
Vacation Simulator (2019), Owlchemy Labs‘ recently released sequel to their smash hit VR parody game Job Simulator (2016), seems to be garnering its fair share of kudos; Valve today announced that Vacation Simulator was one of the top 20 earners for all games released on Steam in April. In a Steam blog post, Valve says that […]

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Vacation Simulator (2019), Owlchemy Labs‘ recently released sequel to their smash hit VR parody game Job Simulator (2016), seems to be garnering its fair share of kudos; Valve today announced that Vacation Simulator was one of the top 20 earners for all games released on Steam in April.

In a Steam blog post, Valve says that only games released between April 1st – 30th were taken into consideration. The company counted each game’s revenue for the first two weeks following their respective releases.

Valve hasn’t numbered the top 20 sequentially in order of revenue generated; it’s in order of release date. Here’s the full list of top games released this month:

Considering there’s been over 50 paid VR released in the month of April, and literal hundreds of paid games for traditional monitors releasing that month too, it seems that not only was Vacation Simulator the most successful VR game monetarily to be released in April, but a head-and-shoulders above many non-VR games as well. You’ll notice Vacation Simulator is the only VR game on the list.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Working on Update to Improve Rift S Audio

How the game stacks up moving forward is another issue. Supposing Valve continues the new list style in the coming months, we’ll only really gain insight into any given game’s initial success relative to others released in that time frame.

Vacation Simulator is however set to release on PSVR on June 18th, so we should have at least one reliable benchmark as to how the sequel is doing in comparison to the ever-successful Job Simulator moving forward.

If you haven’t had a chance, check out why we gave Vacation Simulator a solid [8.8/10] in our review and to learn why we dubbed it a “relaxing change of pace full of familiar whimsy.”

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Sony Hints Next-gen PSVR Could Bring HDR, Wireless, Eye-tracking & More https://www.roadtovr.com/psvr-2-hints-hdr-wireless-eye-tracking-field-of-view-resolution/ https://www.roadtovr.com/psvr-2-hints-hdr-wireless-eye-tracking-field-of-view-resolution/#comments Fri, 24 May 2019 11:48:15 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88375
Speaking this week at the Collision 2019 conference in Toronto, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Vice President of Research and Development, Dominic Mallinson, detailed a number of “must-have ‘evolutionary’ improvements” for future VR headsets. As reported by VentureBeat, Mallinson reiterated that Sony is still strongly behind its PlayStation VR initiative, and has plans to continue its work in VR on […]

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Speaking this week at the Collision 2019 conference in Toronto, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Vice President of Research and Development, Dominic Mallinson, detailed a number of “must-have ‘evolutionary’ improvements” for future VR headsets.

As reported by VentureBeat, Mallinson reiterated that Sony is still strongly behind its PlayStation VR initiative, and has plans to continue its work in VR on PS5.

“There are over 96 million PlayStation 4s in the market today. And every single one of those is capable of delivering a great VR experience. So we’d like to convert many, many more of those people to be PSVR users. And we won’t just stop with PS4.”

With 4.2 million PSVR headsets sold as of March, Sony is believed to have a strong sales lead among tethered VR headsets, but it has remained extremely tight-lipped about the future of the headset hardware itself, which is showing its age three years on and in the face of new headsets from competitors.

Mallinson steered clear of specifically talking about a “PSVR 2,” but he dove more generally into “rapid improvements in VR tech [which] will further widen its appeal.”

The inner workings of the original PSVR | Image courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

Specifically, Mallinson listed three “must-have ‘evolutionary’ improvements” for future VR headsets: improved resolution, wider field of view, and high dynamic range.

Of the three, high dynamic range (HDR) is the most surprising to be named a “must-have,” given that no existing mass-produced VR headset uses HDR, nor are many other headset makers even talking about it right now.

HDR is the ability of a display to produce ranges of brightness that far exceed standard displays, thereby allowing the display to more realistically portray ultra high contrast scenes, like those with bright sunlight, fire, explosions, and more.

Though HDR isn’t in any headsets today, Sony set a precedent for surprising the industry with its VR display tech—the current PSVR is the only consumer headset using an RGB OLED display, and on top of that it’s capable of a 120Hz refresh rate which still hasn’t been matched three years later (Valve’s Index headset will exceed it when it launches in June).

Mallinson says he expects HDR to be “adopted in the near future,” and the writing may already be on the wall; display maker AUO recently announced a new high-res VR display with a whopping 2,304 dimming zones for HDR.

SEE ALSO
Next-gen PlayStation Will Support Current PSVR, Sony Confirms

More obvious than HDR, Mallison also said he expects resolution and field of view to increase.

Most VR headsets today have a field of view of around 100 degrees, he said, but he expects “the next set of products to be roughly 120 degrees in terms of field of view.” On the resolution front, he expects resolution to “roughly double in the next set of VR products,” though it isn’t clear from the VentureBeat report if “double” referred to total pixel count, pixels per inch, or the count of pixels along each axis of the display. PSVR’s current display has 960 × 1,080 resolution per eye, which is lagging behind more recent headsets.

PSVR’s unique lens | Image courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

From there, Mallinson moved from the ‘evolutionary’ improvements to ‘revolutionary’. The first thing he touched on were the challenges of the tether and ease of use.

“Being tethered to this cable is inconvenient. And it’s not just about getting tangled up in the cable. It’s not just about the restriction in your motion,” he said, according to VentureBeat. “It’s also about how you set things up, how you configure the system, where you store it. Let’s face it, having a mess of cables in your living space is just not attractive. So this is something that we have to solve in order to get wider adoption.”

Mallinson suggested that 60GHz wireless tech is steadily improving and could be a viable option, though he said that wireless “might well remain an option, because it will be more costly than with the cable.”

Inside PSVR’s visor | Image courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

Finally, he talked about eye-tracking, saying he thinks it has the “greatest potential to change the VR user experience at a pretty fundamental level.” Here’s a list of reasons why he’s probably right.

Mallinson said that eye-tracking would be useful in a next-generation headset for things like understanding user intent, enhancing social presence, reading user biometrics, and foveated rendering—the latter being perhaps one of the most important applications of the technology with regards to improving rendering efficiencies as display resolution increases.

But for Mallinson, it’s what eye-tracking will enable in terms of input that’s most exciting.

“That’s my number one point about next-generation VR: Gaze will allow much, much richer user interaction,” he said.

Mallinson’s talk covered even more ground, including VR’s unique impact as a medium, and how content is key to making VR great; check out VentureBeat’s report for more.

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Rift S Will Get Enhanced Passthrough+ & ASW on the Latest NVIDIA GPUs https://www.roadtovr.com/rift-s-enhanced-passthrough-asw-nvidia-rtx-turing-gpu/ https://www.roadtovr.com/rift-s-enhanced-passthrough-asw-nvidia-rtx-turing-gpu/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 23:16:08 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88365
Thanks to the tracking cameras on Rift S, the headset also comes with a pass-through video feature which Oculus calls ‘Passthrough+’ (with the ‘+’ denoting its low latency, stereo-correct, wide field of view). While it’s the best pass-through video we’ve seen on any consumer headset so far, the feature will soon be enhanced to take […]

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Thanks to the tracking cameras on Rift S, the headset also comes with a pass-through video feature which Oculus calls ‘Passthrough+’ (with the ‘+’ denoting its low latency, stereo-correct, wide field of view). While it’s the best pass-through video we’ve seen on any consumer headset so far, the feature will soon be enhanced to take advantage of new capabilities available in NVIDIA’s latest GPUs. Oculus’ motion smoothing tech, Asynchronous Spacewarp, will also be similarly upgraded.

While Quest also has a passthrough video function, Oculus didn’t give it the ‘Passthrough+‘ designation because of its latency and lack of stereo depth. On the Rift S however, the company was able to leverage the power of the PC to computationally solve for the depth of the scene around the user, and then reproject the view accordingly to provide stereo depth. Along with lower latency, this makes Passthrough+ on Rift S look and feel more natural.

On the Oculus Developer Blog the company today explained that Passthrough+ leverages technology the company originally built for Asynchronous Spacewarp (ASW), which keeps motion smooth inside the headset even when framerate is unstable. ASW does this by comparing the motion of previous frames to estimate how that motion should continue into the future (and from there synthesizes a new frame based on the estimation). For Passthrough+, similar tech is used to compare simultaneous frames from the Rift S cameras to understand the distance between objects in each frame, and then infer the depth of the scene (similar to how we understand depth in the real world by perceiving it with two eyes, each with a slightly different perspective).

SEE ALSO
Oculus Launches ASW 2.0 with Positional Timewarp to Reduce Latency, Improve Performance

The method is similar to the what’s used by most video encoding tech, and ASW and Passthrough+ today use the video encoder on NVIDIA and AMD GPUs to do this work ‘asynchronously’ (without impacting the work the GPU needs to do to render the VR world in the first place).

But an upgrade for Passthrough+ and ASW is on the way and will take advantage of capabilities in NVIDIA RTX (and other NVIDIA ‘Turing’ GPUs), which support new optical flow technology from NVIDIA.

NVIDIA optical flow quadruples the macroblock resolution, increases motion vector resolution, enables following objects through intensity changes, and emphasizes plausible optical flow over compression ratios. The result is half the average end point error than traditional video encoding motion vectors. The qualitative results are equally impressive. With ASW, near-field objects track more reliably. Swinging flashlights hallucinate motion much less frequently and the increased precision means movement is tracked more accurately to individual particles and objects.

The end result, Oculus says, is more accurate motion estimation which means fewer artifacts when ASW is in use.

This illustration shows the increase in motion estimation density and precision in the optical flow method

Similarly, Passthrough+ on Turing GPUs will make use of optical flow upgrades to improve the depth and stability of the view.

For Passthrough+ this means increased stereo resolution of the projected world, while thin objects are correctly tracked and followed. When faced with low contrast or over-exposed areas, NVIDIA optical flow can still infer meaningful disparity values, preventing visual holes or missing data as we estimate the depth of the scene.

This comparison between the old method (left) and new (right) shows how much more stable and accurate the optical flow method is for determining the depth of the scene. (the computation depth reconstruction is inset in each view, enlarge and toggle HD for better visibility) | Courtesy Oculus

Oculus says that the enhancements will launch in June, and be compatible with Turing GPUs running the latest drivers.

Beyond that, the company sounds bullish on what other doors NVIDIA’s optical flow tech may have opened.

This isn’t the end of the line for ASW and optical flow. As demonstrated here, optical flow doesn’t just track movement, but also informs how scenes are arranged spatially. There’s a great deal of information we can glean about environments using optical flow, none of which we can do well with a traditional video encoder approach. The optical-flow SDK opens up many opportunities and research, so be sure to check back for more learnings + insights!

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Multiplayer VR Shooter ‘Pavlov’ Confirmed for Release on Oculus Quest https://www.roadtovr.com/multiplayer-vr-shooter-pavlov-confirmed-release-oculus-quest/ https://www.roadtovr.com/multiplayer-vr-shooter-pavlov-confirmed-release-oculus-quest/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 16:51:52 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88361
Pavlov VR is one of the most well known VR shooters, partially thanks to its viral success among YouTubers, and partially because it basically delivers on the dream of playing Counter-Strike in VR. Now, the studio behind Pavlov VR says a Quest version is currently in the works. Developer davevillz says the studio has only had […]

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Pavlov VR is one of the most well known VR shooters, partially thanks to its viral success among YouTubers, and partially because it basically delivers on the dream of playing Counter-Strike in VR. Now, the studio behind Pavlov VR says a Quest version is currently in the works.

Developer davevillz says the studio has only had Quest on-hand for a few hours, although it’s proven to be compelling enough of an experience to commit to a bonafide version.

Davevillz maintains that since Steam Workshop provides a base for the game’s modded content however, that the Quest version will consequently have its own set of maps, putting a damper on full cross-playability.

Davevillz does say though that the studio is intending to release on the Oculus Store, although of course since it’s still so early in development, that there’s no firm date as such.

SEE ALSO
The First 10 Games You Should Consider Buying on Quest

If you’re looking to test it out, the studio is throwing out an open alpha build that Quest owners can unofficially sideload (direct download link).

Intrepid testers can also send feedback via Pavlov VR’s Discord channel (invite link) and find more information there on how to load and play the alpha build.

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Vive Studios’ Multiplayer Shooter ‘Front Defense: Heroes’ Exits Early Access https://www.roadtovr.com/vive-studios-multiplayer-shooter-front-defense-heroes-exits-early-access/ https://www.roadtovr.com/vive-studios-multiplayer-shooter-front-defense-heroes-exits-early-access/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 15:56:06 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88356
Front Defense: Heroes is a first-party multiplayer shooter from Vive Studios, developed by Taipei-based Fantahorn Studio. HTC today announced that the WWII-themed shooter is heading out of Early Access today with a few updates in tow. What’s more, HTC is giving Front Defense: Heroes away for free (to keep forever) to Viveport users if you download the […]

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Front Defense: Heroes is a first-party multiplayer shooter from Vive Studios, developed by Taipei-based Fantahorn Studio. HTC today announced that the WWII-themed shooter is heading out of Early Access today with a few updates in tow.

What’s more, HTC is giving Front Defense: Heroes away for free (to keep forever) to Viveport users if you download the title between May 23rd – 30th via ViveportFront Defense: Heroes is compatible with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows VR headsets.

We went hands-on with Front Defense: Heroes in our Early Access review, and while its WWII deathmatches recalled some of the fun of Battlefield or Day of Defeat in VR, it was missing a level of polish and precision that would keep us from coming back for more.

Over its year and half stint in Early Access, the game has received multiple updates in response to player feedback however, including new locomotion methods, combat modes, bots, maps, and weapons.

In today’s update, Front Defense: Heroes now includes five new avatar skins, five new weapons, four new maps and a firing range for training. The biggest change however is in the new earnable points which you can gain in battle and redeem for new weapons, weapon skins, and avatars.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Quest Review – The First Great Standalone VR Headset

HTC says players will be able to increase their amount of points by 50% by participating in what they call ‘multiplier sessions’. The cap on points is said to reset at 12:00AM PT every night.

HTC says that All Viveport users, not just Viveport Infinity members, can download the title free starting today and ending on May 30th at 12AM PT (local time here).

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‘Space Junkies’ Now Supports Move Controllers on PSVR https://www.roadtovr.com/space-junkies-now-supports-move-controllers-psvr/ https://www.roadtovr.com/space-junkies-now-supports-move-controllers-psvr/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 13:13:24 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88351
Ubisoft recently pushed an update to the PSVR version of Space Junkies (2019), the zero-g arena shooter, that finally brings PS Move support to the game. Launched simultaneously on the PlayStation Store, Steam, and the Oculus Store back in March, Space Junkies boasts support for all major tethered VR headsets. However its launch on PSVR left something to be […]

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Ubisoft recently pushed an update to the PSVR version of Space Junkies (2019), the zero-g arena shooter, that finally brings PS Move support to the game.

Launched simultaneously on the PlayStation Store, Steam, and the Oculus Store back in March, Space Junkies boasts support for all major tethered VR headsets. However its launch on PSVR left something to be desired, as PSVR users were relegated to using the DualShock 4 gamepad while players on Vive and Rift made full use of their respective motion controllers.

Initially, launching the PSVR version with gamepad-only controls was done out of necessity—Move’s inherent lack of thumbsticks or large enough touchpad would make quick, accurate control of the player a much harder prospect. To keep PSVR users competitive (Ubisoft is couching Space Junkies as a budding eSport), the studio made the compromise to leave out Move support at launch.

SEE ALSO
'Rec Room' is Coming Soon to iPhone & iPad

In a new video (linked blow), Ubisoft Montpellier’s Adrian Lace explains some the changes that have come now that PS Move is supported. Lace says PSVR users can now do a number of movements once only possible on Vive/Rift, including grabbing your sword or shield by reaching to your shoulder, and locomoting left and right by pressing either ‘triangle’ or ‘square’ to rotate smoothly.

While having to use PS Move’s tiny buttons for fine control is admittedly not ideal, it at least now gives users an extra dose of immersion as they can now shoot guns using their own two hands—and to say the least—use the game’s smartwatch-style UI. You can check out the video below.

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Oculus Working on Update to Improve Rift S Audio https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-audio-quality-update/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-audio-quality-update/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 07:28:34 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88345
Oculus is aware of the sub-par audio quality on Rift S and says that an upcoming update will make a “meaningful difference.” One of the major changes from the original Rift to the Rift S was the removal of the on-ear headphones in favor of an open-ear audio solution using speakers in the headstrap. While […]

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Oculus is aware of the sub-par audio quality on Rift S and says that an upcoming update will make a “meaningful difference.”

One of the major changes from the original Rift to the Rift S was the removal of the on-ear headphones in favor of an open-ear audio solution using speakers in the headstrap. While the open-ear approach means no headphones to adjust and nothing touching your ears, in the case of the Rift S, it has come at great expense to audio quality, especially compared to the headphones on the original Rift.

Rift S has speakers hidden in the headstrap near the user’s ear. | Photo by Road to VR

We noted in our review of the Rift S that audio quality was lacking, and that even at 100% volume, there were times we hoped it could be turned up louder. I recently opined that Oculus should release accessories to deal with the issue.

Apparently Oculus has been aware of the lackluster audio quality since before the headset shipped, though some further adjustments weren’t ready in time for the headset’s launch this week. That’s according to Nate Mitchell, Head of VR Product at Facebook, who wrote on Reddit that an update to improve bass and volume is on the way to Rift S.

The team’s continued tuning the audio driver software and algorithms – improving bass and overall volume – but those changes didn’t make the launch software release. For reference, the on-board audio hardware is similar to what’s in Go – which sounds great in my opinion – but we can’t drive as much power to it directly due to USB power constraints.

Having played with both, I can say the upcoming changes make a meaningful difference, but you’ll have to check it out for yourself. For the most immersive experience though, you’ll want to use your own headphones (via the headphone jack on the headset).

Some question how much a software update could improve the limitations of the open-ear design—and it’s a bit surprising that this wasn’t a priority for Oculus ahead of launch—so we’ll have to wait and see. Mitchell said that the update would come as “part of the monthly Rift platform releases,” though wasn’t clear if that means the next update or a subsequent update.

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Facebook Has Four Separate Social VR Apps and None of Them Are on Quest https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-facebook-social-vr-apps/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-facebook-social-vr-apps/#comments Wed, 22 May 2019 17:29:54 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88322
Facebook’s fragmented approach to social VR hasn’t gotten any better with the launch of Quest. The company now has four separate social VR apps, and none of them are currently available on its newest headset. With Oculus, Facebook has aimed to build the premiere VR ecosystem, but when it comes to allowing users of the […]

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Facebook’s fragmented approach to social VR hasn’t gotten any better with the launch of Quest. The company now has four separate social VR apps, and none of them are currently available on its newest headset.

With Oculus, Facebook has aimed to build the premiere VR ecosystem, but when it comes to allowing users of the company’s different headsets—Go, Quest, and Rift—to actually interact with one another, it has completely dropped the ball.

Facebook has lofty ambitions for what the far future of social interaction could look like with VR, but between the parent company and the Oculus brand, there’s a confused smattering of different social VR offerings which do a poor job of connecting users across the platform. Let’s review:

  • Facebook Spaces (available on Rift & Vive)
    • Allows users chat and share Facebook content (like photos and videos), draw in 3D, and video chat with non-VR users via Messenger
  • Oculus Home (available on Rift)
    • Allows users build virtual homes and invite friends over to talk and visit
  • Oculus Rooms (available on Go & Gear VR)
    • Allows users to decorate a virtual home and invite friends over to talk and visit, play mini games, share Facebook content (like photos and videos), and launch into other VR apps together
  • Oculus Venues (available on Go & Gear VR)
    • Allows users to watch live VR video content together

As you can see, before Quest came along, there was already a complete division among Facebook’s social VR apps which kept PC users (Rift) and mobile users (Go & Gear VR) completely separate. If you happened to own a Rift and had a friend which jumped into VR with Go as their first VR headset, there’s unfortunately no easy first-party way for you to connect with your friend in VR.

With Quest now on the market, things have only become more fragmented. While it was at least possible for Rift users to connect with other Rift users, and Go & Gear VR users to connect amongst themselves, Quest doesn’t have access to any of Facebook’s social VR apps. We would have expected at a minimum that Quest would get Rooms and Venues to link up with the company’s other mobile headsets—and it might one day—but at launch, Quest is a social island unto itself.

SEE ALSO
Facebook Shows Off Research Aiming to Deliver Truly Realistic Avatars

It’s an unfortunate situation because it fails to leverage the Oculus ecosystem that Facebook has spent so much time building. The company now has five headsets on the Oculus platform, and it’s baffling that there isn’t at least a basic first-party social VR service that works between them all. For a social media company that thrives on the network effect, Facebook has been surprisingly obtuse about social VR.

Individually, some of Facebook’s social VR apps are quite compelling. It’s too bad that your invite list is limited by which Oculus headset your friends own. | Oculus Rooms, image courtesy Facebook

The current state of things is as if there were a Windows version of Facebook that would only connect to other Windows users, and a Mac version of Facebook that would only connect to other Mac users—while Linux (Quest in this rough analogy) wasn’t allowed to access Facebook at all.

When we asked Facebook about the state of their social VR offerings at the launch of Quest the company told us that they want to “push for having social layers that sit above all the headsets and work together,” but they have no specific plans to share. So it seems like it’s going to be a while yet until the company manages to make the Oculus platform feel like one socially connected group.

Luckily, third party developers are bridging the gap. Some social VR apps like Bigscreen manage to interconnect users on all of Oculus’ headsets, and even headsets outside the Oculus ecosystem. So even if Facebook doesn’t have it figured out yet, there’s at least somewhere in VR where friends of almost any headset can come together to be social.

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‘Phantom: Covert Ops’ is a Unique Stealth Shooter Arriving on Quest & Rift in 2019 https://www.roadtovr.com/phantom-covert-ops-unique-stealth-shooter-arriving-quest-rift-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/phantom-covert-ops-unique-stealth-shooter-arriving-quest-rift-2019/#comments Wed, 22 May 2019 15:55:48 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88333
nDreams, the studio behind Shooty Fruity (2018) and The Assembly (2016), announced a curious new VR stealth adventure coming to Quest and Rift (S) that puts you smack dab in the middle of enemy territory on a military-grade kayak. Called Phantom: Covert Ops, you’re tasked with stealthily paddling your kayak through a mercenary-infested wetland and […]

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nDreams, the studio behind Shooty Fruity (2018) and The Assembly (2016), announced a curious new VR stealth adventure coming to Quest and Rift (S) that puts you smack dab in the middle of enemy territory on a military-grade kayak.

Called Phantom: Covert Ops, you’re tasked with stealthily paddling your kayak through a mercenary-infested wetland and prioritizing movement and action. With only one night to prevent a rogue militia from launching a global attack, you paddle your way through a flooded and abandoned Cold War naval facility with a variety of military weapons such as sniper rifles, pistols, and explosives.

Speaking in a Facebook blog post, Brundish explains a little behind the game’s locomotion scheme, something he says was difficult to get right.

We wanted to capture the feeling and expectation of real-life kayaking, but we also needed to make sure that anyone could pick up the game and immediately enjoy it, regardless of their real-life experience with boats. For a while, we thought that we might need two separate control schemes, one for novices and another for boating experts — but we kept persisting and iterating, and we finally arrived at a version that works great for everyone. It’s intuitive to pick up and play for first timers, but it also has depth and nuance that can be learned over time and mastered (or will come naturally to experts). It took us a long time to get there, but we’re really proud of the results.

Continuing, Brundish explains how the stealth mechanic is based on player movement and sound.

“You’ll often find yourself below a walkway with an enemy patrolling above you, and the only way to be sure of their location is to listen carefully to their footsteps creaking overhead,” he explains. “Of course, staying quiet isn’t the only way to get through an encounter — there are lots of options for distracting the guards, like shooting out light sources or engaging in combat.”

SEE ALSO
Oculus Quest Review – The First Great Standalone VR Headset

Brundish further reveals that every encounter in the game “has multiple solutions, something that comes down to gameplay options presented in the area, and alternate routes through the level.

“We’re designing the levels to give the player as many options as we can—not just to provide choice throughout the initial playthrough, but also to give players more things to try out and discover when they replay an area. We’re adding unlockable medals at the end of each level, which challenge the player to complete the mission in a certain way: no alarms raised, no kills, 100% accuracy, etc. Our hope is that players will keep coming back to experience the missions in new ways and discover everything that the environments have to offer,” Brundish says.

nDreams game director Lewis Brundish says in an Oculus blog post that Phantom: Covery Ops is being developed specifically for the Oculus Quest and Rift platforms. Oculus considers Phantom an ‘Oculus Studios title’, so it’s likely to remain a platform exclusive.

There’s no firm release date yet, although nDreams says it should be out sometime in 2019.

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‘Rec Room’ is Coming Soon to iPhone & iPad https://www.roadtovr.com/rec-room-coming-soon-iphone-ipad/ https://www.roadtovr.com/rec-room-coming-soon-iphone-ipad/#comments Wed, 22 May 2019 14:38:29 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88330
Rec Room, the popular social VR platform, is set to take its next big step outside of VR by offering a version of the app for iPhone and iPad. Against Gravity’s Head of Community Shawn Whiting says it should be available in the App Store soon, and that the studio is currently undergoing internal testing. Beta invites are […]

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Rec Room, the popular social VR platform, is set to take its next big step outside of VR by offering a version of the app for iPhone and iPad.

Against Gravity’s Head of Community Shawn Whiting says it should be available in the App Store soon, and that the studio is currently undergoing internal testing.

Beta invites are due out sometime this month; Whiting maintains that depending on how the beta test goes, it should land on the App Store shortly afterwards. You can sign up for iOS beta testing here.

“It’s kind of mind blowing the first few times you play it on a phone,” Whiting explains. “You’re so used to Rec Room being this giant network of rooms and games that it feels crazy to be able to visit it on something that fits in your pocket. But then you get use to being able to just get a text from a friend and hop right in no matter where you are and it’s a really powerful feeling.”

Continuing: “Players kept telling us they wanted to hang out with their friends who didn’t have a headset. Last year we took that feedback and launched screen mode, allowing anyone on a PS4 or PC to play Rec Room along with our VR players. We’ve seen really great growth and creativity in the community on screens and we’re looking forward to seeing how that plays out again on mobile.”

The studio hasn’t mentioned when Rec Room will be headed to Android devices, however Whiting notes that the three most requested platforms by far were iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch.

However you slice it, the upcoming support for mobile devices is no doubt a byproduct of Against Gravity working to optimize Rec Room for Oculus Quest, which launched just yesterday. In that light, it’s possible other Quest-optimized social VR platforms could follow suit in order to capture yet more concurrent users.

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Vive Cosmos Expected to Launch in Q3 https://www.roadtovr.com/vive-cosmos-release-date-q3-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/vive-cosmos-release-date-q3-2019/#comments Wed, 22 May 2019 08:01:18 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88318
With a flurry of new headsets hitting the market, news about the next consumer headset from one of VR’s leading players, HTC, has been notably absent. Though pricing and a release date for Vive Cosmos hasn’t been revealed in full just yet, the company recently indicated that it expects to launch in Q3. HTC revealed […]

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With a flurry of new headsets hitting the market, news about the next consumer headset from one of VR’s leading players, HTC, has been notably absent. Though pricing and a release date for Vive Cosmos hasn’t been revealed in full just yet, the company recently indicated that it expects to launch in Q3.

HTC revealed Vive Cosmos back in January, but wasn’t ready to say much about it, let alone let anyone actually try it. It’s been five months since then, but the company still hasn’t revealed even basic info about the headset like resolution, field of view, weight, price, or release date. And while we know that the headset will be compatible with PCs, the company has also teased that it will be able to plug into a smartphone, but has yet to offer details on how that will work.

Back at the initial reveal in January, HTC said that it planned to first offer Vive Cosmos dev kits in “early 2019,” and that the finished headset would launch later in the year. To our knowledge, dev kits have yet to be made available.

SEE ALSO
HTC: Vive Cosmos is Not a Successor to the Original Vive

VR developer and blogger Antony “SkarredGhost” Vitillo recently visited HTC’s headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan and spoke to members of the company’s Vive team. Though he found they were still not ready to share any details about the headset, he was told that the current expected release date for Vive Cosmos is Q3, 2019.

Vitillo wrote that a spokesperson told him the company was a “bit on a different schedule than the one announced at CES.” That makes it somewhat unclear if HTC was talking about the release of the Cosmos dev kit or the finished headset, though we followed up with Vitillo who said he was specifically asking about the finished headset. We’ve also reached out to HTC for the latest info on their release plans for Cosmos.

During his visit, HTC also told Vitillo that Cosmos will have a wireless adapter, though it isn’t clear if that will be the existing Vive Wireless Adapter or some other solution.

 – – — – –

While Valve developed much of the technology behind the original Vive, the company partnered to bring it to market under HTC’s stewardship. Valve is now set to launch its very own VR headset, the Valve Index, which in many ways puts the companies in direct competition.

Photo by Road to VR

This is likely why HTC appears to be distancing itself from Valve. Cosmos is the first PC VR headset from HTC which won’t use Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology, and while the headset will support SteamVR, it sounds like HTC plans to make its own Viveport storefront the default platform for the headset.

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New Quest Ad Spot is One of Oculus’ Best Yet https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-ad-spot-one-of-the-best-yet/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-ad-spot-one-of-the-best-yet/#comments Wed, 22 May 2019 06:36:07 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88312
Communicating what it feels like to use VR to someone who has never done it before is one of VR’s major marketing challenges. Oculus’ new ‘Defy Reality’ ad spot for Quest effectively uses mixed reality video capture to show players in VR, instead of just showing first person footage that’s hard to understand if you haven’t […]

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Communicating what it feels like to use VR to someone who has never done it before is one of VR’s major marketing challenges. Oculus’ new ‘Defy Reality’ ad spot for Quest effectively uses mixed reality video capture to show players in VR, instead of just showing first person footage that’s hard to understand if you haven’t actually been in a headset before.

Though Oculus’ new PC headset, Rift S, also launched today, it’s clear that the marketing effort is squarely behind Quest, their first standalone headset with 6DOF tracking. The launch of the headset has also brought a ‘Defy Reality’ ad campaign that aims to highlight VR’s ability to provide immersive (and otherwise impossible) experiences.

Oculus has made some polished ads for their VR products before, but as far as we’re aware, this new 60 second ‘Defy Reality’ ad spot is the first from the company to make use of real mixed reality capture which shows players right in the context of the game they’re playing:

It’s a huge improvement over ads that just show a first person perspective of the VR content which, to people who have never actually used VR, often looks like a somewhat more confusing version of traditional first-person game played on a TV or monitor. It’s also a huge improvement over some truly bad VR ad spots like this 2016 ad for Gear VR which had a bumbling protagonist and suggested you’d look like a goof using VR in public.

Mixed reality capture is a great way to communicate the experience of VR to people who have never used it, but it isn’t easy. It requires spatial and temporal synchronization between the virtual world and the real world, including knowing exactly where the real camera is located in space (so that the virtual camera can be precisely aligned). This has been made easier in recent years thanks to tools like LIV TV (which Oculus used in the Defy Reality ad spot).

Oculus is far from the first to use mixed reality capture for VR. Trailer maker and VFX artist Kert Gartner did some pioneering work back in 2016 with early VR games like Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator to show how compelling high quality mixed reality trailers could be.

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Smart Solution Makes Handheld VR Cinematography Easy with a Real Virtual Camera

A good VR ad, whether for Quest or some other headset, is good for the industry at large since a basic understanding of what it’s like to use a VR headset remains a challenge for taking VR mainstream.

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Former Vive Studios Head Joel Breton Joins Sixense https://www.roadtovr.com/former-vive-studios-head-joel-breton-joins-sixense/ https://www.roadtovr.com/former-vive-studios-head-joel-breton-joins-sixense/#comments Tue, 21 May 2019 16:58:21 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=88302
Sixense today announced that games industry veteran and former head of Vive Studios Joel Breton has joined the company as president of its studios and executive VP of product development. Breton is tasked with leading the strategy for creation and delivery of AR/VR software, which is targeting businesses in healthcare, training, and entertainment. A long-time […]

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Sixense today announced that games industry veteran and former head of Vive Studios Joel Breton has joined the company as president of its studios and executive VP of product development.

Breton is tasked with leading the strategy for creation and delivery of AR/VR software, which is targeting businesses in healthcare, training, and entertainment.

Joel Breton, Image courtesy Sixense

A long-time games industry veteran, Breton started his career in product development at Sega of America in the mid-90s. He’s since worked in various development roles spanning 2K Sports, Bethesda Softworks, MTV Networks, and 505 Games. Breton’s stint as Vive Studios’ head started in 2016 and ended with his appointment at Sixense Studios.

“Joining Sixense Studios is an amazing opportunity to create showcase VR and AR content that redefines how humans learn, play, and interact with the products they use every day,” said Breton. “Sixense has been a leader in immersive computing for the past decade and I am thrilled to work alongside Sixense’s talented team and their global partners as we continue advancing the industry ecosystem.”

SEE ALSO
Index Specs Were Driven by Valve's VR Game Dev Teams

Sixense became somewhat of an infamous name among early VR adopters after the company raised over $600,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to support the development of STEM, a VR positional tracking standard that promised to bring 6DOF controllers and room-scale tracking to early VR developer kits.

Image courtesy Sixense

While it’s been a long road filled with plenty of potholes, Sixense eventually announced refunds to backers last year as it made definite strides to pivot to the enterprise space. Ostensibly the enterprise market would prove to be a more hospitable environment for STEM, an accurate and occlusion-free—albeit somewhat obsolescent—magnetic 6DOF tracking standard.

Sixense CEO Rubin Amir maintains that Breton will help the company grow, taking advantage of their software team’s continued work on human interactions in immersive media.

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Every Oculus Quest Game Available Starting Today https://www.roadtovr.com/every-oculus-quest-launch-title-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/every-oculus-quest-launch-title-gdc-2019/#comments Tue, 21 May 2019 13:30:46 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86769
Both Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S are seeing their respective launches today, so the company has now opened up store links and official pricing for all of the new Quest goodies you’ll be able to download starting today. Many of the games and apps below fall into the $15 – $30 range, with the most […]

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Both Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S are seeing their respective launches today, so the company has now opened up store links and official pricing for all of the new Quest goodies you’ll be able to download starting today.

Many of the games and apps below fall into the $15 – $30 range, with the most expensive being Orbus VR: Reborn, the cross-platform MMORPG at $40.

There are also a few freebies too to watch out for which should get you up an running, including Rec Room, Bigscreen Beta, VRChat and Pokerstars VR to name a few.

Besides the free stuff, if you’re looking for some good recommendations, head over to our First 10 Games You Should Consider Buying on Quest article for more.

Note: Paid games/apps with * indicate cross-buy with Rift.

A minority of apps don’t have active links yet, but will be added on a rolling basis.

Title Price
$15*
$20
Apollo 11 $10
Bait! Free
Ballista​ $15
Beat Saber​ $30
Bigscreen Beta​ Free
Bogo Free
Bonfire $10
BOXVR $30*
$30
Dance Central $30*
$20
$15*
Electronauts​
Free
Free
$20
First Steps Free
Fruit Ninja $15*
Guided Tai Chi​ $10*
$25
Job Simulator​ $20
$30
$15
Moss $30
National Geographic VR Explore
$10
Netflix Free
Ocean Rift $10*
Oculus Browser
Free
Oculus Gallery Free
Oculus TV Free
Oculus Video Free
$40*
PokerStars VR Free
$20
Rec Room​ Free
Red Bull TV Free
$30
RUSH $20
Shadow Point $20*
Sling TV
Free
$15
$30
$25
$25
Thumper $20
Tilt Brush $20*
Ultrawings $15
Vader Immortal: Episode I $10
Virtual Desktop $20
$15
VR Karts: Sprint $15*
VRChat Free
Wander $15
YouTube VR Free

– – — – –

Want to know if Quest is right for you? Find out why we call it the first great standalone headset in our deep dive review.

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