Road to VR https://www.roadtovr.com Virtual Reality News Thu, 21 Mar 2019 15:06:09 +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 Rift S Isn’t the Headset Fans Want, But Facebook Wagers It’s What Their Ecosystem Needs https://www.roadtovr.com/rift-s-isnt-the-headset-fans-want-facebook-wagers-what-ecosystem-needs/ https://www.roadtovr.com/rift-s-isnt-the-headset-fans-want-facebook-wagers-what-ecosystem-needs/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2019 15:00:32 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86833
While to some Oculus’ announcement of the Rift S represents the newest and best version of a good VR headset, to others it’s a far cry from what they hoped Oculus would be able to deliver three years after the first Rift. Facebook’s top priority with Rift S is clear: jumpstart a sustainable ecosystem for […]

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While to some Oculus’ announcement of the Rift S represents the newest and best version of a good VR headset, to others it’s a far cry from what they hoped Oculus would be able to deliver three years after the first Rift. Facebook’s top priority with Rift S is clear: jumpstart a sustainable ecosystem for developers, even if that means drawing ire from its base of loyal enthusiasts.

The Oculus Rift S announcement made its way to the front page of most major tech blogs yesterday, and the tone was pretty straightforward: ‘The new Oculus headset is here, it works better, there’s cool content, and it’s a pretty attractive package at $400’.

Image courtesy Oculus

Find your way into any VR enthusiast haunt however, and you’ll find an entirely different narrative about a headset that doesn’t go far enough (or in some cases is a ‘step backward’).

‘Damo9000’, a regular around the Oculus Subreddit, always seems to find the right moment to capture a snapshot of that community’s sentiment with a satirical ‘front page’ clipping of a fictional tabloid. Today’s edition is filled with community in-jokes, but is ultimately underscored by a painful reality: Rift S was not made for Oculus’ most passionate fans.

Image courtesy Damo9000

For Facebook, it’s a calculated move, made clear by the headset’s naming scheme: ‘This is Rift S, not Rift 2′.

But for many of those hardcore fans (some of whom have been rooting for Oculus and its vision since before it was acquired by Facebook) the moniker that comes after ‘Rift’ doesn’t matter—it doesn’t change the fact that this is the first new PC VR headset from Oculus in three years. And it doesn’t change the fact that those fans have patiently waited and watched as Facebook and Oculus talked about their commitment to VR and all the resources and R&D going toward the tech—only to announce something that feels more like a tune-up than The Future™.

SEE ALSO
Hands-on: Oculus Rift S is a Better, Easier to Use Rift (with a Few Tradeoffs)

But Rift S isn’t for those enthusiasts. It’s for developers.

Not in the sense that Rift S is a development kit, but in the sense that Facebook knows that it must build a sustainable developer ecosystem or VR will come crumbling down. Specs that excite enthusiasts might sell headsets to True Believers®, but content drives usage, and Facebook can only pour so many hundreds of millions of dollars into content—eventually the ecosystem has to stand on its own.

So while Rift S isn’t for enthusiasts, Facebook believes that they are making the right choice for those enthusiasts in the long term—by ensuring the survival of the ecosystem—so that it can one day deliver The Future™ that enthusiasts crave. Facebook wagers that Rift S, with its price point and improvements, is their best shot at growing the ecosystem so that developers can take root and eventually thrive.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressing an audience at F8 with ‘VR/AR’ shown in the background as part of the company’s ’10 Year Roadmap’ | Photo courtesy Facebook

But it is a wager. Facebook is trading on the good will of the only VR customers it currently has, for the customers it hopes it can have in the future. And there’s no guarantee that it will work.

In fact, there’s some key figures who think Facebook is making the wrong choice in exactly the opposite direction. Namely, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, who left the company back in 2017, three years after selling the company to Facebook.

Late last year Luckey penned an emphatic appeal on his personal blog arguing that driving down the cost of VR would not lead to mainstream adoption; advancing the hardware and content is key, more important than just cutting costs on the same experience that’s been available for a few years now, he believes.

“You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months,” Luckey wrote to illustrate his point. “I know this from seeing the results of large scale real-world market testing, not just my own imagination [his emphasis] – hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts are entranced by the VR of today, as am I, but stickiness drops off steeply outside of that core demographic. Free is still not cheap enough for most people, because cost is not what holds them back actively or passively.”

Luckey tells Road to VR that his article was specifically written with Rift S in mind, among others.

Facebook’s wager on Rift S may also be why one of Oculus’ other co-founders, Brendan Iribe, unexpectedly left the company late last year. Months before the Rift S was known to the public, TechCrunch reported that Iribe left in part because of the cancellation of a ‘Rift 2’ in favor of a more modest headset which would reportedly turn out to be Rift S.

Iribe and the Facebook had “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time,” TechCrunch reported a source saying at the time. And that Iribe wasn’t interested in a “race to the bottom” in terms of performance. Enthusiasts were quick to connect the dots.

Facebook has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to VR content development, but their ecosystem still needs to reach meaningful sustainability.

For Facebook’s part, recent restructuring has aggressively fused Oculus with the core Facebook team, apparently in an effort to bring more central oversight and control to the VR initiative which had significantly more autonomy in prior years. With the reigns now more firmly in the hands of Facebook leadership, the Rift S aligns well with the reason that the company bought into VR in the first place—a gambit to outmaneuver Google and Apple by being the first to conquer XR.

Creating a bastion against Google and Apple—so that in XR Facebook is not subservient to those companies as they are in the mobile landscape—is the overarching goal; using Rift S as an effective lure for new customers (even if it means upsetting an enthusiast base), moves Facebook closer to that goal.

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Oculus is Considering an Over-ear Headphone Accessory for Rift S https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-over-ear-headphone-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-over-ear-headphone-gdc-2019/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2019 08:31:23 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86834
Oculus announced its next iteration of Rift this week at GDC, Rift S. While there’s a few key differences about the upcoming hardware specs-wise, it seems the company has also taken a page out of Go’s playbook by including an open-ear integrated audio solution in the headstrap of Rift S. To that end, Oculus says […]

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Oculus announced its next iteration of Rift this week at GDC, Rift S. While there’s a few key differences about the upcoming hardware specs-wise, it seems the company has also taken a page out of Go’s playbook by including an open-ear integrated audio solution in the headstrap of Rift S. To that end, Oculus says they might bring out a bespoke audio accessory in the future.

Facebook’s head of VR product Nate Mitchell told Road to VR at the headset’s special GDC unveiling that the company was currently exploring the possibility of producing an aftermarket audio solution, something we suppose might work similarly to PSVR’s clip-on Mantis headphones from Bionik.

The company is decidedly taking a step back in terms of high-quality integrated audio with the entrance of Rift S. While we’re not entirely sure why at this point, it’s possible it’s a move to standardize the casual listening experience across their current line of products, which will soon include Oculus Quest this spring in addition to Oculus Go.

Photo by Road to VR

As with Quest and Go, you’ll find a pair of integrated speakers on the underside of Rift S’s headstrap. There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack on the left side of the headset itself for users who want to bring their own headphones or earbuds.

SEE ALSO
Hands-on: Oculus Rift S is a Better, Easier to Use Rift (with a Few Tradeoffs)

In the end, plugging in a pair of headphone or earbuds may be somewhat inelegant for people who’ve used the original Rift though, as having a built-in over-ear headphone that partially blocks out noise (and at an acceptably high volume) is something of a convenience factor.

In that token, third-party manufacturers would be able to make their own aftermarket audio add-ons too; it all just depends on how much demand there is from new Rift S owners, something Oculus (or the market) will probably figure out when the headset launches this spring.

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Hands-on: ‘Shadow Point’ is a Clever Room-scale Puzzler Narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-shadow-point-patrick-stewart-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-shadow-point-patrick-stewart-gdc-2019/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2019 05:14:26 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86807
Coatsink, the studio known for VR games Augmented Empire (2018) and the Esper series, unveiled a new puzzle game at GDC 2019 this week that’s slated to be a day-one launch title for Oculus Quest. We got a chance to go hands-on with the room-scale puzzler, and it’s poised to be another clever and well-realized entry from the […]

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Coatsink, the studio known for VR games Augmented Empire (2018) and the Esper series, unveiled a new puzzle game at GDC 2019 this week that’s slated to be a day-one launch title for Oculus Quest. We got a chance to go hands-on with the room-scale puzzler, and it’s poised to be another clever and well-realized entry from the studio.

In some ways Shadow Point is a step in a new direction for Coatsink, which previously created purely seated VR titles for Oculus 3DOF mobile headsets as well as PC VR headsets. Slated to launch simultaneously on Oculus Quest and Rift sometime this spring, Shadows Point appears to be just as smart as the studio’s previous titles, although it now boasts room-scale interactions and locomotion that ought to get you up and scratching your head in all its 6DOF glory.

First starting with a movement tutorial, which includes free locomotion, snap-turn, and teleportation, I was quickly thrust into the thick of the game, which included some not-so-simple puzzles. Oh, and it’s entirely narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Picard), which for me is admittedly more than just icing on the cake.

Image courtesy Coatsink

The game is decidedly low-poly to fit snugly inside Quest’s modest compute overhead, but charmingly textured and lit nonetheless; it fits in visually with titles like the Windlands series for example.

The demo took me through several indoor and outdoor spaces, which were linked by portals that would emanate from a wall once a key puzzle was solved, giving me short glimpses of a girl as I followed her through what I can only assume to be a world independent from time and space.

Image courtesy Coatsink

I can’t say much about the mysterious world of Shadow Point just yet considering my short time with Shadow Point, although to my eye it seems borrow some of the fantastical and cozy design language of Studio Ghibli. As I neared the end of the demo, it appeared my ethereal glimpses of the girl were more like a fractured memory. Stepping into a portal into a workshop, I found the girl again, although this time she was slightly older and was talking about how she had figured out the equation of how we could intersect in time and space again to meet back up.

SEE ALSO
Every Oculus Quest Launch Title Confirmed So Far

As for the puzzles, Shadow Point’s main puzzle mechanic is built on a pretty basic starting principle: you find items lying around that you then hold up in front of projectors to unlock doors to move forward. The idea is to line up the shadow of the object perfectly so it matches with its corresponding profile, be it on the wall, a picture frame, or doorway. For example: I came across a lantern casting a spotlight on a doorway. The doorway’s decorative pattern contains an empty circle. Taking a ball out of my inventory, I hold it up just right, matching it to the door’s decorative pattern and thereby unlocking the door. Items get more complex, but I don’t suspect the game will be entirely dedicated to what you might pessimistically call a glorified ’round peg in a round hole’ game.

Image courtesy Coatsink

The world of Shadow Point is mysterious, and it only gets more and more so the further I progressed. While I only spent a good 20-ish minutes playing through the demo, I got quick taste of the sort of difficulty that would eventually lay before me in what’s promised to be a multi-hour game. As the girl disappeared, I walked into the adjoining room to find a mirror. There, the lofty baritone voice of Captain Picard told me that the mirror wasn’t all that it seemed, as it reflected a different shape all together from the astrolabe currently in my hand.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Rift S Revealed with Inside-out Tracking, Resolution Bump, & New Ergonomics

There’s plenty more puzzle mechanics I didn’t get to experience first-hand too, as I got a sneak peek of the game’s trailer before I started the demo proper. Shadow Point also seems to give the player a sort of magical hand held looking-glass that changes the appearance of objects. The trailer is due to launch sometime soon, although the studio also provided a quick clip to demonstrate just what I mean.

Personally speaking, Shadow Point’s demo was intriguing in all the right ways. Even though I had a limited time to dive in, I felt like it was quick to tutorialize the basics while essentially giving me the space to figure out the puzzles for myself. If Coatsink is confident enough to leave me to my own devices without the constant chirping of a companion telling me what to do (Stewart only explained basic bits of the story and puzzles as I went along), then we may have truly something interesting on our hands.

Again, it’s due out sometime this Spring when Quest launches. When that will be, we just don’t know yet, but Facebook’s next big opportunity to take the stage will be at their F8 developer conference, which is going on April 30th – May 1st in San Jose, California. That’s just some healthy speculation for you.

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Epic Games to Award $100 Million to Devs with New ‘MegaGrants’ https://www.roadtovr.com/epic-games-100-million-megagrants-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/epic-games-100-million-megagrants-gdc-2019/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 19:52:32 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86798
Epic Games today announced at GDC that the company is set to turbo-charge their long-running developer grant initiative with ‘MegaGrants’ and the largest pool of funds yet, $100,000,000. Epic have been running developer-focused funding initiatives for many years now, with the original ‘Unreal Dev Grants’ fund announced back in 2015. Since then, VR developers have […]

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Epic Games today announced at GDC that the company is set to turbo-charge their long-running developer grant initiative with ‘MegaGrants’ and the largest pool of funds yet, $100,000,000.

Epic have been running developer-focused funding initiatives for many years now, with the original ‘Unreal Dev Grants’ fund announced back in 2015. Since then, VR developers have featured prominently among the fund recipients awarded—many of which we’ve covered on this very site. In many ways, those grants have reflected Epic and Unreal Engine’s early and consistently prominent support of VR since the early days of VR’s latest resurgence.

Now, possibly reflecting the company’s bulging coffers, swelled by the ultra-successful battle royale shooter Fortnite, the company has now announced its first ‘MegaGrants’ initiative. The program now boasts a vast loot pool totaling $100,000,000—all of it potentially up for grabs for budding developers who make the grade, VR devs among them—should you choose to use Unreal Engine to power your project.

Interested? As a guideline, Epic Games have release key submission categories for the Epic MegaGrants which include:

Game Developers: UE4 dev teams of all sizes can apply for an Epic MegaGrant to help make their projects succeed. Developers can also apply for a grant to help transition existing or in-development games to UE4.

Media & Entertainment: Individuals or teams applying UE4 to film, television and other visual media, location-based entertainment, and live events are eligible to apply for an Epic MegaGrant.

Enterprise: Innovative teams and individuals leveraging UE4 in other non-gaming verticals, including architecture, automotive, manufacturing, simulation, product design, advertising and other areas, may apply for an Epic MegaGrant.

Education: Students and educators can earn funding for Unreal Engine research, curriculum, student projects and university programs. Grants will also be given to schools implementing Unreal Engine into classrooms and programs.

Grants to developers range between $5,000 and $500,000 for each award and “cover a variety of endeavors to further ignite creativity and technological advancement within the 3D graphics community.”

Importantly for those developers wary of inadvertently losing control over their precious gaming concepts, Epic Games clarifies that “All grant recipients will continue to own their IP and will be free to publish however they wish.” Also, Epic Games is giving itself leeway for the time frame that these funds will be doled out stating “Submissions will be evaluated, and grants awarded, on a continual rolling basis as funds allow, with no firm deadlines to submit.”

Developers who bravely decide to step into the still budding VR industry fray still face uphill challenges making their projects profitable, or even getting funds to make them happen in the first place. Epic’s MegaGrants could offer small startups and indie developers wanting to build their VR project the cash-fuel required to start, or to keep going. And if there’s one thing the entire VR community can agree on, it’s that influx of original, quality VR content that’s sorely needed to accelerate interest in VR gaming and entertainment, and see the industry grow.

Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney said of the announcement “At Epic we succeed when developers succeed. With Epic MegaGrants we’re reinvesting in all areas of the Unreal Engine development community and also committing to accelerate the open sourcing of content, tools, and knowledge.”

To read more on the MegaGrants initiative, head to the Epic Games website here.

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‘Space Junkies’ Open Beta to Land on All Major VR Headsets Tomorrow with Cross-play https://www.roadtovr.com/space-junkies-open-beta-land-major-vr-headsets-tomorrow-cross-play/ https://www.roadtovr.com/space-junkies-open-beta-land-major-vr-headsets-tomorrow-cross-play/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 16:59:04 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86669
Ubisoft is getting ready to launch its next big foray into VR with the multiplayer shooter Space Junkies, which is set to launch on March 26th. But first, users on PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows VR will have a free crack at it leading up to launch. The open beta is slated to start on March […]

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Ubisoft is getting ready to launch its next big foray into VR with the multiplayer shooter Space Junkies, which is set to launch on March 26th. But first, users on PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows VR will have a free crack at it leading up to launch.

The open beta is slated to start on March 21st and go through March 25th, offering what developers Ubisoft Montpellier say will be the same experience as the full game.

The full game is set to launch with four different PvP modes playable across six maps and a number of character classes and weapons.

Additionally, Ubisoft today revealed that all platforms will support cross-play, with Ubisoft’s UPlay essentially acting as a communal friend’s list, similar to the studio’s other multiplayer titles Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Werewolves Within, and Eagle Flight.

Image captured by Road to VR

One of the big hurdles to overcome for any multiplayer VR game is undoubtedly driving continued user engagement post-launch. Ubisoft Montpellier’s Adrian Lacey told Road to VR that all supported platforms will be getting regular new content, including new modes, maps, weapons, and customization items—something Lacey maintains will continue well after launch.

SEE ALSO
Breakout VR Hit 'Beat Saber' Confirmed as Oculus Quest Launch Title

We’ve had a pretty fair shake at Space Junkies over the past year or so; it’s proven to be a highly-polished and comfortable experience despite the game’s unique zero-G dimensionality and relatively high speeds.

At GDC this week we got another chance to go hands-on, this time getting a whack at the game’s PSVR version using the only supported input device, the DualShock 4 gamepad. It decidedly wasn’t as intuitive as the bonafide motion controllers on other platforms, as PSVR users are expected to shoot using the gamepad’s 6DOF. This, I was told, was to keep PSVR players competitive, as PS Move simply doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to the game’s fast-paced shooting and maneuvering due to the lack of thumb sticks.

Keeping gameplay fair across all supported platforms is also somewhat of a balancing act, Lacey told me. While gamepad shooting isn’t something I’d call particularly immersive, drilling other players with dual weapons seemed to be an easier experience, and reloading is a quicker action too—a single button press as opposed to physically flicking the gun with motion controls.

Whatever he case may be, the ‘try it before you buy it’ open beta is sure to be revealing to anyone who plans on jumping head first into what we called ‘VR’s spiritual successor to Unreal Tournament’.

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Oculus Rift S Revealed with Inside-out Tracking, Resolution Bump, & New Ergonomics https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-specs-release-date-announcement-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-specs-release-date-announcement-gdc-2019/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 15:00:47 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86722
Oculus today announced the new Rift S headset which ditches external tracking sensors in favor of a five-camera inside-out tracking system. The headset also gets a slight bump in resolution over the original Rift while moving from OLED to LCD displays. A brand new head mount design revamps the headsets ergonomics with a ‘halo’ style […]

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Oculus today announced the new Rift S headset which ditches external tracking sensors in favor of a five-camera inside-out tracking system. The headset also gets a slight bump in resolution over the original Rift while moving from OLED to LCD displays. A brand new head mount design revamps the headsets ergonomics with a ‘halo’ style strap and top strap. Rift S will be priced at $400 at launch this Spring.

Rift S is Oculus’ first new PC VR headset since the launch of the original Rift back in 2016, but the company has made quite clear that this isn’t a ‘Rift 2’, hence the use of the ‘S’ moniker, which Oculus chose to signify that Rift S is a replacement for Rift, not a sequel.

Oculus Rift S Specs at a Glance

Here’s a quick look at the Rift S specs and further down is a deeper look at the most important changes and how they compare to the original Rift.

  • Pricing: $399
  • Availability: Spring 2019
  • Weight: A little more than Rift
  • Display:
    • Resolution: 1,280 × 1,440 per eye (2,560 × 1,440 total)
    • Type: Single fast-switch LCD
    • Refresh Rate: 80Hz
    • Field of View: ‘Slightly larger than Rift’
    • IPD Adjustment: Software only
  • Tracking:
    • Type: ‘Insight’ inside out – five cameras
    • Capabilities: Supports 6 degrees of freedom head and controller tracking
    • Recommended Environments: It should work in almost any lit indoor environment.
    • Recommended Playspace: Oculus Rift S works with your environment, so you can play standing or sitting, in spaces big or small.
  • Tether:
    • Length: 5 meter
    • Connections: DisplayPort 1.2 & USB
  • Passthrough:
    • Passthrough+: Low latency stereo-correct passthrough video
    • Guardian: Boundaries traced from inside headset using passthrough
  • Recommended PC Specs: Same as Rift except need DisplayPort 1.2 or later and just one USB 3.0 port instead of three

For a taste of what it’s like to use the Rift S, check out our in-depth hands-on article.

New LCD Display

Image courtesy Oculus

Even so, Rift S is more than just the original Rift with some new components inside. It’s an entirely new headset, and in fact Oculus says they tapped Lenovo to help in design and manufacturing.

Rift S brings a bump in resolution over the original, now using a single display which amounts to 1,280 × 1,440 per eye, up from the 1,080 × 1,200 displays in the original Rift, which gives Rift S 1.4 times the total number of pixels of the original Rift. This is also the same resolution found in Oculus Go, and a lower resolution than Oculus Quest (1,440 × 1,600). Rift S lacks the hardware IPD adjustment found on Quest, but supports software adjustments.

Not just a change in resolution, but Rift S now uses LCD displays rather than the OLED displays in the original. OLED displays typically have richer colors and better contrast than LCD displays which makes them great for dark content, but LCD displays for VR have gotten better in the years since the Rift first launched, and bring some benefits of their own.

Among the biggest benefits of moving to LCD over OLED is improved ‘fill-factor’ which means less screen door effect (the unlit space between pixels). So while the resolution improvement from Rift to Rift S doesn’t bring a significant increase in fidelity, it does bring a notable reduction in screen door effect which helps boost immersion. LCD is also typically devoid of mura.

The Rift S displays run at 80Hz, a change from the original Rift’s OLED displays which run at 90Hz. Oculus says that one reason for moving to a slower refresh rate was to avoid needing to increase their recommended VR specifications (to ensure that developers can continue to target one specification as the install base grows).

The lenses in Rift S are new and improved over the original Rift, and Oculus says they’re similar to what’s in Oculus Go and Quest (which have been touted as having better clarity and less pronounced god rays). The company tells Road to VR that Rift S has a slightly larger field of view than the original Rift, but declined to provide a specific figure.

Inside-out Tracking with ‘Passthrough+’

Image courtesy Oculus

On the tracking front, Oculus is ditching its outside-in ‘Constellation’ tracking system for ‘Insight’ inside-out tracking. That means getting rid of the external sensors needed for the Rift and instead using cameras on the Rift S itself so that the headset can understand its position in the world. As before, an on-board IMU does high frequency tracking while the inside-out system is largely used for less frequent drift correction.

The Insight system on Rift S is similar to Quest but has five cameras instead of four, and uses a different configuration. Instead of cameras mounted at the corners of the headset’s front panel, there’s two cameras toward the bottom of the front panel which face forward, one camera on the left and right of the headset which aim slightly downward, and one camera on top of the headset which faces the ceiling.

Not only does Insight mean that the headset is easier to use and set up, but it will also support larger (potentially unlimited) playspaces, and also means ‘room-scale’ tracking out of the box, which is a big shift from the default ‘front-facing’ setup used by the original Rift (which did support room-scale with an extra sensor and a more complicated setup). This aligns the headset’s tracking capabilities nicely with both Quest and other room-scale headsets like Vive, and may give developers a more consistent design space which would make it easier to design games that work across multiple headsets with fewer tweaks. Good timing considering the recent OpenXR news.

With cameras on-board, Oculus is also bringing pass-through video to the headset for the first time, a feature which allows users to see outside of the headset through the cameras. Oculus says they took extra care to make the camera input stereo-correct and low latency; they claim that passthrough on Rift S is better than anything else out there, including Quest’s passthrough function, which is why they’re calling it ‘Passthrough+’.

With passthrough on Rift S, Oculus has also developed a novel and likely easier way to facilitate Guardian setup (the headset’s boundary system). Instead of looking at the computer screen while using a controller to trace the edges of the playspace, users will simply wear the headset and use passthrough to look at the environment through the headset, then use the controller to trace a line on the ground to define the boundary.

New Design & Ergonomics

Image courtesy Oculus

Though the original Rift design has aged quite well, Oculus has scrapped it in favor of something brand new. The company says they partnered with Lenovo on the design and manufacturing of the headset, and some elements of Lenovo’s other VR headsets appear to shine through.

Most notably, Oculus has moved to a ‘halo’ style head strap with a crank on the back which tightens the band. The head mount mostly rests on the forehead while the rear of the strap offers some counter-weight for balance. Unlike most halo head mounts, Rift S adds a strap over the top of the head as well, which helps distribute some weight across the top of the head.

With the visor ‘hanging’ in front of the user’s eyes (instead of being squeezed against their face), Oculus has added a lens-to-eye distance adjustment; press a small button underneath and you can move the visor closer or further from your face. This is a welcome feature for both maximizing field of view across different face shapes, and making to fit glasses inside the headset.

The headphones on the original Rift have been removed in favor of a hidden ‘channeled audio’ approach for Rift S that’s similar to Quest and Go. Instead of over-ear headphones, there’s small openings along the headband near the user’s each which pipes in left and right audio. Rift S also now has a 3.5mm jack on the side of the headset for users who want to use their own headphones, though the halo-style headband may get in the way of certain headphones.

Oculus says the Rift S weighs “a little more” than the Rift’s 470 grams, but has declined to provide a specific figure.

Release Date and Price

Oculus says that Rift S is due out in Spring and will cost $400. The headset will replace the original Rift which the company says is being phased out.

The post Oculus Rift S Revealed with Inside-out Tracking, Resolution Bump, & New Ergonomics appeared first on Road to VR.

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Hands-on: Oculus Rift S is a Better, Easier to Use Rift (with a Few Tradeoffs) https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-hands-on-preview-better-easier-to-use-rift-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-hands-on-preview-better-easier-to-use-rift-gdc-2019/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:59:57 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86755
Oculus has finally taken the wraps off of Rift S, its first PC VR headset release in three years. But there’s a reason the company is calling this Rift S and not Rift 2; the changes are mostly for the better, but not improvements across the board. This week at GDC, during a special Oculus […]

The post Hands-on: Oculus Rift S is a Better, Easier to Use Rift (with a Few Tradeoffs) appeared first on Road to VR.

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Oculus has finally taken the wraps off of Rift S, its first PC VR headset release in three years. But there’s a reason the company is calling this Rift S and not Rift 2; the changes are mostly for the better, but not improvements across the board.

This week at GDC, during a special Oculus media event, we got our first look at the Rift S, the company’s Rift-replacement that’s clearly designed for ease of use and affordability; the Rift S will launch in Spring and be available for $400, and is of course fully compatible with the existing Rift library.

For a detailed look at specifications and features, see our article about the Rift S announcement here.

The high-level look is that Rift S moves to an inside-out tracking system (in lieu of the more cumbersome external sensors of its predecessor), gets a small increase in resolution, and an ergonomic redesign. But there’s a few changes that don’t feel like clear-cut improvements over the original Rift.

Visuals

Photo by Road to VR

Resolution

Of primary interest is what things look like through the Rift S. Here’s the skinny: Rift S now uses a single display which amounts to 1,280 × 1,440 per-eye, a moderate increase (1.4 times the total pixels) over the original Rift’s 1,080 × 1,200 per-eye resolution. But, the new display is LCD instead of OLED, which brings a handful of benefits like a better fill-factor (less unlit space between pixels) and less mura, but often lacks the rich colors and contrast of OLED. That said, Rift S’s LCD display seems quite up to the task, despite running at 80Hz compared to the Rift’s 90Hz.

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Clarity and Field of View

With the bump in resolution alone you get a bit better fidelity and a bit less screen door effect, but with the improved fill-factor of LCD, the screen door effect (unlit space between pixels) sees a pretty solid reduction which makes the Rift S clarity seem better than the moderate change in resolution would suggest.

With a “slightly larger” field of view—according to Oculus, which wouldn’t provide a specific FOV measurement—and minimal mura, what you see inside the headset looks a lot like the original Rift but with better clarity. The screen door effect is less distracting, and it’s easier to get lost in the content.

Refresh Rate & Lenses

Photo by Road to VR

On the 80Hz display, Oculus says that one reason for making it lower than the Rift’s 90Hz display was to ensure they could maintain the same recommended PC specifications as the original headset (to avoid fragmentation). That said, I don’t think I’d have any chance of seeing the difference between the Rift S at 80Hz and the Rift at 90Hz, though anyone who is highly sensitive to flicker might be able to feel the difference in excessively bright scenes.

As for the new lenses in Rift S, it’s too early for me to say with certainty to what extent they’ve changed things, but assuming they’re similar to the improved lenses in Quest and Go (as Oculus says), then I’d expect a larger sweet spot. These are still Fresnel lenses though, so you can expect some god rays, though they have likely been reduced to a similar extent as Quest and Go. Ignore anyone telling you “there’s no god rays” (which I hear all the time on headsets where this is not the case); god rays are most visible with high contrast scenes and you aren’t likely to notice them otherwise. However, in my time with the Rift S so far, I didn’t get to choose what content I was looking at, so I didn’t get to pull up a good test for god rays.

No Hardware IPD Adjustment

Because Rift S is using a single display, it has no hardware IPD adjustment (unlike the original Rift) to change the distance between the lenses to match the distance between your eyes. A proper IPD setting is important for visual comfort (and makes it easier to achieve maximum panel utilization). While IPD on the Rift S can be adjusted, to an extent, in software, users on the outer limits of the IPD range might be left wanting. Oculus hasn’t specified what they consider to be the headset’s acceptable IPD range.

Passthrough+

Oculus is talking up the new passthrough capability of the Rift S, which allows users to ‘see through’ their headset by piping the video feed from the on-board cameras into the displays. The company says they’ve paid special attention to make sure the feed is low latency, high framerate, and stereo-correct, which is why they’ve calling it ‘Passthrough+’.

Passthrough+ was unfortunately not ready for testing during my Rift S demo, but Oculus says that users will be able to set up their Guardian playspace boundaries by using passthrough+. Instead of tracing the boundary using a controller while looking at their computer monitor, users will see their environment directly via passthrough and ‘trace’ their boundary right onto the floor (a smart improvement over the prior method).

– – — – –

All things considered, for those who are used to Oculus’ first PC VR headset, Rift S’s visuals aren’t going to feel like a step into next-gen, but they are an improvement.

Head & Controller Tracking

Photo by Road to VR

Perhaps the single largest point of difference between Rift S and the original Rift is the tracking system.

Rift ‘Constellation’ Tracking (outside-in)

Rift’s IR LEDs visualized

The original Rift uses an ‘outside-in’ tracking system (called Constellation) that relies on external cameras which look at glowing lights on the headset and controllers (made invisible by using infrared light) to determine the position of the devices. This has shown to be a highly performant approach, but adds complexity to the setup because the external sensors need to connect to the host PC and carefully placed. And unless users are willing to run a USB cable across their room for a ‘room-scale’ setup, the default Rift tracking setup restricts users to ‘forward facing’ gameplay.

Rift S Insight Tracking (inside-out)

Image courtesy Oculus

Rift S, on the other hand, uses an ‘inside-out’ tracking system (called Insight) which places five cameras onto the headset itself. The cameras look at the world around the user, and computer vision algorithms use the information to determine the position of the headset. The on-board cameras also look for glowing lights on the controllers (also invisible via infrared) to determine their location relative to the headset. An inside-out system like this is vastly more complex than the outside-in system of the Rift, and it’s taken companies like Oculus several years to achieve the robustness and performance needed to make it work for a VR headset.

Room-scale Out of the Box

The result, however, means that Rift S is much easier to set up, and now has room-scale tracking out of the box, which means players can be more immersed in some games by walking around larger spaces and turning around naturally instead of relying on stick-based turning. Depending upon the game, having full 360 room-scale tracking can really enhance immersion levels (Lone Echo comes to mind for me).

The actual camera layout on Rift S is similar to Quest but has five cameras instead of four, and uses a different configuration. Instead of cameras mounted at the corners of the headset’s front panel, there’s two cameras toward the bottom of the front panel which face forward, one camera on the left and right of the headset which aim slightly downward, and one camera on top of the headset which faces the ceiling.

Latency & Accuracy

From my hands-on time so far, Rift S tracking feels nearly identical to Rift in latency and accuracy, though it might have a bit more jitter. In my time with the headset I saw zero unexpected/sudden head movements, and latency on both my head movements and hands felt very tight.

However, when moving my hands especially close to the headset (like when bringing my controller close to my face to look at the buttons) they would sometimes get a little bit wonky, which makes me think that there’s something of a dead zone for the controllers if they get too close to any one camera.

Controller Caveats

Image courtesy Oculus

This might not often be a practical issue, but you can imagine that it could pose a problem in certain game interactions like, for instance, a bow game where your string hand naturally pulls near to one side of your head before releasing, or a game where you bring objects near your face (like putting on a hat, eating a piece of food, or putting on glasses). Developers who still want to use these interactions may need to make case-by-case adjustments to make sure they work well.

Outside of the ‘very near the headset’ bubble, controller tracking seems to work very well for a broad range of interactions, and tracking coverage for the controllers feels massively improved over the inside-out tracking on Windows VR headsets. Of course this comes with the caveat that it’s possible to move the controllers outside of the field of view of the cameras. If you turn your head one way and hold your arm out the other way, you might end up breaking line of sight between the cameras and the controller with your body.

The system recovers easily if this happens momentarily because positional estimation is still ongoing via an IMU, but if it happens for extend periods (like when a member of the press intentionally puts their hands behind their back to test the controllers) the controllers eventually freeze in place and stay there until their position is reacquired by the cameras.

Oculus readily admits that some poses won’t work, and that will impact some content over others, but they say they’ve designed the system to offer “maximum compatibility” for existing content.

Over time it’s likely that developers will gain a keen sense of problematic poses and interactions, and either design fixes that make tracking occlusion invisible to the play, or avoid those poses outright.

– – — – –

Overall, Insight feels like a clear win for the Rift S in terms of ease of use and the addition of room-scale tracking by default—and is notably better in terms of controller tracking coverage than Windows VR—but doesn’t come without a few caveats. So far the problematic edge cases for controller tracking seem fairly innocuous, but this will be deeply content-specific.

Continue Reading on Page 2: Ergonomics »

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Hands-on: ‘Asgard’s Wrath’ Offers Deep Combat, But Not Without a Steep Learning Curve https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-asgards-wrath-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-asgards-wrath-gdc-2019/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:58:04 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86701
At a special GDC Oculus media event this week we got a chance to go hands-on with Sanzaru Games’ upcoming Norse-themed action adventure game Asgard’s Wrath, presented on Oculus’ newly unveiled ‘Rift S’ headset. It’s beautiful, difficult, and will definitely require time to master, as enemies are both difficult and also require a specific style of interaction […]

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At a special GDC Oculus media event this week we got a chance to go hands-on with Sanzaru Games’ upcoming Norse-themed action adventure game Asgard’s Wrath, presented on Oculus’ newly unveiled ‘Rift S’ headset. It’s beautiful, difficult, and will definitely require time to master, as enemies are both difficult and also require a specific style of interaction to slay—something that may not be entirely intuitive at first.

Unlike Marvel Powers United VR (2018), the studio’s latest title isn’t the result of another Marvel/Sanzaru partnership, although it’s clear they’ve borrowed more than a few design cues from Marvel source material. The starting point—a gilded, mechanical observatory at the base of the rainbow bridge, Bifröst—felt like it was ripped directly from the film Thor (2011), looking eerily similar to Heimdall’s preferred chillout spot from the movie. Once you’re in the game proper though it departs a bit from the Marvel cinematics and settles into something more Skyrim-ish in nature, focusing on the earthy and decidedly more dangerous world of Midgard.

Before I get into the meat of the demo, I just have to say this first: so far Asgard’s Wrath is a strikingly beautiful game, and features some fine polish that is clearly approaching the ‘AAA’ department in terms of visuals.

Image courtesy Sanzaru Games

Before I started, I was told by Sanzaru that Asgard’s Wrath would feature 30+ hours of gameplay spread out over combat, puzzles, an overarching narrative, a cast of human avatars to embody & collect throughout the game, and wild animals to beguile and turn into allies. For the purposes of the demo though I was given an opportunity to play a quick taste of the beginning story, a few combat tutorials, and a wave-based combat sequence in a small arena—a total demo time of about 20 minutes.

Starting at the golden Bifröst observatory for a quick locomotion tutorial (the demo featured snap-turn and free motion), I was beckoned to walk down the rainbow road, which clanked into existence beneath my feet as I made my way to the portal to Midgard—the realm of humans and all sorts of nasty creatures. Transported to the world of mortals, I found none other than a horn-helmet-clad Loki entangled in an epic battle with a massive Kraken. As a giant, I was waist deep in a sea littered with tiny wrecked Viking ships, the scene of the battle where I would face off against the doubly massive octopus creature while consequently learning the ropes of the game’s melee combat system.

Image courtesy Sanzaru Games

As the sea undulated around me, miniature wreckage bobbing up and down in the swell, the Kraken began to fight back by flinging ships at me to deter my mission of freeing Loki. Cutting the ships down mid-air with my single-handed sword, I was then assaulted by short serpent creatures which would latch on to my body if I didn’t slice them to bits first (or alternatively grab them with my bare hands pop them like blood-filled balloons). That last bit was a little unexpected, and I was pleased to see the world work in a way I intuitively understood. Positional audio alerted me to the worm’s location, as they locked onto me while making a high-pitched scream.

Worms properly slain, the Kraken then went through a few loops of picking me up by its tentacles and stabbing me in the chest with a barbed proboscis, then putting me back down so I could slash at face-to-face. Eventually defeating the Kraken after a few successive loops, my ‘lesser-god’ status ostensibly became Loki’s new pet project. That’s where the story bit ended for my demo, and where I would start my true combat tutorial so I could learn how to face off against some decidedly more human-shaped foes.

From there I was transferred to a combat arena, stepping into shoes of a human hero called the ‘Shield Maiden’.

Image courtesy Sanzaru Games

To be clear, melee combat here isn’t purely physics-based; simply holding up your sword to block an incoming attack invariably results in the enemy landing a hard hit on you, knocking down a fair bit of your health points in the process. Enemy swords appear to clip through any weapon that doesn’t have enough force behind it; banging your sword and shield together elicits a weightless (and equally disappointing) clip-through. This, I find, is emblematic of the problem VR melee games face currently. Either they are entirely physics-based and risk resultant weirdness of incorrectly colliding with game geometry, or they require very specific movements from you to activate ‘parry’ or ‘slice’ and conversely don’t provide the immersion that physics-based weapons and enemies typically boast. Sanzaru is trying to find the right balance of each for Asgard’s Wrath.

Weapons essentially feel immaterial in Asgard’s Wrath. The game seems to be more centered around executing specific melee actions or gestures during key moments in the enemy’s animation, like parrying a sword attack, knocking a throwing dagger out of the air, or knocking back a baddie with your shield at key moments as they open up and telegraph specific attacks. That means you can’t swing willy-nilly, and that’s something I can appreciate without a doubt. Again, I only got 20 minutes with the game, so my impressions are more of a hot take than the end-all, be-all.

That said, all of this took a bit more practice to get right than I would have thought, especially because a failed parry or strike would leave the enemy entirely unphased. When I was confident I had parried correctly though, which lowered the baddie’s defenses, I was allowed the graceful, head-slicing execution I had been searching for.

Image courtesy Oculus, Sanzaru Games

At first, it wasn’t entirely apparent to me why I wasn’t able to hit/parry/disarm the baddie with confidence. It turns out each enemy has a specific animation that signals it’s ready to be attacked, but without a clear understanding of this (as someone playing a demo of the game) you’re basically hoping to catch him mid-strike and hope for the best. I imagine the game proper would give me more than ample time to figure this out, but it’s safe to say it’s not a title you can simply know how to play intuitively. That said, if Sanzaru plays their cards right and ultimately lands on a compelling combat system, it could form the basis of a norm going forward which will benefit players and games of the future.

After two combat tutorials, I then headed into the wave-based arena where I could apply everything I learned. As the Shield Maiden, I had a few holstered weapons at my disposal. My character, which I was told was one of many heroes to embody and collect throughout the game, had a one-handed sword, a magical throwing axe, and (of course) a shield.

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While the battle axe does much less damage than a solid strike of the sword, it was probably the most satisfying to wield thanks to some aggressive aim assist to make me feel like I was throwing it correctly most of the time. Flicking my wrist would retract the axe back to my hand, letting me tactically toss it and get double the damage by recalling it straight through the backs of the ghoulish, hulking enemies. Destructible shields, health potions and a few other weapons were also scattered about.

Consumables like health potions are kept in a separate quick inventory that you can call up by depressing the left analogue stick. I have stupid hands, but it bears mentioning that I would often bring up the menu by mistake as I mashed down on the left stick for translational movement, instantly putting a stop to my awkward slashing as the game would pause thinking I wanted to fiddle with my inventory.

Image courtesy Oculus, Sanzaru Games

Even with my new found weapon skills and a handful of potions, enemies were surprisingly difficult. The pallid man-monsters eventually started showing up with more and more strike-resistant armor which I would have to break first before getting a clean blow on the fleshy bits of the six foot-tall beasts. I only got through five baddies before eventually running out of health potions and falling to my inevitable death—proof enough that I wasn’t entirely useless at the game’s combat system, but had a long path to mastery.

Upon death I was awarded a treasure chest, which—depending on how well I fought—contained more valuable loot such as animal pelts and larger amounts of gold, the latter of which could be used to buy stuff like potions and better gear.

In the end, I still really don’t know what to think about Asgard’s Wrath. I’m allured by the promise of “30+ hours of gameplay” and the well-realized graphics, but I still want to know how well the game’s non-combat moments will weave together combat sections and story. It’s still way too early to tell at this point however, as Sanzaru has only stated that Asgard’s Wrath will be due out sometime in 2019. As we understand it, there’s still plenty left to see before we get a clearer picture of exactly what Asgard’s Wrath is all about.

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Every Oculus Quest Launch Title Confirmed So Far https://www.roadtovr.com/every-oculus-quest-launch-title-gdc-2019/ https://www.roadtovr.com/every-oculus-quest-launch-title-gdc-2019/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:57:46 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86769
Unfortunately we didn’t learn more about Oculus Quest’s launch date at GDC 2019 this week, although Oculus did reveal a few more titles coming to the standalone 6DOF headset at launch this Spring. We were really hoping for the company to finally unmask the full 50+ launch titles promised by Facebook CEO & founder Mark […]

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Unfortunately we didn’t learn more about Oculus Quest’s launch date at GDC 2019 this week, although Oculus did reveal a few more titles coming to the standalone 6DOF headset at launch this Spring.

We were really hoping for the company to finally unmask the full 50+ launch titles promised by Facebook CEO & founder Mark Zuckerberg at Oculus Connect 5 last year, although it appears they’re holding onto that particular bombshell for whatever conference fits the bill for a Quest launch date newsblast.

In the meantime, here’s every Quest launch title currently confirmed by Oculus:

Beat Saber

Revealed just this week, Beat Saber (2018) is officially coming to Oculus Quest, so you’ll finally be able to slash those flying rhythm blocks in the forest, in a large-sized public restroom, or on the Moon.

Robo Recall

Oculus probably shelled out beaucoup bucks for Epic Games to create this gem of a shooter. As a 2017 title, it still hold up today, something we can’t say about all games from the first consumer wave of game design. It’s clear optimizing the lush visuals for Quest will be a challenge, although who better to work with Unreal Engine than the company that created it?

Moss

Polyarc created the third-person platformer-puzzler mostly for seated users, as you control a special little mouse pal named Quill on her adventure to reclaim her kidnapped uncle from Saffrog, the fire-breathing snake. Quest is great for room-scale, but you probably still want to sit down from time to time. That’s where Moss comes in.

The Climb

Crytek’s The Climb (2016) is a pretty meditate experience when you give into the fact that you will fall over and over and over, probably in one of the most beautiful and well-realized VR environments out there. Getting to the top is a pretty cool rush, but getting there without cables to tangle you is sure to up the immersion factor.

Shadow Point

Image courtesy Coatsink

Created by Coatsink Games: Set between a mountaintop observatory and an ever-changing fantasy world, explore and solve puzzles as you unravel the fate of missing schoolgirl Lorna McCabe, guided by the journal of Edgar Mansfield, voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart. Shadow Point supports full-tracked locomotion, full body interaction, hand tracking and teleportation systems

Dead & Buried II

It’s a whole new set of gameplay modes for the wild west-themed shooter, this time produced in-house by Oculus themselves (the first was developed by Gunfire Games). Online death matches. Four-player horde co-op. Dynamite. Plenty of guns. It’s also coming to Rift with cross-play too.

Journey of the Gods

Image courtesy Turtle Rock Studios

Created by Turtle Rock Studios: The chaos moon is coming, threatening the peaceful inhabitants of the land. It’s up to you to unlock the power of the gods in your battle against the encroaching darkness. Become the hero in this legendary VR quest against the forces of evil. Before completing this epic journey you will explore a wide and wondrous new world, engage in ranged and melee combat with the sinister celestial servants of the chaos moon, and solve the mysteries of the ancients and gain the mystical power of the gods.

Star Wars Vader Immortal

Created by ILMxLAB: Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series transports fans to the dark lord’s home turf of Mustafar, and with lightsaber in hand, puts them at the center of an original Star Wars story. The canonical immersive adventure takes place between Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, and is set up by the events of Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, ILMxLAB’s award-winning location-based virtual reality experience.

Superhot VR

Superhot VR is said to launch on Quest, although it’s uncertain if it will be a day-one launch title when the headset arrives to consumers sometime in Spring 2019. Considering the game is complete enough to demo to the public though at OC5 last year, there’s a good chance the hard-hitting premium title will come as a day-one title.


We’ll be adding to this list over time, so check back for the latest news in Oculus Quest launch titles.

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Oculus Rift S vs. Oculus Quest – Specs & Features https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-vs-quest-specs-difference/ https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-s-vs-quest-specs-difference/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:56:31 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86743
Oculus has announced Rift S, the headset’s fabled hardware refresh that brings with it a modest spec bump and a few other changes to the original Rift that the company hopes will appeal to new entrants in PC VR gaming. With the standalone headset Oculus Quest and Rift S both selling for the same $400 price […]

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Oculus has announced Rift S, the headset’s fabled hardware refresh that brings with it a modest spec bump and a few other changes to the original Rift that the company hopes will appeal to new entrants in PC VR gaming. With the standalone headset Oculus Quest and Rift S both selling for the same $400 price tag and coming at some point this Spring, you might want to know what sets the two apart.

You’ll find the specs below, but if you haven’t really thought about either of the headset before, you may want to read the next few paragraphs before skipping on to compare hard numbers like screen resolutions and refresh rates.

To PC, or Not to PC?

Just like its 2016-era namesake, you’ll need a capable gaming PC to run Rift S. Although the headset features a modest bump in resolution, its LCD display has been clocked to 80Hz so that recommended specs are essentially unchanged between the new Rift S and the old Rift. That means a rig with an Nvidia GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater will be able to play most everything you can throw at it on Rift S. There’s a little more to it than that though, so here’s a handy guide on how to check if your computer is ready for VR first.

Unlike the PC-dependent Rift S, Oculus Quest is more like a console in the sense that you don’t need anything else besides the headset and supplied controllers—no computer required. This has a lot of benefits if you don’t already own a VR-capable PC, not to mention that Quest is easily portable.

Different App Library

Because Quest uses a mobile processor that’s much less powerful than the PC-powered Rift S, the two headsets don’t share the same game library. Rift S is compatible with everything in the original Rift catalog, but Quest has its own separate app library (also separate from Oculus Go). While some titles will be available on both Rift S and Quest (and can optionally support cross-buy if developers wish), don’t expect to play any old Rift-compatible game on Quest.

Shared Features

Thanks to Oculus ‘Insight’, a technology that uses the headsets’ outward-facing cameras for room tracking, users won’t need external sensors for either Rift S or Quest, both of which have full six degrees of freedom (6DOF) head and controller tracking.

That’s not all. The new Touch controllers are identical between Rift S and Quest, something developers ought to love since they can target a single controller scheme and produce a game for Rift, Rift S and Quest.

Touch controllers, Image courtesy Oculus

Side note: Both Rift S and Quest feature integrated open-ear audio. For noisier environments or just better auditory immersion, you should probably use a pair of external headphones.

Many of the games you’ll find on Quest will make it to Rift too, as Oculus has pledged to not only support cross-platform launch of Quest content to Rift, but also ‘cross-buy’ of said content, meaning you can buy a game once and be able to play it on either your Rift (S) or Quest if you happen to own both. It’s true some developers will decide to create Quest exclusives, or effectively disable cross-purchasing by pricing each version differently, although it seems at very least Oculus software partners and its first-party studio will be making sure both Rift and Quest get a measure of equal content moving forward.

That’s not to say Quest will be able to play all Rift games though; far from it. Developers have to specially port their PC VR game to play nice with Quest’s 72Hz display and modest Snapdragon 835 mobile chipset. For comparison, that’s the same chip you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy S8 line from 2017. On the other hand, the Rift S has the horsepower of a whole gaming PC behind it, and can achieve richer graphics and more complex games because of it.

Oculus Rift S – Specs

Oculus Rift S, Image courtesy Oculus
  • Pricing: $400
  • Availability: Spring 2019
  • Weight: A little more than Rift
  • Audio: Integrated open-ear, 3.5mm audio jack for external audio
  • Display:
    • Resolution: 1,280 × 1,440 per-eye (2,560 × 1,440 total)
    • Type: Single fast-switch LCD
    • Refresh Rate: 80Hz
    • Field of View: ‘Slightly larger than Rift’
    • IPD Adjustment: Software only
  • Tracking:
    • Type: ‘Insight’ inside-out (no external sensors) – five cameras
    • Capabilities: Supports 6 degrees of freedom head and controller tracking
    • Recommended Environments: It should work in almost any lit indoor environment.
    • Recommended Playspace: Oculus Rift S works with your environment, so you can play standing or sitting, in spaces big or small.
  • Tether:
    • Length: 5 meter
    • Connections: DisplayPort 1.2 & USB
  • Passthrough:
    • Passthrough+: Low latency stereo-correct passthrough video
    • Guardian: Boundaries traced from inside headset using passthrough
  • Recommended PC Specs: Same as Rift except need DisplayPort 1.2 or later and just one USB 3.0 port instead of three

Oculus Quest – Specs

Oculus Quest, Image courtesy Oculus
  • Pricing: $400
  • Availability: Spring 2019
  • Weight: ~100g more than Rift (470g)
  • Audio: Integrated open-ear, two 3.5mm audio jacks for external audio
  • Display:
    • Resolution: 1,440 × 1,600 per-eye (2,880 × 1,600 total)
    • Type: Dual OLED
    • Refresh Rate: 72Hz
    • Field of View: ~100 degrees (unconfirmed speculation)
    • IPD Adjustment: Hardware adjustable
  • Tracking:
    • Type: ‘Insight’ inside-out (no external sensors) – four cameras
    • Capabilities: Supports 6 degrees of freedom head and controller tracking
    • Recommended Environments: It should work in almost any lit indoor environment.
    • Recommended Playspace: Oculus Quest works with your environment, so you can play standing or sitting, in spaces big or small.
  • Compute:
    • No tether: On-board Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and active cooling
    • Battery: 2–2.5 hours battery life
  • Passthrough:

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Scope AR Secures $9.7M Series A to Develop AR Training & Remote Assistance Tools https://www.roadtovr.com/scope-ar-9-7m-funding/ https://www.roadtovr.com/scope-ar-9-7m-funding/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:29:50 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86662
Scope AR, the enterprise-focused AR studio, today announced it has successfully closed a $9.7 million Series A funding round to further develop it cross-platform AR work training and on-site instruction tools. The company’s Series A was led by Romulus Capital, and includes previous investors SignalFire, Susa Ventures, Haystack, New Stack Ventures, North American Corporation, and […]

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Scope AR, the enterprise-focused AR studio, today announced it has successfully closed a $9.7 million Series A funding round to further develop it cross-platform AR work training and on-site instruction tools.

The company’s Series A was led by Romulus Capital, and includes previous investors SignalFire, Susa Ventures, Haystack, New Stack Ventures, North American Corporation, and Angel List. Additionally, Krishna Gupta of Romulus Capital and Wayne Hu from SignalFire will join Scope AR’s board of directors.

To date, the company had raised $15.8 million, something Scope AR says will help them “further scale and expand enterprise AR adoption in a time when the industrial workforce is shifting and machinery and equipment are becoming increasingly complex.”

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Founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco with offices in Edmonton, Scope AR has previously worked with companies dealing in aerospace, consumer packaged goods, and manufacturing, including the likes of Lockheed Martin, Unilever, and Prince Castle.

Scope AR produces two main products in particular, WorkLink and Remote AR. WorkLink focuses on letting companies create their own ‘smart instructions’ via an app authoring tool, and boasts cross-platform publishing to iOS, Android and HoloLens. Remote AR is geared towards enabling remote workers to collaborate with experts who can view the work-related issue through a worker’s AR headset or smart device, including iOS, Android, Microsoft Surface, HoloLens, and RealWear HMT-1.

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Full Reveal of ‘Star Wars Vader Immortal’ Quest Launch Title Coming Next Month https://www.roadtovr.com/ilmxlab-to-demo-vader-immortal-oculus-quest-star-wars-vr-celebration-in-april/ https://www.roadtovr.com/ilmxlab-to-demo-vader-immortal-oculus-quest-star-wars-vr-celebration-in-april/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2019 21:02:52 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86704
ILMxLab is to finally demo its upcoming Star Wars Virtual Reality series, Vader Immortal at the annual Star Wars Celebration event in April. We reported on ILMxLAB’s latest immersive VR experience way back in October last year, after the studio revealed that their forthcoming built-for-VR experience, set in the Star Wars universe, would form part […]

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ILMxLab is to finally demo its upcoming Star Wars Virtual Reality series, Vader Immortal at the annual Star Wars Celebration event in April.

We reported on ILMxLAB’s latest immersive VR experience way back in October last year, after the studio revealed that their forthcoming built-for-VR experience, set in the Star Wars universe, would form part of the official canonical Star Wars universe. The new experience is being co-developed with Facebook’s Oculus Studios and is due to debut on the company’s forthcoming standalone VR headset Quest.

After remaining schtum for months, ILMxLAB today announced that Star Wars fans can look forward to more details on the experience being revealed during this year’s annual Star Wars Celebration event, due to take place between April 11-15 in Chicago. They’ll also be able to go hands-on with the first episode.

Star Wars Celebration is the pinnacle fan event for the franchise, attracting 1000s of attendees every year and is traditionally a venue for big Star Wars announcements, trailers and games to be teased.

ILMxLAB has announced it’s to let fans in attendance go hands-on with the first episode of Vader Immortal, with demos powered by Oculus’ Quest headset, at the show. Here’s a snippet of the press release to set the scene:

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series transports fans to the dark lord’s home turf of Mustafar, and with lightsaber in hand, puts them at the center of an original Star Wars story. The canonical immersive adventure takes place between Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, and is set up by the events of Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, ILMxLAB’s award-winning location-based virtual reality experience.

ILMxLAB is also due to hold a panel discussion to dive into details on the first episode of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. The panel will feature David S. Goyer, the author of the debut episode, known for his work on the The Dark Knight film series.

Image courtesy Oculus

The timing is excellent as, although we still don’t yet have a firm release date for Oculus’ brand new high-end ‘standalone’ VR headset Quest, Facebook have said we’ll see the device ship some time in Spring – so even assuming the worst – it won’t be long before Star Wars fans can ‘get their vader on’, so to speak. Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is confirmed as an Oculus Quest launch title.

If you’re heading to Star Wars Celebration, you can catch the panel at 1:30pm CST on the main stage.

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HP ‘Reverb’ is the New High-res Headset on the Block, Starting at $600 https://www.roadtovr.com/hp-reverb-vr-headset-announcement-price-release-date/ https://www.roadtovr.com/hp-reverb-vr-headset-announcement-price-release-date/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:59:48 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86583
HP today announced Reverb (formerly codenamed ‘Copper’), the successor to the company’s first Windows VR headset. Reverb’s high res displays raise the bar on pixel density among consumer VR headsets. Sporting a design that’s a significant departure from its first Windows VR headset, HP says that Reverb will launch in late April starting at $600. […]

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HP today announced Reverb (formerly codenamed ‘Copper’), the successor to the company’s first Windows VR headset. Reverb’s high res displays raise the bar on pixel density among consumer VR headsets. Sporting a design that’s a significant departure from its first Windows VR headset, HP says that Reverb will launch in late April starting at $600.

Reverb is HP’s second Windows VR headset. Though it will hook into the ‘Windows Mixed Reality’ platform at its core, it will also support SteamVR through an official plugin, just like other Windows VR headsets.

Image courtesy HP

Compared to HP’s first Windows VR headset, which has a 1,440 × 1,440 LCD display for each eye, Reverb bumps the displays up to 2,160 × 2,160, which is 2.25 times the total number of pixels. With the same 90Hz refresh rate and a similar field of view, the increase in resolution translates directly to greater pixel density, bringing a huge boost to sharpness and text legibility.

It’s an even bigger leap in resolution from the first generation of consumer VR headsets, like Rift and Vive, which use 1,080 × 1,200 displays per-eye, giving Reverb 3.6 times the total number of pixels in those headsets. The fidelity seen through Reverb’s lenses is further enhanced by the fact that the LCD display uses full RGB-stripe sub-pixels (which generally have a better fill-factor than OLED displays) which means less screen door effect than an OLED display of equal resolution.

Reverb will be the highest resolution headset in the ~100 degree consumer class when it launches in late April, followed behind by Samsung Odyssey and Vive Pro (both with a pair of 1,440 × 1,600 displays).

Read our hands-on with the latest Reverb prototype to learn more about what it’s like to use the headset.

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Understanding the Difference Between 'Screen Door Effect', 'Mura', & 'Aliasing'

HP says that Reverb is primarily built for the enterprise sector, but they’re also making the headset openly available to consumers. The Reverb Consumer Edition and Pro Edition (let’s call them CE and PE) are identical in design and specs and both include controllers). The Reverb CE is priced at $600 and will have a washable fabric face cushion and one year consumer warranty, while the Reverb PE will be priced at $650 and come with a leather-style face cushion, an additional 0.6M cable (for use with VR backpack PCs), and one year commercial warranty that covers the headset in non-consumer settings.

Image courtesy HP

Reverb has new fresnel lenses which the company says will offer a wider field of view and a larger sweet spot than its predecessor. There’s no hardware IPD adjustment on Reverb; the nominal setting is 63mm, and software adjustments range from 55mm to 71mm, according to HP.

HP quotes the Reverb’s field of view at 114 degrees diagonally, but has somewhat confusingly told us that this isn’t the actual measurement, but instead represents what they believe is “indicative” of the headset’s field of view. From my hands-on with the headset, it feels in the same FOV class as the Rift, Vive, and PSVR, but maybe on the lower end of the group. I’ve reached out to the company for further clarification on their FOV figures.

Image courtesy HP

Aside from resolution, HP says that a major focus of Reverb is comfort. While the original HP Windows VR headset uses a ‘halo’ style headband and lacks integrated headphones, the Reverb has a decidedly more Rift-like look with an overhead strap, semi-rigid spring-loaded side straps, and compact headphones built in. The headphones are removable with a flat-head screwdriver, and a 3.5mm cable dangles from the back of the headset for easily connecting third-party headphones.

The Reverb headset weighs in at 500 grams (1.1 pounds), excluding the cable—just above the Rift and Vive’s ~470 grams.

Image courtesy HP

While the design overhaul seems like mostly a win for Reverb, it has come at the expense of the convenient flip-up visor functionality on HP’s first Windows VR headset.

Like all Windows VR headsets, Reverb makes use of inside-out tracking via on-board cameras. The cameras calculate the position of the headset by looking at the environment around the user, and also track the movements of controllers by looking at the glowing LEDs. In our experience, tracking performance is good with this system, but it’s not uncommon for controllers to get momentarily ‘lost’ when looking away from the controllers (because they may momentarily exit the camera’s field of view). Reverb uses the same Windows Mixed Reality controllers used by other Windows VR headsets.

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HP Wants to Enhance Traditional CAD Workflows with "VR Snacking"

HP says that Reverb’s inside-out tracking system is virtually unchanged from the original, with the same placement and resolution of tracking cameras. For that reason, we expect that tracking performance will be mostly unchanged from other Windows VR headsets.

While the first HP Windows VR headset uses HDMI and USB 3.0 plugs, the Reverb uses DisplayPort 1.3 and USB 3.0, and also includes integrated Bluetooth which means that the host PC doesn’t need its own Bluetooth connection.

Image courtesy HP

In the enterprise space, where the company expects the headset to be most appealing, HP says the Reverb is well suited for engineering product development, design reviews, architecture/engineering/construction reviews, location-based entertainment, and maintenance/repair/overhaul training. While the Reverb CE will be sold ‘as is’, HP is trying to define itself as a VR solutions company, and says it is ready and willing to work closely with enterprise customers to equip them with the hardware, software, and services to make VR a valuable part of their workflow.

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Hands-on: HP’s Pixel-packed ‘Reverb’ Sets a New Bar for Windows VR Headsets https://www.roadtovr.com/hp-rever-hands-on-impressions-pixel-packed-new-bar-for-windows-vr-headsets/ https://www.roadtovr.com/hp-rever-hands-on-impressions-pixel-packed-new-bar-for-windows-vr-headsets/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:58:55 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86686
HP today announced Reverb (formerly codenamed Copper), its new VR headset which aims to deliver enhanced resolution and comfort. With a more thoughtful design and pixel-packed displays, Reverb sets a new bar for Windows VR headsets. Having jumped into the VR space back in 2017 with a handful of others under Microsoft’s watch, HP’s first VR headset […]

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HP today announced Reverb (formerly codenamed Copper), its new VR headset which aims to deliver enhanced resolution and comfort. With a more thoughtful design and pixel-packed displays, Reverb sets a new bar for Windows VR headsets.

Having jumped into the VR space back in 2017 with a handful of others under Microsoft’s watch, HP’s first VR headset was pretty much identical to the headsets which launched from Acer, Dell, and Lenovo.

With Reverb—which will succeed the company’s first VR headset—HP is driving the design much more directly, though it is still building atop the Windows Mixed Reality platform (and inside-out tracking technology).

To that end, the company officially announced Reverb today, which will be sold as a Consumer Edition ($600) and a Professional Edition ($650), and launch in late April.

For more details on the headset’s announcement and the difference between the two versions, see our article on the Reverb reveal.

HP’s first VR headset (left), Reverb (right) | Photo by Road to VR

I recently visited HP at their Palo Alto campus to check out the latest Reverb prototype for myself; this is an updated version compared to what I saw back in February.

Let’s skip right to the fun stuff: the displays. Reverb has a 2,160 × 2,160 resolution display per-eye, which is a big step up in resolution even from current class-leading headsets like the Vive Pro and Samsung Odyssey which tout 1,440 × 1,600 displays. We’re talking about twice as many pixels as those headsets.

And while twice the pixels in roughly the same field of view would typically mean about half the visible screen door effect (SDE), Reverb actually gets an extra boost in SDE reduction (compared to the aforementioned headsets) because it uses RGB-stripe sub-pixels which tend to have a much better fill factor (less space between pixels) than the OLED displays used in many other headsets. So not only are you getting a boost in fidelity and pixel density, but fill factor is also going up because of the change to RGB-stripe.

SEE ALSO
Understanding the Difference Between 'Screen Door Effect', 'Mura', & 'Aliasing'

That’s a long way to say that Reverb offers class-leading visual fidelity and text legibility. The screen door effect isn’t invisible, but it’s getting surprisingly close—at this point I can’t make out individual sub-pixels at all, and even truly spotting just one whole pixel (in a sea of identically colored pixels) is a difficult task. Crucially, HP is achieving this clarity and limited SDE without using a diffuser (as Samsung has done on the Odyssey+, which attempts to hide SDE at the cost of sharpness).

Photo by Road to VR

Resolution aside, the latest Reverb prototype that I got my head into did show a few subtle artifacts, though HP claims these will be cleared up by launch.

First, compared to the prior prototype I tried back in February, the little grey dots have been significantly reduced, but still manifest in what looks (to my eyes) like mura (inconsistencies in color/brightness between pixels).

Second, the latest prototype display shows some red ghosting, which is interesting because I don’t recall seeing this in any other headset (usually it’s just white or black ghosting). HP said this is because the current display has slower red decay than it should have, meaning that red pixels can’t change as quickly as other colored pixels.

Third, at the extreme top and bottom of the field of view it’s possible to see some reflections at the edges, caused by the display reflecting off the plastic inside the headset.

As mentioned, HP says these will all be cleared up by the time the headset ships, and the progress I saw with the headset from just a few weeks ago bodes well for them being able to deliver on that claim.

Continue Reading on Page 2 »

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Pimax’s Answer to Rift’s Asynchronous Spacewarp ‘Brainwarp’ to Exit Beta This Week https://www.roadtovr.com/pimax-to-release-brainwarp-version-1-0-software-this-week/ https://www.roadtovr.com/pimax-to-release-brainwarp-version-1-0-software-this-week/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:58:54 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=86609
Pimax today announced their Brainwarp software will be coming out of beta soon with the official launch of Brainwarp version 1.0. Like Oculus’ Asynchronous Spacewarp, Brainwarp was designed to reduce the massive hardware requirements needed to run the headset’s high resolution displays; it’s also touted for its ability to improve latency and maintain acceptable refresh rates. […]

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Pimax today announced their Brainwarp software will be coming out of beta soon with the official launch of Brainwarp version 1.0.

Like Oculus’ Asynchronous Spacewarp, Brainwarp was designed to reduce the massive hardware requirements needed to run the headset’s high resolution displays; it’s also touted for its ability to improve latency and maintain acceptable refresh rates.

The 1.0 release will include three main tools, all of which were seen in the previous Brainwarp beta first released in January. Pimax says the official release “will ensure a smooth and optimized VR experience.” Brainwarp 1.0 is said to release sometime this week, although the exact date isn’t certain at this point.

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Pimax to Launch Ruggedized "8K" VR Headsets for Business This Year

The tools include: Smart Smoothing, Fixed Foveated Rendering (FFR) and Refresh Rate Switching (RRS). The company says these can be enabled or disabled individually by the user as needed.

Here’s a quick roundup of each tool, and how they’re positioned to improve the user experience with Pimax’s headsets, including Pimax “8K”, “5K” Plus, and “5K” XR (ex-“5K” BE).

  • Smart Smoothing: compensates for low frame rates by halving the effective frame rate to 45 fps and filling with synthetic frames as necessary, much like Oculus’ ASW or Valve’s Motion Smoothing. Pimax says you can use GPUs such as the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 or GTX 1070 to play most VR games with any of its headsets thanks to Smart Smoothing.
  •  Fixed Foveated Rendering (FFR): renders the center of the lenses at full resolution and progressively diminishes the resolution outward toward the user’s peripheral vision. Pimax claims performance gains of a typical VR game are between 10-30%. Compatibility with this feature is currently limited to NVIDIA RTX GPUs.
  • Refresh Rate Switching (RRS): can be used in conjunction with Smart Smoothing and FFR. With different mode options for the refresh rate (5K Plus: 90/72/64Hz, 8K: 80/72/64Hz), users have the ability to select the mode for their desired use with different games to achieve the best experience.

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